Caring for the Uninsured, Caridad Center
Health care for the uninsured is a hot topic filled with intense political emotions and, many times, remains debated without conclusive resolutions. While the issue washes in and out of Capitol Hill, millions of people remain without health care services and community public health as a whole grows all the more dangerous. Working with those needing immediate medical and dental help, the Caridad Center of Palm Beach County, Florida reaches out to thousands of uninsured patients who have nowhere else to turn. Opening its doors primarily to the working poor, the center also offers educational and social service programs because, often times, family issues don’t stop at the doctor’s office alone. Natasha M. Dominguez, age 29 and Patient Care Coordinator/Assistant Administrator, says she couldn’t be more grateful to work with an inspirational team of professionals who have found a truly rewarding vocation. Founded in 1989, the Caridad Center boasts many successes including the fact that more than 500 licensed professional and community volunteers help in reaching out annually. To learn more about the agency and its results within Palm Beach County, read more in this week’s Non-Profit Spotlight.
Natasha M. Dominguez
Patient Care Coordinator/Assistant Administrator
Union City, NJ
West Palm Beach, FL
Sophmore year, part time
Forest Hill High School
Academy of Engineering and Technology
Forest Hill High School
About the non-profit
Caridad Center, formerly known as the Migrant Association of South Florida, is a non-profit organization that provides free medical and dental care to a large population of farmworkers and the working poor of Palm Beach County. Our vision is to end the cycle of poverty for the families that we serve in South Florida.
Caridad is a free clinic that is not dependent on taxpayers’ money. In fact, we are not government funded. Our patients do work most people do not want: farm labor, hotel services, landscaping, golf course maintenance and construction.
Our goal is to help this hardworking population to be healthy so they can continue to be productive individuals in our community.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
Meet with patients to determine community resources and eligibility requirements for surgical procedures and other services that cannot be provided at our center. Network with other community partners in establishing connections for pro bono medical services for our patients. Interview patients for health care district and Vita Health Program, Medicaid, Florida Kidcare and other types of program assistance.
Most notable milestones
A six year old Guatemalan child who had hip dysplasis from birth which caused him to walk awkwardly because one leg was shorter than the other. This patient was diagnosed by a pediatrician and a orthopedic who both agreed that this child needed surgical intervention so that this shy young boy would be able to lead a normal life. As the patient advocate, I needed to intervene and make sure that this little boy received surgery.
I am happy to say that on January 18, 2007, had a successful surgery at Shriners Hospital in Tampa. Knowing that it was important for his family to be nearby during the operation, and knowing that the family was in desperate need of both financial and social services, I was able to coordinate with various funders in the community to provide hotel, food, transportation, and other much needed resources. I may not be the highest paid executive, but what I do is priceless.
What’s the niche?
What makes me unique? This is a difficult question. I love to see people smile. I count my blessings by the many people that I can help. My gift is being resourceful and not giving up – even when the situation seems hopeless.
What’s the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge is lack of medical resources and health disparities that are faced by many of the people that come to our clinic seeking help. It’s trying to get a life-saving surgical procedure and knowing that it will take up to 25 phone calls to make it happen.
What’s in store for the future?
What does the future hold? I hope to be able to provide better services and advocate for more healthcare resources for our very deserving children and their families. On a personal note, I hope to continue to bring smiles to people’s faces when they are faced with a seemingly desperate situation.
Best way to keep a competitive edge
The best way to keep a competitive edge in the field of non-profit, health services is to understand that you need to collaborate and work with the various resources and agencies in the community.
Guiding principle in life
Work as if you don’t need the money and love like you’ve never been hurt.
Yardstick of success
Being able to accomplish over 100 applications for the Vita Health Program and having a 100% approval. The Vita Health Program is a low income insurance program designated to alleviate disparities in health care.
Goal yet to be achieved
The goal yet to be achieved is to find a pediatric endocrinologist that is willing to see charity cases on a monthly basis for our center.
Best practical advice
Always keep a good, positive attitude. Keep moving forward with your chin up no matter how bad a situation can get.
Supportive words from a family member or friend on your venture
Keep a smile on your face. Have a lot of faith in God.
I have a couple of mentors. Ms. Carmen Nieves, she is the clinic administrator. I look at her as a role model. She believes in what I do and supports me all the time. Ms. Veronica Bernando, Director of Volunteer services. She is always with a smile when I need extra help. She is very supportive of what I do. Last, I think that my co-workers are also my mentors because I learn each day something different from each one of them.
What motivated you to get started?
I always had the initiative, my daughter.
Like best about what you do?
Like least about what you do?
At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to become a singer and an attorney.
What was your first job?
My first job was at a assisted living for the elderly.
Biggest pastime outside of work? favorite hobby?
Listening to music. My favorite hobby is to go the beach and go biking at the park or near the ocean.
Person most interested in meeting?
Caridad Asensio, Founder of Caridad Center because she was a very simple person and had a dream to help the indigent community with medical, dental and educational services.
Leader in business most interested in meeting?
I would like to meet Gloria Estefan because I admire her and her husband. They have worked really hard to be where they are now and also have helped other musicians to succeed in the music industry.
Three interesting facts about yourself
- I am passionate in what I do.
- I love to help others.
- I love my job.
Three characteristics that describe you
Three greatest passions
My favorite movie is “Look Who’s Talking.”
March of Dimes.
If you could work any where else, what would you be doing?
I would like to work at a hospital coordinating surgical procedures.
I would like to also work in Univision which is the Spanish news channel in Spanish. I would like to be able to be part of a TV program that informs the community about news, resources and talents of the Hispanic population.
Who would you like to be contacted by?
If you are in the Boynton Beach area, please visit our clinic. You will be amazed by all the good that happens there. Stop by, take a tour of our facility and leave with a wonderful feeling that a place like the Caridad Center exists in this world.
Interview by Alexander Grant
Introduction by Sara Ortega
Edited by Valerie Enriquez