December 13, 2011 // Local

Hispanic health advocate translates to angel of mercy

corina hurtado

FORT WAYNE — As the Hispanic Catholic population continues to grow in Fort Wayne and surrounding area, Catholic Charities is doing its part to mitigate the challenges created by the pervasive language barrier. Corina Hurtado, Hispanic health advocate at Catholic Charities for the past five years, is a veritable one-woman show, handling everything from interpreting to advocating for seriously ill Hispanic patients.

Hurtado, a native of El Paso, Texas, has lived in Fort Wayne with her husband for close to two decades. They are parishioners of St. Mary Parish. She was raised in a bilingual home, but admits that she has taken language classes along the way for “proper grammar” that have helped her become more fluent in Spanish.

Her workweek at Catholic Charities begins with a multitude of tasks. As the only Hispanic health advocate in the area, time management and organizational skills are critical for Hurtado with her on-call status. Her schedule includes a day or two at the office to perform intake interviews for qualifying clients, returning calls, faxes, emails and, of course, the required paper work.

But the heart of her work takes her on the road to a variety of area service providers, including several medical, ophthalmology and dental offices, Park Center, hospice, League of the Blind, Neighborhood Health Clinic, Turnstone and more. It is within these institutions that she meets with Hispanic children and adults to support them during the process of seeking and receiving health care.

“You are there for them in any way they need help,” says Hurtado of the case management that she is so attune to. She serves 16 to 20 clients on average each week.

The initial step in receiving services for each qualifying client is the intake interview that Hurtado holds either in her office or the medical office where an appointment has been scheduled. This is when she and her clients get to know each other and discuss their needs.

“Some families don’t have a lot of support. It’s good for them to have someone who will listen to what they have to say,” says Hurtado, adding, “They have lots of questions. I’m here to help them get the information they miss.”

The majority of clients Hurtado supports are Hispanic and in need of prenatal care. Referrals come from medical offices and family members to have her interpret for the mothers during their prenatal appointments and assist them with necessary paperwork and scheduling as well.

But other clients require assistance filing social security paperwork, or ordering medications. Additional duties include scheduling payments for medical bills, interpreting letters requesting physicals for children and referring clients to the medical office that would best meet their needs.

Still others simply need support as they receive a medical diagnosis. One Hispanic gentleman would have been alone when given the diagnosis of his terminal illness had it not been for Hurtado’s service. “I was thankful I was given the chance to be there. For me to be the only one there for the individual made me feel it was meant for me to take part in that moment. It’s not about me — it’s about the person you’re with and the support you give,” she says gently.

Her desire to serve others, coupled with her educational background in sociology, makes her a perfect advocate for the sometimes confused and weary clients. “Some families are timid. I build a rapport and they begin to open up and talk,” she says. Listening skills, she adds, are paramount in her position within this community of need. “I’m not a doctor or a counselor, but I am a good ear,” she says.

Her faith has sustained her in the sometimes difficult task of helping others. “It (faith) helps me in my work,” she says confidently. “That’s what makes me get the satisfaction I get.”

It is apparent as Hurtado speaks that she is fully committed to her job. “I always wanted to work with people. … I love my job. I love the feeling you get when you help someone. It’s the knowing that we’re doing good,” she says.

The only challenge she sees in it all: “Coordinating is challenging. I wish I had more of me,” she says smiling.

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