NEW YORK (WABC) — A pediatrician in New York City is connecting and bonding with her patients after she overcame challenges in Venezuela to get to the Big Apple.
“When I came here to interview for medical school, I went to a public hospital downtown…we did a tour through the emergency room and it was such chaos,” Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez said. “Everyone was speaking Spanish. And there were just all kinds of people from all walks of life. And I just remember having a moment of ‘I belong here.'”
Planting roots in New York City was an uncertain and scary journey for Bracho-Sanchez.
“I was born in Caracas in the ’80s, Venezuela was a stable, prosperous country,” she said. “I don’t remember ever feeling unsafe.”
At the age of 14, her father’s job as a research scientist moved the family of five to Florida. But when she was a freshman in college, the bottom fell out.
“We just got this notice, like you have 30 days to leave the country,” Bracho-Sanchez said. “I remember being devastated that I had to leave the country.”
But they did.
“By the time we returned, it was so clear that the country had changed, we almost felt like foreigners,” Bracho-Sanchez said.
What was once one of the richest countries in South America became one of the world’s worst-performing economies.
“On any given week, you couldn’t find eggs, or you couldn’t find milk, at random times the power would go out,” Bracho-Sanchez said. “I don’t think people realize when you haven’t lived in a condition like that, how much energy it takes to just work through the unpredictability of life.”
Unable to find work in Caracas as educators, her parents took a job 12 hours way. Bracho-Sanchez and her sisters stayed back to attend university.
“I do remember just having moments of like, what is happening and how am I going to get through this, like every time you would get through one thing there would be one additional obstacle and one additional obstacle and one additional obstacle,” she said. “And I just remember breaking down and crying and then having to just pick myself back up.”
Later that year she got a call from her dad.
“He calls us and he’s like, ‘how would you guys feel about moving back?'” Bracho-Sanchez said. “Everyone was crying. There was like screaming and like, laughing? And ‘are you serious? Do we really get to go back?'”
Bracho-Sanchez returned to the United States, went to medical school and became a pediatrician while never losing sight of what she had to overcome.
“It’s hard and it’s unpredictable, but it also makes you adaptable, and resilient,” she said. “You’re just built a little differently, you’re able to roll with things as they come at you. And I think it’s really served me in medicine.”
Many of Bracho-Sanchez’s patients have never heard her story, but there is a connection. There is a special love and compassion and strength from what she endured that they can feel.
The 35-year-old now practices at NewYork-Presbyterian Columbia Ambulatory Care Network.
“As a Latina, to just have a lot of Latina women in the medical industry, and for Shia’s doctor to be Latina, I think it’s just something relatable,” said the mother of her patient, Pilar Ponciano.
She’s relatable and inspirational.
“It’s very easy to give up and move on, she didn’t do that, she said this is what I want and I’m going to go after it,” her patient’s grandmother Maura Pineda said. “Personally I feel, that it’s an amazing story that she has. I think she’s a fighter. I think she’s wonderful.”
Brancho-Sanchez said she feels fortunate she gets to connect with her patients and do what she does for a living.
“There is something that brings us together, our culture, our heritage definitely brings us together, but we don’t always have the time to really sit down and discuss it,” Bracho-Sanchez said. “It’s really just so meaningful. And I’m so grateful that I get to do this job.”
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