Celebrating Day of Portugal

Meet Jenn Seco, Operations Specialist, Southcoast Health Network

My colleagues affectionately call me “Jenn of all trades.” As an Operations Specialist, I have spent the last five years supporting all aspects of Southcoast Health Network’s efforts to integrate population health and value-based strategies into our health system.

I’m a first-generation American and the daughter of Portuguese immigrants. My mother is from Ribeira Grande on the island of São Miguel in the Azores, and my father is from Freguesia de São Pedro, a coastal town near the city of Figueira da Foz. My grandparents brought my parents to the United States in the early 70s, in search of more opportunity. My mother’s side of the family settled in Attleboro and my father’s side in New Bedford. We’ve been on the South Coast ever since. My father was a fisherman for almost 40 years. The life of a fishing family is not an easy one. My dad would be out at sea for ten days and then home for three if we were lucky. While on land, he’d be at the pier preparing for his next trip. To spend time with him, I’d spend afternoons playing on the boat while he and his crew mended broken dragger fish nets.

When it was time for a much-needed family vacation, the destination was always Portugal. From an early age, my sister and I spent all our summers in my dad’s hometown, and I visited my mom’s beautiful island often. Those were the best summers. Being there is like being home. As an adult, I’ve continued to visit Portugal with my husband – who is from the same town as my dad – and my two boys. I want to share with them what I was lucky enough to share with my parents.

Meet Daniel Sousa, MD – Pulmonary Medicine, Southcoast Physicians Group

I have worked at Southcoast Health for almost 20 years as a pulmonary/critical care intensivist. It has been a joy and privilege to work in this community. I feel as if it was meant to be based on my life experience.

I was born in Lisbon, Portugal and moved to San Miguel, Azores with my family at the age of 6. Soon after, we immigrated to the United States. I was fascinated with medicine from a very early age and always knew I wanted to be a doctor. I had bad asthma as a kid. When I had to go to the hospital for asthma attacks, I always felt better after breathing treatments. I was in awe of the people in the white coats who made me feel better.

I was also influenced by my dad, who was a director of medical research at Rhode Island Hospital. He often let me tag along, and I had the good fortune to see some pretty amazing things, such as laparoscopic surgery and cardiac catheterizations.

I went into the pre-med program at Providence College and the University of Vermont for medical school. When I came back home, I met a Fall River girl and became a Fall River boy. We’ve been married for 21 years now and have three children.

One of the great highlights of my career has been the ability to connect with my Portuguese-speaking patients through our shared language. Encouraged by my uncle who owned language schools in Portugal, I stayed fluent. It’s very rewarding to speak in my native language to a new, scared patient who does not speak English. I can see the relief they feel when they can comfortably tell me their story.

This community has embraced me, and I am so thankful for all the amazing people I am blessed to work with – and the wonderful patients I get to treat.

Meet Andrea Gomes – Leave of Absence Manager, Human Resources

I was born in Baixa da Balheira, Portugal and immigrated to the United States at the age of seven in 1984, with my parents and my older sister. We did not have any family or friends in the United States – my parents were following a dream to give their daughters a better life.

It was hard growing up so far away from our family, but we vacationed in Portugal every few years. To this day it’s still amazing when I visit and I’m with my aunts, uncles and cousins; it’s like being home. 

Before I moved to the United States, my great aunts made me promise to never forget how to speak Portuguese, they wanted to make sure I was always going to be able to communicate with them. I really took it to heart. 

At BMC Durfee High school I took all the Portuguese courses available to me. I was president of the Portuguese Club and helped organize many cultural events. I was also vice-president of the Portuguese Club at UMass Dartmouth, where I majored in Sociology and Portuguese, continued my language studies and learned more about Portugal’s culture and history. In my four years there, I helped organize numerous cultural events, including three group trips to Portugal.

When I became pregnant with my first daughter, her dad and I agreed that our children would be fluent in both English and Portuguese. I now have two teenage daughters, ages 19 and 15. Whenever they’re asked where they want to vacation, their first answer is always Portugal. They have traveled there four times and visited the mainland and Azores. I’m proud to say that they speak fluent Portuguese and truly embrace their culture.

Interpreter Services – Breaking Down Barriers & Building Understanding

Day of Portugal is the perfect time to recognize the outstanding work of Southcoast Health’s Interpreter Services Team. Our highly skilled medical interpreters are an amazing asset to our non-English speaking patients, providing the needed connection between our patients and our providers in delivering the highest quality of care – eliminating language barriers and alleviating fear and apprehension with a warm, compassionate smile.

“Language is crucial when it comes to effective communication,” said Kimberley Coon, Southcoast’s Executive Director of Hospital & Medical Staff Services. “The ability of our in-house medical interpreters to communicate in a way that enables patients to truly understand their surroundings, their diagnoses and their healthcare needs, speaks to our ‘More than medicine’ culture. They demonstrate empathy, compassion and a genuine caring nature when our patients need us the most. I am very proud to work with our amazing medical interpreters and to see each and every team member truly make a difference in caring for our patients!”

For Day of Portugal, some of our Portuguese, Cape Verdean and Brazilian medical interpreters shared their photos and their cultural pride.

“I was born in Cape Verde. Lisbon, Portugal is my second home, where my two sons and grandchildren were born. Viva Portugal!” – Adelina Leite-Desrosiers

“I’m proud to be Cape Verdean because of our morabeza (hospitality), our beaches, and our beautiful culture and diversity.” – Izilda Smith

“I am a Luso-American, Portuguese by birth, from Setubal – and a US citizen by choice. My heritage is part of who I am, and I feel so proud to be able to share my culture, knowledge and language in both my personal and professional lives. Go visit Portugal, it is a wonderful country!” – Laura Fidalgo-Teves

“Being Portuguese is more than a nationality – it is a way of life that values the love from family and friends. It’s a culture, community and heritage filled with great cuisine, laughter, resilient and hard-working people.” – Bertha Reis

To learn more about our commitment to embracing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all, please visit Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Southcoast Health.