Southcoast Celebrates the Portuguese Community
Ana Luisa Poucochinho is the Director of Clinical Operations for Southcoast Physicians Group, and she joined Southcoast Health in September of 2020. She has also served as a key member of our vaccination team, leading the Dartmouth clinic since it launched back in February.
As an RN with a Master of Healthcare Administration, Ana understands as well as anyone in the field how every single patient experience drives overall performance and quality for a not-for-profit community health system like Southcoast.
And as impressive as her expertise and achievements are, Ana’s contributions are not limited to her job description: When you see her in action coordinating a mass vaccination site — day to day, on the ground — you begin to understand just how much she means to Southcoast and the South Coast region. Her energy and enthusiasm are essential to sustaining successful efforts in practices and out in the community.
Along with her many other credentials, Ana is also a Certified Medical Interpreter. On countless occasions, her ability to comfort and communicate with patients who face language barriers has helped bring about positive outcomes. At the Dartmouth vaccination clinic, she has educated hesitant patients of all ages with empathy and authenticity.
As the Day of Portugal approaches on June 10, we caught up with Ana for a few quick questions about what the holiday means to her, and how her heritage informs her life and work.
As a reminder, Southcoast is offering a free single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccination clinic at Madeira Field (entrance at 88 Tinkham St., New Bedford) until 2pm today, Saturday, June 5. Neither an appointment nor having a Southcoast PCP is necessary. With COVID canceling the Feast two years in a row, let’s make sure we can party next year by doing our job and getting our jab. More info at https://www.southcoast.org/covid-19-vaccination/.
With the Day of Portugal in mind, what would you like to share about your family’s background?
My father was from Lagos, Algarve (Southern Portugal) and my mother was born in Vila Da Ponte, Trás-os-Montes (Northern Portugal), although she was raised in Lisbon since the age of 3.
Both parents met in Lourenço Marques (present day, Maputo), Mozambique, and that is where I was born. My mother was the Executive Assistant for the CEO of Coca-Cola and my dad was a butcher and owned his own shop.
In 1975, (I was 18 months old) we moved back to Portugal as refugees during Mozambique’s Civil War.
At that time, my parents had the option of moving to France or America, and my parents felt that America was the land of opportunity, and we arrived in Boston on April 5, 1980. We moved near family in New Bedford when I was 6.
There were many challenges growing up, as my parents didn’t speak any English, but luckily they were able to find jobs in factories where they could speak Portuguese. Growing up, I remember they held several jobs at the same time to make ends meet.
My brother and I were latchkey kids, and although we were very poor, I remember growing up in a very happy home, where there was always good food, music, conversation, and laughter. My parents were strict and didn’t allow my brother or I to speak English at home. I learned to speak English in six months and found myself translating for my parents and other neighbors at that time.
Do you have a favorite memory related to your Portuguese culture and heritage?
My parents taught my brother and I about culture, the correct annunciation of words, and how to cook traditional Portuguese food. They wanted to make sure we were fluent in Portuguese and I was forced to attend Portuguese school.
My father was a very talented poet and we published his book (in Portuguese) when he turned 80 years old. Because of this, we were members of several Portuguese society clubs and attended several feasts and dances.
Please share a little about your role in caring for the entire community, including Portuguese Americans, as a leader in our COVID-19 response and especially our vaccination efforts.
I was asked to be a part of the COVID vaccine clinics that went live in February. There were many challenges with Portuguese-speaking elderly patients who did not have access to a computer and my cell phone was shared at a contact number for obtaining an appointment. I found myself calling dozens and dozens of elderly patients (including Portuguese-speaking) and helping them make appointments to be vaccinated.
During the clinic hours, I was able to meet many community people who recognized my last name and made references to knowing my mother and father, and remembering me as a wee little one growing up.
The COVID community clinic has been the most personally rewarding project I have been involved in. I worked side by side with the most amazing, selfless team who spent numerous hours ensuring every detail was planned.
When you work in Healthcare in your own community taking care of your neighbors, family, and friends, the sense of responsibility is greater and the expectation is higher. This is why Southcoast is More than medicine, and I fit right in!