Name: Enrique Puentes
Background: Both of my parents immigrated from Colombia, and I was born in Washington, D.C. I grew up in Northern Virginia but have spent the last fourteen years living in Central Florida. I have spent the past eight years working in catastrophe property insurance but have always had a longing for wanting to be in a profession that helped others improve. I finally decided to make the career transition and now am in my second term of my master’s degree.
Profession: Occupational Therapy Student (MOT)
Area(s) of Practice or Interest: I have huge interests in both Mental Health and Inpatient Rehabilitation but am unsure of where I may ultimately end up.
What does being ‘Out in Healthcare’ mean to you?: For me, being out in healthcare for me means inviting people to see my truest self. Representation of LGBT people in healthcare is important because not only does it create safe spaces for clients to feel they are being advocated for, but it also can help demystify misunderstandings that non-queer people have of the very community that I am a part of. I see being out in healthcare as a form of activism for anyone who has ever felt either marginalized in a society that has long celebrated heteronormativity.
What is one thing everyone should know about your identity?: I want people to know that I am embracing the best possible version of myself by being out as an individual in healthcare. It is important for me to not be ‘discrete’ about my sexuality, because by me fully loving all aspects of my identity, I can in turn emanate the same level of love and care for others.
How do you feel when your identity is included?: When my identity is included as both brown and gay, I feel included and seen as an equal amongst a group.
What does “taking up space” mean to you?: Taking up space means feeling pride about my own visibility and feeling the confidence in the fact that my visibility matters. I unfortunately did not always think/feel this way, so it’s empowering for me to live in this truth.
What is one piece of advice that you would give to healthcare workers who aren’t sure how to honor the identities of their patients?: I think with any profession that involves interacting with all kinds of people (with varying cultures, backgrounds, political and religious beliefs, sexual orientations or gender expressions), we will almost certainly at some point, come to meet someone that we lack the education on, on how to honor and respect these individuals. Maintaining a sense of humility when engaging in these interactions is key to posturing yourself in a manner that is receptive to learning from these interactions. For healthcare professions in particular, it would behoove the practitioner to educate themselves on available resources that speaks on best care practices. Remember the importance of being client-centered in your approach and advocating for the client’s desires and wishes.
Has your identity influenced healthcare that you’ve received?: My identity has impacted the healthcare that I have received. I have encountered practicing physicians who have not been aware of pre-exposure prophylaxis medications. It’s an odd feeling having to educate your own doctor on what this is and why you are requesting a prescription for this. I have also had experiences where healthcare professionals made assumptions of my sexual orientation. I greatly see the need for education of healthcare professions in working with LGBTQ clients.
Where can people find you?: Follow me on Instagram! (@ProudOTStudent)