By Joseph Castillo
Born in Matamoros Mexico, Maria Ramirez has been part of the San José Clinic family for forty years. She started out as a medical assistant and moved on to dental assistant, medical records, and patient check-in. We met on Zoom for an oral history to document the San José Clinic’s centennial celebration. We were both incredibly nervous at the idea of being in the spotlight and visiting over a webcam (per COVID regulations), but we persevered. Our conversation revealed not only Maria’s story but also what lies at the heart of the San José Clinic.
When I asked about the changes that have occurred over the years, Maria began to talk about how, when she first started working at the clinic, they still used carbon paper – a thin sheet of carbon-coated paper used to make copies of written and typed documents – because computers and printers were not in as widespread use as today and definitely not by a small nonprofit like the clinic. When they did get newer equipment, she labeled it, “a good change, easier in many ways.”
As we stumbled through our conversation, Maria began hitting her stride. We talked about the introduction of more technology such as x-ray machines, new specialties such as rheumatology, and how she felt about working at the clinic for so long. “It’s great!” she gushed. “I’ve been here forty years. That tells you a lot.” She added, “When the volunteers come or when the students come, they’ll say, ‘Gosh it’s like a family here!’ Yeah, it is. It is like a family. It’s really amazing.”
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The San Jose Clinic’s mission is to provide healing through quality healthcare and education with respect and compassion for those with limited access to care.