In light of Dr. David Parajón’s decision to relocate to New Mexico, the AMOS Board of Directors recently voted unanimously to welcome Dr. Gabriella Woo as AMOS’ new Executive Director, beginning October 1st!
Dr. Gabriella Alexia Woo Moreno is a General Medical Physician, additionally certified in Health Services Management. Further, she is a distinguished graduate from the CAHI-INCAE Innovative Leaders in Health Fellowship Program. Dr. Gabriella has more than 8 years of experience working in Public Health programs at AMOS Health and Hope in Nicaragua. Before becoming AMOS Country Director, she served for three years as the Programs Director, where she managed 12 health initiatives in 6 different regions of Nicaragua, overseeing 21 people in her charge, and prior to that, she acted as AMOS’ Medical Teams Coordinator and the Samaritan Clinic Director for four years.
Join us in welcoming and getting to know Dr. Gabriella!
What is your commitment as the newly appointed AMOS Executive Director?
Dr. Gabriella: My commitment is to continue the legacy of Dr. Gustavo Parajón of working towards reducing health inequities in Nicaragua by training local leaders, facilitating community empowerment, and having Jesus at the base of this ministry. I am passionate about this work, and I am committed to continue to lead this organization according to our values of justice, peace, service, respect, and especially, love for our brothers and sisters.
What inspires you the most about AMOS?
Dr. Gabriella: There are many things, but the main two aspects of AMOS that inspire me to do a good job are:
(1) Our Health Promoters and Urban Health Educators. Seeing how they put into practice the commandment of ‘loving one another as ourselves‘ in such a selfless way, how they devote and dedicate so much of their lives to serving their communities without expecting anything in return, and how much the well-being of their communities means to them is amazing. I deeply admire them for that.
(2) I’ve always felt a special calling in my heart to serve people in need. That is why I became a doctor; I wanted to heal the sick. However, for many years of my training, I saw health only from the curative or healing perspective, and I thought that health care could only take place at a hospital or clinic.
My life changed when I came to work at AMOS. I learned about preventative health care, and how changes in the community have a huge impact on the lives of families. I learned that by improving living conditions for people, social determinants of health, community health improves in the short, medium, and long-term. In other words, I learned to really see health. That is why our mission is not only to serve the most vulnerable, but to do so with evidence-based methodologies with proven long-term impact.
What do you think are the biggest challenges in terms of health that moms face in rural Nicaragua?
Dr. Gabriella: Living in remote and hard-to access locations, having low education levels, navigating a “machismo” culture, and experiencing extreme poverty are big challenges that prevent moms in rural Nicaragua from having access to the information they need to make good decisions for their health. These are social determinants that directly affect their well-being and are a consequence of the health inequities that exist in our country and in our world.
What has been your biggest challenge as a mom?
Dr. Gabriella: When my son was almost 2 years old, he had a febrile seizure caused by dengue, a mosquito-borne, but preventable disease. We were in the hospital for 10 days, and in the first 5 days, we didn’t know his diagnosis.
Going through that experience of having a sick child without knowing what is going on or how to treat him made me feel closer to the moms we serve in rural communities. It made me understand their anguish and suffering when their children get sick and they have to travel for hours to seek health care. And it motivated me to make sure our health care programs effectively improve access to health care, focus on prevention, and provide health education so health promoters can help patients identify signs of danger as early as possible!
In your 8 years working at AMOS, what has been your most memorable experience?
Dr. Gabriella: There are so many, but I will never forget the look on the face of a patient we visited at home, alongside a mission team. He was living in extreme poverty and was bed-ridden with serious health issues. We did a follow-up visit to check on him two weeks later, and we brought him needed medications and a special mattress to help heal his bed sores. He was so grateful and touched, and it impacted me to be able to witness how we truly improved his health and life through the work we do at AMOS.
What is your vision for the future of AMOS?
Dr. Gabriella: We are living through challenging times. As a country we are not only facing a pandemic, but also the economic and emotional effects of a sociopolitical crisis that started two years ago. This means that in the short term, our vision is to achieve financial sustainability to focus on improving the quality and impact of our programs under the current circumstances. We believe that everyone deserves health and hope, and over the long term, we aim to work towards making that vision a reality. We will develop partnerships to teach our health care model, which will help more people learn to really see health, enable us to reach even more people in need, and allow us to work towards our dream of health for all!