I’m Anne Carpinelli and I’m a pediatrician at Mary’s Center. I joined this organization in 2013 because I have a strong interest in ensuring that the social determinants of health are addressed, particularly for vulnerable populations, such a new immigrants and the families of children with special needs.
During my tenure, I have seen many teenage immigrants come to Mary’s Center for care with their parents — mothers and fathers from whom these children have been separated for years. Amazingly, most of them do quite well assimilating into the U.S. culture. In Washington, D.C., these teenagers often find that they have the support of many peers going through the same struggles surrounding separation from grandparents who essentially raised them, reunification with parents and siblings they may have never known or don’t remember, and learning a new language, all while dealing with the more common obstacles of adolescence, including behavioral problems, eating disorders, and emotional issues, such as stress and depression.
At Mary’s Center, seeing these patients is always poignant; there is always a little hesitancy when asking,“How are you all adjusting?” as you never know if you are going to reopen the already healing emotional wounds the family is working to mend.
One patient who made a lasting impression on me was a 13 year-old girl who came to the U.S. from El Salvador at age 12, accompanied by a coyote, a smuggler that crosses minors into the U.S. Back in her country, she was frightened, living in constant fear, and traumatized by the violence that surrounded her. At some point, her family could not continue paying the money that local gangs were demanding and she was threatened to be killed. She was sent to live with her grandparents in the U.S. to flee the violence in her country.
I met her at her first true Well-Child Visit in the U.S. She had an exam and received several vaccines during her time in a detainment center before reuniting with her grandparents. Her visit to Mary’s Center was her first comprehensive medical appointment to discuss not just her physical well-being, but also the social and emotional determinants of her overall health. Overwhelming to me was how strong this child was and how well she was dealing with the stress of leaving her parents, crossing borders, maintaining good grades in school, all amidst worrying about the safety of her family back home.
At Mary’s Center, it is comforting to know that I can offer support that is readily available and reliable. The same day of her visit with me, she met with a Family Support Worker from our Teen Program, who listened to this child’s story and offered guidance for school, risk avoidance, mental and emotional health, as well as legal issues surrounding immigration. Trying to adjust to her new normal has been difficult. She has had to work harder than her peers in school to ensure she achieves her goals. She and her family are thankful for the support Mary's Center offers.
Every day, the staff at Mary’s Center works hard to ensure that families in our community receive the services they need to thrive, learn and live healthy lives. I am proud to be part of the Mary’s Center community, where we openly welcome and support such vulnerable families.
Thanks for your support,
Anne Carpinelli, MD, MPH, FAAP
Medical Director, Petworth
Today, more than ever, Mary's Center continues to be a beacon of hope for thousands of families in the community. To meet the growing needs of our region, Mary's Center is launching the Promise of Tomorrow, a campaign to ensure wellness and opportunity for even more vulnerable families and individuals. With your support of this campaign, this year we will open a new comprehensive health center at Fort Totten in Northeast Washington, upgrade and expand the behavioral health services at a newly renovated wellness center in Adams Morgan, and serve more than 40,000 families in need.
Your committed support has brought us to this moment. Please consider making a gift of any size today – doing so will ensure that even more families have access to the services and resources needed to stay healthy and reach their highest potential.