Raquel Bautista was invigorated with a passion for making health care accessible to all people during a two-year stint with the Peace Corps in Senegal, West Africa.
She now is excited to help make that happen as a new dental assistant and interpreter at Promise Community Health Center in Sioux Center.
“My interest in Promise was its commitment to serving community members who find it difficult to access health care that is affordable and that provides excellent care,” Bautista said. “There’s a tremendous amount of inclusion within Promise in which individuals, as well as entire families, are receiving the care they need and not being turned away for typical reasons that may exist elsewhere.”
Bautista grew up in Sheldon, graduating from Sheldon High School in 2005. She later went on to the University of Iowa in Iowa City, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in art history in 2013. After serving in various jobs in the Iowa City area for a couple of years, she joined the Peace Corps in 2015 and served as a preventative community health education volunteer until April 2017 in Senegal.
For those two years, she worked to integrate and educate her host community and surrounding communities with healthy habits that aligned with the Senegalese government’s goals and addressed community priority issues, such as malnutrition that compromised maternal and child health, infectious diseases such as malaria and diarrhea, and lack to access to clean water and sanitation. Her major project was the completion of 31 latrines for the entire village.
In the process, Bautista also learned the local language, Pulaar.
“It was an environment unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, and it’s really where my interest in health and dental care bagan. The lack of opportunity to seek treatment in Senegal is why accessibility is so important to me and why I chose Promise,” she said. “Patients should feel free to ask me about my experiences there. I love talking about Senegal. I consider it like another home, and it will continue to mean a lot to me for the remainder of my life.”
Bautista, who is fluent in Spanish in addition to English and Pulaar, also noted that she enjoyed visiting the dentist as a child and still does; therefore, she never understood the uneasiness that some people experience when they go to the dentist.
Now, she hopes to put people at ease in new role.
“As a dental assistant, it is my hope to shift a patient’s perspective of going to the dentist,” she said. “That starts by being an advocate for the patient as they sit in the dentist chair. That can also be a role played by parents for their young children by encouraging them to practice good dental care and bringing their kids to regular appointments so they hopefully grow up enjoying the dentist as much as I did – or at least making the idea of going to the dentist less terrifying.”
MORE ABOUT RAQUEL:
Raquel Bautista lives in Orange City. In her free time, she loves trying new activities, meeting new and interesting people, reading books, vacationing by the ocean, traveling, staying current on social justice issues and doing outdoor activities. She also enjoys films, art and “healthy-ish” living.