From Pequeño to NPHI Medical Director
NPH Honduras celebrates the appointment of Dr. Edwin Vallecillo to the position of NPH International Director of Medical Services.
|Reported by Arielle Augustin
Communications Officer, NPH Honduras
November 4, 2019
This past summer NPH Honduras celebrated the appointment of one of its own. Dr. Edwin Vallecillo became NPH International’s newly appointed Director of Medical Services and Regional Medical Coordinator for Honduras and Guatemala.
As a former resident of NPH Honduras himself, the home’s changes and growth have paralleled his own. Reflecting on his early years, Edwin recalls the vital role that NPH’s in-take program played in his successful transition.
“I came to NPH Honduras in January 1994 with my seven brothers and sisters. When I first arrived I thought, ‘whoa, they’ve brought me to the woods!’ I was impressed by the abundant nature because I was coming from a dangerous and densely populated neighborhood in Tegucigalpa where there wasn’t much around,” recalls Vallecillo.
“No one, especially a child, is ever prepared to go through a situation like my siblings and I did, but the best thing that NPH could’ve provided me with was security. When you’re little, that’s what you need the most: to feel safe. From there, the rest can be negotiated. You accept the situation, adapt little by little, and the place becomes your home. You make friends, build relationships with caregivers, learn the dynamic, and find where you fit in.”
“I remember working really hard, but I also remember going hiking with my caregivers and other boys from the home, walking through ravines, and picking flowers.”
Feeling secure, Vallecillo came of age at NPH Honduras and started to imagine a bright future. “I’ve always liked everything to do with science. When I was in eighth or ninth grade I thought of becoming a doctor. In general, people don’t want to study medicine in Honduras because it takes a long time and costs a lot of money. But I knew that I could do it with the support of NPH because we invest in our children and encourage them to go to university.”
“I had a desire to help others, but what motivated me the most was a desire for social justice. I was very small when my mother passed away from cancer. Looking back at what happened to her, I often thought, ‘what would’ve happened if I were a doctor and could’ve helped her?’ From my lived experience, I started thinking of how I could help others.”
He wasn’t alone. Pursuing similar paths were friends like Marta Baca and Merlin Antunez, fellow residents of NPH who had a great influence on him. Marta later became a doctor in our internal clinic and Merlin is an orthopedic surgeon and medical director for One World Surgery’s Holy Family Surgery Center at NPH Honduras.
In 2006, Edwin attended the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana, Cuba, on a full scholarship where he spent the next seven years pursuing his medical studies. During this time his passion for the mission of NPH and his attention to the needs of his home didn’t waver. Each year he returned to NPH Honduras to support both the staff and clinical operations.
He completed his medical training with an emphasis in disease prevention and health promotion. In 2012 he returned to Honduras to put in two years of service with the Honduran public health system in the northern region of the country. In 2015, Vallecillo joined the medical team of the NPH Honduras internal clinic.
“Now, in my current position as Medical Services Director, I feel as though I have the opportunity to improve things even more, not only within NPH, but outside of it, in the communities. I’m conscious of the challenges the average Honduran faces and of health on a global scale.”
“Many people suffer, not because of their illnesses, but because of holes in our health system that don’t provide the response they need.”
“NPH is trying to create that response. Within our homes, access to primary healthcare is guaranteed. Someone is always there looking for a solution. Basic needs, like clean water, a balanced diet, vaccines, and access to primary healthcare are covered, whereas on a national level many people don’t receive that.”
“In all nine of the countries in which we serve, the biggest problem that we face is lack of access to quality medical services and investment in public health. There’s an incredible deficiency. I feel like our towns are sick. If our people are sick, they don’t progress because they are ill, tired, and depressed, which affects the entire society.”
“There’s a lot of work and NPH is a big organization. Each home has its own characteristics and we’re going through a significant transition to be able to offer healthcare to our communities. Everything has to be well thought out to understand what we have to do, can do, and what we have the resources to do. We want to have an impact while still maintaining NPH’s values.”
Taking a biopsychosocial approach to health, Vallecillo sees increased collaboration among interdisciplinary teams as integral to NPH’s goal of improving access to quality healthcare.
“At NPH, we’re figuring out how to connect all of our departments so that we can work with each other to provide the best care for our children and communities. We need people with heart to tackle these problems. Working as a team will give us the conviction we need to achieve our goals and continue our mission.”
Edwin came to NPH Honduras with his seven brothers and sisters in January 1994. Here he is (left) with three of his siblings.
Dr. Edwin (second to the right) pictured with his seven siblings.
Cutting the ribbon on the clinic’s opening day, Dr. Edwin poses with NPHI Board President Reinhart Koehler and Dr. Marta Baca of the external clinic.
Providing children at the NPH homes with quality healthcare is Dr. Edwin’s primary focus.