Inspiring Immokalee – Drawing her future from a childhood in Immokalee

By Kathy Becker
Special to the Immokalee Bulletin

Yerania “Yadi” Lopez gave up her dream of a career in animation for healthcare after experiences as a patient and employee at Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida.

After arriving with her family from Mexico, Yerania “Yadi” Lopez first visited the health clinic in Immokalee in 1991 for a school physical.

She was 11 years old when she became acquainted with the organization now known as Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida.

Today, she is director of operations in Immokalee providing leadership to the management staff who serve patients. Her role is to maximize efficiency and proficiency by planning, directing, and evaluating all medical activities in the Immokalee practices.
She first started working at the clinic to help her family when she was in high school but planned to pursue a dream of becoming an animator.

“It took me two to three months to get a job because I was under age 18,” she recalled. “I kept calling and asking them to hire me, and they finally did because they said I was persistent and wouldn’t give up.”

She worked evenings and after school at the front desk, helping to translate for patients when needed. “I was exposed to the clinical part, the patients and the doctors, so I decided I wanted to become a nurse.”

While still working at the clinic, she pursued a licensed practical nurse degree at Lorenzo Walker Technical College. Later, she went back to school for her registered nurse degree at Edison College, now Florida SouthWestern State College. Throughout her career, she was encouraged and supported by Healthcare Network supervisors and staff to expand her knowledge.

“They have been advocates for the employees,” she said. “They help you grow if you want to.”

She has held many positions at Healthcare Network — as nurse manager, director of quality assurance and electronic health records manager. Since 1999, she has worked full- or part-time, except for two months in 2005 when she left to try something different.

What drew her back and kept her there was the people. “They are like my second family,” she said. “At 38 years old, I’ve spent half my life here. They have supported me in work and personally.”

She has three brothers, Jose, George and David who also work at Healthcare Network. Her two children, now ages 12 and 9, grew up with her working there.

“I hope they see that my work is meaningful to me,” she said. “I keep learning, and the changes and dynamic growth of the culture here is beautiful.”

In all, Lopez has had 11 positions, landing her current role as director of operations Immokalee in 2019, and coming full circle to the clinic she first visited as patient and an employee.

“I always wanted to focus on this area, because this is where I started,” she said. “I know the staff and I understand the culture and challenges they and the patients have.”

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