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Global Columbus: Marionette Yvonne Cortez

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Yvonne Cortez

Born: Nabannagan, Lasam, Cagayan, Philippines

Age: 43

Primary language: Tagalog (Ilocano dialect), English

Work: Clinical laboratory scientist at Columbus Regional Health

Education: Bachelor of Science degree in medical technology

Family: Husband, Lenin Cortez, works as a machine operator at Rightway Fasteners Inc.; two daughters, Nicole Yvonne, 17, Melanie Marinel, 9

Hobbies: I collect stamps, and I love reading nonfiction books, especially biographies of famous people. Right now my biggest hobbies involve my kids’ activities. I am very active in the Philippine community here. I am the president of the Indiana Chapter, Philippine Association of Medical Technologists, and a member of the national board of directors. Every month we think of an activity for our spare time. This weekend we are going to St. Vincent De Paul in Indianapolis to help them package food for the needy in the downtown area.

● Why did you come to the U.S.?

In 2001, someone came to the Philippines to recruit medical technicians to work in the United States. At the same time, I was a member of the American Association of Blood Banking, and I got an invitation from the AABB for a convention in Florida. So I applied for a visa, and they gave me a 10-year multiple visa for pleasure and business trips, and I attended a convention in Florida while I was on an interview for a job in the same state.

● How and when did you come to live in Columbus?

I started applying at hospitals around the United States, and I had a friend who works in Columbus and asked her if they had an opening. I sent a reésumé (to Columbus Regional Hospital) in October 2002. They asked if I could come for an interview, and they offered me a job and converted my visa to a working visa. I started working there in January 2003.

● Tell us about your work.

As a generalist, I rotate on all of the departments in the lab. I think I’m the only one who rotates on all of the sections. We perform and analyze all the very complex tests for blood and other bodily fluids in our system. After testing and analyzing we have to collaborate with the physicians or the pathologist or the medical director to talk about the best treatment for the patient. We have a vital role in the diagnosis of the patient.

● What do you like best about your job?

I like that I can rotate in the different sections of the laboratory. I don’t want to be stuck in just one section because I get bored doing the same thing. I want today to be different from yesterday and tomorrow to be a different case again. Our laboratory director and lab manager are so supportive of our professional growth.

● What were some of your first impressions of the U.S.?

When I went to Florida it was nice, but every state here is equivalent to our country. It’s so big and the culture is very different. In this country, even if you don’t know a person, you can say, “Hi, how are you doing?” In my country, you cannot just talk to stranger.

● What were some of the most difficult things to adjust to?

It was difficult because I came here by myself and I left my husband and, at that time, a 6-year-old daughter, in the Philippines. That was very hard, but six months after I got the job I got them here. We don’t drive in the Philippines, and I had to walk (everywhere). So I bought a bike to get around. Of course, I drive now.

● How have people reacted to you in Columbus?

People were very warm and very welcoming to me. Everyone was friendly. I told my husband when he first came here that people you didn’t know would see you on the street and talk to you. I felt like I belonged here right away.

● What do you miss most about your home country?

I miss my mom and my brother who are still in the Philippines. I have two sisters, but they are in other countries, and we talk a lot. Our families are very close-knit (in the Philippines). We gather every weekend in my grandfather’s house, and it’s like a big potluck party every week. The food that we eat here is not the same. Even if you can find Philippine food, it still tastes different than what we get at home.

● How do you stay connected to your home culture friends/family?

I talk to my mom and my cousins regularly at home and I talk to people on Facebook. We go to the Philippine Fiesta in Indianapolis every year, and in Columbus, we have the Ethnic Expo and they exhibit our food. We also gather here at our friends’ houses. We are planning to go (to the Philippines) after my eldest’s graduation next year.

● What advice do you have for people coming to Columbus?

I would tell them that Columbus is a very nice place to live. We have famous architecture and the place is booming. We have nice places to eat and the Outlet Mall (in Edinburgh) for shopping. There are a lot of parks and trails and a lot of activities, so you will not get bored here if you get involved.

● What is your favorite place to visit and why?

I would like to travel in the 50 states. I check them off, and I have been to 14 states already.

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