For a local doctor, home is where the heart is
It was summer 2017, and Dr. Yania López Álvarez had just returned to Puerto Rico. A new doctor eager to bring her knowledge back to the island, the 35-year-old radiologist turned down more lucrative job offers on the mainland for the chance to practice at home close to her family.
But a few months later, Hurricane Irma slammed into Puerto Rico. Hurricane Maria came just weeks after, pummeling the island, destroying homes and causing widespread power outages that lasted for months. The official death toll stands at 2,975 people.
A lack of electricity, running water and jobs prompted many to leave the island. An estimated 135,000 people left Puerto Rico in the six months following Maria, according to a report by the Center for Puerto Rican Studies.
Dr. López chose to stay.
“My heart is just here,” said Dr. López, director of the Imaging Center of the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine in San Juan.
She represents a small but growing group – skilled Puerto Ricans in the health care field drawn to lead recovery efforts and overcome a shortage of workers post-hurricanes.