As an 18-year old, Lupita Martinez was recuperating in the hospital when the inspiration first surfaced. While observing a social worker, it struck her as something she might like to do.
However, when she entered college, Martinez opted to major in business. After graduation, she entered the business world. Gradually, her original love of social work lured her to change course.
“In my heart, I wanted to do social work,” Martinez recalls. “I found it very fulfilling helping people.”
Not one to shy from a challenge, Martinez decided to pursue a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) at the University of Texas at San Antonio, while working simultaneously on her Masters in Social Work at Our Lady of the Lake University.
“I graduated on the same day from both schools,” she laughs as she recalls her dual educational accomplishment.
With her degrees in hand, Martinez followed her heart, doing social work at a nursing home and then working with patients at a hospice care unit.
Those experiences eventually led her to the UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center where she serves as the social worker in the Patient & Family Services division.
In her job, she works with cancer patients to solve and cope with the myriad of problems encountered by those with the disease. Counseling also is an important part of her role at the Cancer Center.
“People dealing with cancer need someone to listen to their personal and family issues,” Martinez says. “Sometimes they find it easier to talk to a social worker who understands their needs.”
Often, doctors and nurses send patients to her office where Martinez assists with everything from paperwork for disability claims to equipment, such as walkers and canes.
She evaluates the needs of every patient, helping each one individually to cope with the life-disrupting nature of cancer.
“Usually, finances are an issue,” she says. “I can assist with food stamp applications or arrange for Meals on Wheels. My goal is to help ease the burden of cancer.”
In her quest to help patients, she has written letters to consulates of foreign countries to allow families to visit patients receiving treatment at the Cancer Center. In another case, Martinez worked with the state prison system to relocate an inmate closer to San Antonio so the patient could visit a family member while getting treatment.
“Whatever it takes,” Martinez says with a smile. “My job allows me to get awfully close to our patients. I feel like I am on the journey with them.”
That attitude is what makes Lupita Martinez a patient’s best ally in the fight against cancer.
Click here for more information on the Cancer Center’s support services.