My Journey to IWD and Interview with Rachel Pires

“What medical insurance do you have?” How would I know such a simple question during a routine physical would lead me to a place so awesome!

Me: I don’t have medical insurance.

Doctor: When you go to the doctor, how do you pay?

Me: Usually out of pocket.

Doctor: Do you know about IWD?

Me: No. What’s that?

Doctor: It’s a place that offers medical services to young girls and women with physical disabilities.

Me: Oh. OK

Doctor: I’ll e-mail you the information so that you can contact Connie Lam, the Project Coordinator so that you can have a meeting with her and she can then set you up with Rachel, the social worker, and she could possible help you out on getting health insurance.

Me: OK. Thanks.

Connie Lam, Project Coordinator

And that’s how I found out about IWD, in case you were wondering, which you were. Well, maybe not exactly in those words, but give me a break. This was a year ago. Long story short I met with Connie, a Baruch Alumni (shout out!), and we shared our Baruch horror stories. A week or so later I began going there.

That’s where I met Rachael Pires.

Pires has been a Social Worker at IWD for five years. She is in her late 20’s. When it comes to describing her job Pires says: “My role is to provide emotional support to the women of IWD – this is conducted through various roles. I provide individual and group counseling and assist participants in connecting with other women who have similar concerns and issues due to their health/disability.”

Rachel Pires, Social Worker

She continues: “I provide mental health consultation to medical and wellness professionals in our center Additionally, I also provide orientation to IWD medical and wellness services; and information/referral to community resources.”

When it comes to her job Pires says: “I enjoy my job as it gives me the opportunity to empower the participants of our program to advocate for their own needs. I appreciate the opportunity to enable participants to explore new ways of living with a physical disability.”

When it comes to how Pires feels about the IWD she says: “IWD provides one-of-a-kind gynecological, medical and wellness services for women and adolescent girls with physical disabilities. This program provides services that were once inaccessible to women with physical disabilities due to financial and accessibility issues.”

She goes on to say: “I have seen visible changes in the women who come into our program. For instance, before they begin a fitness class such as belly-dancing, you can see that they are seeking support and understanding. When they come out of the class, you can see that they are a different person. They no longer feel isolated and alone, they are more in touch with their body and their inner self. It is amazing to see this change in the participant; it is a unique transformation which is truly encouraged and empowered by IWD staff.”


A Program That Women Don’t Know About, But Should

When I first went there I thought to myself “Why didn’t you do this sooner. You’re such an idiot.”

The Initiative for Women with Disabilities, also known as IWD is located at 17th and Lexington and 2nd Avenue. It is a part of NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases and is located on the 5th floor. It offers health and wellness services for women with physical disabilities. It has been around for ten years.

Suzette Morgan is 24 years-old. She lives in Elmont, Long Island.  As an Executive Assistant she provides administrative support to the Director of IWD, Judith Goldberg, as well as to the clients and departmental staff.

Suzette Morgan, Executive Assistant

Morgan says “I love my job. I love seeing the smiles on the women’s faces. I love helping people.”

When it comes to describing the IWD Morgan says “I think it’s a very good program. There’s nothing like it out there. We’re a one of a kind center. When people find us; the joy that it brings to them because they have been searching for something like this forever and can’t find it.”

Morgan thinks that there should be more programs like this because there are many people out there who are looking for those services.

The wellness services they offer include: Acupuncture, Reiki, Nutrition, and Message (which I absolutely must try!) and Reflexology (I have to say from experience; it is awesome!).

The medical services they offer include: Gynecology, Mind Body Physical Therapy, and Primary Care.

If you or anyone you know is interested in learning more about IWD or want to join you can contact them at: The Initiative for Women with Disabilities
Elly & Steve Hammerman Health and Wellness Center

NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases
301 East 17th Street, Suite 551
New York, NY 10003 Telephone: (212) 598-6429
Fax: (212) 598-6512