Dolly Agduma Engracia

Reflections: Looking Back and Moving Forward

God is Good and Life is Sweet

By Yoly Tumangan Tubalinal

Success may look easy and comfy today for nurse entrepreneur, Dolly Engracia, co-owner of Carefirst Home Health Services, Inc., MDE Consulting Services, LLC, DMJ Home Health Services, etc. but she did have her share of challenges and obstacles to hurdle to get to where she is now. In fact, she’d be the first to say, challenges never cease to exist in a business as they do in life. Dolly knows better than to rest on her laurels for every day is a new day and conditions never stay the same. Technology, laws, our environment, the weather – they all undergo changes that are life altering and Dolly understands that getting where she is now isn’t the same as staying there.

Dolly and her special someone, Ronnie Perez

I asked how she keeps up with the constantly increasing demands of her job and still stays gorgeous, cheerful and pleasant; she responded with one of her favorite Bible verses. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 New International Version (NIV)
“I believe God is on my side from the beginning and I thank Him every day for the many blessings I received in my life,” Dolly’s words rang of deep gratitude. She explains how she believes that each one of us has a special and unique gift from God. That all we need to do is to find that gift and explore it. “Your gift is different from mine,” she said. “It doesn’t matter who we are. What matters is who we can be.”

Dolly with her bosom daughter Aprelle.

So, that’s why she’s so comfortable in her own skin and is never jealous of other people’s success, I told myself. She’s never rattled by problems. Rather, she keeps focused on finding solutions and getting the work done – so typical of a woman who, early in life, has learned to make life-changing decisions. Dolly recalled how she decided to shift from medicine to nursing when she realized her parents couldn’t really afford to send her to medical school. “It was a decision I never regretted,” Dolly interjected.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Brokenshire School of Nursing in Davao and shortly after working at the ICU of Philippine Children’s Medical Center, Dolly decided to join the bandwagon of nurses trying their luck overseas. It was another difficult but necessary decision for Dolly since she would have to leave her daughter Aprelle to the care of her mother in favor of greener pasture. She landed a job in Saudi Arabia and experienced firsthand working in a war zone at the Operation Desert Storm during the Gulf War. While in KSA, Dolly was already eyeing to explore the US jobs market for nurses. She took the CGFNS exams and passed them and got her US Visa approved shortly thereafter.

Daughter, Father, Granddaughter: Dolly, her father Don Felipe Engracia and her daughter Aprelle.

America, Dolly found out, won’t run out of jobs for those who are willing to work. For Dolly, it was a welcome opportunity to work long hours so she could afford her mom’s expensive cancer treatment in the Philippines. In the end, her mom succumbed to the deadly disease, a tragic loss she had to grapple with for a long time. Little did she know she would again venture into an unfamiliar territory long before her grief was over.

Armed with her years of experience as Trauma ICU surgical nurse at Mt Sinai Hospital in Chicago and work as ICU Agency nurse in the Affiliated hospitals of Rush Hospital, St Luke’s Medical Center, University of Illinois Hospital and Norwegian American Hospital, Dolly convinced two nurse friends to join her in putting up her first home healthcare agency, Carefirst Health Services, Inc., which for three consecutive years, 2009, 2010 & 2011 had been named among the Top 100 health care agencies in the US by the Healthcare Elite. Today, Dolly shares Carefirst ownership with nurse business partner, Ramsey Famacion.

Role Models in Dolly’s Life

Someone said “The best teachers of humanity are the lives of great men.” Maybe so. But Dolly Engracia didn’t have to look too far for role models, people that made an impact in her life. She picked her late mother, Leticia Agduma, a grade school teacher, because she believed in her daughter’s gift and pushed Dolly to follow her career and dream big. Her mother’s courage in the face of a debilitating illness showed her audacity and faith at their purest state. From her grandmother, Leonila Agduma, she inherited the business acumen.

Surrounded by her family in one of her many other birthday celebrations.

Tita Ging Capio who also lost her battle against cancer still reminds her of the former’s advice to keep her faith in God and believe always that He is by her side and has a good plan for her. Mother Theresa, too, who ministered to the poor, sick and dying while guiding the missionaries of charity all over the world is Dolly’s inspiration to make a difference in people’s lives.

And who is not to be beguiled by Oprah Winfrey? Her philanthropy and work certainly influenced millions, among them, Dolly. Dolly also admires Angelina Jolie who’s just as popular for her humanitarian and philanthropic works as she is for her beauty.

Mistakes and People from Her Past

“I’ve committed some mistakes in the past but I never regret making them for I learned from that experience,” Dolly confessed. She reiterated her faith in God who gives her wisdom to bounce back from every mistake she commits and her attitude of not holding any grudges against people even when they had done her wrong. “I just let bygones be bygones,” she said.

Could this casual and carefree set up at The Carnivale Restaurant, venue of Dolly’s birthday last October 2012, signal a change of heart and preferences?

Asked what she would change about her, moving forward, Dolly revealed that sometimes she cared too much for other people to the point of neglecting herself. She admits pursuing people sometimes thinking it could still get better but in the end, she realized letting go and moving on with her life was a better alternative. From this time on, Dolly promised to take care of herself first and make herself better so she can take care of others.

Visions and Missions

Someone said, “Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”

Having returned to her hometown a few times and spending Christmas there this year, Dolly sees her place from a different perspective. “I’ve come to feel more strongly my connection to the place and to my town folk,” she muttered. “I know that I can contribute something to make a difference in the lives of others,” she continued.

Gold napkins and vases and 75 red roses in each vase crowned the elegance of the venue and the impeccable taste of the birthday celebrant, Dolly, in October 2011 at the Intercontinental Hotel in downtown Chicago.

Last year she started re-building their church and furnishing it. She made a pledge to build fences in school to keep the children safe. She gave educational scholarships and plans on continuing this philanthropic gesture. She wants to see more churches built in smaller communities so she will donate lands to build them in. Long term, she hopes to establish her own foundation and focus more on education because she believes “education is the door to freedom.” She will continue her business ventures both here in the U.S. and in the Philippines to provide more jobs and help people.

Of Her Daughter Aprelle and the Special Someone in Her Life

Dolly says of her daughter, “My daughter Aprelle is taking her master’s degree in nursing and in nurse practitioner program. She was a consistent honor student from grade school to high school. Now a registered nurse, business owner, she also works as quality assurance staff at DMJ Home Health Services. She was crowned Miss Philippines PIWC 2011. I’m so proud of how my little girl has turned out to be.

Dolly makes a wish and blows her cake during her birthday celebration at Carnivale in Chicago.

In closing, Dolly opened up about the special someone in her life today. In her own words, she said:
I have been single all my life and independent since I was 16 years old. I raised my child alone and supported my family. I am the decision maker in my family and in business. I reached this age and came to realize that I am missing something in my life, the person that I truly deserve. The man that I dearly love and trust, the man that I will grow old with, with the blessing of the Holy Sacrament. The man who takes risks and makes an effort to show his good intentions for me. The man who would want to be with me for the rest of his life. He is someone who appreciates and understand my goals and is willing to support me, with his spirituality and good values. I finally found all that in Ronnie.
Isn’t life sweet? Ah… God is so good!

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