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Life & Work with Diana Cordova

Today we’d like to introduce you to Diana Cordova.

Hi Diana, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I was born and raised in East LA. Just to give you a little background, East LA is an inner city community where poverty is high, and health care is considered a luxury.

The main reason I pursued a career in physical therapy was because of my father. My father was diagnosed with a herniated disc, two disc bulges, hypertension, diabetes mellitis, and diabetic neuropathy. As a young adult fresh out of UCLA, I accompanied him to his physical therapy sessions as his support system, but more so as his interpreter. I explained medical terminology in Spanish to him, I demonstrated every therapeutic exercise given from his physical therapist, and I kept him on track with all his exercises at home. Despite not speaking any English, my father recovered after months of hard work in physical therapy, and that’s when I knew that physical therapy was my calling. I became my father’s life coach and mentor during his recovery.

After I was accepted in the most competitive PTA program in California, I applied for the APTA national scholarship. The application entailed this question – what do you want to do when you become licensed? That question sparked my mind and that’s when I first created the blueprint for my future nonprofit sports rehab clinic that would be located in my hometown. Growing up in East Los Angeles, I was not fortunate enough to have a gym membership, let alone afford private training, or proper education on exercise and nutrition, or recovery equipment. I visualized in my mind how I can bring my knowledge and healing to my people.

Fast-forwarding to the present, I became the recipient of the APTA national scholarship and I am now the founder of The East Los Lab, a sports rehab non-profit organization located at Backyard CrossFit in Montebello, CA. We specialize in serving the underprivileged community.

The reason I share my father’s story is because my father is the epitome of East LA, if there was a cultural barrier, he wouldn’t have participated and healed himself. I want to remove any barriers that my people may endure while searching for healing.

The East Los Lab prides in being bilingual, professional, and compassionate. The main reason I created this nonprofit is to treat everybody like family through their recovery process or their ultimate fitness goal. We train a broad spectrum, from minority athletes to geriatrics who struggle with an injury and focus on corrective exercises, mobility, and overall injury prevention exercises.

I love to share my passion for this project and I want my community to receive the best treatment and create something that East LA has never had.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Starting The East Los Lab has been challenging in a variety of ways, from choosing the name of the organization to bringing the vision to light in real life. Because we started in the middle of the pandemic, applying and being awarded tax exempt status by the IRS was nearly impossible. With so many people in the nation in dire need of financial assistance during this time, reviewing 501(c)3 applications was not a priority.

Another huge struggle was constructing and designing the clinic from scratch while maintaining a full-time job. This consisted of working many hours on the weekends, as well as early mornings on the workdays. We were blessed to have family and friends from the community donate their skillset, like construction labor, website design, interior design, AC installation, etc. We prioritized in specifically hiring East LA locals for any work that was needed at the clinic. The ultimate goal was to invest in the talented community of East LA, in its growth, and in its health and well-being. After all, community begins at home.

The main struggle was funding the project. The East Los Lab was 75% self-funded and 25% funded through donations made by our amazing friends, family, patients, colleagues, professors, and mentors. I had been preparing and saving for this project for three years waiting for the right opportunity to present itself until it finally did.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I currently work full time as a licensed Physical Therapist Assistant and Strength and Conditioning Coach at Monarch Athletic Club in West Hollywood. I am a USA Weightlifting Level 2, as well as a CrossFit coach. I studied Biological Anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), as well as achieved my Associate in Science in Physical Therapist Assistant from Cerritos College after my undergraduate program. I hold certifications in Functional Range Conditioning (FRC MS) and Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM practitioner). With a background in Olympic Weightlifting and functional fitness, I aim to combine both worlds to create a unique rehabilitation experience for the patients to ensure the best functional outcome.

Is there anyone you’d like to thank or give credit to?
Phillip Sainz, co-founder and licensed PTA, for building the clinic, treating the patients, and for supporting the idea since we were classmates in physical therapy school. Yesenia Trujillo, our website engineer, for creating our website, Yelp profile, Facebook profile, e-mails, and google page.

Briana Savage, digital media director, for handling our Instagram profile.

Katie Lerch, our photographer, for capturing the authenticity of The East Los Lab.

Araseli Perez, event coordinator, for the endless fundraising plans and ideas.

Backyard CrossFit and Saul Garcia for welcoming us into their gym, believing in the dream, and supporting in every way possible from the very beginning when the idea was first proposed.

Monarch Athletic Club and Mariel Schofield for the continued education and one of a kind experience.

The Sainz and Cordova family for going above and beyond to keep us sane, motivated, and inspired to continue to be the change.

For all the family and friends who believed and donated before the clinic was built, and for those who are still donating now!

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Katie Lerch and Briana Savage.

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