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“And you don’t say no to Sister Dede,” he says. “This is Sister Dede’s bear trap.”

Dr. Melluzzo picks up his briefcase from a small administrative room at the clinic, which has five examination rooms on the first floor and several dental chairs on the second.

A “Spanish Now” workbook sticks out of the briefcase — Dr. Melluzzo is taking Spanish lessons to improve his communication with the mostly Spanish-speaking patients.

“I think we all should give back, and this is my way of giving back,” he says.

A day at the clinic

The waiting room — often packed — has a framed poster of Our Lady of Guadeloupe, and on the second floor there is a small chapel. Other than that — and the habit-wearing Sister Dede — the clinic looks like any medical office.

Well, with a few exceptions. The equipment is donated and looks aged. Sometimes it means working in substandard conditions — like when Sister Dede and medical resident Dr. Cory Chapman excised a patient’s ingrown hair and drained a cyst with a tiny scalpel blade without the holder.

“It’s bush medicine in the city,” says Sister Dede, holding the tiny blade.

The patient with the ingrown hair is a Mexican delivery man who speaks limited English.

“Lo siento, lo siento,” says Dr. Chapman, apologizing as he cuts out a cyst that surrounds the hair.

“You’ll hear us say ‘lo siento’ a lot,” says Sister Dede, who, in her very unique position, also has strong ties to Sibley Hospital in the affluent Palisades neighborhood of the city.

Many of the doctors with whom she went to medical school at Georgetown University have privileges there. So, now, whenever she needs an operating room, the hospital provides.

“Thanks to her, we have all the contacts at Sibley,” says Cecilia Alava, a retiree who volunteers at the clinic as an interpreter and also fills whatever other role is needed.

“Sister Dede is the best. Without her, the clinic would go down,” she says.

Sister Dede calls the hospital “St. Sibley.”

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