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Obituary of Liliana Margarita Ovalles Escalona
A Remembrance of
Dr. Liliana Margarita Ovalles Escalona
November 7, 1967 – June 30, 2019
Liliana Margarita Ovalles Escalona was born on November 4, 1967 in Merida, Venezuela, a city of 200,000 people located high in the Andes. Liliana and her five siblings grew up on the family’s farm, where the family owned a sugar mill and processed sugar. Liliana’s mother cooked breakfast and lunch every day on a wood-burning stove for 40 workers. Liliana learned to drive in a 1940s Willys Jeep. She was a nonconformist. Her youthful passions included hair styling, seamstressing, weaving, and folkloric music and dancing.
Liliana always knew she wanted to be a doctor. After graduating as a nutritionist in 1990, she enrolled in medical school. She completed her internship and graduated with the degree of “Physician and Surgeon” in 1998.
After graduation, Liliana fulfilled a one-year government service obligation, providing emergency and general medical care in Guanarito, a rural agricultural town. After that, she completed a one-year residency in general and emergency medicine in the government hospital in Guanare, an agricultural area in the high plains of Venezuela, which is famous for producing cacao, coffee, indigo, sugar cane and tobacco.
In 2001, Liliana was awarded government scholarships to pursue specialty training in hematology. After a three-year residency, she became board certified in hematology in 2004. Shortly thereafter, she moved to Isla Margarita, a Caribbean island of 500,000 inhabitants not far from Trinidad and Tobago, where she headed the local blood bank and became the medical director of an 80-bed government hospital, in addition to having her own private hematology practice.
She met her future husband, Mike, through a mutual friend, Magda Hernao, who was renting rooms in her home to Mike and other visiting students of a local language school called the Centro de Linquistica Applicada, where Mike was taking a two-week course in intensive business and legal Spanish.
Mike made several more visits to Venezuela and, on July 22, 2006, he and Liliana were married in Merida in a civil ceremony, meticulously planned by her sisters and presided over by the town’s Prefect, with dozens of family and friends in attendance.
During her initial few years in the United States, Liliana dedicated herself to taking college English classes, as well as crash courses at Kaplan University in Pasadena to prepare for the United States Medical Equivalency (USMLE) medical licensing exam. She was accepted as a member of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) and also attended medical conferences around the world to maintain her Venezuela license and to stay on the cutting edge of her specialty. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts to pass the USMLE, Liliana became licensed in Washington as a medical laboratory technician. Although she had never given up on her dream to take the USMLE again and practice medicine in the United States, she took a job at the Sea Mar Clinics as a medical laboratory technician and was pursuing microbiologist certification when she was blindsided by a diagnosis of ovarian cancer in 2016.
Liliana initially found the transition to Washington weather difficult, but she soon came to love the Pacific Northwest. She became a fan of Zumba, belly dancing, the mountains, Washington restaurants, the Olympia Film Society and live music. She loved to travel, particularly to Florida, Italy, California, New Mexico, Peru, and of course Venezuela. She enjoyed hiking and canoeing in the summer and snowshoeing in the winter.
What gave Liliana the most joy was sharing good food and good times with family and friends. Very best of all – watching nearly every episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse over and over with her step-grandson Bridger.