Perspectives on Pelvic Health & Wellness through the lens of a First Generation FilAm

Posted By: Marielle V. Decena Member Spotlight,

My upbringing as a first-generation Filipino American comprised of a rich culture embedded in Catholicism that somehow coalesced with deeply proud LGBTQ roots. Yes, these two things can coexist, though in a hot mess type of way. For starters, my community was a safe space for freedom of bodily expression, non-traditional family units, and yearly pilgrimages to the local drag show. In contrast, my religious upbringing often brushed aside topics on sexual health, intimacy, and pelvic anatomy.

On top of this, fear of language barriers, cultural differences, and cost influenced my community’s medical decisions regarding their own bodies, often at the cost of a loved one’s well-being. I can dive deeper into health disparities among minorities in the Americas, though this deserves its own separate blog. My purpose in writing this is to stress the impact of pelvic health providers on advocacy, education, and cultural competence. These are qualities that I quickly observed during a high school internship in which I shadowed a pelvic floor physical therapist for the very first time. A first-generation immigrant herself, she treated women from all walks of life and gave me the insight that healthcare can be approachable and that there are providers out there that give this type of space.

In light of this, I naturally desire to become an empowering figure in women’s lives, especially when they are in the throes of experiences that make society uncomfortable. I simultaneously understand the liberation that comes with an open community yet connect deeply with individuals who confide in long histories of bodily shame and embarrassment. There is something so invigorating about spaces held for people to make well-informed choices about their bodies and to be unapologetic about it. As a new grad, my greatest aspiration is to be an embodiment of creativity and empathy. Both of which go hand in hand and both of which are essential attributes of a pelvic health provider.


Marielle Decena, PT, DPT (2023 Scholarship Recipient) is a first-generation Filipina American who grew up in Chicago. Marielle pursued a Doctorate of Physical Therapy at Midwestern University. Since graduating, Marielle has since made a new home in Seattle where she has completed her 200 hour yoga teacher training. In her free time, Marielle enjoys bouldering, hiking, and biking.