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Latinx Women in Medicine

Latinx Women in Medicine:

By: Carolina Ruiz

Minority representation in high-level positions continues to be a disparity. A study by the AAMC showed that less than six percent of physicians identify as Hispanic or Latinx as of 2019. Research journals have dived into the effect this has had on patient care; patients trust those who they feel most comfortable with and those who they can identify with. With a low amount of equal representation, there is a lack of follow ups with physicians and specialists, specifically when it comes to Hispanic or Latinx patients.

Matters like these are what emphasize the need for minority representation in any healthcare establishment.    

Below I’ve outlined some exceptional women from the Latinx community who have broken these barriers throughout their career. Each sought out their profession at a time when female, let alone minority representation, was minimal. They now stand as inspirational figures to young women pursuing medicine and students in the Latinx community everywhere.     


1. Antonia Novello, M.D., MPH 

  • Born in Puerto Rico (1944) and earned her medical degree at the University of Puerto Rico.
  • Struggled with congenital megacolon at a young age and was constantly under medical treatment.
  • Received her B.S. and M.D from the University of Puerto Rico, an MPH in public health from Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, and further continued her training in Nephrology at the University of Michigan (became the first woman to be Intern of the Year). 
  • Became the first female and Hispanic appointed as U.S. Surgeon General from 1990-1993. 
  • She now heads one of the largest public health agencies in the country and continues to battle health inequities among poor and minority groups.  

Inspirational Quote:I want to be able to look back some day and say, ‘I did make a difference.’ Whether it was to open the minds of people to think that a woman can do a good job, or whether it’s the fact that so many kids out there think that they could be like me. I believe that fortitude is key.”

Further Information – Changing the Face of Medicine | Antonia Novello

2. Jane L. Delgado Ph.D., M.S.

  • Cuban-American born in 1953; immigrated to the U.S. with her family in 1955.
  • Excelled at a young age and overcame her difficulties with English, going on to pursue many academic degrees from different institutions. (B.A. in Psychology from SUNY New Paltz, M.A. in Psychology from NYU, Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from SUNY Stony Brook, and an M.S. in Urban and Policy Sciences from Stony Brook’s W. Averell Harriman School of Management and Policy).
  • She is a clinical psychologist, health care advocate, and non-profit executive.
  • Wrote many works speaking out for Latina women’s health such as “Salud: A Latina’s Guide to Total Health” and “The Latina Guide to Health: Consejos and Caring Answers”.
  • She is currently President and CEO of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health and continues to speak out for minority groups.

Inspirational Quote: “Don’t give up. This is hard work. You have to be in it for the long haul, and know that it is important. What you do will save lives, because that’s why we do this work. This is mission work. This is not just a job.”

Further Information – Jane Delgado | UChicago Argonne LLC

3. Serena Aunon-Chancellor M.D., M.P.H.

  • Born (1976) of Cuban descent, being that her father immigrated to the U.S. in 1960.
  • Obtained a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from George Washington University, pursued her M.D. from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, and received an MPH degree from the University of Texas Medical Branch.
  • She is an American physician, engineer, and NASA astronaut. 
  • Hired by NASA as a flight surgeon in 2006 and spent time supporting medical operations for the International Space Station through her work in Russia.
  • Selected in 2009 as a Flight Engineer aboard Expedition 56/57 spending 197 days in space.  
  • Today, she continues practicing medicine and advocates for the importance of space research and the impact it has for life on earth. 

Inspirational Quote: “The more woman power and manpower that we have on orbit, the more science we can do for you to protect you and your health back here on earth.”

 Further Information – Serena M. Aunon-Chancellor (M.D.) NASA Astronaut

4. Helen Rodriguez Trias, M.D.

  • Born (1929) in New York but spent her childhood years in Puerto Rico alongside her family.
  • Experienced racism and discrimination, yet became a student activist on topics such as freedom of speech. 
  • Received her B.A. from the University of Puerto Rico and went on to pursue her M.D. there as well (returned to New York in 1970 to practice community medicine).
  • She was a pediatrician, educator, and women’s rights activist.
  • In 1980, she served as medical director of the New York State Department of Health AIDS Institute and went on to become the first Latina president of the American Public Health Association. 
  • In 2001, she received a Presidential Citizens Medal for her work on behalf of women, children, the lower-income class, and people with HIV and AIDS.  

Inspirational Quote: “I hope I’ll see in my lifetime a growing realization that we are one world. And that no one is going to have quality of life unless we support everyone’s quality of life…not a basis of do-goodism, but because of a real commitment… it’s our collective and personal health that’s at stake.”

Further Information – Changing the Face of Medicine | Dr. Helen Rodriguez-Trias

5. Elena V. Rios, M.D., M.S.P.H.

  • Born in 1955 of Mexican descent, being that her grandparents immigrated from Mexico to California. 
  • Excelled academically at a young age, receiving an Outstanding Teenager of America Award and a scholarship for four years of college. 
  • Obtained her B.A. in Human Biology/ Public Administration at Stanford University, an M.D. at the UCLA School of Medicine, and an M.S.P.H. at the University of California School of Public Health.
  • In 1975, she founded a college recruitment program for minority high school students and continued this outreach program on a nationwide scale. 
  • In 1994, she was appointed as Advisor for Regional and Minority Women’s Health for the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services. 
  • She currently serves as the President and CEO of the National Hispanic Medical Association advocating to improve the health of Hispanics and helping minorities obtain new opportunities.

Inspirational Quote: “I want to keep building the network and to continue the leadership programs. Those people who will be the role models for the future. Some kids in college have professional parents, but most don’t, and so we lack role models. We need to break that cycle.”

Further Information – Changing the Face of Medicine | Dr. Elena V. Rios  

One of the greatest takeaways from the lives of each of these women is that they advocated for equal representation in every pursuit. They remembered their roots and stand as an image of what the Latinx community is capable of accomplishing.   

As the Spanish saying goes, “Sí, se puede!” (Yes, we can!)

Anna Vardapetyan

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