4 Hispanic Medical Professionals and Pioneers Whose Lives Made Our Lives Better

4 Hispanic Medical Professionals and Pioneers Whose Lives Made Our Lives Better

4 Hispanic Medical Professionals and Pioneers Whose Lives Made Our Lives Better

Lee esto en EspañolThey were pioneers of science, risk takers, and valued contributing something to the world that was greater than themselves. 

What can we learn from the lives of these 4 individuals?  This Hispanic Heritage month (September 15th – October 15th) we celebrate the lives and work of the following four doctors who changed our lives for the better.

Do you take a multivitamin or vitamin B supplement? We can thank Dr. Severo Ochoa for our understanding of how it works in our body. 

  1. Severo Ochoa, MD (1905-1993)
    Do you take a multivitamin or vitamin B supplement? These vitamins help our body convert food into energy.  Ochoa pioneered research that furthered our understanding of the biological functions of Vitamin B1.  His research also led to our understanding of how we metabolize carbohydrates and fatty acids. 

    Born in Spain, Ochoa became a U.S. citizen in 1956 and won a Nobel peace prize for his work shortly thereafter.  Dr. Ochoa holds honorary degrees at some of the most prestigious universities all over the world.
Should any patient, rich or poor, have access to high quality health care?  Dr. Helen Rodríguez-Trías, a champion of women’s rights and health equity, believed so.

  1. Helen Rodríguez-Trías, MD (1929-2001)
    What about the fair treatment of those who are voiceless?  Before we had social media, Dr. Helen Rodríguez-Trías was key in advocating for women and patient rights.  Dr. Rodríguez-Trías worked to change sterilization practices of poor and minority women, which at times was happening without their proper consent. 

    Born in New York in 1929, Dr. Rodríguez-Trías studied medicine at the University of Puerto Rico where she graduated with honors.  Her work led to many changes in neo-natal care, care for women in Puerto Rico and the U.S., and AIDS patient care in New York in the 1970s.  She received a Presidential Citizens Medal from President Bill Clinton in 2001.
Why do we take such care in protecting ourselves from mosquitos?  We now know that mosquitos transmit diseases like Yellow Fever, thanks to Dr. Juan Carlos Finlay’s experiments.         

  1. Juan Carlos Finlay, MD (1833-1915)
    Did you know? In 1886 Dr. Finlay published experimental evidence that showed that Yellow Fever was transmitted from infected human to healthy human via mosquito. 

    A graduate of Jefferson Medical College (Philadelphia), Finlay was eventually able to take his case to Washington D.C. in 1881.  However, it wasn’t until his work with the U.S. Army Yellow Fever Board that his discovery was finally accepted in 1900.  The eradication of Yellow Fever in Cuba and Panama followed soon after.
What was happening before the U.S. Civil Rights movement of the 1960s?  Dr. Barbosa was breaking racial barriers and paving new roads towards equality.

  1. José Celso Barbosa, MD (1857-1921)
    What other challenges have people of color faced throughout U.S. history? José Celso Barbosa helped pave the way for Afro-Latinos by showing the world what was possible during a time when social barriers kept certain opportunities exclusive to a select few.

    In 1880, Dr. Barbosa became the first person from Puerto Rico to receive a medical degree in the U.S.  After graduating as Valedictorian from the University of Michigan, he returned to Puerto Rico to practice medicine in the city of Bayamon. 

    Dr. Barbosa would become an early advocate of U.S. statehood for Puerto Rico during a time when the island was still establishing itself after Spanish colonial rule. He was also an early advocate for employer-backed health care.

Many other doctors, nurses, and medical professionals of all backgrounds and ethnicities have collectively made a profound impact on the world in the field of medicine.  Their contributions have made it so that we can all live longer and healthier lives.  Are there any doctors in history or in your life that you’re especially thankful for?  Let us know in the comments below.

Sources: Helen Rodriguez-Trias  National Women's Health Network, 2020; Dr. Helen Rodriguez-Trias  U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2015; Celebrating 10 Hispanic pioneers in medicine  Association of American Medical Colleges, 2020; Severo Ochoa - Facts  NobelPrize.org; 2021; Barbosa y Alcalá, José Celso (1857–1921)  Encyclopedia.com, 2019; U-M Alumni Records  University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library, 2021; Yellow Fever  Britannica, 2021
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