Interesting Facts About Helen Rodríguez Trías: Pediatrician And Women’s Rights Activist

Helen Rodríguez Trías was a physician, educator, and outspoken advocate for women and children’s right to healthcare. Born on July 7, 1929, Rodriguez Trias fought for better healthcare for women and children throughout her career, from those affected by HIV and AIDS to victims of abuse. Rodriguez Trias, who founded the New York Latino Commission on AIDS, died in 2001 from complications of cancer.
Physician Helen Rodriguez-Trias is being honored for her work as a champion of underprivileged women and children with a Google Doodle on what would have been her 89th birthday.
From being called the “face of women’s health” to overcoming hurdles of racism and sexism as a Latina woman in the medical profession, Ms. Rodriguez-Trias’ life was quite impressive.
Born in New York City, here are five interesting facts you should know about the pediatrician and women’s rights activist:
1. For her work, Ms Rodriguez-Trias was awarded the Presidential Citizen’s Medal by then-President Bill Clinton in 1992. He said she was an ”outstanding educator and dynamic leader in public health”.
2. Helen Rodriguez Trias established the first center for newborn babies in Puerto Rico/ Rodriguez Trias, who had four of her own children, established the care center during her residency, decreasing the hospital’s newborn death rate by 50% in three years.
3. She taught her students that there a ‘critical link’ between public health & political rights. Despite her initial setback, Rodríguez-Trías returned to Puerto Rico and eventually earned her B.A. degree in 1957.
She continued her political interests, as well, serving as a student activist on issues like freedom of speech and Puerto Rican independence. After obtaining her B.A. she was accepted to the school of medicine at the University of Puerto Rico, where she earned her medical degree in 1960.
Rodríguez-Trías would continue to promote the importance of education throughout her career. She taught at the City College in New York City, where she made a point of raising students’ awareness of the conditions in which they lived in.
According to CF Medicine, Trías saw a critical link between public health and social and political rights, and sought to convey that to the younger generation. “I think my sense of what was happening to people’s health,” she explained, “was that it was really determined by what was happening in society— by the degree of poverty and inequality you had.”
Rodríguez-Trías was taught at Columbia and Fordham universities, and was an associate professor of medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Yeshiva University in New York City.
4. She led the American Public Health Association. Ms. Rodriguez-Trias became the first Latina to be appointed as the chief of the organization, which now boasts 25,000 members.
The group describes itself as “the only organization that influences federal policy, has a 140-plus year perspective and brings together members from all fields of public health”.
Upon, Ms. Rodriguez-Trias’ death in California 2001 from cancer, the association established a social justice award in her name and given annually to “a person who has worked towards social justice for underserved and disadvantaged populations”.
5. Ms. Rodriguez-Trias was no stranger to the difficulties of being a successful woman of color. She said once that “the experiences of my own my mother, my aunts and sisters, who faced so many restraints in their struggle to flower and realize their full potential” were what drove her to advocate for women in her community and low-income populations all over the world.
Working as a physician in the Bronx borough of New York in the 1970s, Ms. Rodriguez-Trias said of her and others’ activism: “What brought me to the women’s movement was the women’s health movement”.

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