TFAH Celebrates Public Health Contributions of Hispanic & Latino People During Hispanic Heritage Month


In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month 2023, TFAH is highlighting the careers of a select number of people of Hispanic and Latino/Latina descent who have made important contributions to the field of public health.

Carlos Juan Finlay, M.D. (1833 – 1915)
Dr. Carlos Juan Finlay was an epidemiologist and a physician and a pioneer in yellow fever research. He discovered that yellow fever was a vector-borne disease from mosquitoes. As one of the most revered Cuban doctors and scientists, Finlay was nominated seven times for the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. In 1928, in his honor, Cuba created the National Order of Merit Carlos Finlay as the highest recognition for contributions in healthcare and medicine.

José Celso Barbosa, M.D. (1857 – 1921)
Dr. José Celso Barbosa was the first Puerto Rican and person of African descent to earn an M.D. in the U.S. As a physician and politician, he was supportive of healthcare and fought against racism. After being denied admittance to Columbia University because of his race and ethnicity, he attended and graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School as valedictorian in 1880. He also worked closely with the Red Cross during the Spanish-American War.

César Milstein (1927 – 2002)
César Milstein was a biochemist who was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1975 and awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1984. He advanced technology related to monoclonal antibodies that is still relevant to protect against viruses and pathogens. Learn more about César Milstein here.

Helen Rodríguez-Trías (1929 – 2001)
Dr. Helen Rodríguez-Trías was a pediatrician and women’s rights advocate and in 1993 became the first Latina president of the American Public Health Association. In 2001, Dr. Rodriguez-Trias was a Presidential Citizens Medal recipient and helped create federal guidelines for consent to medical procedures in response to involuntary sterilization. She also established the first newborn care center in Puerto Rico. Learn more about Dr. Rodríguez-Trías here.

Antonia Novello, M.D. (1944 – present)
Dr. Antonia Novello was appointed the 14th United States Surgeon General in 1990. She was the first Hispanic and first woman to serve in that position. She began her career as a pediatric nephrologist then shifted towards the field of public health. Dr. Novello made many contributions at the National Institutes of Health, including in the areas of pediatrics and AIDS research. Dr. Novello was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2000. Learn more about Dr. Novello here.

Jane Delgado, Ph.D. (1953 – present)
Dr. Jane Delgado is a psychologist and graduate of NYU and SUNY Stony Brook. She is the current and first woman president and CEO of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health and contributed to the 1985 Landmark Report of the Secretary’s Task Force on Black & Minority Health aka The Heckler Report. Dr. Delgado has also authored many books on health, including the groundbreaking Salud: The Latina Guide to Total Health. Learn more about Dr. Delgado here.

Omar Estrada
Omar Estrada is a University of Colorado graduate who works with the Colorado Department of Education to improve access to mental and physical health services for Colorado’s youth. Estrada was recognized by the de Beaumont Foundation’s 40 Under 40 in Public Health for 2023.

Bamby Salcedo
Bamby Salcedo is the President and CEO of the TransLatin@ Coalition. She is a prominent LGBTQ+ and human rights activist and helped develop the blueprint on providing competent healthcare services for transgender people and LGBT people in the U.S., Latin America, and the Caribbean. Salcedo also helped create the Center for Violence Prevention and Transgender Wellness in Los Angeles. Learn more about Bamby Salcedo here.