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.
Here are five facts you should know about Helen Rodriguez Trias on her birthday:
1. Helen Rodriguez Trias worked in both Puerto Rico and New York City
Born in NYC, Trias moved to Puerto Rico where she attended medical school and graduated with top honors. She later returned to NYC, working as director of the Department of Pediatrics at Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx.
2. Dr. Rodriguez Trias was the American Public Health Association’s first Hispanic-American woman president
The Helen Rodriguez Trias Social Justice Award is now given by the APHA to those who have worked toward “improving the health and well being” of underserved and disadvantaged populations
3. Helen Rodriguez Trias advocated for better healthcare around the world
“I hope I’ll see in my lifetime a growing realization that we are one world,” she said. “No one is going to have quality of life unless we support everyone’s quality of life… Not on a basis of do-goodism, but because of a real commitment…it’s our collective and personal health that’s at stake.”
4. Dr. Rodriguez Trias was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal
Rodriguez-Trias was given the medal by President Bill Clinton for her work as “a dedicated pediatrician, outstanding educator and dynamic leader in public health.”
5. 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.