In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, PAGNY is proud to feature Dr. Nelly Maseda, MD, MPH, Director of Pediatrics at NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health, Morrisania and Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Einstein Medical School.
Dr. Maseda was born and raised in Washington Heights, Manhattan, to a Dominican mother and Cuban father. In 2023, she was recognized by Castle Connolly as a 2023 Top Hispanic & Latino Doctor.
We sat down with Dr. Maseda to learn more about her career and what advice she has for the next generation of Latina/Hispanic women looking to pursue a medical career. Here's what she had to say.
PAGNY: Why did you choose a career in health care?
Dr. Maseda: I excelled in the sciences in high school and loved biology. One of my teachers felt I should consider a career in medicine, which led me to volunteer at New York Presbyterian, where I became fascinated with what I observed in physicians' work. The medical doctors were extremely knowledgeable, and I wanted to be just as well informed as they were about the workings of the human body. Additionally, being able to care for others as a physician combined the two aspects I wanted in a career: the intellectual fulfillment of medicine and the humanity in helping others.
PAGNY: What drives you to care?
Dr. Maseda: I think many of us in the medical profession are driven by a sense of alleviating the pain of others. In addition, as a pediatrician, my passion for helping innocent children who may not be able to verbalize their needs adds another layer to my work, where we serve as advocates for them. Helping families cope with all that parenting entails and addressing how the family unit's functioning can affect an infant's developmental trajectory adds to my sense of purpose. I was raised by a single immigrant mother in New York City. I identify with many of the challenges my patients face, especially the single mothers who can feel overwhelmed, especially when their child is sick.
PAGNY: What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Dr. Maseda: It is difficult to say what is the single most rewarding aspect of my job; certainly, the gratitude my patients frequently express is extremely rewarding.
PAGNY: Why is Hispanic representation in medical professionals important?
Dr. Maseda: The New York City demographics speak for themselves: 29% of our city is Hispanic. In the Bronx, where I work, more than half of the population is Hispanic.
The term Hispanic, or Latina, encompasses a group of people who trace a part of their lineage to Spain. We are also African, indigenous, and European. Some of us arrived recently in the United States, while others trace their family origins to the sixteenth century before the United States was formed.
Hispanic representation is important because we are an integral part of the fabric of the Americas. Yet, we represent less than ten percent of physicians in this country. Health outcomes improve when someone of a similar background provides medical care, so there is science behind the need for us to be represented in medicine.
PAGNY: What advice would you give the next generation of Latina/Hispanic women who wish to pursue a medical career?
Dr. Maseda: My advice to the next generation of Latina women who want to pursue a medical career is to try and find a mentor. I have been involved in pipeline programs for over twenty years, where we formally provide enrichment to college and high school students from low-income and underrepresented backgrounds so that they can submit competitive applications to colleges and medical schools.
Unfortunately, far too many of us encounter obstacles that make educational achievement, applying to medical school, and completing an MD incredibly difficult.
Society would benefit if we gave every child in our country the best education money can buy. Until that time, inspiring and helping those who come from backgrounds similar to ours takes us one step closer to achieving higher numbers of physicians who represent the patients we serve. Therefore, Latina women in medicine will find themselves sought after and experiencing higher demands as a result.
When entering the caring profession, mentoring and seeking the right work-life balance are key.
PAGNY is proud to feature our Hispanic and Latina health care professionals like Dr. Nelly Maseda. Her commitment to improving familial health outcomes for Hispanic New Yorkers and mentoring the next generation of Latina physicians exemplifies what it means to be a PAGNY provider.