(NBC) Dr. Ileana L. Piña was born in Havana, Cuba and moved to Miami with she was six in 1959.
In July 2011, Dr. Piña joined Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Centeras professor of medicine and epidemiology and population health, and vice chief for academic affairs, respectively. Her primary role is to reduce re-admission rates for heart failure patients. She also serves as a principal investigator for 11 ongoing research projects and presented on several topics at this year’s American Heart Association Scientific Sessions.
Most recently, Dr. Piña was the first Hispanic and female to win the Chairman’s Award for volunteerism from the American Heart Association for her dedication to educating the community about heart health across diverse populations.
How does it feel to be recognized for your long-time dedication to heart health?
Humbling. Blessed. I think there are so many people that deserve this award more than me. I’m humbled to take it especially because I am an immigrant.
At what age did you realize you wanted to study medicine? And what pulled you towards studying cardiology specifically?
I have always loved the smell of hospitals. I was very poor, and my father died when I was nine – he had a heart attack at 49. He took me to school that morning and was dead by 3pm. After he died, my mother and I moved into the projects in Miami. When he died, we didn’t have education [about heart disease] – the American Heart Association had been founded, but that education didn’t get to immigrants like us. My mother died when I was 19 of cirrhosis of the liver.