Skip Navigation Celebrating America's Women Physicians
Changing the face of Medicine Home Visit Physicians
Resources Activities Share your Story

Biography
Return

 Return 

Dr. Conchita Marie Paz





Year of Birth / Death

b. 1954


Medical School

University of New Mexico School of Medicine


Geography

LOCATION
New Mexico


Career Path

General medicine: Family
Education: Teaching
Dr. Conchita Marie Paz



Inspiration

Initially, the challenge began as an intellectual challenge. I had obtained my undergraduate degree in physical therapy, however, I felt the limitations in employment opportunities as well as mental challenges. I felt the unlimited information in ongoing research would be challenging my entire career. I've enjoyed working with people and wanted to be of assistance in helping people attain their personal best with health and activity. Physicians I had seen and worked with did not always allow patients the dignity to make their own decisions in their health care and I felt I could do a better job, by listening to them and forming a partnership with them in managing their health care. I feel I have obtained that goal.

My oldest brother attended medical school and gave me the idea to pursue medicine as a career. He encouraged me to attend programs after high school that encouraged science as a career, in particular, medicine. As a role model, I was able to visualize the amount of work needed to succeed in my studies, and I caught his enthusiasm concerning medicine. While in medical school, he was there to guide me through the emotional pitfalls to keep on track and finish. I knew I could do the work, and with his support I was emotionally strong enough to complete my goal.



Biography

Conchita Marie Paz, M.D., completed her training as a physician while raising two young children as a single parent. She experienced cultural and gender discrimination as a Hispanic woman pursuing a career in medicine, but could count on the support of her family to help her succeed. Now running a private practice in New Mexico and teaching at the university, Dr. Paz is a leader and role model. From 1992 to 1994 she served as president of the New Mexico Hispanic Medical Association.

Dr. Paz is a fourth-generation Hispanic-American who recognizes her own capacity to contribute and refuses to be limited by traditional gender and cultural expectations. She began her career in medicine as a physical therapist but dreamed of attending medical school despite her husband's objections. She realized that doctors did not always allow patients the dignity of participating fully in decisions about their own medical care and, as a physician, felt that she could improve on that. She decided to attend the University of New Mexico School of Medicine but was soon caught in a tug of war between convention (and her Hispanic husband's expectation of a traditional role for his wife) and a yearning to achieve. Her oldest brother, in medical school himself, encouraged and supported her in her career choice and her parents encouraged her to pursue her education to the fullest. She divorced in order to continue medical school, graduating in 1984.

After completing her internship at Mercy Medical Center in Denver, Colorado, from 1984 to 1985, and her residency at Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, Nebraska, from 1987 to 1989, Dr. Paz took a break from advancing her career to spend time with her two small children and work as a general practitioner in northern rural New Mexico. For two years, she was both a single mom and a one-woman clinic—she was director of the Mora Valley Community Clinic and ran the ambulance service as well. Resuming her training, she completed her residency in family practice in Nebraska and returned to Las Cruces, New Mexico. Since 1989, she has taught in a community-based preceptor program at University of New Mexico School of Medicine, where she was named Teacher of the Year in 2002. She is also in private practice.

Dr. Paz is a past president of the New Mexico Hispanic Medical Association, is a member of the National Hispanic Medical Association, and served on the White House Commission for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine Policy committee in 2002.



Question and Answer

What was my biggest obstacle?

My husband was one of my biggest obstacles... I had to divorce him in order to continue my studies in medicine. He was a very traditional Hispanic man and made my life miserable. I got a very important message early in medical school from one professor. He communicated the importance of knowing where your support comes from because that will be were you will find what you need to succeed in medical school. My husband did not support the idea of me being a doctor and I was not conforming to his ideas of a wife.

Faculty were often obstacles to my career. At different moments during my time in medical school, I had feelings of cultural and gender discrimination. Some went out of their way to make the rotations an unpleasant part of my school experience. These included some women. I became pregnant during medical school and I heard countless comments on that. I did survive.

How do I make a difference?

I have returned to my hometown and feel I am an example to the young and old as how determination will get you where you want to be. I served on committees at the hospital, maintain contacts with a variety of people, and speak to grade school students about what it is like to be a doctor. I encourage the need to apply yourself to what you are invested in and education is key. I maintain my involvement witb the New Mexico Hispanic Medical Association because of the vastness of the territory and the diversity of issues being address in the southern part of the state compared to the Albuquerque and Santa Fe region. I had the opportunity to work with National Hispanic Medical Association which positioned me to bring information back to the state and share with the local association. Due to the opportunity of serving on the White House Commission for Alternative and Complementary Medicine I have been able to integrate what was gained from the commission into my practice. This has increased my knowledge, which has benefited my patients

Who was my mentor?

My brother, father, and mother were mentors. My parents have always been my supporters in all my endeavors. They always encouraged me to pursue my education to the fullest I could. My oldest brother attended medical school and gave me the idea to pursue medicine as a career. He encouraged me to attend programs after high school that encouraged science as a career, in particular, medicine. As a role model, I was able to visualize the amount of work needed to succeed in my studies, and I caught his enthusiasm concerning medicine. While in medical school, he was there to guide me through the emotional pitfalls to keep on track and finish. I knew I could do the work, and with his support I was emotionally strong enough to complete my goal.