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Dr. NereidaCorrea

Year of Birth / Death

b. 1946

Medical School

Albert Einstein College of Medicine


New York

Career Path

General medicine: Family
Obstetrics and gynecology
Dr. NereidaCorrea


Dr. Nereida Correa was the first Hispanic woman to be named chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center.


It has been my lifetime ambition to be a physician, and when I was in high school I made an effort to get my guidance counselor to support this ambition by giving me advice and letters of support to the colleges I wanted to attend. I was told at that time that I did not have the "aura" for something so great as medicine and that I should pursue nursing instead. I did just that and I had a nursing career of nearly twenty years before I was able to fulfill my dream of becoming a doctor.

I graduated from a two-year nursing program when I was barely 19 years old and began working as a pediatric emergency nurse at Metropolitan Hospital. From there I went on to work with the City Manpower and Career Development Agency to plan and implement a career ladder program for women in the community who had dropped out of high school and wanted to become nurses. With a colleague I developed a program that trained them as nurses aides while they also studied for their high school equivalency diploma. After they completed that phase they went on to LPN school and some to RN school.

As a nurse I also helped develop the curriculum in one of the first programs for physician assistants in New York, at Brooklyn Hospital/Long Island University. While I was there I completed my bachelor of science and my master of arts in nursing education. I went on to work teaching at Medgar Evers College of the city university system and there after five years I re-awakened and actualized my desire to become a physician. I would see young physicians at Kings County doing the things that I wanted to be doing and I finally decided to apply to medical school. It was at this time that I met one of my most important mentors, Daniel Marion, the pre-medical advisor at Queens College who inspired me to apply and go to the interviews and to feel confident that I could do it. I was admitted to three schools that year and I chose to go to Albert Einstein because it was the closest and would allow my family to have the greatest stability.

I was the happiest person on earth those four years that I was at Einstein and I think that I sang my way to school everyday. The first year was hard because I continued to teach at Medgar Evers in the evenings, and with the responsibilities of parenthood added to that it was a struggle, but a happy one.

I will never regret being a nurse and I still continue to feel very much a part of nursing deep in my heart. I learned how to care for others in a very special way and I learned the skills of cultural competency back in the 1960s when working with Marie Branch, Pearl Bailey, Bertie Gilmore and Maya Angelou at Medgar Evers College. Nursing was the open door that permitted me to start the work that I do today. At that time it would not have been possible for me to become a doctor.


Nereida Correa, who began her career as a registered nurse, became the first Hispanic woman to be named chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center, a large, hospital-based group practice in the Bronx. As a faculty member at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in both obstetrics and gynecology and family practice, she is active in the recruitment and mentoring of students, and in residency education. At Lincoln, she serves as a clinician, mentor, and role model for members of her community. Most importantly, she is able to provide direct patient care, perform surgery, and deliver babies.

Dr. Correa was born in Puerto Rico and grew up on New York's Upper West Side. In high school she knew she wanted to become a physician, but guidance counselors told her that she did not have the "aura" for medicine and should pursue nursing instead. After earning an associate degree in nursing from Bronx Community College in 1966, she worked for fifteen years as a staff nurse in public hospitals, and later as a nurse educator and administrator. As part of New York's City Manpower and Career Development Agency, she trained community residents in nursing while they obtained their high school equivalency diplomas.

Later, as part of the first for staff for the Long Island Physician's Assistant Program, she worked as an instructor and counselor for the initial class of minority students recruited from the Brooklyn area. While working full time, she married, raised a family and completed her education, obtaining a B.S. degree in nursing. She then earned an master's degree in nursing education from New York University in 1979. She was an assistant professor in maternal-child health nursing at Medgar Evers College, part of the city university system, where she developed courses in nursing leadership and cultural diversity. She presented several papers on alternative health practices among Hispanics, and published a paper on home remedies and cultural practices in Hispanic families. At that time her desire to become a physician re-surfaced, and after completing pre-medical studies at Queens College she entered the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Dr. Correa graduated with distinction in psychopharmacology and published her research findings. After a residency in family practice greater involvement in women's health led her to complete an additional residency in obstetrics and gynecology.

As a women's health physician in the Bronx, Dr. Nereida Correa has been active in mentoring and promoting cultural sensitivity to diverse ethnic communities. She provided has obstetrics care in Kosovo as part of International Health Outreach, and has done grassroots work in New York City on HIV/AIDS care and women's health problems.

Dr. Correa is a member of the National Hispanic Medical Associatioin Advisory Committee, and is also a member of the Women's, Infants', and Children's National Advisory Committee for the Department of Agriculture and the Women's Health Steering Committee, both part of the Health Resources and Services Administration in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Question and Answer

What was my biggest obstacle?

The biggest obstacle was the lack of a role model. There was no one in my family or close to me that had ever gone beyond high school. I came from Puerto Rico at age 5 with my uncle while my mother was already in New York and planning to return after making some money as a seamstress. My arrival put an end to her plans to return and soon my father and other brother followed. We never knew we were poor because we had food and clothes and very hard-working parents. They encouraged us to do well in school, but as the oldest, I felt that I could not take eight years of financial support from my parents, and I did not know how to go about getting loans or scholarships. I also did not feel that I was smart enough. So there were lots of obstacles which were probably self-created, although there was still a bit of a societal bias against women entering medicine at that time.

How do I make a difference?

The greatest difference that I feel that I make is in being an advocate for health care and education for women, especially women of color. I am now in a position where I can make changes in both the delivery of care to women and in the education of future physicians. As a faculty member of a medical school and of a residency program, I am able to teach about cultural and linguistic competency and as chief of the department I am able to set standards for care and to review the care given with an eye to improvement in the quality and to adherence to the standards.

As a hands-on physician I get the greatest joy and satisfaction out of being able to be part of a family's life and death decisions. It is a real privilege to be able to be with women as they are having their babies and to make a difference in how they are treated. I can be there to greet the baby and welcome him or her to life, and I can help the parents to prepare for the new arrival. When my patients are sick or require surgery I am there to provide counseling and to actually provide the care needed.

As I have become more involved in organized medicine and the state and local governmental agencies, I have become more aware of the impact that involvement makes in the availability of services to the poor. Issues such as access to care and the impact of poverty and race on health care are a fact of life in our country and it is important that those of us who are aware of the issues to be part of the leadership making the decisions for health care. I am a member of the board of the union at the health center where my parents still receive care, and at the state level I am on the board of the New York State Academy of Family Physicians. In those groups I am often the one to bring up the issues related to cultural competency and to the problems of the underserved. Sometimes it creates an environment of change when one raises the issues and finds a voice to say the things that need to be said.

Who was my mentor?

My most influential mentors are my parents. They have always been outspoken about the issues and fought really hard for me to do the right things in my life. At times when I have deviated they have pointed this out, sometimes not so gently, and it has kept me on the path. They have been there to support me when I needed help with my two children as a medical student and as a physician in training, and they are still my best fans and worst critics.

Family has been very important to me by enabling me to do the things that I have done. My children are supportive and have tolerated my absence and lack of involvement during very difficult times for all of us. They say that they are not interested in medicine as a career because of how hard they see us working. My husband, who is a pediatrician, still holds on to a hope that Adrian, one of our youngest, will decide that he will do it after all.

Others that have been important include Herbert Kohl who was my cousin's teacher in the 1960s and took time out to gather all of us kids on the Upper West Side and take us on outings and teach us the rules for chess. He was a sounding board for some of my goals and ideas as a teenager and helped me to make career decisions when the time came.

I have been fortunate that in every stage of my life there have been friends and colleagues who have been able to serve as my counsel and my listeners. In my early career days I worked with a very creative and innovative group led by a strong and goal-directed physician, Arnold Lewis. He served as my mentor during that time and encouraged me to continue my education and to begin work towards my Bachelor's Degree. I listened and learned from him and he gave me the opportunity and flexibility in my schedule to attend school and still fulfill my work responsibilities. By the time I was ready to leave that position I had completed most of the work towards my master's degree.

At Medgar Evans College as a new assistant professor of nursing, I met a strong group of professional women including Bertie Gilmore and Norma Johnson who encouraged me to dream big and to go after my dream of becoming a doctor.

In medical school my friend and mentor was a fellow student with three kids instead of my two, Norma Villanueva. It is hard to imagine that I would have made it through without the strength and support that we gave each other. A bond grew from those years that made us more like sisters than friends.

There were not too many Hispanic women role models, but we were privileged to have two at Albert Einstein in the Bronx, Helen Rodriguez-Trias and Sylvia Ramos, both on the faculty and both advocates for the inclusion of Blacks and Hispanics in Medicine. I learned to be outspoken about those needs and about the needs of patients in our community from listening to them teach and give local and national lectures on the issues.