By Manat Kaur
Pediatrics, health research and policy professor Yvonne Maldonado M.D. ’81 received the 2018 Reach, Inspire, Serve and Engage (RISE) Award in May for her research in global health and for her mentoring of undergraduates and medical students. Awarded by the Stanford Medicine Alumni Association, RISE recognizes excellence in leadership, volunteerism, mentoring or teaching.
Maldonado, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, works to promote educational equality and health equity. Her research focuses on vaccines and transmission of HIV from mother to infant.
During the HIV epidemic of the 1980s, Maldonado joined the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). She founded Stanford’s pediatric HIV Clinic when she returned as a pediatrics professor, and she currently serves as Stanford Medicine’s Senior Associate Dean of Faculty Development and Diversity.
Maldonado sat down with The Daily to talk about the RISE award, mentorship and careers in medicine.
The Stanford Daily (TSD): Can you tell me a bit about your background?
Yvonne Maldonado (YM): I am a first generation student; nobody in my family went to college. I didn’t have much in the way of mentorship and didn’t have anyone to turn to. In terms of knowing what I want to do and how to get there, it wasn’t very easy. There are a lot more opportunities now for mentorship than when I was young. At the same time, there were people who could give me advice. They helped me understand what I do. I want to do the same and help the others behind me.
TSD: What inspired you to return to Stanford as a faculty member?
YM: A lot of my inspiration came from the people at Stanford. They are amazing to work with. They are wonderful people with a lot of potential to have inspiring careers. I left to do training elsewhere, and then I came back and took a faculty position here. It’s been my only faculty position in my career. Especially because I went here, I feel connected to the students and the alumni. I feel like I could make a difference in the work I do.
TSD: What do you love about mentoring?
YM: I feel like there are a lot of opportunities for all these bright young people to really develop their careers and make developments in child health and global health. And to the improvement of health in the US in general. There are so many opportunities now to do good in the world, make people healthier and happier. Doing as much advising and mentoring as I can, I work with students and faculty and give them advice on career development. People at Stanford really care about health and other people. Steering people in the direction to advance their careers and make the best of what they are doing so that they can help others is really fulfilling and exciting.
TSD: What does it mean for you to be 2018’s recipient of the RISE Award?
Yvonne Maldonado (YM): It really was a pleasure and honor. It’s just very exciting for me. It is very touching to feel that the work I have done as a Stanford alum has had some impact on others from the medical school. I am just very honored that I could do something for our alumni to make a difference.
TSD: What do you think people considering medicine as a career should keep in mind?
YM: In any career, doing good is not always easy. There are always twists in the road and obstacles to overcome. Nothing that is worthwhile achieving is ever going to be easy. One thing I like to teach people is not to be discouraged. Your goals might not be easily achievable or rapidly achievable, especially if you don’t have a lot of understanding. People have to be able to understand what it takes to become a physician. They have to be dedicated to working with people, wanting to work with people and understanding that it is a long path. It’s a lot of hard work and sacrifices.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed.
Contact Manat Kaur at manat ‘at’ object.live.