“I was always a very mature little girl, and I…thought of studying law,” she explains. “I always saw myself becoming an advocate for people who were being tried without having committed any crime. I saw myself becoming a criminal defense lawyer and a defender of human rights.”
Dr. Peña says, “I was born to serve, and this is what I’m going to do. This is why I became a doctor.”
Dr. Peña didn’t come from a poor family, but that doesn’t mean she’s not aware of the needs of those she serves: “When I was a little girl, I thought about what I could do for others. I didn’t have to work; I was in a comfortable position, but I always saw around me people with greater needs, and that was what attracted me: helping, the vocation to serve.”
Caring for physical and spiritual health
Patients often talk to Dr. Peña about religion and spirituality—even the nonbelievers. “As a doctor, you’re a fundamental part of the life of a human being, and not just in matters of health, but also in their entire emotional and spiritual environment,” she says.
In Dr. Peña’s eyes, knowing how to listen is one of a doctor’s most fundamental skills. She believes you must listen to patients and dedicate time to them. “When you have a problem and there’s no one to help you, you think it’s the worst problem in the world,” she says. “Then, when you understand that there are others who have the same problem as you, that education is available, that there are groups, that help is available here, it’s all easier.”
Being positive always
Dr. Peña is known for always having a positive attitude, something she herself acknowledges: “I have a very positive character. I discover a reason for everything, from A to Z. And then if I have to start over with A1, A2… In other words, every obstacle that God puts in your way, or that the universe puts in your way—however you want to understand it, in your language—is there for a reason.”
When I ask her about God, she answers immediately: “God? Always number one.”
“I was taught about faith,” she says. “I was taught that despite being a scientist, faith is very important. Have faith in God and make Him number one in your life, so as to serve others.”
Coming from Dr. Peña, those aren’t just empty words: She practices what she preaches—and her patients’ lives are enriched because of it.
Dr. Peña is part of New York City’s SOMOS Community Care network of doctors. For more information, please visit: www.somoscommunitycare.org/