Minerva Perez-Lopez ’92

2013 Catharine Lealtad Service to Society Award

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Physicians can easily earn big incomes for their work. But Minerva Perez-Lopez ’92 wasn’t motivated by money when she chose to practice medicine in the place where she grew up. Perez-Lopez, raised in California’s Salinas Valley, returned to that farming area for her residency and then joined the staff of the medical center there.

For more a decade now she’s been working at the very hospital in which she was born, Natividad Medical Center in Salinas, California. The challenges are legion. She’s working with a largely Latino population of immigrant seasonal farm laborers, most of whom have no insurance and limited resources. Teen pregnancy rates are high, as are rates of gang violence. And then there’s the ongoing stress of families separated because of immigration issues.

Despite the difficulties, Perez-Lopez has persevered, spending much of her time as a family practice doctor working in obstetrics, delivering babies. Besides her morethan- full-time work, Perez-Lopez regularly has teenagers shadow her at the hospital and frequently returns to her old high school as a guest speaker.

In acknowledgement of the vital work she’s doing to provide direct patient care in a region short of health-care professionals, Perez-Lopez was last year given a Steven M. Thompson Physician Corps Award to repay most of her medical school loans.

It was just recognition for a woman who has chosen to spend her career giving back, reaching out and trying to make a difference in the community.