Helen Arteaga Landaverde Becomes First Latina to Lead New York City Hospital

Helen Arteaga Landaverde is New York City Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst's first Latina CEO

Helen Arteaga Landaverde

Photo courtesy NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst

Latinas have made important strides in the health and medical fields throughout history but there are still many barriers to break. From fighting social and economic inequities to providing much-needed Spanish-language services, Latinas in medicine could not be more vital and have several icons to look up to like Dr. Antonia Novello, the first Latina U.S. Surgeon General, and Dr. Serena Auñón-Chancellor, the first Latina physician to travel to space. Now, we have a new Latina in medicine to celebrate: Helen Arteaga Landaverde, who just became the first woman and Latina to serve as the chief executive officer of New York City Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst, a public hospital founded in Queens in 1837. Now based in Corona, Queens, she immigrated with her family to the U.S. from Ecuador when she was a child and was inspired by her community’s needs, as well as her father’s battle with leukemia, to pursue a career in healthcare. In a twist of fate, she was admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 symptoms in 2020, which were so severe that she could’ve died. But now, after making a full recovery, she has broken a barrier in the field and become that same hospital’s first Latina CEO, according to NBC Latino.

“I wanted to do something that would change the world — that our people know that one of them is running the largest hospital in Queens,” Arteaga Landaverde said in an interview with Noticias Telemundo. “That one of them also understands it’s not easy to come to this country, that it’s not easy to learn a new language.”

Arteaga Landaverde moved with her family to the U.S. from Ecuador in pursuit of the American Dream. Since then, she’s lived in NYC for the majority of her life and was deeply moved by the serious health inequities she witnessed in her community especially those affected by HIV/AIDS, not only because her neighbors were dying but also because of the negative stigma attached to the virus. After majoring in chemistry at New York University to find a cure, her father was diagnosed with leukemia, causing him to die not long after. Seeing the speed of her father’s trajectory inspired her to switch career paths, earning a master’s in public health from Columbia University. Several years later, she was able to open the Plaza del Sol Family Health Center in Queens in memory of her father, a public hospital that provides care to patients regardless of their financial status. She also served on the board of directors for New York City Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst and went through dozens of interviews before being selected for the CEO position.

As part of her historic and groundbreaking work, she works to ensure that the hospital, which is a public entity, is able to access the equipment often only exclusively available to private hospitals, even if there’s a big price tag involved. For Arteaga Landaverde, every patient that she gets to help is worth the cost. Throughout the years, she’s received many awards and honors, including a fellowship with the National Hispana Leadership Institute.

“One hundred and ninety years had to go by for a woman, a Latina, to finally be picked to be this center’s director,” Vladimir Gasca, NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst’s director of behavioral health and psychiatry told Noticias Telemundo.

Arteaga Landaverde is currently pursuing a doctorate at CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy as she continues her work at New York City Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst.

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