The forces that hold some people back don’t seem to apply to Yvonne Maldonado, MD, senior associate dean for faculty development and diversity at the School of Medicine, who goes by "Bonnie."
A professor of pediatrics and of health research and policy, Maldonado grew up outside of Los Angeles and earned her medical degree at Stanford. Her research has taken her around the world and focused on the polio virus in Mexico, gender-based violence in Kenya, diarrheal diseases in Bangladesh and childhood HIV in California and in sub-Saharan Africa.
“Bonnie Maldonado is a global health leader who champions diversity and equality for those less privileged in the world,” Michele Barry, MD, director of the Center for Innovation in Global Health, told me. “She has been a real leader in child health especially in the area of creating a pathway to eradicate polio globally.”
The daughter of Mexican immigrants, Maldonado became active in the Latino Medical Student Association while studying at the School of Medicine. Fernando Mendoza, MD, associate dean of minority advising and programs and a professor of pediatrics, remembers meeting her at that time.
“At some point in both of our lives, we were told you can’t do this, you can’t become a doctor,” Mendoza said. “She told me that teachers in college told her, ‘Don’t even try, you won’t make it.’ And I think Dr. Maldonado said, ‘Well, I’ll just show you.’”
During her residency and fellowship at Johns Hopkins Medicine, Maldonado developed an interest in infectious diseases. She studied rotavirus, which killed many children worldwide at the time.
“I needed to learn more about how you understand the disease, develop a scientific rational for how that disease happens in a population and then move to the next level and develop of policy and public health,” Maldonado said.
She joined the Centers for Disease Control in the mid-1980s at the start of the HIV epidemic. Returning to Stanford as a professor of pediatrics in 1988, Maldonado started the pediatric HIV clinic at Stanford. She focused her research on stopping the spread of disease from mothers to babies — which essentially has been done in the U.S. — and continues to work to stop that transmission in resource-strapped countries.
“She is not someone who’s ever going to say it can’t be done or let’s try again in a year or two,” said Ann Arvin, MD, the vice provost and dean of research and a specialist, like Maldonado, in pediatric infectious diseases. “She’s persistent and dedicated.”
The Stanford Medicine Alumni Association this year named Maldonado the 2018 RISE Award winner, which stands for Reach, Inspire, Serve and Engage, for her continued focus on global health while simultaneously mentoring undergraduates, medical students and physicians from a variety of backgrounds.
“My path was not a straight one and I want to show [students and junior faculty] that’s really more common than they may think,” Maldonado said.
Photo by Steve Fisch; video by Friday's Films