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Dr. Natalia Ortiz-Torrent will be honored with PAMED's highest distinction. Photo: Nigel Thompson/AL DÍA
Dr. Natalia Ortiz-Torrent will be honored with PAMED's highest distinction. Photo: Nigel Thompson/AL DÍA

Dr. Natalia Ortiz-Torrent to be recognized with the 2022 Distinguished Service Award

The Pennsylvania Medical Society will honor Temple University Hospital’s notable psychiatrist with its highest honor in October.

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Each year since 1956, the Pennsylvania Medical Society has honored a medical professional with the Distinguished Service Award — the Society’s highest honor — for their lifetime achievements in the medical field.

This year, Dr. Natalia Ortiz-Torrent will be added to the list as the 2022 Pennsylvania Medical Society Distinguished Service Award recipient.

While “surprised,” “honored,” “humbled,” and “grateful,” are among the words to describe her reaction to first learning of the selection, to Dr. Ortiz-Torrent, the distinction is about overcoming obstacles. 

“The message here that I would like to convey is, despite the adversity and the difficulties and the challenges that some of us go through in our careers, this opportunity to be able to accomplish and succeed shows the resilience that we have built up through the years,” she told AL DÍA in an interview. 

“The challenges that we have to face help us to continue growing,” she added. 

Throughout her journey to her current role as Professor of Clinical Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine and Medical Director of Consultation and Liaison Psychiatry at Temple University Hospital, Dr. Ortiz-Torrent has had her share of challenges.

It started with her journey to the United States to begin her medical residency training in psychiatry at Temple University Hospital, after earning her medical degree from the Ponce School of Medicine in her homeland of Puerto Rico. 

While it was particularly challenging navigating a new environment, learning a new culture, new customs and a new language, among the biggest challenges was an avoidable one.

“Puerto Rico sometimes is considered a separate country, even though it’s part of the United States… and I was treated as an immigrant,” said Dr. Ortiz-Torrent. 

As she strived to overcome those challenges, she also saw it as an opportunity to become a mentor to others of Latino heritage who may be navigating similar challenges. 

“I decided, I want to give back,” she noted.

From there, she began finding different community groups and organizations that were working on helping individuals in disadvantaged communities grow and reach their full potential. 

This eventually led her to discovering and later becoming president of the Society of Ibero-Latino American Medical Professionals (SILAMP), whose very mission is to mentor Latin American students, conduct neighborhood outreach, and build a community of Latin American health care providers through continued education and networking opportunities. 

It didn’t stop there, however, as she also later became a board member for the Philadelphia County Medical Society. 

In June 2020, Dr. Ortiz-Torrent made history when she was elected the 159th president of the Philadelphia County Medical Society, becoming the first Hispanic woman ever elected President of the 171-year-old organization.

Honored to take on that very important distinction of being president, it was especially an honor to break barriers on that front. 

“I was the only Latin American woman on the board, so it was very interesting to get into a different world, learn about the different things and the people working in the organization… but I felt welcome, despite the differences,” Dr. Ortiz-Torrent said.

“It was one of the first times I felt welcomed in a group of healthcare professionals that were completely different, from different backgrounds,” she continued. 

Her year-long tenure as President of the Society helped grow her passion to make a difference. It has also highlighted the fact that she is an example to the next generation of Latinos who are seeking entry into the medical field, showing that these doors are open. 

This latest honor as the 2022 recipient of the Pennsylvania Medical Society’s Distinguished Service Award is further proof. 

“The way I see it is… the community has a lot of talent, the opportunities are out there,” said Dr. Ortiz-Torrent. “With the help of mentors and sponsors, we can continue growing and be able to accomplish a lot of our potential.”

Dr. Ortiz-Torrent will be honored during the PAMED’s House of Delegates Meeting in late October.

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