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In 2017, Dr. Antonia Villarruel was honored as an archetype during AL DÍA's Hispanic Heritage Month Awards. Photo: Samantha Laub/AL DÍA News.
In 2017, Dr. Antonia Villarruel was honored as an archetype during AL DÍA's Hispanic Heritage Month Awards. Photo: Samantha Laub/AL DÍA News.

UPenn’s Dr. Antonia Villarruel to receive Mexico’s highest honor for service to its diaspora

The award was announced in 2020, but the official ceremony will take place on May 5, 2021 after a COVID-19 delay.

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The University of Pennsylvania’s Dr. Antonia Villarruel has another award to add to her already-lengthy curriculum vitae. 

In 2020, the Consulate of Mexico in Philadelphia named her a recipient of the Ohtli Award — the highest honor given by Mexico’s government to individuals and organizations that support the Mexican diaspora.

“On this occasion, recognition of the work undertaken by Dr. Villarruel makes it possible to elevate and celebrate the efforts of health care workers, especially in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic,” reads a press release from the consulate.

2020 was also the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife.

The initial awards ceremony was meant to take place on Nov. 20, 2020 at 6 p.m., but the pandemic forced a long postponement to May 5, 2021.

Villarruel is one of the few Latina nursing deans in the country, and the only one at an Ivy League school. She took the helm at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Nursing six years ago.

Outside of reaching heights seen by few Latinas in the education and medical realms, Villarruel has spent most of her nursing career supporting Latinx communities across the world, the U.S., and Philadelphia.

At the World Health Organization (WHO), Villarruel has worked with its Collaborating Center for Nursing and Midwifery Leadership to reduce maternal mortality in Latin America. 

In Mexico, she also co-founded the first doctoral program of nursing at the Autonomous University of Nuevo León. The program now trains hundreds of highly-specialized educators and researchers in the country.

In the U.S., Villarruel created ¡Cuídate!, an initiative that educates young Latinos about sexually-risky behaviors in hopes of preventing early pregnancies and sexually-transmitted diseases. It has been such a hit since its founding that the CDC now implements the program as a proven sexual risk reduction practice for Latino youth.

In 2017, Villarruel was also honored by AL DÍA as one of the archetypes for its Hispanic Heritage Month Awards. She also recently became the chair of the advisory board for the National Academy of Medicine’s Culture of Health program, dedicated to promoting and pushing for health equity nationwide.

At the National Academy of Medicine, Villarruel is the only Latina to ever be inducted as a member.

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