Our December Nona Hero came to us a few short months ago, settling in Lake Nona in July. In this amount of time, she has taken the medical world by storm with her prestigious resume and recent feature in Business Insider. Meet Dr. Jennifer Peña, physician and United States Army veteran extraordinaire.
Though Dr. Peña moved to our city to be closer to family, the community will surely benefit from her talents. She holds the chief medical officer position at Nurx, a telehealth company that personalizes patient-first care. Previously, the Yale graduate’s career in the U.S. Army brought her a variety of medical positions and even a deployment to Afghanistan, where she rendered care for detainees during Operation Enduring Freedom at the Detention Facility in Parwan. She spent nearly 15 years in the service and served in multiple tours of duty in several impressive roles. In January 2019, following an immensely fulfilling career in the U.S. Army, she concluded her service.
In 2014, Dr. Peña began service in the White House Medical Unit. Her experience there included roles as Officer in Charge of the largest clinic in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, senior physician, Camp David’s medical director, and the first female physician to the Vice President of the United States. She was an avid part of the medical team under the Obama and Trump administrations and was the first Latina physician at the White House as well.
Even before she became an internal medicine superstar, Dr. Peña’s energy and drive were apparent throughout her college years at Yale University. She studied molecular, cellular and developmental biology and Spanish language and literature while working as a medical interpreter.
“I realized there was a need for Latino/Hispanic and Spanish-speaking medical providers in the U.S. to help bridge the access-to-care gap for this community,” she said. “I then decided to pursue medicine as a career.”
Her passion for helping people, in addition to embracing her culture through her work, make her a selfless and dedicated medical professional.
“My sister and I were brought up by a single mom and our maternal grandparents in Puerto Rico,” said Dr. Peña. “They always stressed the importance of education, and that has remained at the forefront of everything we have done and accomplished.”
The highly-skilled physician extends her passions toward rescuing dogs, her home island of Puerto Rico, and taking care of her family. She and her husband, an active-duty Army soldier stationed at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C., have five rescue dogs and plan to rescue more. She’d also love to return to Puerto Rico and live by the beach with her husband and amazing family of pups.
Dr. Jennifer Peña wants to inspire young girls everywhere to pursue education and careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). She is a firm believer that all women can truly do what they set their hearts to.
The hero seeks to improve healthcare for all; in my opinion, she’s already made incredible progress in the communities blessed enough to have her as a resident. She is a driven scholar and physician and dedicates her life to caring for those in need.
“Life will give you lots of lemons,” she said, when asked what advice she would give to her younger self. “Learn how to make really good lemonade.”