Dolores Mercedes Piñero: WWI Doctor and Pioneer

Dolores Mercedes Piñero was one of the first female doctors in Puerto Rico and the first Puerto Rican woman to serve as a doctor under contract with the U. S. Army.

Born in San Juan in 1892, when Puerto Rico was a colony of Spain, Piñero was educated in Puerto Rico until Puerto Rico came under the control of the United States. Her parents sent her to live in Boston, where she continued her education, completing her medical degree at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Boston in 1913.

Piñero was the fourth Puerto Rican woman to become a doctor. She set up a practice in Rio Piedras which included anesthesia as a specialty. Though Dr. Piñero applied to the Army in 1917 when Puerto Ricans gained citizenship, she was rejected. According to her memoirs, she wrote to William C. Gorgas, the Surgeon General of the Army, who quickly accepted her. The Army had realized that they were in need of anesthesiologists.

Piñero was assigned to the Army base hospital in San Juan, where she worked as an anesthesiologist and in the lab.

As influenza began to affect  soldiers, Dr. Piñero was one of five physicians assigned to open a specialized hospital in San Juan. There she and four male Army doctors worked to care for influenza sufferers in a 400 bed hospital until the end of the infection, which ultimately was responsible for more deaths during first World War  than the war itself. At that time, she was reassigned to the Army base hospital. Shortly thereafter she returned to her private practice.

Piñero married and had two children. She was the first Puerto Rican woman to be named to the Puerto Rico Department of Health. Piñero died in 1975.

2 Comments

Will Hernandez

Remarkable what Dolores had to do to serve her country and fullfill her duties. What an inspiration to Puerto rican women she follow in the steps of 1903 Isabel Gonzalez vs US supreme court. First they call us foreigners, then aliens, etc then they make us citizens “Jones act” just for the use of our men in war. These are women that open doors under extreme discrimination . They open the doors for both men and women.

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