Doctor Maria Isabel Rodriguez, El Salvador
Reinforcing health systems allows better access to healthcare for the population
Dr María Isabel Rodríguez is proof positive that age is no object. At almost 90 years young, she has worked tirelessly and dedicated her life to improving the health of her nation, El Salvador
More about this health hero
At almost 90 years young, Dr María Isabel Rodríguez is the living embodiment of Berthold Brecht's maxim, "The strongest fight their whole life. They are the indispensable ones."
Starting out all those years ago, she ignore the warnings that medicine was a "man's profession". Seven years later, Dr Rodríguez graduated with honours at the University of El Salvador and went on to develop her career in cardiovascular physiology, before being appointed dean of the university where she studied – the first woman to be appointed to the position.
Dr Rodríguez began her international career in the field of development of human resources for health and medical education in Latin America. During that time, she never lost touch with the situation on the ground in El Salvador. Since being appointed the first female minister of health and social welfare, Dr Rodríguez has been at the service of her country, and has earned widespread respect by establishing a pragmatic 10-point agenda for action for her government's first 100 days in office in order to initiate health sector reform in El Salvador.
Throughout her long-lasting professional career, Dr Rodríguez's dedication and commitment could not be questioned. Combined with a self-critical spirit and sense of humour, she has earned herself an enviable reputation. As world leaders converge on New York to discuss the millennium development goals, Dr Rodríguez is calling on them to "redouble" their efforts to ensure that these targets are transformed into a reality the world over. Only by doing so, she says, will contribute to a more equitable and sustainable world marked by solidarity between all people.
But Dr Rodríguez warns that government's cannot do it alone – only through joint international action can the social dimension of globalisation, which has not yet reached significant segments of the world's population, be effectively promoted.
For years, Dr Rodríguez has worked as a servant of her country, promoting the health of a nation.