Wednesday, June 26, 2024
Cortés works with an undergraduate student research assistant in April 2024

For many, the nursing journey combines personal experiences and academic pursuits. The path Yamnia I. Cortés, PhD, MPH, FNP-BC, FAHA, FAAN took to become a nurse and researcher was no different, shaped by a mix of early interests in public health and social justice and a few key nudges along the way. 

Cortés earned a bachelor’s degree in biology with a concentration in Latino/a studies from Williams College. After completing her undergraduate degree, Cortés was already leaning towards a career in public health, particularly fascinated by epidemiology and intervention research. 

She then went on to complete her Master of Public Health at Columbia University. During her first year, she also worked as an asthma educator, a job that exposed her to numerous clinical questions from concerned parents. It was during this time, at various asthma conferences, that not one but two separate nurses suggested she consider nursing.  

"I took that as a sign," Cortés laughs. "I realized how much I did like understanding how health impacted families and communities, and I did want to educate families and communities, so I decided to apply to a nursing program." 

Cortés earned her Bachelor and Master of Science in Nursing, as well as her PhD, from Columbia University School of Nursing. She later completed postdoctoral training in cardiovascular epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. 

During her training as a family nurse practitioner, Cortés completed rotations at a community clinic in the Bronx, which doubled as an HIV and substance abuse clinic. There, Cortés saw a large amount of cardiovascular disease, particularly in midlife women, and the intersection between the disease, HIV and menopause, became her dissertation and research niche. 

Cortés with Andrea Cazales, a student she mentored while at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Fast forward to today, and Cortés is deep into research that continues to tackle critical health issues for underserved populations. One of her current studies looks at the stress Latina women experience during menopause and how it's linked to cardiovascular disease. She's not just focusing on the risk factors, though—she's also on the hunt for protective factors like social support, family cohesion, and spirituality that might help mitigate these risks. 

"It's great when we know positive things that people already have in their lives that we can maybe strengthen, and then that can help prevent cardiovascular disease," Cortés says.  

Beyond her research, Cortés loves the variety her role at the College of Nursing offers. She's passionate about community work, building partnerships, and sharing resources with those in need. Mentoring students is another highlight, as she enjoys guiding them through their research and seeing them flourish. 

"I really enjoy mentoring," Cortés laughs. "Teaching students about the research process, seeing them get it and then start to launch into their areas, I love it all."  

In less than a year at the College of Nursing, Cortés has grown to appreciate the supportive and collaborative atmosphere. "The people here are so nice; everyone has been very welcoming," she says. "Everyone is willing to collaborate." 

When she's not immersed in her professional life, Cortés enjoys volunteering, finding new places to eat with her family, playing video games, and watching anime.