Albert Einstein College of Medicine recently announced the establishment of the Nilda I. Soto Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Excellence Scholarship—the first endowed scholarship supporting diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) at Einstein. The important new financial support will benefit a medical or graduate student working to advance health equity, especially in historically marginalized communities. The scholarship honors Nilda I. Soto, MSEd, the former Assistant Dean of Diversity Enhancement at Einstein.
Soto’s career of opening doors for thousands of advisees and mentees began in high school. “I grew up in the Bronx and took part in ASPIRA of New York,” she said. The program fosters social advancement of the Puerto Rican/Latino community through its support of students taking part in leadership development activities and programs that emphasize commitment to and pride in the community. Soto became President of her school’s chapter with support from an influential ASPIRA counselor.
“What she did was like social work, and I wanted to do what she was doing,” said Soto, who is of Puerto Rican heritage.
One by One
The state-funded Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) guided Soto to Fordham University in the Bronx. “I took a sociology course required for social work—and hated it,” she said. She switched to urban studies. After graduation, Soto got a job counseling students in Fordham’s HEOP. It was a natural fit: “I’m a product of these programs,” she said.
Soto went on to earn a master’s degree focused on counseling and personnel services from Fordham’s School of Education in 1978. She became a counselor in New York University’s (NYU’s) HEOP, where she mentored students like Einstein alumnus Raja Flores, MD ’92, MS, who grew up in New York City.
“I was always fascinated by the human body, and after my cousin gave me a little microscope when I was seven or eight, I looked at anything and everything,” said Dr. Flores. When he first met Soto, the future physician was an underachieving high school senior.