Celebrating A Legacy in the Making

“I have always had a deeply rooted belief in family,” says Executive Vice Dean Maria Soto-Greene. “You care for each other, and for your fellow human beings. I always say NJMS is a family and our community helps you realize that caring is not limited by boundaries.”

In mid-April, Dr. Soto-Greene received the Clement A. Price Human Dignity Award in recognition of her “exceptional achievement and commitment to promoting and practicing diversity, inclusion, and equity at Rutgers and in the broader community.” The Award also honors her thirty-plus years of service to NJMS.

It’s been a career, and a legacy of service, that almost didn’t happen. “I was not someone who planned to go medical school,” she says. “I was studying medical technology, and I took a class called Black Community Health. Hearing those physicians who were practicing in this community had a profound effect on me.”

Dr. Soto-Greene grew up in Hudson County and was the second in her family to graduate from high school and the first to go to college. But it was only when she met Mr. Foster Burnett, then the assistant dean for minority affairs at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, that she began to think about a career in medicine.

“Mr. Burnett inspired me to do more, “He said to me, ‘What are you going to do with the rest of your life?’ He encouraged me to volunteer at the old Martland Hospital. He was bringing me toward something I hadn’t explored. Hearing the life journeys of these amazing physicians made what seemed impossible possible.”

Dr. Robert L. Johnson, dean of New Jersey Medical School and a longtime colleague of Dr. Soto-Greene, was “delighted” when he learned that she was to receive the Clement A. Price Award. “Throughout her career at NJMS, Dr. Soto-Greene has been a living example to our faculty, staff, students, residents and fellows, of the values of practicing diversity, inclusion, equity and access across racial and ethnic lines. Be it through her efforts and advocacy as director of the Hispanic Center of Excellence at New Jersey Medical School, now in its 28th year of operation, her efforts directed toward the recruitment and retention of a diverse faculty and student population, or her advocacy on behalf of our diverse patient population, Dr. Soto-Greene embodies the values that Dr. Clement Price espoused throughout his life.”

Soto-Greene says she’s honored and humbled to receive an award named for Dr. Clement A. Price, and gratified to know she’s positively influenced others in the same ways that she was influenced long ago.

Still, there are times, when she says, “I’m writing another diversity workforce grant and I think, I can’t do this anymore. But then I think about the impact that it will have on the lives of others, and that’s where I draw the strength to keep moving forward. One should never lose sight of the difference these efforts make in your own life, let alone what you can do for the next generation. That’s what keeps me going.”