Latina transplant cardiologist's inspiring path to success

NEW YORK -- Dr. Johanna Contreras is one of the world's few Latina transplant cardiologists, and it's safe to say there were hardly any when she was a little girl in Colombia, South America with dreams of being a doctor.

"I always wanted to be a doctor, and once I became a doctor I wanted to be a cardiologist," Contreras said.

But she had the ultimate role model in her father who was a pediatrician.

"He was my idol; I wanted to be him," she said.

And following in his footsteps also means helping the poor.

"He went to the community, he did free consultations," she said.

Now, she gives back to the community herself.

"I'm just so fortunate that I actually have the chance to do this. I'm just so happy that I have the opportunity and that I can actually give it back to the people that helped me," she said.

A big part of his commitment is helping other Latinos who might otherwise never get the care they need.

"When I go into the community, I can communicate with them better because I understand the culture, I understand where they come from," she explained.

That kind of injustice led to her proudest moment as a doctor.

"Being able to fight for a 40-year-old patient that was being rejected to have a heart transplant because he speaks Spanish. I said, there is no way anybody can be denied a therapy that is available to us," Contreras said.

Now the little girl from Bucaramanga is a role model for other kids with big dreams, and has an inspiring message for them.

"I'm proud now to be able to go to young people and be able to talk to them, and be able to tell them, 'Listen, if I can do this, you guys can do this.' There is no reason for anybody not to achieve their dreams," Contreras said.