Yuma Regional Medical Center (YRMC) announced Monday that longtime pediatrician Dr. Emilia Matos died early that morning in the care of fellow medical professionals who revered her as a key figure in the local medical community.
According to YRMC, Matos died of COVID-19-related causes.
“For (the) last two weeks, I was keeping the hope that her condition would turn around,” YRMC Chief Medical Officer Bharat Magu said in a news release. “Her kindness, her smile and her enthusiasm to continue providing care to young ones in the community will be dearly missed.”
Matos conducted her studies at Universidad Nacional Pedro Henriquez Urena in Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic. Before opening her private practice in 1983, she served five years as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Medical Corps at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma. According to YRMC, she continued to serve as a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve Medical Corps until her passing.
In June of this year, Matos joined the team of medical professionals at YRMC Pediatrics Tuscany Plaza, building on nearly four decades of practice.
“Dr. Matos was a pioneer pediatrician in the Yuma area and indeed western Arizona,” said Dr. Daniel Crawford, a fellow pediatrician and longtime colleague of Matos. “With her Hispanic background, she filled a huge void in medical care for our community, in a time before Medicaid and government programs. She was a very capable, dedicated colleague and a very close friend. She truly cared for pediatrics and her patients.”
Matos also served as a pillar of support for Amberly’s Place over the years, from setting aside space in her pediatric office for victims’ medical exams to donating funds for a medical director’s office at the organization’s site on Third Avenue to serving as board member for several years.
Amid it all, she advocated for children without hesitation.
“She was your old-fashioned doctor – she cared about her patients and she knew their likes, their interests,” said Diane Umphress, executive director of Amberly’s Place. “So when a patient would come to her and she suspected that there was abuse, instead of just turning her head, she would address the issue and call (Amberly’s Place) and say, ‘I’m sending somebody over and they need some help.’ She was never afraid to stand up for a child.”
According to Umphress, Matos had a great deal to do with “introducing the forensic medical piece of Amberly’s Place to the community” and getting other local doctors involved in the cause. The legacy she leaves behind, Umphress said, speaks to the remarkable woman, doctor, and community member that she was.
“She was very fun-loving, very involved in her community and she just cared,” Umphress said. “It’s a great loss for our community and a great loss for the children in our community – they’ve lost an amazing advocate. She was phenomenal.
“When we come into this world, we want to leave a mark. She might have been a real small person in stature, but she was a giant in what she left this community, and there’s nobody that can fill those footprints.”