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Cleveland doctor turns Latina artist in spare time
By Kevin Milliken, La Prensa Correspondent


Dr. María Pujana has many sides to her—mother and grandmother, physician and philanthropist, artist and entrepreneur. But somehow she strikes a balance among all those roles to set an example of success.


Dr. Pujana, 60, is both a neurologist and neurophysiologist, trained in her native Spain. But the daughter of an engineer and a fashion designer feeds that artistic side as the president and chief designer of Marise Jewelry Designs, a line of fine and fashion jewelry. 


In fact, she credits her parents for spurring both her medical training and passion for art.


“My father encouraged me to go into medicine because he considered it one of the healing arts,” she said. “In that way, science and art can be as one.”


Dr. Pujana turned to jewelry-making because of the combination of science and art. She learned about gemstones and nature as a scientist, but was also drawn to the healing power of jewelry—in particular, its ability to “make a woman look good and feel better about themselves.” She has worked in both gold and silver, drawing upon all the historic and artistic jewelry she saw as a girl in Colombia—some of it dating back to the Aztecs. She considers jewelry design “a form of sculpture.”


Dr. María Pujana

Some of her works were on display during Hispanic Heritage Month at the Beck Center’s Jean Bulicek Galleria. The third annual Hispanic Heritage exhibit featured the contemporary artworks of a dozen Hispanic artists in the Lakewood, Ohio facility, a nonprofit performing arts and arts education organization that reaches more than 65,000 people each year.


Other featured artists who also have strong ties to Northeast Ohio included: Bess Rodríguez Richard, Hector Castellanos, José Vásquez, Augusto Bordelois, Gabriel Gonzáles, John Rivera-Resto, Hector Vega, Samuel Vásquez, Alejandro Rivera, and Bruno Casiano. The exhibit also featured two prints from legendary Cleveland Indians shortstop Omar Vizquel, who was inducted last summer in the Indians Hall of Fame.


The exhibit ended with a closing reception on Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014 to honor the young artists of Esperanza, Inc. The teens took part in a summer program led by professionals from American Greetings and their works were displayed alongside the nine featured artists.


While serving on the board at the Beck Center, Dr. Pujana encouraged the nonprofit to engage the Latino community with the exhibit. Now in its third year, the exhibition turned into a fundraiser—garnering $5,000 in donations to fund scholarships for Latino children to take free classes in painting, dance, and other artistic expression.

Her jewelry, which features pearls and other fine gemstones, has gained worldwide recognition. Her collection has accessorized the Gala of Hispanic Designers “Pasarela Cibeles Fashion Week” in Madrid for seven years. Her jewelry also adorned models during New York Fashion Week, and her designs have been featured in Vogue, Latina Style, Cadena Magazine, La Prensa, and other publications.


Some of her jewelry was even displayed at Saks Fifth Avenue. She often creates and donates special pieces so that the organizations she supports can use them to attract donations.


As one story goes, Dr. Pujana donated one of her creations in 2000 to “Casa del niño”. The goal of the organization was to assist orphaned and abandoned children in the Dominican Republic. At a fundraiser in Washington, D.C., she was able to present the piece to the group’s founder, famous fashion icon Oscar de la Renta.


Her passion for philanthropy is deeply rooted with her parents as well. Her father ran a factory in Colombia where Dr. Pujana grew up. He started both a healthcare and housing program for his employees because he considered both to be among a worker’s rights.


She served on the board of directors of the Cleveland Foundation from 2002-2012 where she was able to help smaller non-profit organizations. She is the first Hispanic to ever serve on that board.


Dr. Pujana also recently served on the board of the Greater Cleveland Chapter of the American Red Cross—the result of an incident that hits close to home. In 1936, when Spain was involved in a civil war, her maternal grandfather disappeared in the chaos of battle for nearly a year.


“Nobody knew if he was dead or alive,” she recalled.


Her mother was determined to find out what happened to him, so she went to Madrid and spoke to the Red Cross. According to Dr. Pujana, her grandfather was found about a month later because of that organization’s efforts. Her mother became a donor in Spain and continually urged Dr. Pujana to get involved with the Red Cross in Cleveland.


She presently serves on the MetroHealth Foundation Board, the advisory board of the Cleveland Institute of Art, the Helen Moss Cancer Research Foundation, and is a member of the Cleveland Office of Minority Health advisory committee. Her philanthropic fields of concentration include economic development, minority health, arts and culture education, and international affairs.


She also has assisted El Barrio, the Hispanic Cultural Center, and other Latino nonprofits, particularly to collaborate with other organizations and funders to stay true to her roots.



Dr. Pujana was born in Madrid, Spain, but spent her youth in Colombia. She returned to Madrid at age 17, where she earned her medical degree from Universidad Complutense and served as the chief resident at Veteran’s Hospitals of Madrid. Over time, she found her way to the United States—first in San Francisco, then Cleveland in 1992.


She is now both a clinical neurologist and neurophysiologist.


Dr. Pujana also teaches at Case Western Reserve University in a pioneer program that is geared toward doctors and professionals. She is a faculty member at CWRU’s Center for Global Health and Diseases in the School of Medicine. The class focuses on the Latino population and their inclusion in the medical system and process.


Her personal and professional philosophy has always been “to do your best” and to “keep your spirit alive.” She has always considered it her life mission to develop the “artistic gifts” her parents gave her and to help wherever and whenever possible in honor of the lessons her parents taught her.


She is married to Hugo Urizar, the president of Advanced Translation Services. She has two sons, Miro and Marco. She also has two grandchildren—a boy and a girl.


She was inducted into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame in 2013.She graduated from Leadership Cleveland (class of 2005).


She received the 2011 Distinguished Ohioan Award, the 2010 TIE Ohio Community Catalyst Award, the 2009 YWCA Women of Achievement Award, the 2008 Visionary Award from the Hispanic Business Association, 2003 Business Woman of the Year from Score Magazine


Dr. Pujana is hoping to set an example for young Latinos and Latinas. She has encouraged her children and grandchildren to become bilingual so they can both know their heritage and be successful in a global economy. She pushes for the “academic success” of young Latinos, especially if they want to become scientists and engineers.


But she also knows that “not everyone will be able to go into those careers.” But they must “train in something” and “do their absolute best, no matter what it may be.” But she believes there is a place for everyone in their future and wants to encourage them to “never lose their spirit and passion.” 


Copyright © 1989 to 2014 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 10/28/14 21:00:28 -0800.




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