Valeria is a general surgery resident at Michigan Medicine. Originally from Acacías, Colombia, she completed her undergraduate education starting in her local community college, the State College of Florida. She obtained a B.A in Biochemistry from the New College of Florida and her medical degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago where she was an active member and leader of the Latino Medical Student Association. Most recently, she received a master’s degree in Health and Healthcare Research from the Rackham Graduate School at the University of Michigan.
Valeria is completing a post graduate research fellowship as part of the National Clinician Scholars Program, a multi-institutional initiative training clinicians from multiple disciplines as change agents who will drive policy-relevant research and partnerships to improve health and health care. Her research interests include workforce diversity in surgical specialties, disparities in surgical care with a focus on transplantation, and implementation of interventions to increase access and quality of surgical care for minoritized populations. Valeria holds candidate memberships in the American Society of Transplant Surgeons (ASTS), the Association for Academic Surgery (ASC), the American College of Surgeons (ACS), the Americas Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Association (AHPBA), and the Latino Surgical Society (LSS). She is a trainee representative for the ASTS Pipeline Task Force, a member of the ASTS Boldly Against Racism Task Force, and the program lead for the LEAGUES Fellowship, a pipeline program designed for medical students interested in the intersection of racial and gender equity and surgery.
In 2020, Valeria was inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA) Honor Society at the University of Michigan Medical School. She is the inaugural awardee of the University of Michigan College of Medicine Student Diversity Council Dr. Roland Alexander Blackwood Award for Excellence in Mentorship to Diversify the Healthcare Workforce.
Valeria's research agenda has focused on two areas of interest: workforce diversity in surgery and disparities in surgical care. On the workforce disparities area, she has designed studies aimed to understand what draws trainees to high-intensity surgical specialties and the personal and professional experiences of low incidence workforce groups in surgery, like women transplant surgeons. On the surgical disparities front, she has investigated systematic measurement bias in oximetry devices, language and literacy barriers to accessing health information in transplantation, and disparities in surgical outcomes focusing on identifying intervenable mechanisms that if acted upon could make surgical care more equitable for historically marginalized communities.
As part of her academic development time, Valeria joined the 2020-2022 cohort of the National Clinician Scholars Program (NCSP) at the University of Michigan Institute for Health Policy and Innovation. The overarching goals of the NCSP are to cultivate health equity, eliminate health disparities, invent new models of care, and achieve higher quality health care at lower cost by training nurse and physician researchers who work as public health and policy leaders. Joining the NCSP has been instrumental to her development as a scholar activist.
Valeria spent her first year in the program building the foundation of what one day will become her research program, including training in quantitative and qualitative methodology. Working and learning in interdisciplinary teams has improved her understanding of how disciplines outside of surgery evaluate and solve problems, which has translated into a number of collaborative projects and new approaches for the problems she hopes to tackle in her attending career.
- Undergraduate: New College of Florida, 2013
- Medical School: University of Illinois at Chicago, 2017
- Michael Englesbe, MD, FACS
- Theodore (Jack) Iwashyna, MD, PhD
- Mary Byrnes, PhD
- Andrew Ibrahim, MD, MS
- Seth Waits, MD
Why Michigan Surgery
"Our program has a long-standing history of clinical excellence, which is the foundation of resident education. However, given my nontraditional research and advocacy interests, it was important for me to train at an institution that would be ready to make a cultural shift as it pertains to workforce diversity and its implications for patient care. Michigan Surgery has been a pioneer in this area, and at the time I interviewed for residency, it was the only program that welcomed my enthusiasm for equitable recruitment. On the clinical side, some of my favorite parts about the program are our early operative experience and the ability to train at an institution with a burn center, a multi-organ transplant program, and a children’s hospital all under the same roof."
Life in Ann Arbor
"As a lover of the outdoors, living in Ann Arbor really broadened my opportunities to get outside even as a busy clinical resident. I grew up in the countryside and being able to be within driving distance from some spectacular hiking spots was a selling point of the city. For a middle of the workday break, a walk through the Nichol’s Arboretum (across the street from the hospital) is always a treat."
"I have been gardening for about ten years, and anything will really grow in Michigan! I have a very elaborate three-season garden in the porch of my apartment where I grow vegetables and flowers every year. I hike and bike regularly, and you can find me sewing, reading, cooking, or hanging out with my partner and our dog (Sofi) and cat (Maria) when not at work."