Florida 24 Network is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month by shining a light on people who are making a huge difference in our community. Our Melissa Marrero introduces you to vascular surgeon Dr. Omaida Velazquez, who has made history by becoming the first Latina in the U.S. to serve as the chair of the Department of Surgery.
Dr. Velazquez has served patients for decades.
"It’s a unique experience, that bond between a doctor and a patient," said Dr. Velazquez.
Over the years, she’s created long-term friendships.
"I remember for example a family that I took care of in Philadelphia, a young patient, and it’s been a couple of decades now and the mom still sends me pictures and notes and keeps me updated," she said.
Dr. Velazquez knew she wanted to be a doctor since she was a little girl after seeing her father work as a first responder in Cuba.
"He would come home and talk about the situations where he was able to be a part of health by being a first responder and driving that ambulance and getting to the afflicted people early and how he interacted with the nurses and doctors when he got there. Then I sort of got the bug in my brain," she added.
Long years of hard work and commitment led to becoming the chair of the department of surgery at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. A big accomplishment in the Latinx community.
"We haven’t had a lot of Latinx representation in medicine, surgery, academic surgical leadership positions. So I look at it as I'm one person in a long chain of one day many people will inspire the young ones and show that it’s doable," she said.
One of the young ones being her 14-year-old daughter Julia.
"My advice to her and to every young woman out there, particularly Hispanic and Latina young women, is to look around and seize the moment and to not be afraid or intimidated that somehow everybody else is better and can do it better and is able to do it and not them. We all can do it," she said.
In September, Dr. Velazquez received the Latina Pioneer of the Year Award for her outstanding work in the vascular field. Dr. Velazquez says her primary goal is to continue to grow programs that can be accessible to the community, as well as conducting research in finding new vascular cures.