Miller School Surgeon Becomes Only Woman in Florida to Hold American Surgical Association Membership

Omaida Velazquez, M.D., F.A.C.S., professor of surgery and Chief of the Division of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery, made history this month, becoming the only woman in Florida who is a member in the American Surgical Association (ASA), the oldest and most prestigious association of surgeons.

Inducted at the association’s 133rd Annual Meeting in Indianapolis April 4-6, Velazquez joined the elite group composed of the nation’s most prominent surgeons from the country’s leading academic medical institutions.

“It is truly humbling and a great honor to become a member of this august association that leads the academic path and clinical advancements of the surgical field in the United States and the world,” said Velazquez, who is also Executive Dean for Research, Research Education and Innovative Medicine.

Not long ago, American medicine was dominated by men. But over the past five years, women have represented an average of 50 percent of all medical students and 40 to 45 percent of residents in surgical training programs nationwide. The shift is evident at the Miller School, where last year for the first time more women faculty than men were awarded tenure, the highest recognition bestowed upon faculty for scholarly academic accomplishments.

A fellow of the ASA, Velazquez is also a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation, Society of University Surgeons, Society for Vascular Surgery and the Southern Surgical Association. She holds the David Kimmelman Endowed Chair in Vascular and Endovascular Surgery at the Miller School, where she focuses on endovascular and other minimally invasive approaches in the surgical treatment of vascular diseases. A board certified surgeon with extensive research experience, she is expert in both open and endovascular repair of abdominal aortic aneurysms, open and endovascular treatments for carotid, mesenteric, and renal stenosis and novel treatments for critical limb ischemia.

Velazquez also is the principal investigator of an NIH-funded translational research program that investigates growth factors critical to the wound-healing process, and directs research on the recruitment of activated endothelial progenitor cells to wounds and extremities affected by peripheral vascular disease and critical limb ischemia. She also serves as UM’s principal investigator of several multi-center, randomized clinical trials advancing endovascular technologies and novel bone marrow-derived cell-based treatments, and her research team is developing new surgical animal models and vector delivery systems for therapeutic purposes.

At the Opening Session of the 2013 Annual Meeting, Velazquez and 55 other inductees were recognized by ASA President L. D. Britt, M.D., M.P.H.

“Becoming a member of the ASA is a special honor that we expect you will cherish,” he said. “It is also a special recognition of your individual achievement and accomplishments.”

In a meticulous 13-month process, ASA membership starts with a proposal initiated by a current ASA member. Candidates’ names are then read aloud at the next annual meeting and circulated to the entire membership for comment. After the Advisory Membership Committee reviews and discusses every candidate, it recommends who should be included on the ballot. Council members then vote on the final ballot, which is presented for voting at the Annual Business Meeting.

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