Meet Edwards-Goodpasture PSTP Associate College Advisor: Dr. Isabel Vallecillo-Viejo, M.D., Ph.D.
by Camille Wang (G3)
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Dr. Vallecillo-Viejo returned to her home island for her M.D. and Ph.D. degrees after completing her undergraduate studies at Tufts University. She took a less typical route, first starting her PhD at the University of Puerto Rico. Three years into the program, she realized she was missing the patient aspect and thus applied and matriculated into the University of Puerto Rico for her medical degree. Currently, she is in her third year of pediatric residency, conducting research in the lab of Dr. Craig Duvall, Ph.D. Following residency, she hopes to pursue a fellowship in allergy and immunology. I had the pleasure of chatting with her about her career path, moving to Nashville, and her life outside of work.
How has the transition to Nashville been?
I had never actually visited Nashville or TN before coming here. But once I got here, I loved it! The music scene is amazing – I’m not a country music fan but, you grow to like it. *laughs* The food is incredible, there’s actually a Puerto Rican restaurant that I love. It feels like a small town in the sense that it’s relatively small, but it has this big city vibe where you can do all sorts of things.
Why did you choose pediatrics?
Pediatrics was actually my last rotation of third year. I was going through all the different specialties, and when I did peds, I thought, this is what I want to do. Your goals can change though, and an example of that is when I started residency. Because my PhD research was in CF, I wanted to go into pulmonology. And I also thought about heme-onc because there’s a lot of research in that specialty. But as I went through residency, I gained more interest in allergy and immunology, particularly immunology part, and so I changed subspecialty choices.
What is your favorite and least favorite part of your job?
Right now, I think my favorite part is how it’s not monotonous – you’re doing all these different things in a day’s work. I could be in clinic in the morning, and lab in the afternoon, and have meetings or write grants or write papers. It changes every day, which keeps things interesting. I like to keep things changing.
My least favorite thing…probably the only thing I would change is to have family close to me, but that’s always hard coming from so far away, and you don’t have a lot of time off. Research life is more flexible than when you’re doing your inpatient time. It’s definitely hard to be away from family and friends. We do talk every day on the phone, and they come visit, so there are ways to get around that.
How would you describe yourself?
In order to be doing what we do, we need to have very type A personalities. I’m definitely a perfectionist. I’m a hard worker, when I set my mind to something, I work very hard to obtain that goal. And something that I’m working towards, is to be easygoing and humble and a good human.
Why did you want to become a faculty advisor?
It still feels weird to be on this side of the table, like I feel like I’m still in training, and what am I going to say that is going to be helpful? But I think it’s so important to have mentors at all these different stages in their careers, especially for you guys who are just starting. I didn’t have a lot of formal mentorship other than my PI in my PhD. I was fortunate enough to have a very good relationship with him. We try to talk to each other every month, so we still keep in touch. You can find mentors anywhere – people early in their career, late in their career, and they can help you with all sorts of things.
Do you have any words of wisdom you’d like to share?
I heard once that 100% of life is just showing up. Go to seminars and conferences, and if you’re interested, just reach out to people because you never know what you are going to find.