Tackling the Topic of Infectious Diseases in Español

Entrevista con la Dra. Ana Velez en Español. Tema: la diabetes.

Aquí para leer este reportaje en Español. / Click here for Spanish script.

Ana Paula Velez, MD, is as comfortable with a microphone as she is with a microscope. The Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of South Florida is part of the team in Infectious Diseases & International Medicine and has become a Latina ‘Oprah’ of sorts. Dr. Velez is a frequent guest speaker of Polk County’s Health Watch television show produced by county government in Spanish, “Comunidad Viva”. Geared towards health issues prevalent within the Hispanic community, the broadcasts are a favored platform for Dr. Velez because she says it’s important to raise awareness on infectious diseases.

“What surprises me the most is, when I say ‘I’m in infectious diseases.’ they think about avian flu, malaria, TB and other diseases around the world. They’re important but we have other diseases that are very close to us that we don’t think about, like HIV,” says Velez.

Velez says that she and her colleagues deal with a variety of things that most folks would never associate with infectious diseases. “Diseases like HIV, sometimes complicated pneumonia, surgical infections and if you get an organ transplant you can get infections and we deal with all of that too. People who are burned and come in to a burn unit – we also have to see them because they’re more likely to get infections and that can be fatal to them,” says Velez.

Her goal in making television appearances in Spanish is to educate Polk County’s growing Latino population about the real-life dangers of infectious diseases, what they are, and how to prevent further spread and contamination.

In 2005, Velez arrived at USF for a two year fellowship and stayed on with the university’s Infectious Diseases team. She is also part of the Infectious Diseases division at the James Haley V.A. Hospital in Tampa and the H.Lee Moffitt Cancer Center located on the campus of USF Health. Prior to her arrival in Tampa Bay, Dr. Velez’ residency training in Internal Medicine was completed in Puerto Rico, as well as the Orlando Regional Medical Center here in Florida.

A native of Medellin, Colombia and former resident of Puerto Rico, Velez can easily jump from English to Spanish (and visa versa) when explaining complex medical issues – a key to her success explaining Infectious Diseases en Español and any other language!

Asked what diseases she’s seeing more of these days and she quickly answers HIV, diabetes and hypertension.
If people know more about these diseases, it would increase the chances of prevention in some and early detection in others, she says.

“People are living longer but the number of HIV cases is increasing. The other thing I see more of because of my work at Moffitt is the number of patients receiving bone marrow transplants and patients who are receiving solid organ transplants. As these transplants increase, there is a large part of the population that is immuno-suppressed, including HIV patients of course. They are all at increased risk of getting infection and we have to be aware of that and ready for it as medical professionals. The patients have to be aware of that as well.”

“There are still people who think that just by shaking hands with someone who has HIV they can be infected,” says Velez, who notes there should be more frank and open discussions on sex within these populations. It’s a tall order among certain groups, she says, because sex talk in public remains taboo among certain cultures and age groups. By presenting information in a medical framework, Velez hopes her ‘Oprah’ moments on Polk County tv will help start important discussions.

Dr. Velez is a role model for all of us. As a clinician, she can stand firm and say no to death. As an educator, she can share not just the knowledge of health but the value of health. She is changing the culture in Polk county in a population that is all too often underserved.”
Dr. John Sinnott, Associate Dean of International Affairs for USF Health
& Director of Infectious Disease & International Medicine, USF College of Medicine.


On HIV: Below is video clip of Dr. Velez. Courtesy: PGTV “Comunidad Viva”


HIV Interview Part II is below. Courtesy: PGTV “Comunidad Viva”


Story by Lissette Campos, USF Health Communications
Photos by Eric Younghans, USF Health Media Center