Faculty Focus: Jeydith Gutierrez Perez, MD

Date: Monday, June 4, 2018

Jeydith Gutierrez Perez, MDWhat is your hometown?

I’m from Venezuela. Although I was born in the Capital, Caracas, I consider my hometown to be Margarita, the Caribbean Island located in the Northeast of the country, where I grew up.

How/when did you become interested in science and/or medicine?

I have been interested in science since I was very young. My mother is a math and physics teacher, my father is an engineer, hence science has always been part of our lives. Since I was a child I was encouraged to be curious, and curiosity is the cornerstone of science. When I was 7 years old I asked for a microscope for Christmas. That small microscope quickly became one of my favorite toys.   

My foray into the medical field started with the Red Cross Youth at the age of 15. I worked in urgent care modules in small towns of Margarita. At the beginning, treating patients was daunting and challenging but I did not shy away from it and learned quickly. The more I learned, the greater my fascination grew. I was certain that medicine was more than science, it was also an art. I developed a conviction that ultimately led me to medical school: The human body is a sophisticated and mysterious machine, especially because it encompasses the greatness of the human spirit. This was the field that could satisfy my fascination for physiological sciences, as well as the sociological workings of mankind.

When did you join the University of Iowa faculty?

I joined the University as a faculty member in the Internal Medicine Department in 2015, but I worked as postdoctoral research scholar here from 2010-2012 as well.

How or why did you choose to join the faculty at the University of Iowa?

The people. People in the Midwest and, especially at the University of Iowa, are uniquely friendly, helpful and nice. It is very easy to feel at home here and to find the support needed to launch and develop one’s career. After my first experience as a postdoctoral research scholar I knew that the University of Iowa was the place where I wanted to grow professionally.

Is there a teacher or mentor who helped shape your career?

Definitely, there have been many mentors in my career. My first mentor was the late Dr. Roberto Sanchez De Leon, a pulmonologist and recognized researcher in Venezuela. I worked for 5 years in his lab during my medical school. After I graduated there have been many teachers and people who I have consider mentors in one way or another. Two main ones come to mind, Dr. Joseph Zabner at the University of Iowa have helped me find paths to develop my career that align with my interests and values. Dr. Darilyn Moyer, the program director during my residency, has also been a role model and valuable teacher in my career.

Nevertheless, I think mentors and teachers come in many forms and shapes. Sometimes the students and trainees have become valuable teachers as well. 

How do you see your faculty role impacting medicine and/or science?

It has been my lifelong goal to improve the quality of the healthcare we deliver and healthcare access for as many people as I can. I have been involved in different aspects of advancing medicine towards those goals through my career.

  1. Basic science research: seeking to discover new and innovative therapies, during my postdoctoral research.
  2. Teaching: contributing to train the new generation of physicians, who can have a multiplier effect and be the motor of the transformation in healthcare. This is the main reason why I think that a career in academic medicine is so important and one of the most rewarding aspects of my job.
  3. Quality improvement and healthcare delivery: My career as a hospitalist provides me a unique insight regarding the healthcare system, its strengths and weaknesses. It allows me to identify opportunities for improvement and ways to impact access to care. It forces me to think outside the box and redefine the way that we deliver care.

What is the biggest change you've experienced in your field since you were a student?

Technology and the way it has impacted the healthcare delivery. We are in a digital era in which we have access to information in the palm of our hands. That has created a completely different setting for social interactions, expectations and ways to deliver care. The digital era has forced us to innovate and come up with different ways to meet the needs of patients in the U.S and around the world. We can now perform surgeries from a remote location, talk to patients via video conference and patients have access to their doctors from their phone. Telehealth is a reality and the direction in which medicine will continue to move.

It is certainly a new era and an exciting time to be part of the healthcare industry. We must leave behind old paradigms focused on curing diseases. We need to come up with new methods and strategies to care for our patients and communities. We need to leave our offices, buildings and our comfort zones and reach out beyond the walls of the hospitals and the clinics. We have many tools and systems now available that are transforming the healthcare system and I’m excited to see what the next 10-20 years will bring.

What one piece of advice would you give to today's students?

“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift”- Steve Prefontaine.

Medicine is an amazing and rewarding career. Taking care of patients and touching their lives is a privilege. You must be willing to give it your best, but without forgetting to care for yourself. Save some time of the day for reflection and self-care. Acknowledge your wins and your failures, and always be humble. You can be a better physician and person everyday if you recognize your limitations and are always willing to learn. Medicine is a life-long learning journey.

In what ways are you engaged in professional activities outside the University (i.e. population based research, mentoring high school students, sharing your leadership/ expertise with organizations or causes, speaking engagement off campus, etc.)?

I’m part on the board of a non-profit organization, composed by a group of Venezuelan colleagues that promotes awareness about the Venezuelan healthcare crisis and provide medical aid to people in our home country. In addition I recently started volunteering at the Free Medical Clinic in Iowa City.  

What are some of your outside (personal) interests?

I like to read, although recently I have been listening to audiobooks more often. I like to cook and come up with new recipe ideas. Lastly I try to keep myself active, running, biking or swimming.