Dr. Veronica Alvarez-Galiana always wanted to work at Community HeaIth of South Florida, Inc. (CHI). Born in Miami to Cuban parents who fled their country, Dr. Alvarez-Galiana knew she wanted to work with migrant populations and in underserved communities.
“It was a calling,” said Dr. Alvarez-Galiana, who started at the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at CHI three years ago where she is now the OB/ GYN Medical Director. “The culture at CHI is very inclusive and like a family. So, I was really happy when I got the job.”
For many leaders at CHI, it was no surprise when the National Association of Community Health Centers honored Dr. Alvarez-Galiana with the prestigious Geiger Gibson Emerging Leader award for her commitment to developing the OB/GYN department, growing the number of providers and making innovative changes to the department in service of her patients.
Under her leadership, pregnant patients began making appointments earlier on in their pregnancies, the department instituted group prenatal care to promote education and build stronger support systems, the department hired and trained registered nurse-midwives, and partnered with FIU to train medical students. Dr. Alvarez-Galiana also initiated partnerships with INVITAE to provide non-invasive prenatal and breast cancer gene testing to patients, and with FIU’s Mammogram Van which provides mammograms to uninsured patients with transportation issues in South Dade.
She also led the expansion of the department to new locations in Marathon and Key West. Then, when the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, Dr. Alvarez-Galiana quickly switched gears into telehealth services and instituted safety precautions for all patients, including a number of steps to keep pregnant patients safe.
“Certainly COVID-19 was one of the biggest challenges,” Dr. Alvarez-Galiana said. “There was a lot of fear among the patients and staff. I had to think on my feet.”
Dr. Alvarez-Galiana’s leadership and achievements were just a part of why Dr. Saint Anthony Amofah, CHI’s Chief Medical Officer, nominated her for the Geiger Gibson Emerging Leader award.
“It was very refreshing to see that she was able to pick this up without batting an eyelid,” said Dr. Amofah. “She was able to pick up the reigns and run with it and quickly earned the respect and influenced members of her department. She is a visionary for such a young woman.”
Dr. Alvarez-Galiana says it was nice to pause and take in the recognition and is forging ahead on building out her vision for the OB/GYN department at CHI.
“It’s a very humbling experience,” she said. “But it’s really about doing the right thing even when nobody is watching. I want to continue being of service to the community.”
Driven by CHI’s motto, “Patient care comes first,” Dr. Alvarez- Galiana said she hopes the next phase of her work might implement new and innovative cancer screenings, and more.
But there’s another order of business Dr. Alvarez-Galiana is seeing to this year: the birth of her second child this summer. She is expecting a baby girl and currently receiving her own prenatal care at CHI.