|Dr. Debora Velasco|
As the only child of two doctors – Argentinian immigrants who were both biochemists at HHC’s Metropolitan Hospital – Dr. Debora Velasco grew up hanging out in the lab there watching them work.
“I heard talk about medicine every minute of every day,” Dr. Velasco recalled. “I became a hospital volunteer at age 14. I always knew that I wanted to be a doctor.”
Not surprisingly, Dr. Velasco grew up to follow in her parents’ footsteps, joining them in the medical profession as a podiatrist now known for her detailed attention to patient needs and for the occasional home visit if a patient is unable to make it to the clinic for an important foot procedure.
Velasco did her residency in podiatric surgery at Metropolitan and became an attending physician there in 1998, at the same time that she began working at HHC’s Segundo Ruiz Belvis Diagnostic and Treatment Center in the Bronx.
Fourteen years later she is still at Belvis, running a busy practice with a large number of diabetic and vascular patients whose conditions make them particularly susceptible to diseases of the feet. Dr. Velasco not only treats her patients’ ailments but she also teaches classes instructing patients on how to take care of their feet, so they can catch problems before they become serious.
“I treat my patients’ illnesses so they will get better and I teach them the importance of good foot care so they will stay healthy,” Dr. Velasco said.
She splits her time between Belvis and a part-time private practice in Manhattan, but she might as well be full-time at Belvis, said Amanda Falick Ascher, MD, Belvis’ Medical Director. “She is always engaged in patient care, taking calls from staff, patients and radiologists even on her days off,” Ascher said. “She may be ready to wrap up with the 25th patient of the day, and she’ll spot the 26th patient and will not hesitate to say, ‘Yes, come in! She never says no to a patient. ”
Raul Padrón, one of HHC’s 55,000 adult diabetic patients, sees Dr. Velasco every six to eight weeks. But when he has an urgent matter that can’t wait, she is always willing to see him on short notice. “She’s a good person. She’s smart. She’s always available to listen and explain what to do,” said Padrón, who also appreciates the benefit of being able to communicate with Dr Velasco in his native Spanish.
Foot care is a critical aspect of HHC’s approach to good management of diabetic patients. So at every visit Dr. Velasco carefully examines her patients’ feet to make sure they don’t have paleness or blueness of the toes or abnormal swelling, both indicators of poor circulation. She trims the toe nails to keep them neat and prevent infection, and she checks for blisters that, in diabetic patients, may turn into ulcers.
Recently Dr. Velasco was one of 28 HHC physicians honored on Doctors Day for their leadership and commitment to advancing the mission of the public hospital system and for providing the highest quality healthcare to New Yorkers.
Dr. Velasco, who is married, grew up in Queens where, when she was 11 years old, she came home from school and informed her mother that she needed money to buy a heart to dissect for a science project. Delighted, her physician mother took her to the butcher store to buy two hearts.
She graduated from New York University and the New York College of Podiatric Medicine. Her father was still working at Metropolitan when she was a resident there.
“My father was retiring as I was coming in. It was a nice thing that we overlapped for one year,” she said. Dr. Velasco is a Member and Diplomate of the American Board of Podiatric Surgery.
She likes baseball and enjoys discussing the latest developments with patients including Irma Chuman, 69, and her sister Hilda, 82. They first met Dr. Velasco when Hilda was so sick with a foot ailment that she literally couldn’t walk. “I was trying to find a doctor who could help. Instead I found an angel sent from heaven,” Irma Chuman said.