Who We Are
Omaida Velazquez

Omaida Velazquez

Professor with Tenure, DeWitt Daughtry Family Department of Surgery, David Kimmelman Endowed Chair in Vascular and Endovascular Surgery,, University of Miami, Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine

Gene and Gene-Modified Cell-based Therapies for Vascular Regenerative Medicine

Abstract: Vascular and skeletal muscle regeneration is required for overcoming the ravages of many traumatic, metabolic, neurovascular, cardiovascular, inflammatory, and degenerative diseases that result in impaired circulation, muscle wasting, sarcopenia, disability, frailty, non-healing wounds, gangrene, and major limb amputations. However, despite diet, exercise, life-style modifications, immunosuppressants, antihypertensives, antiplatelets, anticoagulants, and a myriad of invasive open surgeries or endovascular catheter procedures, no effective and specific limb vascular and limb muscle regeneration clinical strategies have been developed to-date. Therefore, millions of individuals suffer, lose limbs, and die young from these unsolved conditions despite trillions of dollars in health care costs. In vascular biology, the membrane-bound adhesion molecule, ESelectin, is emerging as a fundamental cell signaling pathway that modulates cellular involvement in inflammation, thrombosis, angiogenesis, fibrosis, wound healing, and skeletal muscle regeneration. We will review recent notable pre-clinical discoveries on the effects of E-Selectin on hindlimb vascular and skeletal muscle regeneration, wound healing. and limb function.


Dr Omaida Velazquez was born in Cuba and emigrated to the U.S. (Union City, New Jersey) in her early teens during the Mariel exodus, thereafter, became a U.S. Citizen. Despite going to a public high school with limited resources, she excelled academically and went on to earn her Bachelor of Science w/ added Scientific Thesis Distinction, at Stevens Institute of Technology and then attended UMDNJ – Rutgers: New Jersey Medical School, graduating Valedictorian. She earned her General Surgery Residency and subsequent Fellowship in Vascular/Endovascular Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania. There, she also pursued two years of formal post-doctoral research training at the Harrison Department of Research, University of Pennsylvania. She joined the Penn faculty and served eight years, rising from Assistant to Associate Professor with the award of Tenure at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Velazquez relocated to Florida in 2007 when the University of Miami (UM) recruited her as the Chief of the Vascular and Endovascular Division. There, she was promoted to Tenured Professor, served as Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Surgery, and was later appointed as the Executive Dean of Research, Research Education, and Innovative Medicine for the UM Miller School of Medicine. In 2015, Dr. Velazquez was appointed after a national search to Chair the Department of Surgery at UM and made history becoming the first Latina woman Chair of Surgery in the U.S. She was also named the inaugural Surgeon-in-Chief at UM’s Health System and served as Chief of Surgery for the Jackson Memorial Health System. In these roles, she concurrently served as the leadership interface for the UM and Jackson Memorial surgical clinical, research and education programs at the Miami Veteran’s Administration Hospital.

Through her 15 years of executive leadership at UM and Jackson Memorial Health Systems, Dr. Velazquez was the trailblazer servant-leader behind dozens of thriving clinical care lines and education programs, thousands of medical, surgical, and research trainees, and hundreds of surgeons, scientists, educators, allied health care professionals, and administrative team members. Regional and national reputational ranks rose under her watch, establishing, for the first time in its history, the UM DeWitt Daughtry Family Department of Surgery as a top tier national academic department of surgery. Throughout this time, she cared for thousands of patients suffering from cardiovascular diseases and diabetes in South Florida and beyond. She inspired the vascular research team towards a promising new field of vascular regenerative medicine, resulting in several UM-owned intellectual properties credited directly to her multidisciplinary and collaborative research laboratory. In recognition of her service, grateful families and community pillars donated funds to UM for an eponymous Endowed Chair honoring Dr. Velazquez and she was named 2021 Latina Pioneer of the Year.

Dr. Velazquez is a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigators, the American Surgical Association, Southern Surgical Association (Treasurer), the Halsted Society, the Board for the Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine of Florida (ASEMFL), the National Advisory Board for the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center, the Board of the Jose Marti STEM Academy in Union City, NJ, and the National Academy of Medicine. Among many other professional organizations, Dr. Velazquez also serves as Distinguished Fellow of the Society for Vascular Surgery, Society of University Surgeons, and Associate Editor for Rutheford’s Vascular Surgery & Endovascular Therapy Textbook. She has been continuously funded for over 20 years, published over 200 manuscripts, served on multiple scientific review panels/study sections, and obtained several biomedical patents. One of her seminal discoveries was licensed by the University of Miami, leading to a new incubator company that is advancing new vascular cures through novel gene and cell-based approaches, Ambulero Inc. Some recent recognitions include Certificate of Leadership from the DeWitt Daughtry Family Department of Surgery; the Conrad Jobst Award at the University of Michigan; the Rudolph Matas, MD Vascular Surgery Award from Tulane University; the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Rutgers New Jersey Medical School; the Distinguished Graduate Award from The University of Pennsylvania; and the Miracles for Life Leadership Excellence Award by the Life Alliance Organ Recovery Agency.