“I love that SAGES played and continues to play a significant role in establishing the standards around quality and safety with all things minimally invasive. Because of this, there is a certain humility and adventure around the work of SAGES. While never cavalier or cowboyish, it’s always forward thinking and unassuming. This lack of fear around intellectual curiosity and change ensures that we will always be learning and will always be made humble.”
Looking back on her years as a resident at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, Dr. Nia Zalamea wanted to be well-prepared when she went into private practice. This is one of the reasons she took the advice of Dr. David Thoman to join SAGES and take advantage of the society’s many educational resources.
Dr. Zalamea says, “When I went straight into private practice, attending SAGES meetings became even more important as I was no longer in academics but wanted to make sure that I continued to learn about new techniques and hone my laparoscopy skills.”
Now back in academics, Dr. Zalamea is founder and director of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) Global Surgery Institute and Associate Director for the UTHSC Center for Multicultural and Global Health. She is also Vice President and board chair for Memphis Mission of Mercy, an NGO focused on service to the poor via quality medical and surgical care. For Dr. Zalamea surgical mission work has been her family’s work since 1999. https://styleblueprint.com/memphis/everyday/how-this-general-surgeon-her-family-serve-memphis-and-beyond
As an active member of SAGES Global Affairs committee, she shares that same focus on the underserved.
“I believe laparoscopy should be promoted and used worldwide, and it’s important to engage with surgeons, providing tools and training in their own communities. But having been in private practice when my surgical care put my patient’s family into bankruptcy because of their lack of insurance, and their inability to pay their hospital bills, our job is never done until access to affordable minimally invasive surgery is obtained across the world.
My hope is that combining my interest in minimally invasive surgery, access to care, and work with the underserved, we’ll able to discover ways to make the procedures that we do more affordable, accessible, safe and with outcomes that allow people to get back on their feet again regardless of their socioeconomic status. I fundamentally believe that the poor pay more not only in terms of quality of care, but cost of care and for this reason we must focus on them and their outcomes and their costs in order to improve care across the board.”
Outside of being a surgeon, her mission work and SAGES, Dr. Zalamea is married to a photographer, mom to two young boys, and loves music, literature and stand up paddleboarding. “This balance,” she says, “saves me every day.”