What is your professional background? 

I am originally from Peru, South America, and moved to the US in 2009 to start my internal medicine residency at the University of Miami – Jackson Memorial Hospital. Transplant Nephrology was then one of the mandatory rotations during internship, and I am glad that was the case – I loved it. The way to get there was by completing Nephrology fellowship first, so I moved to Houston after Baylor College of Medicine accepted me as one of their fellows. Before starting my Transplant Nephrology training, I also completed a fellowship in Geriatric Medicine at the University of Miami. After I completed my fellowships, I joined UMMC.

Tell us about what you do at UMMC.  

I mostly practice Transplant Nephrology, but some weeks I am also assigned to the General Nephrology service. I enjoy working with residents by advising them on their career pathways (irrespective of their future specialty) and helping them with abstracts or research projects. On a personal level, my recent research has been focused on frailty assessment on pancreatic transplant candidates, which allows me to apply my geriatric medicine background to transplantation topics. Another personal interest is expanding living donation access to underprivileged populations. I have been serving as the Medical Director of the Kidney Living Donor Program for the last 3 years.

What advice would you give to someone pursuing medicine today?

To spend time with patients – that is the part of the art of practicing medicine that we have been losing and makes the difference. To build up rapport, to try to understand their conditions, social issues and how their diseases are affecting them in a more global way – all of this will help you organize better treatment plans.

I would also recommend remaining curious regardless of the level of training. Do not oversimplify cases when they do not fit the textbook description; keep thinking and questioning what is wrong with your patient.

Finally, try to find the right work-family balance. In academics, our passion leads us to accept many professional responsibilities that keep us busy. It is important to realize when you have too much on your plate.

How has life changed due to COVID-19?

The way I see it, COVID-19 was a test to our healthcare system but also to our society. We had the opportunity to work together with a common goal to avoid overwhelming our capacity. Unfortunately, that level of commitment of both players was not even and sadly we are facing record cases these days.

On the positive side, we are moving forward with telehealth as a valid way to take care of our patients. It may not work for all, but for selected patients, this is a great tool to get access to UMMC services.

What do you like most about UMMC? 

The collegiality. I like that this is a friendly place to practice. I do not have recollection of any difficult interaction with my peers from other specialties; we debate and share our different perspectives on cases, with the understanding that we are part of the same team and we are working towards the same goal: to help our patients.

Tell us something about yourself that people may not know.

My wife and I love to travel, we enjoy trying international cuisine, learning different languages and exploring how life is in other countries. As you can imagine, this was an unusual year to us because of the travel restrictions. To compensate for that, I resumed an old hobby from childhood that is Origami and also started a new one – horology. 

But what really keeps me busy is our little boy, who just turned 1 year old. We are looking forward to exploring the world with him. 

Dr. Cabeza and his wife, nephrologist Dr. Desiree Anton Garcia, and their little boy

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