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HomeATS CommunityWho's Who ▶ Who's Who: Victor E. Ortega MD, PhD, ATSF
Who's Who: Victor E. Ortega MD, PhD, ATSF

  • Your full title as you’d like it to appear.

Victor E. Ortega, MD, PhD, ATSF

  • Three statements about you – two true, one false. 
  • I am a shameless “Disney Dad” who loves to take his family to Disney parks, and my daughter even took her first steps in the line for the Dumbo ride!
  • I earned my PhD while in medical school.
  • My father is a pulmonary and critical care physician who inspired me to pursue a career in the same field.


  • Give us your ‘elevator pitch’ biography.

I am a pulmonary and critical care physician by day, and a genetic epidemiologist by night. I’ve been inspired by multiple pulmonary doctors throughout my life: my dad, Victor M. Ortega, MD; the late doctors Homero Tarrats, MD, and Mitchell Friedman, MD, during medical school; Mark Aronica, MD, during residency; and Gene Bleecker, MD, during my pulmonary fellowship. While I initially thought I was going to pursue a purely clinical career, Drs. Aronica,  Bleecker, and Deb Meyers, PhD, sparked my interest in genomics research during fellowship, and soon afterwards I worked on getting my PhD. As a Puerto Rican person with a family history afflicted by severe asthma and even fatal disease, I’ve always been intrigued by the genomic factors underlying asthma severity. While Puerto Rican people are the most severe asthmatics, they are also the most underrepresented in genomic studies.

My wife, Heather, and I got married in 2010 right after fellowship andvictor-ortega2.jpg about the time I was starting my PhD training and also working as a pulmonologist and intensivist, essentially doing a “work-study on steroids.” She was a criminal judge at the time. In 2011, Zoe was born, so things got busy and it was Heather’s incredible understanding and support at that time and over the past 10 years that got me where I am today.


  • What would you tell yourself as an Early Career Professional?

I would tell myself to keep pushing and working hard every day, to keep going to ATS meetings EVERY year and present as much data as you can EVERY year. This will pay off in many ways.

I presented my first poster at ATS 2007 and have presented every year since. I had the opportunity to meet all these great people every year. I got more and more involved, and now I lead the section on genetics and genomics. It’s worth going to ATS every year, because everybody has something special to contribute, and it builds a strong network. We’re all in the crowd, serving the Society and the better good.


  • If you weren’t in medicine, and were in a different industry altogether, what would you be?

I’d be a travel planner.victor-ortega1.jpg


  • What is your favorite way to spend a day off?

Travelling with family. Sometimes, we’ll take a short one-hour trip to nearby Charlotte, NC for some outlet mall shopping. If we have a few days off, we’ll sometimes head to the Smoky Mountains, or we’ll head to Disney World. I like to go for four or five days.


  • What areas of medicine are you most excited to see develop?

Genomics and the promise of precision medicine in equalizing the playing field for the diagnosis, molecular understanding, prevention, and management of disease for all people.


  • What is one advancement in your field you’d like to see in your career?

Whole genome sequencing for all people collected from DNA in one clinic visit, then applied for a reliable and actionable estimation of risk and pharmacologic treatment (pharmacogenetic) profiles, irrespective of geographic ancestry, race, ethnicity.


  • Ok. Which statement did you make up?

I went to medical school first and got my PhD later, primarily at night. That’s why I always say I am a pulmonary and critical care physician by day and a genetic epidemiologist by night!