Nicole F. VÉLEZ, M.D. ’00, Dermatologist

Dr. Nicole F. VÉLEZ ’00 is a dermatologist who specializes in skin cancer, particularly Mohs micrographic surgery. Nicole graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Cum Laude from Carnegie Mellon University and with honors from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, before completing a combined internal medicine and dermatology residency at Harvard Medical School. Committed to teaching and staying on top of new advancements in her field, she has published over 20 peer-reviewed journal articles and lectured both nationally and internationally on skin cancer. In 2019, she opened her private practice, Pittsburgh Skin, in Cranberry Township, north of the city. 

Years at Ellis
Grade 1 to Grade 12
B.S. Information Systems, Carnegie Mellon University; M.D. University of Pittsburgh; Dermatology & Internal Medicine Residency, Harvard University 
Pittsburgh, PA
Dermatologist, Mohs Surgeon

How did you get into your line of work?
I am a dermatologist and specialize in skin cancer, particularly Mohs micrographic surgery, which is a procedure for removing skin cancer and evaluating skin cancer under the microscope. I developed an interest in dermatology during medical school. The visual aspect of the field as well as the procedural elements intrigued me most. The largest organ of the body, the skin is visible and we have the opportunity to catch cancers early. Educating our patients about skin cancer can make a huge difference in early detection and survival.  

What do you like most about your job?
My patients. Skin cancer surgeries are often full-day procedures. As the patients are not placed under general anesthesia, we are able to speak with them and get to know them. I love the opportunity to meet people from all different walks of life. I learn so much from them as they share their lives, experiences, and wisdom with me. 

Is there a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career?
To date, my most significant accomplishment has been starting my own dermatology office in 2019. I did not graduate from medical school thinking that I would start a private practice. Unfortunately, medical school and residency don’t really teach you how to do this. However, as I started to practice medicine in the real world, I realized that there were elements of my professional practice that I would never be able to change if I worked for others. I had ideas about how I could improve the patient experience as well as the diversity of services. By designing my own practice, I have been able to implement these changes. It has been challenging but also very rewarding. 

What is your best memory of Ellis? 
I always remember fondly the big/little sister relationship we had entering high school. As a rising ninth grader, I was paired with an eleventh grader. We corresponded via letters over the summer and then locker notes throughout the year. My sister was very dedicated to her role and really helped me transition to high school and made me feel welcome among her friends. She introduced me to her clubs and encouraged me to get involved. Because of her, I joined the crew team and Ellis Athletic Association. 

For Ellis students reading this: is there any wisdom you’d want to pass on to them? What would you want them to know?
Cherish the friendships you form in high school. My very best friends to this day are my Ellis girlfriends. The experiences you share together at Ellis are formative. While you may each go in different directions, remember the times you have shared together. My high school friends continue to be an important source of support in my life. 

Can you share a time in your life when you have been particularly brave or bold?
After medical school, the process of getting a spot in a residency (or specialty training) is a match. Each student is matched in a particular program. After starting my residency, I realized I wanted to change my specialty track. In order to do so, I had to withdraw from my program without a guarantee that I would be accepted into the program of my choice. Had I not been accepted, I would have been left without a specialty training position. It was a nerve-wracking time but the process taught me that it was important to pursue my dreams and also that taking the longer route isn’t always a bad idea. 

We often talk about girls developing their voice at Ellis, what does that mean to you? How do you use your voice?
Ellis teaches girls to develop their own interests and pursue them. For me, Ellis helped me develop a framework for how to learn new things that I was able to apply throughout my education. As a result, I felt that I could develop goals and a plan to achieve them. I think Ellis also helps you feel confident in your opinion. The open and lively discussions we would have in our classes prepared me to feel comfortable speaking up in college lecture halls or medical conferences.  

What is the most important lesson you learned at Ellis?
Ellis encouraged me to ask questions and this skill continues to help me today. I think feeling comfortable asking questions is critical to learning. By asking questions, you also show others that you are interested and care which can help build trust.  

How do you spend your free time?
My two boys (ages 4 and 5) keep me on my toes. I enjoy being outdoors with them—biking in the summer and skiing in the winter. I also enjoy reading, cooking, and traveling.

How would you describe yourself in three words?
Motivated. Hardworking. Caring.

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