Yokarla Veras

Yokarla Veras
2017 Summer Scholar


Yokarla Veras has always had a strong interest in health disparities and how they affect healthcare delivery as well as an individual’s overall health. That’s why she was eager to join the Hassenfeld Institute as a summer scholar in 2017 working on a project examining neighborhood risk factors associated with pediatric fall-related injuries that presented to emergency departments.

“My number one priority was to look at the most vulnerable populations, and children are very vulnerable,” Veras said.

Veras, who had just completed her first year at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University that summer, was mentored by Dr. Patrick Vivier, the Institute’s director, as well as Dr. Michelle Rogers, who directs the Institute’s Data Core and was the lead statistician on the project.

“Michelle helped me to build the statistical skills I needed to carry out the project, and she helped me with any obstacles that came up along the way,”  Veras said.

Veras and her colleagues were particularly interested in determining how to mitigate neighborhood risks that are often associated with pediatric falls. While the team was expecting to see a correlation between certain neighborhood attributes, such as poverty or vacant buildings, and the risk of pediatric injury, they were surprised by how strong the association was.

“It was surprising to see how impactful these factors can be and also how statistically significant they were,” Veras said.

Veras, who was simultaneously a master’s student at Brown, developed the project into her master’s thesis. It became a paper for which Veras was the lead author and that was published in Academic Pediatrics in November 2018. Veras ultimately went on to present it at the PAS conference in Toronto, Canada.

“I’m very shy, so that was a big step for me, to have the confidence to present my work at a conference,” Veras said.

Additionally, the Summer Scholars program helped Veras to build crucial skills such as statistical analysis and academic writing.

“I grew so much and learned a lot from the project. Everything I did as a scholar will help me professionally. I know I’ve accomplished so much as a Hassenfeld Scholar as a result of all the support I received and skills I developed,” Veras said.

After earning her medical degree from Alpert Medical School in 2020, Veras was matched with her top choice, Columbia University Medical Center, for her residency. Since then, she’s been on a number of different rotations, alternating between two months of psychiatry and two months of either internal medicine or neurology.

She is most interested in specializing in psychiatry and is fascinated by a few different topics in that field, including reproductive psychiatry, which focuses on treatment of mental health disorders that arise during or after pregnancy, as well as adolescent and family psychiatry.

“Having experience in child health would help me in that career since I would be treating parents and their children,” Veras said.

Being a Summer Scholar was an incredibly positive experience, Veras said, one that she would recommend to anybody interested in child or maternal health.

“I really cherish it because everyone was so supportive, and I learned so much. It helped to shape my career and gave me so many new skills that I now use to contribute to the fields of medicine and psychiatry,” she said.