Veronica X. Vela, DrPH, MEngr, is a health leader focused on improving the health and well-being of communities. Dr. Vela's work centers around attuning health services to address the needs of multicultural populations and vulnerable groups. Her expertise includes developing new models of care to advance health equity, improve population health, and address social determinants of health.
Most recently, Dr. Vela served as a Senior Director of Design Research at Ascension, where she developed technology enabled healthcare services and solutions across 19 states and the District of Columbia. Prior to her role at Ascension, she served as the Director of Community Health Design + Innovation at Sibley Memorial Hospital, a member of Johns Hopkins Medicine. In this role she led Ward Infinity, a social innovation accelerator to address social determinants of health in Washington, D.C. 's most underserved communities.
Prior to her role with Hopkins, Dr. Vela led portfolios of national and regional consulting projects to improve care for vulnerable populations. The projects evaluated, improved, and created new models of care across a variety of service lines and conditions, including primary care, chronic care, HIV care, mental healthcare, hospice care, telemedicine care, and women’s health. After 9-11, she worked with the U.S. military, federal and local governments, and private sector hospitals to improve our nation's response to mass casualty disasters, such as terrorist attacks. Dr. Vela also served as a Human Innovation Fellow with the U.S. Government assigned to the Veterans Administration. There she led a national patient experience research and design initiative that ignited an enterprise transformation to improve how Veterans experience care at over 1,200 medical facilities.
Outside of her role as a practitioner, Dr. Vela promotes design and innovation education in health-related disciplines. She has advised academic medical and public health institutions on how to integrate human-centered design education in student curriculums, practice and professional development opportunities, and in their own research and design activities. Dr. Vela believes that schools of public health, medicine and nursing who equip their students with skills to design, manage and launch innovations will create leaders capable of addressing the complexities of health and healthcare today.
Dr. Vela holds a bachelor’s degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, a master’s degree in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research from the University of California at Berkeley, and a doctor of Public Health from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. She is a former Teach for America corps member and Ford Foundation Fellow. She serves on the board of La Clinca Del Pueblo, a federally qualified health center, and on the advisory council of Ward Infinity, the social innovation accelerator she led for Sibley and Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Throughout her career, she has partnered with over 35 organizations to transform how they advance health. She lives in Washington, D.C.