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How One Versiti “Blood Detective” Helps Save Lives

May 03, 2021

Hematologist Juliana Perez Botero, MD, tackles complicated cases for patients with bleeding and clotting disorders.


When Versiti Medical Sciences Institute Associate Medical Director of Hematology Juliana Perez Botero, MD, introduces herself to patients, she describes herself as a blood specialist who collects clues about her patients to help solve a case. “What I love about hematology is that we’re like blood detectives,” she said. As a benign hematologist, she admits that though hematology is a less common career path than its counterpart oncology, it is no less interesting—or important.

Because expertise in benign and congenital hematology is rarer than oncology, many institutions lack a core mass of expertise to treat patients with bleeding and clotting disorders. However, with 3 million Americans living with bleeding and clotting disorders, the need for benign hematology expertise remains high. This is where Versiti differs from its institutional peers. “Versiti has experts that move between spaces and serve different roles,” Dr. Perez Botero said. “This is unique.”

Dr. Perez Botero’s work focuses on platelet disorders. “A lot of what we do consists of gathering information from many sources and putting it together for each individual patient,” she said. In this way, she believes that the diagnostic process in hematology is more complex than oncology, which typically involves a more treatment-oriented approach. “Your patients aren’t usually only yours; it’s rare that we have a patient who has a hematology problem that doesn’t affect anything else. Because of that, I see my job as helping others do their work, and making sure patients safely get whatever treatment they need.”

Championing women’s health

One of the multi-disciplinary treatment approaches Dr. Perez Botero is involved with is a combined hematology/obstetrics clinic with Jennifer McIntosh, DO, MS, at Froedtert Hospital. Pregnancies for women with pre-existing hematologic conditions can be complicated, with a number of pregnancy-exclusive disorders and hematologic manifestations. Inevitably, these women have questions about their pregnancies that also impact the care plans for their hematologic disorders. Left unaddressed, these women may experience severe complications during pregnancy and childbirth.

The clinic aims to provide comprehensive care for these patients in a collaborative environment. Drs. Perez Botero and McIntosh meet with patients together to help formulate the best treatment plan possible. “Even when the final treatment decision is at the time of delivery, it helps women know what to expect,” Dr. Perez Botero said.

Drs. Perez Botero and McIntosh have identified gaps in the clinical care of this specific population and are establishing research collaborations to address them. “Our goal is to partner with people who have knowledge and skills that complement our own and to bring practical knowledge to the clinical sphere,” Dr. Perez Botero said. “While it’s great to have all this knowledge, if we don’t turn it into something useful, who’s benefitting from it? It needs to mean something to people.”

Collaboration with Versiti Diagnostic Labs

In addition to seeing patients with nonmalignant blood disorders, Dr. Perez Botero works with Versiti Diagnostic Labs to better understand patient diagnoses. “The part of my job that I like the most is creating, developing and changing clinical laboratory tests to improve our ability to diagnose diseases; interpreting data and predicting how patients will do; and translating the test results to something that is easier to understand for other scientists who don’t speak our ‘language,’” she said.

She added that usually, diagnostic laboratory work belongs to pathologists and that clinicians don’t play a big role in laboratory medicine. However, Versiti’s breadth of expertise makes it possible to contribute to this type of groundbreaking work. “At Versiti, we are familiar with rare disorders and rare conditions that most people don’t see in their usual practice,” she said. “Working in specialized labs gives me the opportunity to reach more people and improve more lives.”

Versiti’s core mass of expertise

Dr. Perez Botero is grateful to work with and learn from a variety of basic and clinical scientists. “Versiti brings a lot of very good people together—people with unique expertise and a spirit of collaboration,” she said. “Versiti made a job for me that I never thought I’d find anywhere else. I am able to be heard and recognized as a young investigator and clinician. It’s focused on exactly what I love doing and has allowed me to continue carving my niche.

“This is an environment where you feel appreciated and valued,” she continued. “We want each other to be successful.”

About the expert: Juliana Perez Botero, MD, is an Associate Medical Director of Hematology at Versiti and an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

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