Link: University of Iowa

Information About

Alumni Interview

Viviana Martinez-Bianchi, M.D.

Curtis Argo, M.D.

(00MD, 04F-Internal Medicine)

What is your hometown?

Sioux City, Iowa

What is your official title?

Assistant Professor of Medicine
Associate Director, Transplant Hepatology Fellowship
Medical Director, Digestive Health Center Inpatient Service
University of Virginia Health Care Center

How/when did you become interested in science and medicine?

Starting in grade school, science was my favorite subject. Nothing ever steered me away from it, and my interest still continues to grow now. Medicine came to the forefront during my sophomore year at Carleton College. I sustained a sports injury and the treatment and recuperation gave me an immediate appreciation for the impact medicine can make in a patient’s life.

What interested you to pursue a career in medicine and medical education?

Academic medicine became the clear path for me during a Howard Hughes Medical Institute summer undergraduate research fellowship at the University of Chicago with Stephen Hanauer. I loved the variety of clinical practice, teaching, and research. His mentorship and our minor research successes that summer cemented my commitment to academic medicine, and to gastroenterology and hepatology.

Please highlight your major career achievements, awards, discoveries, etc.

I was named the Chief Resident of Internal Medicine while I was at the University of Iowa, and I received the Arnold P. Gold Foundation University of Iowa Humanism in Medicine Award. At the University of Virginia I was named Chief Fellow of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, and I received the American College of Gastroenterology Junior Faculty Development Award.

Is there a teacher, mentor or UI Carver College of Medicine faculty member who has helped shape your education?

There is a long list of mentors that impacted my development in academic medicine. Dr. Scott Vogelgesang modeled the leadership and drive necessary for providing continually exceptional care, and improving the education for the house staff. Dr. Peter Densen showed me what dedication to excellence truly is. Dr. Janet Schlechte (81F-Internal Medicine) personified the role “attending physician”. She is an exceptional clinician, researcher, teacher, and leader all rolled into one outstanding individual.

Dr. Joel Gordon made me realize how important it is to challenge a learner in many ways and to keep your teaching fresh by altering the educational environment, approach, and subject matter. Drs. Chris Goerdt (83BA, 88MMD) and Scott Wilson showed me the approach to caring for tertiary patients, which I call “compassionate confidence”; having compassion for patients with difficult and complex problems while instilling confidence that you are going to do everything you can to help them.

Drs. Mike Shasby, Mark Wilson, and Pat Burns I only need three words to describe– grace under pressure. Drs. Jeff Wilson (78BS, 83MD, 89F-Internal Medicine) and Lois Geist (90F-Internal Medicine) showed me the importance of taking a personal interest in each learner. And Dr. Bob Summers (65MD, 68R, 70F-Internal Medicine) best demonstrated for me the love of academic medicine and the continued exploration and improvement of it.

How or why did you choose the University of Iowa for your education and medical training?

Iowa is my home state institution and had an excellent reputation for producing well-rounded physicians and individuals. Also, it was the only place that accepted me for medical school!

What kind of professional opportunities or advantages has your University of Iowa medical training provided?

The University of Iowa prepared me exceptionally well for operating in the tertiary-care environment in a rural-suburban setting like Charlottesville, and instilled in me the commitment to filling all the important roles of an academic physician; educator, clinician, and researcher.

Please describe your professional interests.

My research interests include the impact of statin medications in patients with fatty liver disease (general hepatology) and the liver graft allocation variability in the United States (transplant hepatology).

What are some of your outside interests?

Spending time with my family; my wife Allyson and our children David, Aaron and Kate. I enjoy running, acoustic guitar and folk music, and now that I live in Virginia, NASCAR.

Do you have an insight or philosophy that guides you in your professional work?

I try to maintain a positive attitude about my role as an academic physician – you never know who is watching what you are doing and learning or drawing conclusions from it.

If you could change one thing about the health care system in the United States, what would it be?

A decrease in defensive medicine by medical teams through better, direct communication and expectation setting with patients and their families/friends.

What is the biggest change you've experienced in medicine since you were a student?

Learning directly from patients is continuing to prove more and more challenging for medical students and house staff trainees due to hours of service rules imposed by governing and accreditation organizations.

What advice would you give to today's medical students?

Commit yourself to being engrossed in learning from and about your patients, so that you feel accountable and responsible for their well being. There will continue to be barriers to this throughout your training, so it’s critical to build the mindset of accountability as early and as strongly as possible.

Also, ingrain in yourself the habit of reading in preclinical and clinical years – that is the best gift you can give yourself.

What do you see as "the future" of medicine?

I see continued evolution of the craft of practicing medicine in a more personal, accountable manner, that puts the highest value on the physician-patient relationship while minding the demands of today’s medical climate. That’s always going to be the “future of medicine”. I don’t think that will ever change, even though the challenge to teach and fulfill this role will always be there.


Medicine Alumni Society
Phone: 319-335-8886
Toll Free: 877-MEDIOWA
Fax: 319-384-1746