Raquel Appa Falcao, M.D.

The Right Place to Make a Difference

First-Year Resident Finds Plenty to Learn, as Well as Support, at Every Turn

As an internal medicine resident, Raquel Appa Falcao, M.D., often finds herself at the mercy of her pager. But she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It’s the only way to get exposure and learn,” Falcao said. “When you’re a medical student, you’re still a bit of spectator. Here, it’s no longer theoretical. You get to establish relationships with patients and watch them improve. They come to recognize you as their doctor, and that’s what’s so exciting.”

Falcao, who couples-matched with her husband, Daniel Falcao, noted the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center’s diversity of patient population as a significant draw to the program, as it allows her to observe and learn about a variety of disease processes and care for people who come from a wide spectrum of backgrounds and socioeconomic conditions.

Similarly, she credits her own diversity of experience for leading her into medicine. Originally from Sao Paulo, Brazil, Falcao moved with her family to the Miami area as a young teenager and, shortly thereafter, underwent a tonsillectomy. Despite the routine nature of the procedure, Falcao contracted a hospital-acquired infection and found herself under the care of a pediatric specialist who flew to the area to treat her.

“I just remember being very touched by the fact that someone would leave their home to come and figure out what was wrong with me,” she said. “As I recovered, I saw how grateful and thankful my parents were, and it dawned on me what a profound impact we as doctors can have on people’s lives.”

Still, Falcao said, the opportunity to make that kind of impact rests in many places. So, what truly brought her to VCU after graduating from the University of Miami was the supportive framework she observed upon her first visit to the area — from care coordinators and the nursing staff to residents, attending physicians, specialists and administrators.

“Originally, I didn’t think I’d like Richmond,” Falcao said. “But when I came, I loved the city, and I was especially struck by how dynamic and genuine everyone was in the program.”