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Dr. Ria Dancel is an associate professor of medicine and pediatrics in the division of hospital medicine. She’s also associate chief for education and director of UNC’s Medicine Procedure Service. Dr. Dancel specializes in care of hospitalized adults and children, bedside ultrasound at the point of care, ultrasound guided procedures and resident education.

Ria Dancel, MD, FAAP

What brought you to UNC Medical Center?

I never really had roots until I came to Chapel Hill as an undergraduate. Then I stayed for medical school and residency before joining the faculty in 2010. Now I’m here to stay.

Where are you from?

I was born in the Philippines and grew up an Army brat. The last place my father was stationed was Fort Bragg while I was in high school. So my answer to this question is: The Phillipines, everywhere, and nowhere.

Did you always want to be a doctor?

Oh no. I was actively discouraged by my father, who was an Army doc. Perhaps, he knew I would rebel … by becoming a doctor.

How did you choose your specialty?

Choosing Med-Peds was more due to an inability to choose – I enjoyed nearly every medical school rotation, including surgery. Choosing a combined Medicine and Pediatric residency allowed me to continue studying broadly (read: to continue being indecisive) and allows me to wear many hats. From week to week, I can be an internist, a pediatrician, a proceduralist, or an educator. Or, all at one time. It keeps me passionately engaged in all I do.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

As an academic Med-Peds hospitalist, I have the privilege of caring for patients while teaching energetic students and residents — who in turn teach and challenge me.

What are some of the new developments in your field of specialty?

There is an important movement bringing physicians back to the bedside to strengthen the patient-physician relationship. A new-but-old development is bringing ultrasound to the bedside as a tool physicians can use to greatly enhance our physical diagnosis skills. Point-of-care ultrasound also has the added benefit of making bedside diagnosis a shared experience with our patients. While they may not be able to appreciate what we are auscultating, palpating, or percussing, I have seen many patients become immediately engaged when I show them what I am seeing on ultrasound.

Is there a particular achievement (professional or personal) that has been most gratifying to you?

There’s not any particular achievement that’s been most gratifying. There’s the immediate gratification of helping someone feel better and then there’s the delayed gratification of mastering a skill and learning to teach others that skill. I’m very proud to have been awarded Med-Peds faculty member of the year in 2015 and 2017 but it’s been more gratifying to watch residents grow toward their unlimited potential. Also, while I’m not a parent, I celebrate every achievement and milestone my godchildren attain because I really believe it takes a village.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?


If you weren’t a physician, what would you like to be doing?

There’s a Travel Channel series called Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern in which a chef travels around the world immersing himself in a culture by sharing their “bizarre” cuisine. He’s been to over 30 countries and eaten nearly every part of every thing that swims, crawls, grows, or flies on this earth. Those are the kind of adventures I’d love to have.

What hobbies do you enjoy?

I enjoy cooking, drawing, and painting – none of which I do particularly well. But the challenge of improving is what draws me. I also tell residents that playing video games improves hand eye coordination for procedures but they’re really just fun to play.

Do you have a favorite quote or life motto?

Relax – nothing is under control.

View Dr. Dancel’s profile.