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Roberto Vidri, MD, MPH is an Assistant Professor of Surgical Oncology.  He specializes in general surgical oncology, gastrointestinal cancer, hepatobiliary surgery, liver metastases, cholangiocarcinoma, gastric cancer, colorectal cancer, endocrine cancer, complex skin cancers, melanoma, sarcoma.   

Fluent in Spanish, he  attended Medical School at the Universidad de Ciencias Médicas de Centro America (UCIMED), in San José, Costa Rica.  He completed his General Surgery Residency  at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, followed by Master of Public Health in Epidemiology at Harvard University – T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the Department of Surgical Oncology, Fox Chase Cancer Center  and Fellowship in General Complex Surgical Oncology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. He shared about coming to UNC, what motivates him, and his approach to patient care .


What brought you to the Department of Surgery at UNC?

I applied to a position at UNC primarily because of the faculty that form the Division of Surgical Oncology. They represent a group of renowned surgeons, who are dedicated to patient care, research, and education. It was important for me to have surgeons like them around to support me and develop my career.

What inspired you to become a doctor/surgeon? Or Why do you do what you do?

Growing up, I never contemplated becoming a doctor – As a junior in high school, I had the opportunity to volunteer with a group of surgeons in a mission to perform complex operations for an underserved/rural community. One of the senior surgeons allowed me to scrub and observe one of his operations. It was at that moment that I knew a career in surgery was what I wanted; I have never looked back.

I have a picture in my office of me, as a high school student, scrubbed in and in the operating room. It sits next to another picture taken thirteen years later of me and one of my mentors performing my last operation as a surgical trainee at Brown University.

How did you decide to pursue your current specialty? Has it met your expectations?

As a medical student I had the honor of assisting an amazing surgical oncologist during a neck dissection for a patient diagnosed with melanoma. As we proceeded, I was fascinated with the meticulous work, his knowledge of anatomy, and the product of the operation – with all the important structures preserved. I decided, at that moment, that I wanted to become a surgical oncologist. My passion grew stronger as I learned and was more exposed to the field of surgery and cancer.

Being a surgeon and a surgical oncologist has exceeded all my career and life expectations. It has been a long and difficult road of training and hard work. Having the opportunity to work with a multidisciplinary team and offer interventions that can make a person’s life a little better, is the most rewarding aspect of my life. I cherish every patient interaction and thoroughly enjoy being a cancer surgeon.

Do you have any pre-surgery ritual?

Yes, I do. My day begins with a cup of coffee and a good breakfast. I don’t function well when I’m hungry. I review all the important images and steps of the operation with my team to ensure optimal outcomes. As we are starting the procedure, I usually take a minute to clear my mind and say a brief prayer.

What are your contributions to your specialty?

My focus is on clinical outcomes and disparities research. Working with different sources of data, both at local and national or international levels, I attempt to identify factors or intervention that potentially affect treatments, procedures, and the overall care of patients diagnosed with complex malignancies. I wish to continue furthering my research initiatives to enhance cancer outcomes and access for every patient, regardless of social or racial aspects.

If you could pick the brain of someone alive or dead, who would it be?

Gianni Agnelli comes to mind. He was an Italian businessman, heir to the Fiat automobile empire. He was potentially the most influential and powerful man in Italy during the pre and post war era. Despite the tribulations in his hometown of Turin and Italy, along with threats to his life and family, he opted to stay and lead an entire nation into more prosperous times. He was a man beloved by his employees and countrymen. His funeral is regarded as one of the largest conglomerations of people in Italy’s history.

What profession did you want to be when you were a kid?

I always dreamed of building a career in the military. I admired the structure and discipline of those serving in the military branches and how they were regarded as leaders in their communities. I also wanted to have an “adventurous and exciting” life.

What are some goals you would like to achieve during your time at UNC Surgery?

First, I want to deliver the best care in an empathetic way for all my patients. I make it a priority to connect with everyone around me and to build trusting relationships – especially with my patients. I seek to be the best doctor and surgeon possible. From a career standpoint I want to further my research and mentor residents and medical students, hopefully inspiring them through my work and the passion I hold for my craft.

What is one thing you wish your patients or coworkers knew about you before they meet you?

I believe in clear communication and trusting relationships. This is necessary in our line of work, as patients place their lives and bodies on our hands.

What are the failures you most cherish? What did you learn from them?

I wanted to pursue subspecialty training right out of my general surgery residency training. Given multiple factors, this was not possible; I was very disappointed as I thought this would delay my career. I took a job as a general surgeon at a community hospital in Maine where I practiced for four years. I soon realized that was the best thing that could happen to me. I became an established surgeon, with a broad practice, caring for people in need. I also had the opportunity to mentor medical students. A big part of who I am now as a person and a professional is thanks to my time in Maine.

If you give your younger self one piece of advice what would it be?

I’ve come to realize that we cannot plan every detail of our lives and attempt to control everything around us. Unforeseen events happen, plans change, we keep moving forward and trust that it is better than what we had drawn out. I wish I had understood this earlier in my life; in the end, one always ends up where you are supposed, even if it’s not where you though you wanted to be.

What might someone be surprised to know about you?

I listen to country music.

What do you do when you aren’t working?

I’m very active, I enjoy running and high intensity functional training. One of my biggest passions is upland bird hunting over a dog – I have a German Shorthaired Pointer. I would spend every day of my life outside chasing birds if I could.

How would you describe yourself in one word?


Is there anything else you’d like colleagues, patients/loved ones, etc. to know?

I’m simple and straightforward, I enjoy a good laugh to lighten up even the heaviest of situations. It is humbling, and a real honor, for me to have the privilege of caring for people and being a helping hand in times of need.


To learn more about Dr. Vidri, please visit his website.