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The honorees of the 2022 AL DÍA Top Doctors Forum & Reception event. Graphic: Maybeth Peralta/AL DÍA News.
The honorees of the 2022 AL DÍA Top Doctors Forum & Reception event. Graphic: Maybeth Peralta/AL DÍA News.

Representing excellence and diversity in the medical profession: The 2022 AL DÍA Top Doctors

These individuals represent some of the most accomplished and impactful within the medical profession, and will be honored for such during the 2022 AL DÍA Top…

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If doctors were ever underappreciated or overlooked in the past, that should absolutely no longer be the case as the world navigates the third year of a global pandemic.

Medical professionals locally, nationwide and internationally have been on the front lines, displaying superb bravery, strength and determination, risking their lives for the sake of saving others.

For that, we all owe a debt of gratitude.

Four years ago, AL DÍA set out a vision to host an annual event that effectively celebrates the most accomplished and impactful medical professionals in the region, with a particular focus on highlighting the specific need for diversity within the profession.

After honoring four medical professionals each in both 2019 and 2020, last year AL DÍA expanded upon that effort and honored 12 esteemed medical professionals from throughout the region. 

In 2022, the effort will be expanded even further. 

This year, a total of 13 individuals within the medical profession will be honored at the 2022 AL DÍA Top Doctors Forum & Reception event — 10 in the category of Top Doctors, a Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, one Emerging Leader, and a Student Leader. 

​These are the honorees of the upcoming 2022 AL DÍA Top Doctors Forum:

Top Doctors:
  • Xilma Ortiz-Gonzalez, MD, PhD 

Dr. Xilma Ortiz-Gonzalez is a pediatric neurologist in the Division of Neurology at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. She specializes in neurogenetics, TBCK encephalopathy and mitochondrial disorders.

Along with her work at CHOP, Dr. Ortiz-Gonzalez is also an assistant professor of neurology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. 

She is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Medical School, earning both a medical degree and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from the university. Dr. Ortiz-Gonzalez also earned her residency in pediatrics from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and child neurology at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia/Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. 

She is board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. 

  • Alda Maria R. Gonzaga, MD, MS 

Dr. Alda Maria R. Gonzaga is an internal medicine and pediatric specialist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). 

In addition to that, Dr. Gonzaga is a professor of medicine and pediatrics and associate dean for student affairs at the University of Pittsburgh. 

She received her medical education, training and residency at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. She is also a graduate of Wellesley College.

Dr. Gonzaga is board certified in internal medicine from the American Board of Internal Medicine, and in pediatrics from the American Board of Pediatrics.  

  • Christian Witzke, MD

Dr. Christian Witzke is a cardiology specialist at Einstein Healthcare Network, specializing in the management of valvular and structural heart disease.

He is also the Director of both the Structural Heart Disease Program and of the Latin-American Cardiovascular Program at Einstein Healthcare Network.

Dr. Witzke completed his internal medicine residency and cardiovascular medicine fellowship training at Einstein Medical Center, before completing two years of training in interventional cardiology and structural heart disease at the Massachusetts General Hospital at Harvard Medical School. He received his medical training at Universidad Central de Venezuela. 

  • Mario Cruz, MD

Dr. Mario Cruz is a pediatrics specialist, who currently serves as the medical director of pediatrics for Philadelphia FIGHT. 

In addition to his role at Philadelphia FIGHT, Dr. Cruz is a clinical associate professor of pediatrics at Drexel University College of Medicine. 

Dr. Cruz completed his undergraduate training in biology and psychology from Union College, his medical school training at Albany Medical College, his residency training at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, and his Chief Residency at the Albert Einstein Medical Center.

  • Gysella B. Muniz Pujalt, MD 

Dr. Gysella B. Muniz Pujalt is an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC).

She also serves as UPMC’s Regional Director of Quality Newborn Care, and Medical Director of Newborn Nursery Services at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital. 

Dr. Muniz is a graduate of the Universidad San Martín de Porres in Lima, Peru. She completed her internship, residency and chief residency at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C. 

  • Maria Elena Vega-Sanchez, MD

Dr. Maria Elena Vega-Sanchez is an associate professor of thoracic medicine and surgery at the Temple Lung Center at Temple University Hospital. 

Along with her clinical duties, Dr. Vega-Sanchez is also heavily involved in medical education of students, residents and fellows, with a vested interest in expanding diversity in medical education and physicians in training.

She also serves as the interim program director for the Pulmonary and Critical Care fellowship program at the Katz School of Medicine, one of the largest pulmonary and critical care fellowships in the nation.

Dr. Vega-Sanchez completed her residency and fellowships in pulmonary & critical care medicine, and sleep medicine at Temple University Hospital, as well as her residency. She received her medical degree from Pontificia Universidad Católica in Quito, Ecuador, and is board certified in internal medicine, pulmonary disease, critical care medicine and sleep medicine. 

  • Maribel Hernandez, MD

Dr. Maribel Hernandez is a cardiologist at Lankenau Heart Institute, specializing in managing patients with heart rhythm disorders. 

She received her bachelor's degree at Yale University, and her medical degree at Stanford University. She did her residency in the Harvard Hospital System in Boston and her fellowship at the Hospital of the Medical College of Pennsylvania and the Lankenau Hospital.

She also serves as the Medical Director of Lankenau Heart Institute's Women's Heart Initiative, supporting awareness, education and prevention of heart disease in women within the community. 

Dr. Hernandez is board certified by the American Board of Cardiovascular Disease and Clinical Electrophysiology. 

  • Diego G. Chaves-Gnecco, MD, MPH, FAAP 

Dr. Diego G. Chaves-Gnecco is an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). 

He is also the program director and founder of Salud Para Niños, the first pediatric bilingual clinic in southwestern Pennsylvania. 

Dr. Chaves-Gnecco is a graduate of Gimnasio Moderno in Bogota, Colombia and obtained his title as a medical doctor from Pontificia Universidad Javeriana. He completed his residency in pediatrics at Hospital Universitario San Ignacio, Clínicas Infantiles Cafam and Colsubsidio, and his fellowship in Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

  • Roberto Ortiz-Aguayo, MD, MMM

Dr. Roberto Ortiz-Aguayo is an associate chair for the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. He is also a psychiatrist with the Behavioral Health Integrative Program at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. 

Dr. Ortiz-Aguayo earned his medical degree from the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine in San Juan, and master’s degree in medical management from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. 

He completed his residency in the triple board program (pediatrics, general psychiatry, children and adolescent psychiatry) at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Dr. Ortiz-Aguayo holds board certification in all three specialties. 

  • Victor Diaz, MD 

Dr. Victor Diaz is an assistant professor and assistant medical director at Jefferson Health. He is also the Director of Quality Improvement at Jefferson Health.

Dr. Diaz earned his medical degree from Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra School of Medicine in Santiago, Dominican Republic. He completed his residency at Chestnut Hill Hospital and fellowship in faculty development from Thomas Jefferson University.

He is board certified in family practice. 

Lifetime Achievement Award: 
  • Ana Maria Lopez, MD, MPH

Dr. Ana Maria Lopez is a professor and vice chair of medical oncology at Sidney Kimmel Medical College, and Medical Director and Chief of Cancer Services at Jefferson Health - New Jersey.

She also serves as Director of Integrative Oncology for the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center - Jefferson Health, and has had a strong commitment to health equity throughout her career. 

A graduate of Sidney Kimmel Medical College, Dr. Lopez completed her residency at the University of Arizona College of Medicine and a fellowship at University of Arizona Medical Center. 

She is board certified in medical oncology, with a clinical expertise in women’s malignancies, integrative medicine and oncology, and telehealth.

Dr. Lopez is also President-Emeritus of the American College of Physicians, the largest medical specialty organization in the U.S. 

Emerging Leader: 
  • Hema Datwani, MD

Dr. Hema Datwani is an obstetrician/gynecologist (OBGYN) at Einstein Medical Center. 

Dr. Datwani received her medical training from the University of Michigan Medical School in 2015, and completed her residency at Temple University Hospital.

She is board certified in obstetrics and gynecology.

Student Award Recipient: 
  • Juan Cerezo

Juan Cerezo is a medical student at Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine.

In addition to being a student, Cerezo is also actively engaged in Temple’s Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA), where he plays a key role in helping foster a community of support and resources for fellow students who hail from underrepresented communities. 

He is a graduate of Rutgers University - New Brunswick, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in microbiology in 2018.

These 13 honorees represent some of the most esteemed individuals within the medical profession this region has to offer. All within their respective departments and in different stages of their respective careers, each honoree represents the faces of excellence, high standards and diversity within this important profession.

The 2022 AL DÍA Top Doctors Forum is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 26 at the College of Physicians starting at 5:30 p.m. For registration and ticket information, click here

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