Physician Outlook

The Reverend Doctor Illueca


I was a young scared medical student suffering from constant self-doubt when I first met Dr. Marta Illueca.

There is a very common ailment known as “Imposter Syndrome” that afflicts many in the health professions, and I had become “afflicted” very early on. I was surrounded by fellow future physicians who all seemed smarter and more confident than I was. Many were male, and few of the females looked like me. A chance encounter in 1989 with Dr. Illueca, who was then a pediatric GI fellow at the hospital affiliated with my medical school, changed my outlook and perspective.  In her reflection I could actually picture myself as a successful, confident physician. I am so fortunate to have her become an early mentor and strong positive role model for me. We are both native-Spanish speaking female physicians with strong connections to our patients, our family, God and our Hispanic culture. We did not let our “different-ness” define us, as we successfully assimilated into a culture that was not our own. She is a life-long learner who is continuously inspiring. 

 Dr. Marta Illueca was born in New York and grew up in Central America. She is bilingual and completely fluent in both Spanish and English, with one of the most charming Panamanian accents you will ever encounter. Her list of accomplishments and degrees is impressive. A physician who graduated with honors from the Universidad de Panamá, Facultad de Medicina (University of Panamá Medical School) in 1984, she went on to complete her internship and residency in Pediatrics at The New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center (now NY Presbyterian). She stayed on to complete her fellowship in Pediatric Gastroenterology and then became an Attending Pediatric Gastroenterologist at Cornell. 

 Her love of life-long research led her to leave private and academic practice, and she eventually spent over a decade in various roles, from Clinical Research Director to Medical Affairs Leader to Executive Director of Strategic Development at AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, LP in Wilmington, Delaware. 

 Her interest in public health and the effects of human suffering due to chronic pain led her to return to the classroom at the Tufts University School of Medicine’s Public Health and Professional Degree Programs, where she obtained her Masters of Science, specializing in their Pain Research, Education  and Policy Program.

 While the practice of medicine has always been her “calling” she felt a strong conviction to learn more about faith and healing, and while getting her Masters she also enrolled at the Yale Divinity School where she completed a Master of Divinity and was ordained as an Episcopalian priest in 2019. She is currently deployed to the Brandywine Collaborative Ministries in Wilmington Delaware. In addition to being a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics she is a member of the International Association for the Study of Pain and remains connected to Yale School of Medicine as a Fellow in the Yale Program for Medicines, Spirituality and Religion.

 Marta is currently involved in a research project in collaboration with academic researchers from Harvard through Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. The study is on spiritual wellness and healing with focus on the use of prayer as a therapeutic intervention for chronic pain. The study is online and open to any patient 18 years and over with chronic pain. 

 To refer patients for participation in the study physicians or patients may contact Dr. Marta Illueca directly.  Her phone number is 1-302-601-1480 (marta.illueca@aya.yale.edu) or Dr. Samantha Meints, Principal Investigator at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston (smeints@bwh.harvard.edu), phone 1-617-732-9014. Please visit The Prayer and Pain Website: https://rally.partners.org/study/prayerandpainstudy.

Physician Outlook welcomes the Rev. Dr. Illueca as a regular contributor in 2021 and beyond.  We all could use some “spiritual healing.” 

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