In 2014, Vito D. Imbasciani, M.D.’85, Ph.D. and George DiSalvo made a gift to create the first endowed lectureship in the United States focused on preparing culturally competent physicians who can provide medical
care and prevention services that are specific to LGBTQ populations. This fall was the tenth annual Imbasciani/DiSalvo lecture and the featured speaker was Dallas Ducar, M.S.N., APRN. As Dr. Imbasciani and Mr. DiSalvo were able to attend in person,
we took the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Imbasciani to reflect on his life and career.
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Where are you from and how did you end up at UVM to get your medical degree?
VI: I was born in the Hudson Valley, but my four grandparents came from Italy. After World War I, one of my grandfathers discovered
a passion for music and joined John Phillips Sousa’s military band. He settled at West Point, where I later worked during high school and college summers.
I attended Cornell for my master’s and doctorate degrees, initially
as a pre-med student but eventually pursuing a music major. Both degrees focused on music, leading to a Fulbright in Rome. I later taught music at Middlebury College, but my interest in medicine persisted.
Taking a chance, I drove 35
miles to the University of Vermont and had a transformative interview with the dean of admissions. Despite my unconventional humanities background, she accepted me. Today, I’m here—thanks to that chance she took on me.
Any early career decisions/speed bumps
that you had to navigate?
VI: Deciding to pursue medicine after a humanities-focused academic career, I had to catch up on the science. I took a postbaccalaureate year to meet the admissions requirements, alongside a position in the pathology
department focusing on neurodegenerative diseases. While I didn’t choose pathology, my work there influenced my role as the chairman of the board of the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, which addresses degenerative and other
processes of the brain and spinal cord, among many other diseases.
How did these early career choices affect where you studied and your path through medicine?
VI: Initially, I considered combining my music Ph.D. with neurology. I planned a rotation at Harvard with a prominent neurologist
but couldn’t, due to his unexpected death. This led me to explore urology, where I fell in love with the field. My journey continued with a urologic surgery residency at Yale, and shortly after, I found myself in Saudi Arabia during the
Gulf War as an Army Medical Corps captain.
Following the war, I started practicing urology in Los Angeles. A few years later, an earthquake destroyed my rental property, making me humorously consider myself a Californian by virtue of
natural disasters, including the Gulf War and eventually, COVID-19.
Have you found a way to incorporate music
into your medical practice?
VI: It’s very difficult to translate what I did in my doctoral research working with 11th century Latin manuscripts in the depths of the Vatican archives, into clinical practice. However, this academic journey
brought me two significant benefits. Firstly, my Fulbright experience in Italy ignited a passion for travel, respect for diverse cultures, and a love for languages. I now speak eight languages and can read four more.
Secondly, a Ph.D. equips you with the skills to conduct high-level research, assess existing knowledge, and ask critical questions. You’re taught to amass the materials to apply a critical apparatus to solving problems. And it works. People
can use that advanced degree to do many, many different things. So, while I may not use music in my waiting room, I bring the valuable skills and experiences gained from my academic pursuits with me.