My training at Johns Hopkins for general surgery and Harvard for cardiac surgery has instilled in me a philosophy to treating cardiac surgery patients that emphasizes strict attention to detail in preoperative, intraoperative and postoperative care. When I see patients in preoperative consultation, I don't sugar coat the information because I believe that patients who have realistic expectations and are informed about what is going to happen after their surgery recover better and faster.
Dr. Vassileva was born and raised in Bulgaria and came to the US after high school at the age of 19. She completed medical school and general surgery at Johns Hopkins and subsequently finished her training in cardiothoracic surgery, cardiac track at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in 2009. Throughout her training, she has received multiple awards that distinguish her scholastic achievement. At the end of medical school, she received the William Steward Halsted award for outstanding performance in surgery. At the end of general surgery, she received the John Cameron Technical Excellence Award. At the Brigham, she received the John Collins Cardiothoracic Scholar Award. After completing her training in cardiothoracic surgery in 2009, she took a position at Southern Illinois University as an assistant professor of cardiothoracic surgery. In recognition of her clinical and scholarly achievements as SIU, in 2014, she was promoted to associate professor with tenure. She is well versed in all aspects of cardiac surgery, but her special interest and expertise are heart valve disease and minimally invasive valve surgery, specifically valve repair, including mitral valve repair, tricuspid valve repair, aortic valve repair and valve sparing aortic root replacement. She has established a Center for Valvular Heart Disease at SIU and currently serves as its director. On a national level, she holds a number of national committee appointments. These include member of the Access and Publications Committee for the Workforce on National Databases in the STS, member of the STS Quality Management Task Force, chair of the Mitral Repair Working Group for the Society for Heart Valve Disease, member of the Editorial Board for the Heart Surgery Forum, member of the Grants and Fellowships Committee of the Association of Women Surgeons (AWS). She also serves as a guest reviewer for premier cardiothoracic surgery journals and she is an active fellow of the American College of Cardiology. Dr. Vassileva has authored many publications in top cardiovascular journals, including Circulation, Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, Annals of Thoracic Surgery, Journal for Heart Valve Disease and others. She has received multiple grants for her outcomes research in valvular heart disease, especially mitral valve surgery. She is also actively involved in teaching medical students and residents at SIU. In 2010, she was awarded the Clinician Scientist Award for the School of Medicine. In 2011, she received the Junior Faculty Researcher of the Year award for the school of medicine and in 2013, she received the Medical Innovator award for the Sangamon County Medical Society.