My clinical focus and sub-specialization is in gastrointestinal, hepatic, and pancreatic pathology, which dovetails with my primary research interest in pre-cancerous lesions of the gastrointestinal tract. Broadly defined, pre-cancerous lesions include not only dysplastic lesions, but also such disease entities as Barrett esophagus, fatty liver disease, and inflammatory bowel disease that can lead to esophageal carcinoma, hepatocellular carcinoma, and colonic adenocarcinoma, respectively. A key question in this field is what determines progression at each step of carcinogenesis. What distinguishes progressors from non-progressors? To help accomplish some of our research goals, we are developing "high-resolution" molecular and digital pathology techniques (including artificial intelligence) for the evaluation of gastrointestinal tissues utilizing emerging technologies. Therefore, my laboratory and collaborative work is focused on understanding the mechanisms underlying these pathophysiologic states to help define practical diagnostic and therapeutic clinical applications with the ultimate goal of improving patient care.
Dr. Valasek was accepted into the Medical Scientist Training Program at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas (UTSW), completing his Ph.D. work in 2006 in the field of Integrative Biology studying gastrointestinal physiology, then receiving his M.D. thereafter. While at UTSW, he earned the prestigious Vernie A. Stembridge Scholarship Award for Excellence in Pathology. Dr. Valasek entered into residency in Anatomic Pathology at the University of Washington in Seattle (UW), where he also completed a fellowship in Gastrointestinal and Hepatic Pathology. He gained additional training in general surgical pathology sign-out as an Assistant Instructor in Surgical Pathology at Parkland Memorial Hospital/University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Dr. Valasek started as an Assistant Professor for the Division of Anatomic/Surgical Pathology in the UCSD Department of Pathology in 2013. He was awarded San Diego Medical Society's "2014 Top Doctors" — Physicians of Exceptional Excellence in the Field of Pathology and was an American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) "40 Under Forty" Honoree in 2015. He is currently Director of the Gastrointestinal Pathology Fellowship.