Dr. Yovanni Casablanca

Your Health | 29 days ago

Renowned Gynecologic Oncologist Joins Levine Cancer Institute

Following her Air Force career, Dr. Yovanni Casablanca returns to North Carolina to begin her next chapter.

Dr. Jubilee Brown, a gynecologic oncologist at Atrium Health Levine Cancer Institute, knew she had her work cut out for her last spring. Her goal: to recruit a national leader in gynecologic oncology to Levine Cancer Institute- specifically, Dr. Yovanni Casablanca. Her challenge: Casablanca was a highly respected, sought-after physician who was wanted in many health care institutions. 

Brown, however, didn’t give up. Just visit us at Levine Cancer Institute before you decide, she urged. Casablanca, a Duke University alumna, couldn’t resist a trip back to North Carolina.

Spoiler alert: Casablanca is, once again, a full-time North Carolinian. She’s settling into her new home and getting her kids ready to start school in Charlotte. She’s excited to begin work with an esteemed group of colleagues at Levine Cancer Institute, including – of course – Brown.

Military Roots

Casablanca grew up in a military family, living in bases all over the world, before joining the Air Force herself during college. Prior to coming to Levine Cancer Institute, Casablanca led the gynecologic oncologic department at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. When she first joined Walter Reed, she became the first female director of the Department of Defense Gynecologic Cancer Center of Excellence as well as the first female gynecologic oncologic fellowship director. At the same time, Casablanca became nationally renowned in the field. She led an advanced surgical training course, served on planning committees for gynecologic oncology society meetings, and was chosen to be part of research committees, including ones for ovarian and cervical cancers.

It leaves little room for free time, she laughs. But the field of gynecologic oncology is more than a job to her. 

“Even though this is a very challenging and complicated field – and sometimes very sad and hard – I’ve found my calling in gynecologic oncology,” Casablanca says. “When I started in this field, I felt in my being that it was a match, and I still believe that.”

This year, as Casablanca retired from her 24-year Air Force career, she sought a new opportunity to practice gynecologic oncology at a leading cancer center. She wanted to join a department devoted to excellent, innovative patient care, as well as one that would allow her to pursue academic research opportunities. When Casablanca learned about Levine Cancer Institute’s commitment to patient-centered care, research and clinical trials, she checked off her first box. When she learned about the merger of Atrium Health with Wake Forest School of Medicine, she felt that the combination of two strong research focused centers would encourage and foster her drive for the improvement of treatment of gynecologic cancers. 

What convinced Casablanca to join Levine Cancer Institute, however, was her meeting with the gynecologic oncology team and Dr. Derek Raghavan, president of Levine Cancer Institute.

“I felt that everyone genuinely enjoys working on this team. I could tell that they all work really hard, that they care for a lot of patients and that they support each other, too. They want to see everyone succeed,” she says. “It just clicked. I called my family and said, ‘This is the place.’”

A Return to North Carolina

Now that she’s back in North Carolina, Casablanca looks forward to being a tourist in her new city. She wants to explore Charlotte’s museums, see theatrical productions and find new favorite restaurants. This winter, she looks forward to discovering new skiing spots in the Carolina mountains.

As she begins the next phase of her career at Levine Cancer Institute, Casablanca looks forward to pursuing new professional goals. One of her biggest goals is to bring more clinical trials to patients – including large, multi-site trials, as well as smaller, single-site trials – to continue to offer patients new cutting-edge treatment options. She’s excited to work with the Wake Forest School of Medicine, to help to develop students and to support the careers of faculty members.

Most of all, however, Casablanca looks forward to becoming a part of the team that won her over and inspired a new career path.

“Ultimately, I want to be a productive and meaningful member of the gynecologic oncology care team at Levine Cancer Institute,” Casablanca says. “My number-one priority is to extend and provide excellent quality patient care for the gynecologic oncology patients. I can’t wait to get started.”