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4.23.2014

Alan Livingstone, M.D., Inducted into Brazil’s National Academy of Medicine

Alan S. Livingstone, M.D., the Lucille and DeWitt Daughtry Professor and Chairman of Surgery, is usually addressed as “Dr. Livingstone,” sometimes as “Professor Livingstone.”

Now there is a new option: “Your Excellency.”

“You can still call me Alan,” he said, laughing, when he greeted a visitor in his office recently, but his pleasure was evident. On March 27, Livingstone was inducted into Brazil’s National Academy of Medicine, one of the oldest and most exclusive medical academies in the world, and the title accompanies that honor. “The Academy holds regular meetings, and I have delivered presentations before them, but I never expected anything like this,” he said.

The Academy was founded in 1829, when Brazil was a monarchy. By charter, membership is restricted to 100 representatives of the country’s medical elite — 40 internists, 40 surgeons and 20 physicians from other areas of medicine. Appointment is for life; a member has to die for a vacancy to occur. There are also foreign inductees, but Livingstone is only the 55th in the Academy’s history. Achieving membership is not easy. You can’t be nominated by your friends; you have to be recognized by your peers.

“It’s quite a ceremony,” said Livingstone. “You wait in an anteroom while the members meet, then three of them are sent to escort you in. You stand before the membership, and several people get up and speak about your contributions to the field of medicine. Pietro Novellino, the president of the Academy, hangs a gold medallion around your neck, and you receive a beautiful certificate recognizing your membership. Then you deliver a short talk about your work to the members, but there’s a difference. You’re no longer an invited speaker; you’re one of them.”

“I’m not sure everyone realizes what a tremendous honor this is for Alan,” said Tomas Salerno, M.D., Vice Chairman of the Department of Surgery, a native Brazilian and a friend of Livingstone since medical school. “They don’t give memberships away easily. His induction is recognition of his stature as an international figure in oncological surgery.”

“The members are the best physicians in Brazil,” said Antonio Marttos, M.D., assistant professor of surgery, Director of Trauma Telemedicine at the William Lehman Injury Research Center, and another native Brazilian. “The tradition goes back to the Academy’s founding, when they were the physicians who served the king. They are even more selective when it comes to international members.”

A third Brazilian native from the Department of Surgery, Rodrigo Vianna, M.D., professor of surgery and Director of the Miami Transplant Institute, was visiting family in his home city of Curitiba at the time and flew to Rio de Janeiro to participate in the ceremony. “Only occasionally do they admit a member from outside,” he said. “This is an important recognition of Alan’s work.”

“All four of us were invited to give presentations in our specific fields to honor Alan’s distinguished achievement,” said another colleague, Enrique Ginzburg, M.D., professor of surgery and Chief of Surgery at UM Hospital. “He was very humble and said he was just a representative of the Department of Surgery, but the truth is that his leadership and support for our international projects — and we are in several countries in addition to Brazil — is one of the reasons he received this honor.”

Livingstone is a familiar figure in Brazilian medical circles, in part, because the Department of Surgery has played an active role in training Brazilian doctors, in person and through telemedicine, in both Brazil and Miami. Ginzburg, Marttos and Vianna, with the assistance of other Miller School faculty, have all had significant involvement in the training programs. With the World Cup games being played in Rio de Janeiro this summer, the focus for more than a year has been on establishing trauma centers at two of the city’s hospitals and training staff at all levels in emergency care for potentially large numbers of patients.

“Looking ahead, we want to expand our relationships in Brazil, including establishing affiliations with several of their medical schools in order to help raise the quality of medical care throughout the country,” said Livingstone. “I hope my membership in the Academy can help us further those goals.”

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