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3.15.2016

Alumni Reception and Reunion Banquet Highlight Medical Alumni Weekend

Miller School alumni from around the country had the opportunity to reconnect and reminisce March 5 at the annual Alumni Reception and Reunion Banquet, the crowning event of one of the Miller School’s most eagerly anticipated weekends.

Medical Alumni Weekend is a yearly celebration that brings former classmates back to campus to celebrate the Miller School through activities, traditions, and continuing education courses. It also marked many milestone anniversaries for past classes, including the classes of 1956, 1961, 1966, 1971, 1976, 1981, 1986, 1991, 1996, 2001 and 2006.

This year, one class in particular had extra reason to celebrate. The Class of ’56 commemorated 60 years since they became the first graduating class of the School of Medicine. A video, featuring Norman Kenyon, M.D. ’56, and Sheldon Zane, M.D. ’59, highlighted the school’s early days and its struggle to open.

During the banquet, which was held at The Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove, Laurence B. Gardner, M.D., Miller Professor of Medicine and Executive Dean for Education and Policy, delivered the annual ‘State of the School’ address.

Among the highlights: the recent ceremonial groundbreaking for the Miller School of Medicine Center for Medical Education; the naming of the Don Soffer Clinical Research Center; the planned December 2016 opening of UHealth Coral Gables in The Lennar Foundation Medical Center; the designation of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine as a Cancer Center of Excellence by the State of Florida; and the start of a new internal medicine residency program at Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale.

“Of all our accomplishments, perhaps none is more important than our students and alumni,” said Gardner. “We actively recruit faculty who are the best in their fields and ready to train the next generation of physicians and scientists. Last year, more than 7,800 students applied for just 198 spots in the class of 2019. Our tradition of excellence in medical education continues.”

Alberto Mitrani, M.D. ’84, Chairperson of the Alumni Awards Selection Committee, presented the 24th UM Medical Alumni Hall of Fame Award to Lori Laffel, M.D. ’80, M.P.H., the Chief of the Pediatric, Adolescent, and Young Adult Section at the Joslin Diabetes Center and professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.

Mitrani lauded Laffel as a world-class pediatric endocrinologist focused on improving the lives of children with diabetes.

“On a local, national and international level, Dr. Laffel actively chairs, or is a member of, 17 care-related committees, is a grant reviewer for 20 agencies, an editor of four publications, and has been invited to make presentations in her area of expertise more than 100 times,” said Mitrani. “She has initiated 10 clinical programs to improve diabetes care, authored or co-authored 194 articles and 30 chapters or clinical reviews. She is also the author of six clinical guidelines and two books that serve to help physicians managing patients with diabetes. She has been continually funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for more than 17 years and is recognized as a worldwide leader in the use of continuous glucose monitoring in young people with type 1 diabetes.”

“It is an incredible honor to receive the 2016 University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine Hall of Fame recognition on this 60th anniversary of the first graduating class,” Laffel said. “It is additionally humbling to be placed alongside the illustrious group of 20-plus past Hall of Fame recipients.”

Under Laffel’s leadership, the Joslin pediatric program has quadrupled in size, and she has also helped to establish an extensive pediatric research program to complement the clinic’s many activities. Laffel also serves as the Co-Head of the Clinical, Behavioral, and Outcomes Research Section of Joslin’s Research Division and Joslin’s Clinical Research Center, where her research and clinical interests focus on preventing the late complications of type 1 diabetes and preserving the health, growth, development, and family functioning of children, adolescents, and young adults with diabetes.

In accepting the honor, Laffel thanked her mother, Maxine, and her husband, Glenn, who is also a member of the Class of ‘80. She also paid homage to her grandmother, who, although she was raised in an era when women did not always have the opportunity to get an education, inspired Laffel through her volunteerism and love of family.

“It was this encouragement that helped me to identify opportunities to learn, develop, and succeed, and, especially, to avoid preconceived gender expectations,” said Laffel, who is the proud mother of three daughters. “In this light, I graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering as one of only four women in a large class of engineers. At Miami, I was grateful to be one of 12 women in my graduating class. In the field of medicine, now very gender-neutral, I could combine my interests in children and biology as a pediatrician. And as a systems thinker, and given Miami’s exceptionally strong diabetes and endocrine group during my medical education, it was natural for me to pursue training in pediatric endocrinology, and further education in epidemiology, clinical investigation, and public health.”

The Hall of Fame honor is presented to alumni at least 10 years post-graduation who have achieved national or international recognition for an outstanding contribution to academic, research or societal aspects of medicine.

Since its inception in 1996, the Hall of Fame honor has been presented to 24 Miller School Alumni. Mitrani said Laffel has all of the qualities common to Hall of Fame recipients: courage; intellectual curiosity and creativity; innovation; humility; tireless devotion; and gratitude for their parents, and for the education they received at the Miller School.

“Dr. Laffel has made an outstanding contribution to the medical profession and society as a whole through her work and service in improving the lives of children with diabetes,” said Mitrani. “We are very proud of her.”

To see the video celebrating the 60th anniversary of the first graduating class at the School of Medicine, or for more information on alumni events and news, visit www.alumni.med.miami.edu.

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