Celebration Marks 50 Years of Family Medicine

Fifty years of medical achievements and memories were celebrated recently, as the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s Department of Family Medicine and Community Health marked a milestone.

More than 100 people gathered at the Life Science and Technology Park on November 12 to mark five decades since the department became the first academic family medicine department in the United States.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate an extraordinarily significant anniversary,” said Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the Miller School of Medicine and CEO of UHealth. “You are all part of a wonderful group of people who have changed medicine as we know it.”

The anniversary celebration acknowledged the department’s innovative health care and service through the years — most importantly, the training of more than 600 family physicians, the majority of whom stayed in South Florida to work in underserved communities.

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, family medicine doctors provide the majority of care for America’s underserved rural and urban populations.

E. Robert Schwartz, M.D., Chair of the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, said while family medicine often gets less attention than other medical specialties, its purpose is invaluable. Family medicine physicians deliver a range of acute, chronic and preventive medical care services for patients of all ages.

“Every day, family doctors, residents and students take care of their whole patient, not just one part of them. That is still such an important part of what we do in health care,” said Schwartz, who is also professor and Chief of Service at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

The guests also paid homage to Lynn P. Carmichael, M.D., who founded the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health in 1965 and was widely renowned as a founding father of family medicine.

Carmichael led the department for 31 years before retiring in 1996. During his tenure, he was a pioneer in establishing community health centers and a strong advocate for social justice in health care delivery. He also helped establish the Family Medicine Residency Program at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Schwartz, who took over the department shortly after Carmichael retired in 1996, said the founding chairman was a visionary.

“Dr. Carmichael realized that sub-specialization of medicine was a good thing for the health of the nation,” Schwartz said. “But there was also a need to continue training well-rounded generalists — physicians who had a holistic approach to caring for their patients.”

Former family medicine residents spoke at the celebration and described the impact the department has had on their lives, careers and in the community.

Sudhir Nayer, M.D. ’71, came to the University of Miami as a third-year resident in the Department of Family Medicine, and became part of the faculty six months later.

“The faculty at the University of Miami was of national repute,” said Nayer. “There was an urgency to learn and process all the elements of family medicine.”

Former resident Mark Walker, M.D. ’90, also spoke about some of Dr. Carmichael’s insights into the best clinical practices, which he uses as a cornerstone to this day.

Walker said one of Dr. Carmichael’s most important pieces of advice was for physicians to find a way to know their patients.

“The first rule, he would say, is to simply pause and listen, ask open-ended questions and give the patient adequate time to respond,” said Walker. “There is no better way to elicit a good history than to keep our mouths closed. The less we say the better.”

Goldschmidt congratulated the members of the department for their passion and commitment to service.

“This is a department that we are so proud of,” he said. “It is a joy to congratulate you for 50 years of success, and tell you that I can’t wait for the next 50 years.”

Some of the Department of Family Medicine’s major accomplishments include:

• The establishment of the Haiti Project, which was founded in 1998 by a cadre of department faculty including Drs. Michel Dodard, André Vulcain and Arthur Fournier. The initiative is a unique partnership with the Ministry of Health of Haiti and L’Hôpital Universitaire Justinien in Cap-Haïtien to improve the health of the Haitian people. During the past 13 years, the project has implemented educational and health care services, and trained more than 50 family physicians in Haiti.

• The creation of new models of health care in the Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ health program with the generous funding from the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation. The signature Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation School Health Initiative allows the Miller School to provide comprehensive primary care to children at nine Miami-Dade public schools. This program has become a national model, praised for its innovation and comprehensive care.

• The establishment of a community health center in Overtown, with the assistance of the Jackson Health System and the support of the United Health Foundation. The program has provided more than 15 years of comprehensive health care services in the community.

• Active engagement in teaching trainees about complementary and integrative medicine, and focusing on nutrition as an important tool for good health.

• Fostering the development of the VITAS Hospice and Palliative Medicine Fellowship program, and the Primary Care Sports Medicine Fellowship.

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