Dean Emeritus Bernard J. Fogel, M.D., Receives Lifetime Achievement Award
An audience of more than 500 healthcare and business leaders cheered as Miller School Dean Emeritus Bernard J. Fogel, M.D., received the AXA Advisors Lifetime Achievement Award at the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s Health Care Heroes Awards Luncheon, held on May 20 in Jungle Island’s Treetop Ballroom.
In addition, Mary Bartlett Bunge, Ph.D., professor of cell biology, neurological surgery and neurology at The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, won the Health Care Hero Award in the Bio-Medical category. Carlos A. Migoya, President and CEO of Jackson Health System, was also a winner, taking home the Health Care Hero Award in the Individuals of Merit category. Robert J. Myerburg, M.D., professor of medicine and physiology, and the American Heart Association Chair in Cardiovascular Research, was named a finalist in the Health Care Professionals category.
“Bernie moved the medical school to a very different level,” said Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the Miller School. “We became known as a school where novel ideas in medicine get their start. He diligently and intelligently figured out how to change medicine in this region by working with state and county legislators.
“He also worked with organizations like the National Parkinson Foundation. They made the University of Miami a center for Parkinson’s disease and movement disorders. That was a huge opportunity for neuroscience. I nominated Bernie for this extraordinary award because he’s an extraordinary man. Nobody is more deserving of this award than Bernie Fogel.”
The Health Care Heroes Awards recognize individuals, institutions and programs that have had an extraordinary impact on the South Florida health care community, and whose acts of heroism represent dedication to excellence in their area of expertise beyond the scope of their profession.
“Bernie Fogel made this institution what it is today,” said Steven Falcone, M.D., M.B.A., Executive Dean for Clinical Affairs and CEO of the UHealth Clinical Practice. “Through his leadership, he made it possible for the Ryder Trauma Center, for The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, for the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center to conduct leading research while delivering the highest quality of care to our community.”
“Bernie raised the money for many of the programs that we’re best known for,” added W. Jarrard Goodwin, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of Sylvester. “He is the ultimate trustworthy individual.”
Fogel, who graduated from the School of Medicine in 1961, joined its pediatrics faculty in 1966. He became Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean in 1981. In those roles, he presided over significant fundraising and growth for the school, including the launch of the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital Burn Center, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, Ryder Trauma Center and The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, as well as UM’s partnership with Jackson and the long-standing relationship with the National Parkinson Foundation.
After stepping down in 1995, Fogel served as Dean Emeritus and Advisor to UM President Donna E. Shalala, and he has remained active in donor relations and other community outreach activities. He officially retired in January.
Fogel’s acceptance remarks were brief but heartfelt. Looking back at his residency, part of which was spent at Johns Hopkins, he said, “It was a wonderful experience, but what I found out from it was that Jackson Memorial Hospital and the University of Miami had a better training program than anywhere else,” he said. “This was an excellent medical school from day one.”
Fogel was extremely proud that the Association of American Medical Colleges gave its inaugural Community Service Award to the School in 1993, the year after Hurricane Andrew devastated South Florida. The School’s assistance with the recovery efforts was built on its tradition of community service. “The AAMC said we did more for our local community than any other medical school in the country,” he recalled.
Fogel attributed that to the dedication of the faculty and staff. “It was not the Bernie Fogel Show,” he said, and that was a theme he repeated after the event when speaking with well-wishers. “It has been a great ride, but it was a team effort all the way.”
He emphasized the extraordinary quality of care Jackson and UM have always provided. “Jackson Memorial Hospital is among the best community hospitals anywhere in the United States. We see every disease imaginable — except frostbite,” he quipped, to applause and laughter from the audience.
Goldschmidt also nominated Bunge and Myerburg.
Bunge has spent the past 24 years of a distinguished career at the Miller School. Her research has focused on Schwann cells, found in the peripheral nervous system, as an important component in repairing damaged spinal cords. New clinical applications include a groundbreaking procedure combining standard nerve grafting with a patient’s own Schwann cells.
“Through the work of Dr. Bunge, millions of people have been given hope that one day there will be a cure for paralysis,” said Goldschmidt. “The advances in the past decade have only been possible through the determination of talented and selfless researchers like Dr. Bunge.”
Bunge called the award “a very humbling experience. I was given an exceptional opportunity to work at The Miami Project,” she said, “but it’s really the people in my lab who deserve this award. They do the work.” Pointing to one of the luncheon tables, she had research associates Vania Almeida, Margaret Bates and Yelena Pressman stand and share the applause.
“We at The Miami Project have known for a long time how special Dr. Mary Bunge is — not only as a researcher, but also as a human being,” said W. Dalton Dietrich, Ph.D., Scientific Director of The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. “She is a true innovator in the field, and this honor validates all the countless hours and years she has worked in the laboratories in order to discover new and novel treatments for paralysis. A well-deserved congratulations to her and her team.”
Myerburg, a member of the School’s faculty for nearly 45 years, has dedicated his life to treating heart disease, the No. 1 killer of both men and women. He has established numerous clinical programs in cardiovascular medicine, including a monthly clinic at University of Miami Hospital focused on hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and other life-threatening heart rhythm disturbances. In addition, he has conducted extensive studies of individuals at risk for sudden cardiac death and was instrumental in the installation of defibrillators in public places in Miami-Dade County.
Goldschmidt said this of Myerburg: “Medicine is not only his career, but truly his life’s mission. An esteemed cardiologist, researcher and educator, he doesn’t stop practicing medicine when he removes his white coat. Although Dr. Myerburg is modest regarding his accomplishments, his patients and colleagues recognize that his life work is heroic in every definition of the word.”
Shalala, who nominated Migoya, called him one of Miami’s most successful businessmen. “The reason why,” she said, “is because he has never shied away from doing something that, to most people, seems impossible to accomplish.”
Indeed, Migoya’s turnaround of Jackson Health System has been as dramatic as it has been rapid. In the first year, he reversed years of massive losses to produce a surplus of more than $8 million. This year, the system has seen a $46 million surplus. He also spearheaded an $830 million bond referendum campaign to upgrade facilities and infrastructure.
Migoya thanked Shalala and Goldschmidt for UM’s partnership in patient care, noting that there is no distinction at the hospital between Jackson employees and UM employees.
Still, he noted, “You are the miracle workers who do everything for us.”
Al Hernandez, M.S.N., ARNP, nurse manager at Ryder Trauma Center, was a finalist in the Nurses category.
UHealth and Jackson Health System were both sponsors of the event.