Department of Family Medicine Celebrates Half-Century Milestone

A half-century after becoming the first academic family medicine department in the United States, the Miller School of Medicine’s Department of Family Medicine and Community Health is taking time to reminisce and celebrate its groundbreaking accomplishments.

A 50th Anniversary Celebration Reception will be held November 12, beginning at 6 p.m., at the Life Science & Technology Park, located at 1951 NW 7th Avenue in Miami. Department Chair E. Robert Schwartz, M.D., says the celebration is open to members of the medical community and friends of the department who want to help acknowledge five decades of innovative health care and service.

“The idea is to bring back to the medical campus many of our past graduates to celebrate the department and its long-standing tradition of outstanding graduate medical education,” said Schwartz, who is also Chief of Service at Jackson Memorial Hospital. “The Dean and I will join with many of our graduates, who will have the opportunity to describe how the department impacted their life, the community, and what it has meant to their careers as family physicians. In addition, we are hopeful that some of the generous families who have donated to the department will be recognized and promote more gift-giving to the department. Our goals are to continuously improve our educational efforts for medical students, residents in training, fellows and faculty.”

The celebration will focus on the achievements of the department over the past five decades, most importantly, the training of more than 600 family physicians, the majority of whom stayed in South Florida to serve a broad range of the population.

Other accomplishments include:

• The establishment 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 Hôpital Universitaire Justinien in Cap-Haitien to improve the health of the Haitian people. During the past thirteen 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 School’s health program with 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 health 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 the first well-run and staffed 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.

• Actively engaged in teaching trainees about integrated medicine and focusing on nutrition as an important tool for good health.

• Fostered the development of the Vitas Hospice and Palliative Medicine Fellowship program, and the Primary Care Sports Medicine Fellowship.

The Department of Family Medicine and Community Health was founded in 1965 by Lynn P. Carmichael, M.D., who was widely renowned as one of the founding fathers of family medicine. Schwartz said that although Carmichael realized that sub-specialization of medicine was a good thing for the health of the nation, there was a need to continue training well-rounded, generalist physicians who had a holistic approach to caring for their patients.

“He was a great proponent of team medicine and, early on, incorporated social work services, behavioral medicine training for residents, home and nursing home visits, and, most importantly, the concept of continuity of care, reciprocity and intimacy,” said Schwartz. “Today as the health care reimbursement system shifts toward making preventive health care a priority and keeping people out of the hospital and emergency rooms, we are back where we started with the founding concepts 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.

“Dr. Carmichael was a man of concepts and ideas,” said Behnam Djahed, M.D., clinical associate professor, and Director of Family Medicine In-patient. “He had the rare talent of recognizing the needs of the community, and envisioning and creating solutions, even when resources and opportunities were poor. He was a firm believer that people should be given a chance to better their lives.”

Schwartz, who took over the department shortly after Carmichael retired in 1996, says there will be challenges ahead for the field of family medicine, including funding, limited research dollars and the rapidly changing reimbursement system for the delivery of health care. Since the department tends to focus on delivering care to the underserved, the earning capacity of family medicine departments is limited.

Schwartz also said that with the changing face of health care, it is more important than ever that family medicine physicians maintain a personal touch with their patients.

“The very important skills of listening to our patients, acknowledging their distress regarding their illness or their concerns about family members who are ill is still of paramount importance,” said Schwartz. “Our ability to be culturally competent in our approach to our patients is more important than ever as our population becomes more diverse.”

For more information on the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health 50th Anniversary Celebration Reception, contact Daisy Bank at 305-243-2042.

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