Dr. Alex J. Mechaber Installed as the Dr. Bernard J. Fogel Endowed Chair
In a ceremony that celebrated several generations of University of Miami Miller School of Medicine alumni, Alex J. Mechaber, M.D. ’94, professor of medicine and senior associate dean for undergraduate medical education, was formally installed as the Dr. Bernard J. Fogel Endowed Chair for his 18 years of outstanding service.
Mechaber learned in April that he would become the second holder of the chair, which is named for the respected former dean who served from 1981 to 1995. The first recipient was Mark O’Connell, M.D., the former senior associate dean for educational development, who was awarded the chair in 2007 and retired in 2015.
During the October 27 presentation, Mechaber thanked his family and colleagues, including Dean Fogel, who returned to Miami with his wife, Judy, to be part of the ceremony.
“I accept this with admiration for the Miller School of Medicine – my home for the better part of over 20 years,” said Mechaber, who also earned his undergraduate degree at UM. “This is an institution that cares about the education of all of its learners. Dr. Fogel was my dean when I was in medical school, so to hold the chair named for him is especially meaningful to me.”
University of Miami President Julio Frenk said endowments like the Fogel Chair will play a vital role in helping educators like Mechaber develop innovative new programs to train the next generation of physicians.
“That is the essence of bridging scholarship to solutions, and the pursuit of excellence, which is one of our aspirations for the University as we move toward our 100th anniversary,” said Frenk, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D. “Endowments that establish named chairs do so by providing the resources in perpetuity that ensure our scholars can pursue their work.”
Steven M. Altschuler, M.D., senior vice president for health affairs at the University of Miami and chief executive officer of UHealth – the University of Miami Health System, noted that medicine is a “challenging and ever-changing endeavor,” and said that endowments that support education are increasingly important to the medical school and health system.
“Chairs allow educators and clinicians to really concentrate on providing the best education,” said Altschuler. “That’s so important, because ultimately we are judged by the quality of the physicians we turn out at the medical school.”
The Fogel Chair was made possible by a bequest from Jack E. Sanders, M.D. ’57, a member of the medical school’s second graduating class, who passed away in 2004. His will specified that his gift be used to establish a chair in Fogel’s name.
Sanders came to the University of Miami from the small town of Graceville in Florida’s Panhandle region. Born with craniofacial deformities and associated hearing loss, he had been turned away by other medical schools that feared his appearance might reduce his effectiveness as a physician.
After his medical school graduation, Sanders returned home and began a highly successful 46-year career during which he delivered more than 1,500 babies and was instrumental in founding Campbellton-Graceville Hospital. His bequest was an expression of gratitude to UM for focusing on his potential.“He chose to practice in his hometown because he had a philosophy that if a doctor knew the patient, really knew them, he could make a real difference,” said Fogel, who considered Sanders a mentor and friend. “Jack became a real small-town doctor. He felt it was so important to provide the best possible medical care for his community.”
Laurence B. Gardner, M.D., Interim Dean of the Miller School, congratulated Mechaber, calling him an exceptional example of the unparalleled level of skill and dedication found at the Miller School.
“We like to joke that Alex bleeds orange and green,” said Gardner. “He is as loyal and connected a person to UM as is possible, and his contributions to our medical curriculum have been invaluable. Moreover, his interpersonal skills and his sincerity in valuing all of his relationships make him very similar personally to Bernie Fogel. Because of that, I think this appointment is especially moving and appropriate.”
After receiving his medical degree from the Miller School, Mechaber completed his residency in primary care internal medicine at The George Washington University Medical Center, where he also served as chief medical resident. He returned to the Miller School in 1998 as assistant professor of medicine and was promoted to associate professor in 2005. He became assistant dean for medical curriculum in 2007, associate dean for undergraduate medical education in 2008, was promoted to his current administrative position in 2010, and became a professor of medicine in 2015.
Currently, Mechaber oversees all medical student programs, curriculum, and competency assessments.
He also serves as interim director of the Educational Development Office and Academy of Medical Educators, which assist faculty with enhancing and developing curricula and improving teaching skills.
Two of the contributions of which Mechaber is especially proud are the Miller School’s academic societies, which emphasize cooperation in the learning process, foster leadership, and provide a collegial environment for mentoring students, and the ’Cane Academy, a blended-learning initiative that replaces traditional classroom sessions with short videos accompanied by learning objectives, self-assessment questions, and supplemental content.
Mechaber is married to another double ’Cane — Hilit F. Mechaber, M.D. ’95, associate professor of medicine and associate dean for student services. The two Miami natives met as Miller School students and married in 1996. They have two daughters, Gabrielle, 16, and Amanda, 13.
Mechaber spoke about the bright future that lies ahead for the Miller School and credited the medical education deans, educators, and staff who help him accomplish his mission every day.
“I’m extraordinarily proud of what we have accomplished and where we are headed,” said Mechaber. “We know that we’ll continue to leverage the use of technology to enhance deeper learning, continue to employ simulation, continue to train our students in teams with other health care professionals, ensure that we assess the competency of students throughout and always with patients at the center of our educational model.”