Dr. Lee Kaplan Presented with The Petra and Stephen Levin Endowed Chair in Sports Medicine
At a ceremony overlooking the University of Miami’s athletic fields, Lee D. Kaplan, M.D., chief of the University of Miami’s Division of Sports Medicine, became the first holder of The Petra and Stephen Levin Endowed Chair in Sports Medicine.
Kaplan was presented with the chair at The Lennar Foundation Medical Center November 9 before family, friends, and colleagues, as well as leadership from UM, UHealth, and the Miller School of Medicine. The chair will help promote Kaplan’s research into world-class treatment at the UM Sports Medicine Institute, one of the first academic, university-based sports medicine programs in the region, which is housed at Lennar, one of the finest facilities in the nation.
“I am extremely humbled. It is an absolute honor to see everyone here tonight,” said Kaplan, who is also the director of the University of Miami Sports Medicine Institute, professor of orthopaedic surgery, and medical director for UM’s athletic department. “But tonight is really about two extraordinary people — Petra and Stephen Levin. They are individuals I’ve not only had the privilege of taking care of, but now Lisa and I also have the honor of calling friends. Our vision for the Institute will grow even further as a result of their generous endowment.”
Petra and Stephen Levin, longtime South Florida philanthropists, made a $2 million gift in 2014 to establish the chair. Speaking at the ceremony, Stephen said their contribution was based on Kaplan’s vision and commitment to the Institute, and the University.
“Lee and I discussed the Sports Institute many times. What struck Petra and me most was his passion and dedication to make this not only a great Institute but the best in the country,” said Levin, whose son Andrew, MBA ’17, joined them at the ceremony.
In addition to health care, the Levins are also passionate advocates of the arts, higher education, and humanitarian causes. They are generous supporters of the University of Pennsylvania, Stephen’s alma mater; the Caron Treatment Centers; MorseLife Health System in West Palm Beach; and numerous charitable and cultural organizations.
Edward Abraham, M.D., dean and chief academic officer of the Miller School, said the Levins’ generosity is making it possible for Kaplan to deliver the best in evidence-based medicine, rehabilitation, and exercise physiology.
“The Institute’s collaborative approach capitalizes on the groundbreaking discoveries and medical knowledge of many different departments at UM and the Miller School of Medicine,” said Abraham, who is also acting executive vice president for health affairs and CEO of UHealth. “This uniquely multidisciplinary framework distinguishes the Institute from most other sports medicine centers in the United States.”
The funds generated by the endowment will provide a permanent resource to help support Kaplan’s research and to alter the sports medicine and sports science landscape.
Julio Frenk, president of the University of Miami, said endowments ensure the enduring staying power of universities by providing a sense of continuity.
“This University is about to turn 100 years old, and as we cross that threshold, we can contemplate existence in perpetuity,” said Frenk. “It is donors who believe in the institution and ensure their support will be there forever that make universities great. That is what is so special about the Levins’ generosity.”
Frenk added that in advance of its Centennial in 2025, UM launched a “100 Talents” initiative as part of its “Roadmap to Our New Century” strategic plan. In the past two years, the University has secured funding for 27 new endowed chairs, putting it more than a quarter of the way to reaching its 100 talents goal.
A renowned specialist in sports medicine and arthroscopic surgery, Kaplan arrived at UM in 2008 and helped launch UHealth Sports Medicine, building it into one of the nation’s most exceptional, academic-based, multidisciplinary programs for both elite athletes and active individuals sidelined by injury or other medical conditions.
A board-certified orthopaedic surgeon, Kaplan earned his medical degree from George Washington University and completed his general and orthopaedic surgery training at UM. He also completed a sports medicine/shoulder fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh.
Frank Eismont, M.D., chair of the Department of Orthopaedics, recalled meeting Kaplan more than two decades ago when he was a fourth-year resident in his department. Eismont said that even then, Kaplan talked about his goal of improving the field of sports medicine.
“Twenty-four years later, he has done everything he said he wanted to do,” said Eismont, who is also Leonard M. Miller Professor and the George and Marla Bergmann Endowed Chair in Orthopaedics. “He built our sports medicine program from the ground up when he arrived nine years ago. He is indeed a collaborator and a builder, and an excellent physician.”
Kaplan, who is also the medical director of the Miami Marlins, and an orthopaedic consultant for the Pittsburgh Steelers, thanked the members of his family who came to the ceremony, including his parents, Merry and Jack, father-in-law, Norman Friedman, children, Dina and Nate, and his wife, Lisa.
He also recognized the faculty and staff of the Sports Medicine team.
“Though it’s true that our passion as physicians is to heal the body and alleviate pain, here at the Institute, we also preserve dreams and inspire futures,” Kaplan said. “In many instances, I see myself in my young patients. I see their passion to play, their love of the game. In those moments I can’t help but remember the important role sports played in my own life, and how it can be a strong vehicle for success for so many young people. My partners — the very talented faculty and staff in Sports Medicine — embrace this responsibility as well, and I want to thank them for carrying out this vision with me.”