Dr. Michael S. Gordon: A Visionary Educator, Clinician, Researcher and Philanthropist

Michael S. Gordon, M.D., Ph.D., enjoys standing on the frontier of medical education and taking a bold step into the future. In his long and distinguished career at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Gordon has saved countless lives around the world with his innovative concepts and ability to guide generations of medical students, nurses, physicians, surgeons and emergency first-responders.

“I believe there is no substitute for the enduring physician-patient relationship,” said Gordon, who is the founder and director emeritus of the Michael S. Gordon Center for Research in Medical Education. “But students and professionals need to develop their skills to care for their patients, and innovative approaches can improve and accelerate the learning process.”

Gordon is best known for creating Harvey, the world’s first cardiopulmonary patient simulator, and UMedic, an innovative computer- and web-based training program for physicians, emergency responders and military personnel, as well as students enrolled in medical, nursing and physician assistant programs. And after 50 years of teaching, research and caring for patients at the medical school, Gordon is still excited about advancing medical education.

“I often think about new ways to apply technology to the learning process,” he said. “There are also many parts of the world that lag the U.S. in the adoption of medical simulation systems, which provide a very cost-effective approach for training new health care professionals.”

Closer to home, Gordon and his wife Lynda generously provided the funding for the January 28 groundbreaking ceremony for a new Miller School medical education building. The morning celebration and luncheon on the Schoninger Research Quadrangle, “A New Century of Medical Education and Innovation,” featured an address by incoming UM President Julio Frenk to more than 1,000 attendees.

“I think the new medical education building is a glorious advancement,” Gordon said. “It’s right across the street from our educational research center, facilitating the exchange of ideas.” He added that Dr. Barry Issenberg, Senior Associate Dean for Research in Medical Education and the Michael S. Gordon Professor of Medicine, will collaborate in the design of the new building. “Barry is the current director of our center, and he is doing the best job possible.”

Before the official groundbreaking took place, Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Dean of the Miller School, thanked the Miller family for their gift of $50 million toward the new education building, and the Soffer family for their gift of $25 million to the Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute, which was recognized in the naming of the Don Soffer Clinical Research Building.

“I applaud these two wonderful families for giving back to our community,” said Gordon. “Their good deeds will have a tremendous impact on South Florida and touch the lives of patients throughout the world.”

Planning a research career
Gordon attended medical school at the University of Illinois.

“Originally, I wanted to do basic research, and wound up getting a master’s degree in physiology while in medical school, followed by a doctorate at the University of Minnesota,” he said.

After Gordon trained at the Mayo Clinic, he went to Georgetown to learn under renowned cardiologist W. Proctor Harvey, M.D., who became his mentor and role model.

“Dr. Harvey had exceptional skills in making a patient diagnosis,” he said. “He took a comprehensive approach to examining patients, and could see signs of heart problems that others might miss.”

In 1966, Robert Boucek, M.D., chair of cardiology, invited Gordon to join the University of Miami faculty, launching his remarkable academic career. Gordon’s first cardiology patients included several airline pilots who had honed their piloting skills on flight simulators. Recognizing that simulators could also help medical students improve their cardiac bedside examinations, Gordon in 1968 built his first version of Harvey, which realistically simulates nearly every cardiac disease at the touch of a button by varying blood pressure, pulses, heart sounds, murmurs and breathing. Through the years, Harvey has continually evolved to include additional simulations in a more portable system.

In the 1980s, Gordon went on to develop a computer-based learning system, now called UMedic, which provides a comprehensive cardiology curriculum for medical students, physicians and nurses. More than 500 medical centers worldwide currently use Harvey and/or the UMedic system in their training programs.

Training emergency personnel
Always seeking better ways to provide cardiology care, Gordon worked with Miami Fire Rescue Chief Carlos Gimenez (now Miami-Dade Mayor) in the early 1990s to change the training for first responders.

“Before then, paramedics were taught to ‘scoop and run,’ taking a patient to the emergency department, where doctors could initiate treatment,” he said. “We changed that model, and developed a life-saving protocol for handling heart attacks and other medical emergencies on the spot.”

That initiative grew to become the Gordon Center’s Emergency Medical Skills Training Programs, which now reach professionals in 600 Florida agencies, as well as 800-plus in other states and international locations. In these training programs, paramedics diagnose problems using actors to play the role of patients.

The center has also been designated as the lead training center for the Florida Department of Health’s Emergency Response to Terrorism training program, and trains U.S. Army Forward Surgical Trauma Teams before their front-line deployments.

“By better training those who serve and protect our citizens and our country, we have been able to contribute to a major reduction in mortality,” said Gordon, adding that medical personnel trained at the Gordon Center and who lost their lives in combat are honored on the center’s Wall of Heroes.

Through the years, both Gordon and the center have received numerous awards for innovation in medical education. For example, Gordon received the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s most prestigious health care honor, the AXA Advisors Lifetime Achievement Award, in 2013, before his retirement that December. He also won the “Gifted Teacher” Award of the American College of Cardiology, and the “pioneer” awards from both the Society for Simulation in Healthcare, and his alma mater, the University of Illinois.

Supporting the University
With his wife Lynda, Gordon has provided ongoing financial support to the Gordon Center and endowed a chair for its director. He has also funded scholarships for medical students, and made donations to the Richter Library, Frost School of Music, Jerry Herman Ring Theatre, Department of Athletics and other programs.

“My mother Dorée was a leading lady on Broadway at age 17 who gave up her career to marry my father Lee,” Gordon said. “By supporting the University’s theater and music programs, we honor her memory. I also love watching the ’Canes play football and bought season tickets as soon as I could afford to do so.”

Reflecting on his career, Gordon said, “The keys to my success have been my unrelenting focus and my desire to improve the lives of my patients as a physician, researcher and educator. The Miller School of Medicine has given me every opportunity to be creative and has supported our innovations through the decades. I will always be grateful to the U.”

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