Florida Surgeon General Presents Cancer Center of Excellence Award to Sylvester

Florida Surgeon General and Secretary of Health John Armstrong, M.D., presented the state’s Cancer Center of Excellence Award to Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center on April 17, making it the only South Florida cancer center to receive the distinguished award.

Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the Miller School of Medicine and CEO of UHealth, opened the program by welcoming Armstrong and other visitors. He cited Sylvester’s treatment of more than 5,000 new cancer patients each year and credited the visionary leadership of Stephen D. Nimer, M.D., Sylvester’s Director, with attracting the top clinicians and researchers necessary to build a world-class cancer center.

“The goal of our multi-disciplinary teams is to provide more treatment options — fewer side effects, faster responses and improved outcomes, all while delivering the highest quality care,” said Nimer. “We owe that to our community and are grateful for all the support we receive in fulfillment of our mission.”

Richard Ballard, CEO of Sylvester, said, “Florida has the second-highest number of cancer cases in the country, so it is vitally important that we are able to offer the very latest in research, treatments and therapies. It is equally important that we have an unmatched record of patient care and satisfaction.”

When Armstrong rose to speak, he reminded the audience that Sylvester was one of four centers in the state to receive the coveted designation. He was at the end of a two-day road trip throughout Florida making the presentations, and he drew laughter from the crowd of Sylvester supporters, including faculty and staff, assembled for the event when he suggested they assume he had “saved the best for last.”
But Armstrong’s connections to South Florida and to the Miller School are also very real due to a fellowship at Ryder Trauma Center early in his career.

“This is the place where Florida became my home,” he said.

As for the award, “You all did this,” he said, gesturing to the audience. “I’m just here to put the spotlight on the great work you have done and will continue to do.”

The basis for this award, he explained, was rigorous performance measures and demonstrated excellence in providing quality comprehensive and patient-centered coordinated care. He cited three examples:

“First, your collaboration with Jackson Memorial Hospital, Holtz Children’s Hospital and the Miami VA is a model and does not occur at other places.

“Second, you have a partnership between your nurse navigators and community health workers to ensure that when somebody is screened and has a diagnosis of cancer, that they move into a treatment paradigm centered on them without any delays. It connects what’s happening clinically with what happens in the community.

“Third, your research is focused on promoting health pathways – cancer prevention, screening, diagnosis and treatment, and that is a standout.”

Sylvester, he said, is “a select institution, an elite organization.”

Armstrong then presented the framed award certificate.

“You will see that it is big,” he said, drawing laughter from the audience once again, “because we think this is a big deal.”

The last speaker was Miami-Dade Deputy Mayor Russell Benford, who presented a more modest-sized proclamation that he said was from Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and all 2.5 million county residents, congratulating Sylvester on the award and thanking the cancer center for all it does for the health of the entire community.

Armstrong then took a walking tour through Sylvester, where he met and shared stories — and flashed the “U” — with physicians, nurses, residents and other staff members.

To each of them, he said, “Thank you for the important work you do for the people of Florida.”

To see a video of the award presentation, click here.

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