Medical Alumni Weekend 2014 Celebrates Miller School’s Past, Present and Future

Medical alumni from around the country gathered on the Miller School campus and the historic Biltmore Hotel – the School’s original home – March 7–9 for Medical Alumni Weekend 2014. The balmy weather provided the perfect backdrop and offered a welcome respite to guests from the Northeast and Midwest, who have endured one of the worst winters in decades.

The event began on Friday afternoon with tours of the medical campus and the Tissue Bank at the Life Science and Technology Park. Later, first-year medical students and their families gathered under a tent on the Schoninger Research Quadrangle for the 14th Annual John G. Clarkson Freshman Pinning Ceremony. Presided over by Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the Miller School and CEO of UHealth, this event officially welcomes into the medical community students who are pinned by alumni.

Steve Charles, M.D. ’69, gave the keynote address. Charles is a renowned vitreoretinal surgeon who trained at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute and was inducted in the Medical Alumni Association Hall of Fame in 2003. Guests then celebrated at the annual Dean’s Reception. Back at the Biltmore, members of the Classes of ’64 and ’89 – celebrating their 50th and 25th reunions, respectively – gathered at a welcome reception, where classmates renewed friendships and caught up on professional and family milestones.

On Saturday morning, Miller School faculty members led continuing medical education sessions under the banner of “Advances in Medical Research and Patient Care,” hosted by course director Maria Egusquiza, M.D. ’87. Joshua M. Hare, M.D., Director of the Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute, Chief Sciences Officer and Louis Lemberg Professor of Medicine, discussed “Cell-based Therapy for Myocardial Diseases: Translational Implementation of Lessons from the Bench,” while Walter Lambert, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics and Medical Director of the UM Child Protection Team, presented a session on “Child Maltreatment: Recognition and Reporting in the Florida Context.” Finally, Derek M. Dykxhoorn, Ph.D., assistant professor of microbiology and immunology, assistant professor at the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation Department of Human Genetics and Co-Director of the Center for Molecular Genetics at the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics, presented “Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells and Neurological Disorders.”

The annual Donor Recognition Scholarship Luncheon on Saturday afternoon brought together alumni, other donors and more than 20 grateful students, as well as faculty and staff. Alex Mechaber, M.D. ’94, associate professor of medicine and Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Medical Education, moderated the program which featured remarks by Goldschmidt and Jeffrey S. Block, M.D. ’82, who is President of the Medical Alumni Association. Fourth-year student Chad Parvus-Teichmann, one of two student liaisons to the Medical Alumni Association, spoke about the importance of the John K. Robinson Fund, which he called “an important part of the fabric of our student and alumni community that builds a direct connection between students and alumni, and a bridge between the past and the future of our Miller School family.”

A highlight of the event was a new video produced to highlight the critical need for medical scholarships. On the video, fourth-year student Dalal Eldick said, “Without scholarship assistance I would not have been able to attend medical school. Thanks to your support, I will be graduating in just a couple months as a physician and will pursue my chosen specialty in obstetrics and gynecology.” To watch the video, click here.

There was much more to celebrate. Guests paid special tribute to UM Trustee Paul DiMare. He and his wife, Swanee, had recently made an unprecedented $6 million commitment to support medical scholarships – by far the largest single gift ever made to scholarships at the Miller School. DiMare was joined by fellow UM Trustee Arthur Hertz, who also is a trustee of the Mitchell Wolfson Sr. Foundation which supports medical education through the student-run DOCS (Department of Community Service) Program.

Also attending were Bernard Stein and his wife, Lyn Pont, representing the Jeannette Newton estate, and Robert and Laura Nichols, longtime donors to the School. Medical alumni donors were represented by Robert Trapana, M.D. ’77, Gerald Friedman, M.D. ’66, and his wife, Barbara, Gerald Pinnas, M.D., and Jerrold Sheldon, M.D., both from the Class of ’66, the first to establish a named class scholarship endowed fund. Our thanks go to the many donors who were not able to join us, but whose contributions are equally important.

On Saturday evening, the festivities continued with the annual Awards Reception and Banquet at the Biltmore Hotel. Guests assembled in the courtyard under balmy, starlit skies to reconnect with classmates and friends before the dinner. Block presided over the program, opening the evening with a tribute to the reunion classes — ’64, ’69, ’74, ’79, ’84, ’89, ’94, ’99 and, last but not least, ’04, celebrating 10 years.

Goldschmidt then ascended to the podium to give his annual State of the School address to the medical alumni and guests. Key accomplishments included being ranked No.1 in Florida and No. 40 in the U.S., based on National Institutes of Health funding. NIH recognition of the Miller School’s expertise in high-impact fields also includes its participation in a national stroke network and in the largest study of Hispanic health in the U.S. Finally, the Brain Endowment Bank was awarded up to $8 million to become one of just five national biorepositories.

The Dean also proudly announced UHealth’s plans to open a 200,000-square-foot, fully integrated outpatient center on the Coral Gables campus by summer 2016. The center will bring UHealth’s brand of academic clinical care to the South Dade community and offer additional learning opportunities for our medical students.

Goldschmidt then spoke about the Miller School’s central role in training the next generation of physicians and scientists during an era of rapidly evolving health care. He announced that 60 students in the DOCS Program, working in partnership with Enroll America under the auspices of the South Florida Health Council, had become Certified Application Counselors, helping local under- and uninsured residents explore their options under the Affordable Care Act. Goldschmidt closed his remarks by thanking medical alumni for their participation and support to advance their alma mater.

Block then introduced Albert Mitrani, M.D. ’85, chairman of the Alumni Awards Selection Committee. Goldschmidt and Mitrani presented the Hall of Fame Award to Roy G. Geronemus, M.D. ’79, in recognition of his groundbreaking work in dermatologic laser therapies. The Hall of Fame Award is the most prestigious honor presented to alumni who have graduated at least 10 years earlier and who have achieved national or international recognition for an outstanding contribution in academic, research or societal aspects of medicine.

After dinner, the party continued into the wee hours. Sunday afternoon, the weekend drew to a close after alumni were treated to the Biltmore’s ever-popular brunch.

To see photos of Medical Alumni Weekend 2014 activities, click here.

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