Michael S. Gordon Receives Lifetime Achievement Award; Hare and Kobetz Also Named Health Care Heroes

Three Miller School faculty were recognized among South Florida’s health care heroes this week, with Michael S. Gordon, M.D., Ph.D., the founder and director emeritus of the Michael S. Gordon Center for Research in Medical Education, receiving the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s most prestigious health care honor, the AXA Advisors Lifetime Achievement Award.

Amid thunderous applause at the annual Health Care Heroes Awards Luncheon, Gordon thanked his colleagues, his wife Lynda and University of Miami leadership for enabling his decades of accomplishments. Noting that the University always nurtured creativity and innovation, he shared one of his favorite quotes: “If you want to go fast, go alone,” he said. “If you want to go far, go together.” (Watch a video tribute to Gordon’s life and career.)

The developer of computer-based systems and programs that have been used to teach hands-on cardiology, neurology and emergency medicine skills worldwide, Gordon launched what would become an education revolution after joining the UM faculty in 1966 and setting out to improve cardiac bedside examinations. His creation, Harvey, the Cardiopulmonary Patient Simulator, realistically simulates nearly every cardiac disease at the touch of a button by varying blood pressure, pulses, heart sounds, murmurs and breathing.

True to the Gordon Center’s mission of hands-on, simulated learning, Harvey was on hand at the May 21 luncheon attended by UM President Donna E. Shalala at Jungle Island, where guests had the opportunity to take the life-sized manikin’s blood pressure, and listen to his breath.

Also honored at the chamber luncheon were Joshua Hare, M.D., the Louis Lemberg Professor of Medicine and founding director of the Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute, and Erin Kobetz, Ph.D., M.P.H., associate professor of public health sciences and Director of the Jay Weiss Institute for Health Equity at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. They each took home the top honor in the category in which they were finalists — Hare as the bio-medical hero for his groundbreaking work in repairing damaged hearts with stem cells, and Kobetz as the top health care professional for her disparities-focused research that has addressed racial differences in breast and cervical cancer outcomes.

“It is not surprising that the Miller School won a trifecta at this year’s Health Care Heroes Awards,’’ said Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs, Dean of the Miller School and CEO of University of Miami Health System, who nominated the trio for recognition. “A pioneer in the application of technology to medical education, Michael Gordon saw the future more than 40 years ago. He has had a profound impact on the education of students and health care practitioners and emergency responders not only across South Florida, but around the world. And every day, Josh Hare gives life-years to patients with heart disease and Erin Kobetz empowers underserved patients who, for too long, have not enjoyed the benefits of many health care advances.”

Hare, who is also Chief Science Officer and Senior Associate Dean for Experimental and Regenerative Therapies and co-chair of curriculum for the Research Education component of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) , was recognized for literally changing medical history through his research. A pioneer of stem cell therapies for heart attack and heart failure, he led seminal studies that showed both donor and patient mesenchymal stem cells could do what cardiologists were once taught was impossible: They repaired damaged hearts, and restored function.

Under Hare’s leadership, the University’s Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute has grown to 50 faculty members from 15 departments who are exploring ways to regenerate organs and find new treatments not only for heart disease, but for wounds, neurological disease, bone disease, diabetes, cancer, eye diseases and other chronic, debilitating, or incurable diseases.

“I am so honored to receive this recognition for our work in the area of regenerative medicine,” Hare said. “It is a tribute to the ways in which UHealth is trying to advance human health to the benefit of so many people in our community and elsewhere.” (Watch a video tribute to Hare.)

Kobetz, who is also Director of the Disparities and Community Outreach Core Resource at Sylvester and co-director of the Community Engagement component of the CTSI, was honored for her tireless commitment to ending cancer health disparities in disadvantaged communities. Soon after joining the Miller School faculty in 2004, she was alarmed by data showing a high rate of cervical cancer in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood, and uncovered a number of complex social and cultural reasons why Haitian women there were not undergoing the simple Pap test that has greatly reduced cervical cancer in other populations.

The campus/community partnership she established between Sylvester and key community-based organizations to teach Haitian women to administer their own at-home Pap tests is now a model for Community-Based Participatory Research that addresses health disparities through the promotion of culturally sensitive behavioral and social change.

Visibly moved by the recognition, Kobetz said she shared the award with her colleagues and community partners. “I don’t consider myself a hero,” she said. “I do this work because I believe that research and medicine can and should be a vehicle for social justice, and I am honored and inspired by the leadership of President Shalala and the University of Miami, which has allowed me to forge ahead and follow this mission.” (Watch a video tribute to Kobetz.)

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