Miller School’s ‘Health Care Heroes’ Receive Top Honors

Before hundreds of their fellow health care leaders, two of the Miller School of Medicine’s leading physicians, a nurse and a student volunteer were honored at the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s Health Care Heroes Awards Luncheon, held on May 19 at Jungle Island. UHealth – University of Miami Health System and Jackson Health System were both sponsors of the celebratory event.

Taking home top awards were Richard J. Cote, M.D., Professor and Joseph R. Coulter Jr. Endowed Chair of the Department of Pathology, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, and Chief of Pathology at Jackson Memorial Hospital, and Director of BioNIUM.; Eduardo Bancalari, M.D., Director of the Division of Neonatology and Chief of Newborn Service at Jackson Memorial Hospital; Kimberly Juanico, B.S.N., a pediatric palliative care nurse coordinator at Holtz Children’s Hospital, who works closely with Miller School physicians in the Department of Pediatrics; and Dimitri A. Godur, a high school student who has completed more than 500 hours of volunteer service to the Miller School.

The Health Care Heroes program recognizes individuals, institutions and programs that have had an extraordinary impact on the South Florida health care community, and whose acts of heroism represent dedication to excellence in their area of expertise beyond the scope of their profession.

Cote won the Bio-Medical category, Bancalari won the Health Care Professionals category, Juanico won the Nurses category, and Godur won the Youth Volunteer Recipient category.

Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the Miller School of Medicine, and CEO of UHealth, nominated Cote for the award, saying that South Florida gained a “significant soldier” in the war against disease in 2009 when Cote joined UHealth and the Miller School.

“Dr. Cote is a nationally recognized expert on the cellular and molecular markers of tumor progression in cancer patients,” said Goldschmidt. “He has led three of the nation’s largest clinical trials in breast, lung and bladder cancer, which were based on discoveries from his research that identified molecules and pathways important in assessing treatment response. Dr. Cote’s work translates into a great benefit to patients locally, nationally and worldwide.”

Among his many career accomplishments, Cote established the Dr. John T. Macdonald Biomedical Nanotechnology Institute (BioNIUM) at UM in 2012 for the development of novel diagnostic platforms and targeted therapeutics. The institute links investigators from the Miller School and UM’s colleges of Arts & Sciences and Engineering to explore and develop novel applications of biomedical nanotechnology, a field in which scientists work with materials on a nanoscale — less than one-millionth of a millimeter in size — to diagnose and treat serious diseases.

“The establishment of BioNIUM brings our South Florida community closer to finding a cure for blindness, diabetes and improving cancer treatment,” said Goldschmidt.

During his illustrious 50-year career, Bancalari and his colleagues have saved the lives of thousands of newborn babies — some born more than four months early, critically ill and weighing less than a pound in the neonatal intensive care unit at Holtz Children’s Hospital, said Jackson President and CEO Carlos Migoya, who nominated Bancalari for the award.

Bancalari has been consistently recognized both nationally and internationally for his expertise in and contributions to the fields of neonatology and perinatal medicine. In the past five years alone, he has accepted more than 100 worldwide invitations to lecture or be a visiting professor.

He has been listed in Best Doctors, Super Doctors, America’s Top Doctors and Top Pediatricians. In his commendation, Migoya added that Bancalari’s work has personally touched his own family.

“I could speak as Jackson’s president and CEO about how valuable Dr. Bancalari is as a physician in our hospitals, or how proud I am to call him a colleague in the Jackson family. I could talk about what he has given this community on a massive scale,” said Migoya. “But I’d rather speak as a father who, 36 years ago, was terrified that my son would not survive an extremely high-risk birth at Jackson Memorial Hospital. Every milestone my son reaches, including when he was recently married, reminds me of Dr. Bancalari’s excellence. He gave me everything. He gave me my son.”

Like Bancalari, Juanico works tirelessly to provide the highest level of care for babies, children, and teenagers suffering from life-limiting illnesses, like cancer, heart disease and organ failure.

Juanico was nominated by Holtz’s Vice President and Chief Executive Officer, Steven Burghart, who said her compassion is unparalleled. Miller School pediatric physicians working at Holtz also described Juanico as “dynamic” and “phenomenal.”

“Her bedside demeanor and her ability to provide compassionate care in the most challenging situations are her most laudable attributes,” said G. Patricia Cantwell, M.D., professor of pediatrics and Director of the Division of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine at Holtz Children’s Hospital. “She enthusiastically looks for things to improve the quality of life for patients, siblings and parents, including herculean efforts to have family dinners, ice cream socials, movie nights and a prom. Kim is a phenomenal nurse in every sense and has served as an incredible teacher, mentor and life example for junior and senior staff of all disciplines.”

Dimitri Godur, a student at Ransom Everglades, began volunteering in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology’s Division of Research in 2012. Since then, he has also participated in the University of Miami Hospital “Come Grow With Us” Teen Volunteer Program, as a Women’s Health Summer Scholar and as a volunteer in women and children’s health through the Departments of Pediatrics and Obstetrics and Gynecology.

“We are truly indebted to him for his dedication and hard work to better the lives of the vulnerable patients we serve from a variety of cultural and economic backgrounds in our community,” said JoNell Potter, Ph.D., associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology, Director of the Division of Research and Special Projects and Chief of Women’s HIV Service, who nominated Godur. She added that others at the Miller School describe him as “hard-working, delightful and conscientious.”

Other winners included Col. Brodes Hartley, Jr. (Ret.), President and CEO of Community Health of South Florida, who received the Lifetime Achievement award; Fred Lippman, Chancellor of Nova Southeastern University’s Health Professions Division, who won the Individuals of Merit category; and Chapman Partnership’s Miami Hope Clinic (represented by Jacqueline J. Master), which won the Institutions/Programs category.

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