UM and Local Residents Celebrate The Lennar Foundation Medical Center

Despite the chilly and intermittently rainy weather, nothing could dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd of more than 2,500 local residents and University of Miami faculty, staff and students who turned out on Sunday to help celebrate the spectacular Lennar Foundation Medical Center on UM’s Coral Gables campus.

The carnival-like atmosphere featured fun for the whole family, with performances by UM cheerleaders, musicians and dance teams from local schools; several “mad scientist” demonstrations; stilt walkers, balloon artists, face painting and photo booths; team mascots, including Sebastian the Ibis, mingling with the crowds; and, to help close the event, a marching band and a confetti cannon.

Inside were self-guided tours through the state-of-the-art facilities and educational sensory laboratories – focusing on touch, sight, and taste and smell – that highlighted the expertise of the medical specialties offered at The Lennar Center.

“Today was truly an open house for the community,” said Ben Riestra, M.B.A., Chief Administrative Officer of The Lennar Center. “It was the first example of what we are going to do in the future – go out to meet our patients close to where they live.

“The size of the crowd we saw today, even though it was a rainy day, shows that the University and the health system are embracing the community, and the community is feeling it. The demographics of visitors today ran the spectrum from little kids to the elderly, and the feeling was completely uplifting.”

At Lennar patients are getting treatment from the world-class academic health experts of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, the University of Miami Health System Sports Medicine Institute, and other UHealth specialty areas including women’s and men’s centers, the comprehensive diabetes center, cardiology, primary care, urology, physical therapy, neurology, otolaryngology and more.

This event was an opportunity for those who live in the area, many of whom are not yet patients, to get an up-close look at what is now available to them close to home – the exceptional services of an academic medical center under one roof, in a building with groundbreaking innovations and an unmatched patient experience.

Chris and Zena Petit, a couple who live in Coconut Grove, heard the message.

“We are very active in UM cultural events,” said Zena, “but we have never been to UHealth doctors. We’re committed to having good health, and this new facility is close to home. We’re very impressed.”

Ruth Solly, another local resident, echoed their comments after visiting the taste and smell installation.

“It would be great to be able to see doctors in this setting,” she said. “It’s so much better than going downtown.”

UHealth physicians who practice in the new facility also gave it rave reviews. One, Ernesto Bernal-Mizrachi, M.D., professor of medicine and Chief of the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism in the Department of Medicine, was greeting guests at the Comprehensive Diabetes Center.

“Everybody is very happy that we have a comprehensive center where we can provide all our services in the same place,” he said.

As he was speaking, Fayeza Malik, a UM undergraduate who is planning a career in medicine, came up to say hello. Malik, a junior, hopes to study endocrinology at UM and shadowed Bernal-Mizrachi for a summer while he visited patients at the Miami Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Her career choice was inspired by the fact that her father has diabetes, and she is excited that patients can now be seen in a place like Lennar.

“It’s great that it’s so close to campus and one building incorporates all disciplines,” Malik said.

Eduardo C. Alfonso, M.D., professor and chair of ophthalmology and Director of Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, was thrilled to see so many people at the event.

“More than 50 percent of the people I talked to in the lobby have never been to UHealth,” he said, “and they’re very excited about this facility.”

Steven Falcone, M.D., M.B.A., Executive Dean for Clinical Affairs and Chief Executive of the UHealth Clinical Practice, brought family members to the event and was pleased with the opportunity to show off the center.

“This is an incredible asset for Coral Gables and the surrounding community,” Falcone said. “The facility’s appearance and design match the exceptional quality of our UHealth physicians.”

In a brief speech to the crowd, Thinh H. Tran, M.D., M.B.A., Chief Clinical Officer and Chief Operating Officer of UHealth, said, “Welcome to this wonderful celebration. This is the second day of the Lunar New Year, and I would like to wish all of you a happy, healthy and prosperous new year.

“We cannot have happiness and prosperity without health. The University of Miami Health System is all about you. This building is about you, it’s about caring for each other, it’s about our wellness and health as a community.”

Riestra also welcomed the crowd, and later expressed his appreciation for the turnout. “As an academic health system, as a university, I keep saying we have a fiduciary responsibility to the community, and I am really seeing that the community is starting to believe us,” he said. “Patients asked me today how to change their primary care physician to someone in this building. They have fallen in love with the facility, with our new approach to medicine, and with what this building represents in terms of overall wellness and well-being.”

A gallery of photos from the event is available here.

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