April 21, 2024
Icon: Phillip Frost

Photo: Nick Garcia

"I often say I could write a book about how chance meetings have been the story of my life — 95%," says Frost.


Icon: Phillip Frost

Physician, health care entrepreneur, philanthropist, Miami; age 86

Mike Vogel | 8/21/2023

Why did I major in French literature? I had never left the country, and the idea of learning a foreign language was appealing to me. And so, it was an opportunity to major in a subject that would at the same time permit me to take enough science courses so that if I had decided to go to medical school, I had that option.

I often say I could write a book about how chance meetings have been the story of my life — 95%.

I came to Florida to join the faculty at the medical school here at the University of Miami. I had an idea about a disposable (biopsy tool). I was able to sell the idea. And they gave me a little money, and I formed a company. And then by chance, I bumped into a friend of mine from Philadelphia at the airport. He was in charge of sales for a small company called Key Pharmaceuticals. By the time we got to New York, we decided to put my little company together with Key Pharmaceuticals. Shortly after, I left the university to form a new department of dermatology at Mount Sinai. I stayed for 20 years as the head of dermatology, until 1990. And we built Key. All through that period, I was still the head of dermatology at Mount Sinai. I was leading a dual life both in business and in medicine.

The way you do it is by having good people working alongside of you. And I was lucky enough to have that both in dermatology and in the pharmaceutical business.

Sitting next to me on a plane to Mexico was a young lady who started a conversation and said, ‘By the way, I have a few nice girlfriends that I think you would enjoy meeting.’ I called one of them. (She) turned out to be my wife. We’ve been married 60 years in June of this year.

I think that one of the problems we have in the city and in the country as a whole is that we’re falling behind in science and mathematics, vis-a-vis the rest of the world. My ambition for the time that I have left is to try to have some influence on that course of events. We just had a dedication a few months ago at the University of Miami (for the Frost Institute for Chemistry and Molecular Science, part of a $100-million donation from Frost and his wife, Patricia). It’s not only a building, but it’s an institute whose purpose is to attract a higher level of science to the community than we have now.

We’ve gotten far away from the intent of our founders with the size of the government. With the large government comes lots of regulations. They all want to show their stuff and make rules and regulations. And I think in the long run, and maybe even in the not so long run — in the short run — it’s going to work against us and make us less competitive in the world.

I always understood that whatever I have, others will have a lot more than I do. And I’m happy for them.

I like gardening. We pay a lot of attention to the garden at our house. Flowers, trees, fruit trees, orchids.

There have been some missed opportunities along the way. There’s a huge company in China. It has been divided into several $30-billion-a-year companies. And the founder came to me when he was starting and asked me to invest a little tiny bit of money, and I thought his valuation was a little too high. So, I passed. Major mistake.

I’ve always enjoyed work. In fact, I couldn’t understand people who were trying to look for the easy way out. I was always looking for what useful thing that I could do to spend more time with.

We’ve always from day one enjoyed Florida. Wouldn’t live anyplace else.

I think the state is doing pretty well, relatively. I’m more concerned about the country as a whole.

Mainly I like classical music, or old popular music from the ‘40s and ‘50s, ‘60s. Broadway show music. Gershwin was a genius. If he had lived longer, he would have been a match for even the old classical composers.

So, I was at a dinner party last night. And one of the people sitting at my table was an eminent physician, who was the head of one of the big cancer hospitals in the country. Now he’s down here, and he’s still working. He’s in his late 70s. And we both agreed, it’s not a good idea to stop.

I think that you have to always work and live as though you are going to live forever, even though we know we’re not.

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