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Kid gloves: Henri Ford has big plans for UM's Miller School of Medicine

Dr. Henri Ford, one of the world’s leading pediatric surgeons, became dean of the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine on June 1. An immigrant from Haiti who graduated from Harvard Medical School, he taught at universities in Pennsylvania and California, researches bowel disease in newborns and is immediate past president of the American Pediatric Surgical Association.

On his specialization in pediatrics: “My overarching desire in life is to make the biggest difference possible. And in pediatric surgery, I can be most impactful. Think of a newborn with a lethal congenital condition. When I operate on that newborn, I’m adding potentially 85 to 90 years to that person’s life expectancy. So, that’s being extremely impactful.”

On trends in pediatrics and pediatric surgery: “What’s most exciting is the recognition that many of the diseases that people encounter in adulthood probably have their genesis during childhood or before. So far, the excitement about precision medicine has been in its potential to diagnose and treat patients — perhaps finding the right cancer drug combination that will work, based on a child’s genetic profile. But the true promise is in its ability to predict and prevent disease development, starting in childhood. When that paradigm shifts, we’ll be able to translate the discovery science we’ve been seeing into novel interventions.”

On his plans for UM: “At the school and UHealth system, we want to be leaders in medical education, discovery science and clinical care. We stand as the gateway to Latin America and the Caribbean, so we need to be a destination of choice for those nations. And many Florida residents leave the state to get care. We cannot have that. We want to provide the very best you can get in the United States right here in Miami.

“We also want to figure out ways, working with the business school and other experts in health care economics, to deliver quality health care in a cost-effective manner. Why is it that infant mortality and life expectancy in the U.S. is inferior to other industrialized countries, when we spend more money than anyone else? The solutions include looking at the pay structure for physicians and at health insurance.

“One thing is clear: We can’t afford to step back on research, or we’ll lose our leading position in discovery science.”