Dean Henri R. Ford Receives Honorary Degree from Wake Forest

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Henri R. Ford, M.D., M.H.A., dean and chief academic officer of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, has been awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science Degree from Wake Forest University and was selected as this year’s commencement speaker for the Wake Forest School of Medicine.

Dean Henri R. Ford addressing graduates at Wake Forest School of Medicine commencement.

Dean Ford was nominated for the honorary degree by Julie Ann Freischlag, M.D., FACS, FRCSEd (Hon), DFSVS, chief executive officer of Wake Forest Baptist Health, dean of Wake Forest School of Medicine, and chief academic officer of Atrium Health Enterprise.

“It is with great pleasure that we nominate Dr. Ford for consideration of a 2021 Wake Forest University Honorary Degree,” Dr. Freischlag wrote. “Motivated by a deep desire to have a positive impact on the world and drive important change, Dr. Ford has achieved unprecedented success throughout his career. Dr. Ford’s research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through the Injury Free Coalition for Kids, the National Trauma Registry for Children, and the American College of Surgeons, among others.”

Dr. Ford began his remarks by congratulating the graduating class for their resilience during such a challenging year. He then directed the graduates to continue their journey as physicians based on their dedication to three traits: commitment to professionalism, commitment to lifelong learning, and the pursuit of excellence. He used Dr. Kati Kariko, the Hungarian biochemist credited for mRNA discoveries that are used today in COVID-19 vaccines, as an example of a medical professional who embodies those traits.

A quest for significance

“Members of the class of 2021, the future of American medicine, the future of our noble profession, depends on your willingness to embrace and commit to the same principles in order to serve your patients more effectively,” Dr. Ford said. “While you pursue excellence, I invite you to embrace your own quest for significance by endeavoring to make the greatest difference possible in your community and in the lives of others.”

Dean Henri R. Ford with Dr. Julie Ann Reischlag, dean of Wake Forest Medical School.

As dean of the Miller School, Dr. Ford has led a variety of initiatives ranging from implementing a revolutionary new academic curriculum to establishing a task force combatting racial injustices in medical education and in underserved communities.

“It is truly a tremendous privilege for me to have been bestowed this distinct and unprecedented honor by your selecting me not only as your commencement speaker, but also as a recipient of an honorary degree,” Dr. Ford said. “This recognition is a testament to the work I continue to strive for in medical excellence, meeting health care needs, and providing an atmosphere of action-minded physicians.”

Before being appointed the Miller School dean in 2018, Dr. Ford served as the senior vice president and chief of surgery at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA), and vice dean of medical education, and professor and vice chair for clinical affairs in the Department of Surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California. Dr. Ford was professor and chief of the Division of Pediatric Surgery and surgeon-in-chief at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine before joining CHLA in January 2005.

Dr. Ford has conducted groundbreaking research on the pathogenesis of necrotizing enterocolitis, the most common and lethal disease affecting the gastrointestinal tract of newborn infants. His work has led to new insights into the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of this vexing disease. Under his leadership, CHLA developed a robust, state-of-the-art minimally invasive surgery program.