Three UHealth, Miller School Doctors Honored with Health Care Heroes Awards

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Training a spotlight on the heroes in our midst, the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce (GMCC) recently hosted the 23rd Health Care Heroes Awards Luncheon, celebrating outstanding health care professionals for their extraordinary achievements and impact in the community. Among the seven honorees this year were three physicians from UHealth – University of Miami Health System and the Miller School of Medicine.

The event at Jungle Island brought community stakeholders together to reflect on the exceptional efforts and dedication of South Florida’s health care professionals. The Health Care Heroes Awards® recognize individuals, institutions, professionals, students, volunteers, and programs that have made an extraordinary impact in the local community.

(From left) Luis Chiappy, Equitable Advisors; Roberto C. Heros, M.D., FACS; and Alfred Sanchez, president and CEO of the GMCC, whose father was Dr. Heros's patient.
'A Profession, Not a Job'

Roberto C. Heros, M.D., FACS, senior vice president and chief medical administrative officer of Jackson Health System and professor of neurosurgery at the Miller School, was presented with the AXA Advisors Lifetime Achievement Award. In a video highlighting his career and contributions, colleagues and the son of a former patient spoke about the many ways that Dr. Heros gives back to the community..

For Dr. Heros, “The patient really comes first, and I mean it to the extreme degree. He will do absolutely what is best for the patient,” said Jacques J. Morcos, M.D., FRCS (Eng), FRCS (Ed), FAANS, professor and co-chair, Department of Neurological Surgery at the Miller School and division chief, cranial neurosurgery at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

“I am very proud, and I know he is very proud, just to be recognized in his later career now as a hero — matches his name beautifully,” Dr. Morcos said.

Many residents taught and trained by Dr. Heros have stayed in the Department of Neurological Surgery, magnifying his impact on the department. He described the field of neurosurgery as “extraordinary.”

“Medicine, neurosurgery, is a profession, it’s not a job,” Dr. Heros said. “Your success is not measured by financial rewards; it’s rewards of a different kind. There is no reward like having a patient do well because of what you do for them.”

Joseph Lamelas, M.D., chief of cardiothoracic surgery at UHealth, received the Health Care Professional Award.
Creator of the Miami Method

Joseph Lamelas, M.D., chief of cardiothoracic surgery at UHealth, was honored with the Health Care Professional Award. Dr. Lamelas is known for developing a minimally invasive technique for reconstructing heart valves, averting the need for sternotomy by making repairs through a small incision in the anterior thorax. Called “the Miami Method,” the procedure results in less pain and faster recovery for the patient.

Omaida C. Velazquez, M.D., FACS, chair of the DeWitt Daughtry Family Department of Surgery at the Miller School, said that Dr. Lamelas has performed thousands of the surgeries, with “amazing outcome.”

“One of the things that exemplifies his love for the community is that he didn’t call it ‘the Lamelas method.’ He called it ‘the Miami Method,’” Dr. Velazquez said. “He’s been teaching it across the U.S. and across the world, to colleagues and trainees, and now everybody knows what the Miami Method is. It’s a great tribute to the Miami-Dade community.

“He is a treasure to this community,” she said.

A Pioneer in the Importance of Touch

Tiffany Field, Ph.D., director of the Touch Research Institute and professor of pediatrics, psychology, and psychiatry at UHealth, received the Individual of Merit Award. Dr. Field’s pioneering work, which began at Duke University, focuses on the role of touch in infants and attachment.

Tiffany Field, Ph.D., director of the Touch Research Institute and professor of pediatrics, psychology, and psychiatry at UHealth, accepting the Individual of Merit Award.

Dr. Field headed a profoundly influential National Institutes of Health-funded infant massage study, in which trained massage therapists administered massage to premature babies still in incubators. The infants who received massage thrived and were able to be discharged from the NICU several days earlier, with both significant economic impact and benefits to the infants and their families.

Daniel Armstrong, Ph.D., director of the Mailman Center for Child Development at the Miller School, said that Dr. Field’s work “has literally impacted millions of children all around the world. She is by far the world’s leading expert on the role of touch.”

Honoring First Responders

Acknowledging recent tragic events, this year’s awards program also featured special video tributes to first responders to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Surfside condominium collapse.

“It’s great to be able to unite everybody here together in one room, and also to honor health care heroes who have been very important through the pandemic, because they’ve given their lives to support and help other people,” Dr. Lamelas said.