Climate-Changing Cafecitos

By Steve Pierre
UM Communications

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (September 29, 2017)—While scientists and researchers across the University tackle the issue of climate change and sustainability every day, one department is making its own impact in this area—one cup of coffee at a time. In August, the Division of Enrollment Management made the permanent switch from paper cups to personal mugs.

“The custodian for our floor told me that we had a lot of garbage accumulating and I decided to investigate why,” said Michelle Tobon, office assistant with Enrollment Management.


Shane Hinton and Michelle Tobon show off their coffee mugs.

A closer look revealed the main culprit—paper cups overflowing in the trash receptacles. Tobon knew it was time to act. “When I joined this team, I was encouraged to find cost-efficient ways to help make improvements if possible, and I knew this was a chance to make that happen.”

Inspired by her father, who conducts eco-tours in the Amazon rainforest and helps indigenous people protect their lands from pollution, Tobon put her love of sustainability to work—compiling statistics and creating messages to get her team on board. “I sent a proposal to my supervisors and they loved the idea of transitioning to reusable mugs and bottles,” Tobon explained.

Rather than introduce this concept as an office policy, the team created the Bring Your Own Mug (BYOM) Challenge, giving staff the opportunity to share a bit of their personalities and passions through their personal coffee cups. “It was something that was really neat because it also allowed people who didn’t know each other to break the ice by telling the stories of their mugs,” said Tobon.

Shane Hinton, assistant director of admission who is earning his master of professional sciences in broadcast meteorology at the Rosenstiel School, jumped at the chance to share “something that is near and dear to me.” His enthusiasm and climate-changing mug, which literally changes when heated—sea levels rise and land masses, including Florida, disappear—made him the challenge’s first winner.

With such initiatives as Green U available to employees, Tobon says the U empowers employees to take the often-simple steps necessary to reduce the U’s impact on the environment. “I think if it was anywhere else, it would have been met with a lot more resistance,” Tobon said of the coffee cup challenge. “It’s such a small thing, but it makes a big impact. I’m glad I work for an organization that inspires and encourages their employees to be green.“

Click here to see some of the featured mugs from the Enrollment Management team.


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Lights! Camera! Scalpel!

By Maya Bell
UM News


Actor/director Sean Penn. left, and UM trauma surgeon Enrique Ginzburg met during a real-life disaster, Haiti’s 2010 earthquake.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (August 18, 2017)—For a brief moment in Sean Penn’s new film, The Last Face, Enrique Ginzburg is doing what the Miller School of Medicine trauma surgeon knows all too well: triaging bloodied and moaning patients in a makeshift hospital in one of the world’s most impoverished and unstable countries.

But this improvised hospital is not in Haiti, where Ginzburg, now the trauma medical director at Jackson South Medical Center, first met the Academy Award-winning actor after the cataclysmic 2010 earthquake that killed tens of thousands and maimed many more. It is in the war-torn African nation of Liberia, where, like Haiti, good medical care for most people is unavailable even in the best of times, and where, like Haiti, people count themselves lucky to have foreign doctors on the ground during their bleakest hours.

The drama, starring fellow Academy Award winners Charlize Theron and Javier Bardem, has drawn both raves and rants, some of the latter for glorifying white rescuers at the expense of oppressed locals. But Ginzburg says The Last Face shines an unsparing light on the harshest of realities.

“Along with criticism of the graphic nature of the film, there has been political discussion on the lack of African native doctors,” says Ginzburg, who served as medical advisor for the movie filmed over two years in Cape Town, South Africa. “But that’s the exact point so sorely misunderstood by the critics. The fact is that, in Africa and other developing countries, there is a severe lack of native trauma surgeons, so people have to rely on the ‘white doctor’ to come in during disasters.”

UM trauma surgeon Enrique Ginzburg, left, on the set of The Last Face with Academy Award-winning actor Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men), who portrays a Spanish doctor in the film.

UM trauma surgeon Enrique Ginzburg, left, on the The Last Face set with Academy Award-winning actor Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men), who portrays a Spanish doctor in the film.

And, Ginzburg notes, that’s exactly what UM’s Barth Green, the co-founder of Project Medishare, successfully changed in Haiti and what the Ryder Trauma System and the UM Trauma Division are changing globally. “In Brazil, in Cuba, in St. Croix, in Saudi Arabia, in Colombia, in Argentina, in Thailand, in Israel, to name a few, our doctors have been training local doctors in trauma care so these countries have the know-how to take care of their own,” he says.

And it’s why Penn, who has spent years in post-earthquake Haiti organizing humanitarian aid, enlisted Ginzburg for The Last Face, which at its core is a love story between Theron’s character, the director of an international aid organization, and Bardem’s character, a relief-aid doctor. The movie also stars Jean Reno, Adele Exarchopoulos, and Jared Harris.

For his fifth directorial feature film, Penn wanted authenticity in the medical scenes, and the real-life horrors of disaster relief are indelibly etched in Ginzburg’s mind. A member of the four-man trauma team that Green, then chair of the Department of Neurosurgery, led into Haiti the day after the January 12, 2010 earthquake, Ginzburg quickly learned the essentials of improvisation and doing the best you can with what little you have.

Under Green’s tutelage, he was instrumental in establishing and operating the 400-bed tent hospital that UM opened at the Port-au-Prince airport just nine days after the earthquake. The best-stocked, best-staffed, and best-managed hospital in Haiti at the time, it was where, in eight weeks, volunteers from the Miller School, Jackson Memorial Hospital, and every state in the nation treated more than 20,000 earthquake survivors and performed more than 1,500 surgeries.

Enrique Ginzburg, right, discusses a medical scene with actor Jean Reno, who plays a doctor.

Enrique Ginzburg, right, discusses a medical scene in The Last Face with actor Jean Reno, who plays a doctor in the drama.

Initially, though, Ginzburg and the rest of Green’s team worked around the clock in a sweltering hanger at the airport where, reminiscent of the Civil War, hundreds of people with severed limbs, open fractures, soft-tissue wounds, head trauma, and unknown internal injuries lay on rows of cots screaming and moaning in agony. Ginzburg would perform his first amputation without general anesthesia there.

“I’ve never seen so much suffering in one place,” he said later about the moment he entered that hangar. “The immensity was overwhelming.”

“It was like stepping into a horror movie,” Green, now executive dean of health and community service, later recalled.

Fortunately for Ginzburg, stepping onto the set of The Last Face, which was released this month and is available on video, was a lot more fun.

“It was great,” he says. “A thrilling, life-enhancing experience. And I know I’m biased, but I loved the movie.”


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Like Mother, Like Son 

By Steve Pierre
University Communications

Andy Ricardo

Andy Ricardo is using UM’s tuition remission benefit to earn his master’s degree at UM.

The importance of education has inherently been a part of Andy Ricardo’s life since birth. “I was raised by my mom in a single-parent home, and she worked multiple jobs, so she kind of instilled in me a ‘work ’til you drop’ mentality,” said Ricardo, senior accountant with UM Payroll. “She would say, ‘You can do whatever you want, as long as you work hard enough for it,’ ” the Hialeah native recalls.

His mother, Pura, has been a teacher for Miami-Dade County Public Schools for more than 20 years, and earned her master’s degree in educational leadership. Naturally, the emphasis on continuing education weighed heavily on Ricardo’s mind when he originally considered the tuition remission benefit at UM.

“I did not imagine using the tuition remission benefit when I came to UM,” Ricardo explained. “I did not know what to expect as a new employee, but once I was able to balance my work life and get situated in my role, I thought maybe this wouldn’t be a bad idea.”

Andy Ricardo as a toddler with his mother Pura.

Andy Ricardo as a toddler with his mother, Pura

Ricardo graduated from the University of Central Florida with his bachelor’s in accounting in 2014 and joined UM shortly thereafter. He continued to pursue this area of expertise and was accepted into the School of Business Administration’s Master of Accounting program in 2016. “I felt like there was more to get done towards my goal of becoming a CPA, so it was a logical decision.”

With a year of courses under his belt, Ricardo has already experienced the benefits of taking his professional development to the next level. “This program is much more relevant to my career. I’ve learned more in my first two semesters here than in my first two undergraduate years.” Ricardo hopes to complete his degree in 2018.

Through his new graduate journey, he continues to lean on his mother’s teachings. “She’s an enormous part of my life and largely responsible for why I am so driven.”

To learn more about tuition benefits, visit benefits.miami.edu.


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Provost Jeffrey Duerk Is Here to Move the Needle

By Meredith Camel
UM News


Provost and Executive Vice President Jeffrey Duerk

CORAL GABLES. Fla. (August 16, 2017)—When 6-year-old Jeffrey Duerk felt ready to ride a bike without training wheels, he didn’t tell his parents. Instead, he fished through his father’s toolbox, selected the appropriate wrench, and got to work. Though he succeeded in removing only one wheel, he learned a lifelong lesson.

“That can-do spirit, that entrepreneurial spirit—that’s a lot of what science is,” says Duerk, who joined the University of Miami in July as executive vice president and provost. “It’s having a sense that you can do something, then trying to do it, and if it doesn’t succeed, trying again.”

Still an avid cyclist, Duerk has been tinkering for the last 30 years not with training wheels but with the signals, sensors, and algorithms of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the indispensable medical tool that produces images of the human body without radiation.

MRI technology was in its infancy when Duerk—who holds a bachelor’s degree from Purdue University—was pursuing his master’s in electrical engineering at The Ohio State University. One day, a professor ended the lecture early and opened class to any topic. A fellow student asked about “this thing called nuclear magnetic resonance imaging.” The professor didn’t know what it was but vowed to find out.

“He came back and gave this lecture about quantum spin, magnetic fields, radio frequencies, digital signal processing,” Duerk recalls, “and I said this is what I want to do!”

Knowing that Cleveland, Ohio, was a hotbed for the burgeoning MRI industry, Duerk chose Case Western Reserve University for his Ph.D. in biomedical engineering. There, he joined an MRI lab “at basically the time the first human whole-body systems were becoming available,” he says.

 Today Duerk holds some 40 patents, primarily for MRI innovations, and in 2017 was inducted into the National Academy of Inventors.

That quintessential symbol of invention—the light bulb—appears prominently atop two desk lamps in his office in the Ashe Building on the Coral Gables campus. One naked bulb sits on a steampunk-style machine; the other rests on an oversized silver flashlight. The zigzag filaments emit a captivating glow, but for Duerk, the lamps’ most alluring quality is their unusual pairing of objects.

In art as well as in education, Duerk looks for the creative intersections of objects, people, and ideas because, as he says, “the more interfaces you have, the more interesting things you can do. That’s one of the really great things about the University of Miami having 11 schools and colleges, as well as its various centers—all of these are opportunities to explore complex questions and solve different types of problems.”

Except for a few stints in the corporate world as a young scientist, Duerk developed his career at Case Western before coming to Miami. In 2005, at the request of the medical school dean at Case, he and an interdisciplinary group of colleagues from across campus drafted a proposal to invest in defining how medical imaging, genetics, drug discovery, and therapeutic evaluation could be linked. The dean’s response to their proposal: “This is interesting, but think bigger.”

The dean appointed Duerk founding director of what would emerge as the Case Center of Imaging Research, which has been a major player in fast-tracking discoveries into real-world applications. Expanding MRI from solely a diagnostic tool to an interventional one was among their key contributions.

“In order to capitalize on the full potential of MRI, we wondered if it was possible to image quickly enough to do an image-guided procedure,” Duerk explains. “One of our graduate students won an international young investigator award for the ability to deploy a stent in a renal artery completely under MRI guidance to the same accuracy as in, for example, a CT scan. The fact that this application of MRI now exists very widely, for specific indications—that’s pretty gratifying.”

Duerk also was a member of the interdisciplinary team of scientists and physicians who created and have advanced MR Fingerprinting, a quantitative technique that allows radiologists to more specifically identify and assess abnormalities than traditional MRI. And while leading the center, mentoring students, publishing papers, and acquiring patents—as well as raising two children with his wife, Cindy—Duerk was tapped to chair the Department of Biomedical Engineering and later to serve as dean of the School of Engineering.

Each time he confronts a new challenge, Duerk thinks back to his former dean’s “think bigger” advice, as well as a favorite quote by architect Daniel Burnham, which begins, “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood…”

The role of provost at the University of Miami was yet another opportunity to think big and broaden his scope of impact. In learning more about the University, in particular its hemispheric, excellent, relevant, and exemplary aspirations, Duerk wanted to be among the leaders who have the chance to “paint on this amazing canvas.”

“If you look at the leadership of the University of Miami today,” Duerk continues, “President Frenk has been here two years, [UHealth CEO] Steve Altschuler has been here two years—and we have new deans of the School of Business Administration, School of Nursing and Health Studies, and Miller School of Medicine. All of us came because we are builders. And it’s not about moving the needle from 9.9 to 9.95. Here the opportunity is to move the needle in big ways.”


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Update on the 100 Talents

roadmap-updatesThrough the 100 Talents initiative, part of the Roadmap to Our New Century, the University of Miami seeks to increase the number of endowed faculty positions with individuals who enhance the creative talent already enriching the U.

Led by Dr. David Birnbach, vice provost for faculty affairs, the 100 Talents action team has focused on developing the processes that will allow the University to create 100 new endowed positions by its centennial in 2025. These positions will include new and existing faculty, as well as rotating and visiting appointments.

Following input from the University community, the team already helped organize four Distinguished Presidential Scholars and Fellows during the 2016 – 2017 academic year. They included two eminent figures from the arts, flautist Sir James Galway and photographer Susan Meiselas; acclaimed Cuban journalist Yoani Sanchez; and prominent geneticist and biologist Carlos Bustamante.

Each of these renowned talents participated in the University’s intellectual life during their visits by interacting with faculty, students, and the greater community through lectures, teaching, special performances, and other gatherings that generated dialogue and engagement. In bringing their diverse perspectives to our campuses, the scholars and fellows also provided mentorship, encouraged collaboration, and enhanced research and scholarship.

The action team is continuing to create initiatives to identify existing talents on our campuses and to attract distinguished visiting scholars and practitioners from a variety of fields and communities around the globe.

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