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Renowned Harrington Medical Training Program Celebrates 50th Anniversary

Peru’s former Minister of Health Patricia Jannet Garcia Funegra, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., Panamanian infectious disease specialist Nestor Sosa, M.D., and Brazilian oncologist Paulo M.G. Hoff, M.D., Ph.D., have made notable contributions to the international medical community after completing a renowned University of Miami training program.

Dr. Thomas Harrington with the 2017 Harrington Program graduates of the UM/Jackson internal medicine residency

Garcia, Sosa and Hoff are three of the 464 Latin American and Caribbean physicians who have gained invaluable clinical and research knowledge in the past five decades through the William J. Harrington Medical Training Programs for Latin America and the Caribbean – one of the many educational, clinical and research programs offered by the International Medicine Institute at UHealth – the University of Miami Health System. Another 6,330 physicians and students have taken part in observerships that broaden their medical experience.

On November 16, the International Medicine Institute (IMI) will celebrate its 10th anniversary and the 50th anniversary of the Harrington program. University of Miami President Julio Frenk, M.D., his wife, Felicia Marie Knaul, Ph.D., professor of public health sciences and director of the UM Institute for Advanced Study of the Americas, and Edward Abraham, M.D., acting executive vice president for health affairs and CEO of UHealth, and dean and chief academic officer of the Miller School of Medicine, will host a celebratory reception at the Braman Miller Center on the University of Miami Coral Gables campus.

The following day, Eduardo de Marchena, M.D., associate dean of the International Medicine Institute, J. Donald Temple, M.D., director of the William J. Harrington Training Programs for Latin America and the Caribbean, and Thomas J. Harrington, M.D., co-director, will lead an IMI symposium at the Miller School’s medical campus. At the symposium, Garcia, Sosa and Hoff will be named Senior Fellows of the International Medicine Institute and take part in an educational forum.

“For 50 years, our international training and observership programs have equipped talented doctors, researchers and medical students with the tools and skills they need to make a difference in countries around the world,” said de Marchena. “These physicians visit our institution for unparalleled training, and depart prepared to build better medical communities at home.”

Launching a hemispheric training program

Back in 1964, William J. Harrington, M.D., joined the Department of Medicine as a leading clinician and researcher in hematology, with notable contributions to the understanding of idiopathic thrombocytopenia purpura (ITP), sickle cell anemia and other blood diseases and autoimmune disorders. Three years later, he launched a new training program for Latin American and Caribbean physicians and managed it for 25 years until his death in 1992.

Dr. William J. Harrington

“My father recognized the need for this training program and felt it was important for the University of Miami to reach out to the region,” said Tom Harrington, who is also a Miller School hematologist. “He was impressed with the high caliber of physicians in Latin America and decided to offer residencies to professionals with solid academic credentials and a strong desire to go back and serve their countries. While he loved being a doctor, he felt the Latin American training program was his proudest accomplishment as chairman of the Department of Medicine.”

Today, the Harrington program draws on the clinical and research facilities of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Miami Health System Tower, the Miami Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and Jackson Memorial Hospital. Each year 12 of the 40 positions in the UM/Jackson Memorial Hospital’s three-year Residency Training in Internal Medicine are reserved for “the best and the brightest” from Latin America and the Caribbean, said de Marchena.

“There is no other training program like this in the United States,” said Temple, a hematologist who has served as program director for 25 years. “We don’t focus on any one particular institution or country. Instead we run a highly regarded program that allows us to select exceptional physicians and researchers from a very competitive field of applicants.”

Reflecting on the impact of the program, de Marchena said, “Bill Harrington told me that the best way to make major health care changes in Latin America is by training future leaders and educators. You could open a clinic in rural Bolivia and help a community, but if you can train the academic leaders who will educate the next generation of doctors in the region, you’ll have a profound and lasting effect on public health throughout the hemisphere.”

Making lasting contributions

All three Harrington graduates being honored by the University of Miami on this occasion exemplify the success of its founder’s dream. In Brazil, Hoff is regarded as one of the nation’s leading oncologists. He has written or co-authored more than 180 manuscripts and 102 book chapters, been honored with the Alvorada Medal Award in 2008 and elected to Brazil’s National Academy of Medicine in 2016. He also serves as a board member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

Peru’s Garcia is a recognized leader in global public health, serving as chair of the World Health Organization International Experts Committee on Vaccines against the Human Papillomavirus, as well as holding other international positions. Her research has been recognized with the Cecilia Garibaldi Award and the WHO Marco A. Aguayo Award, as well as Peru’s National Award for Professional Achievement.

“The training I received at the University of Miami helped me with my clinical skills,” said Garcia. “It also gave me the opportunity to present cases and studies, learn from other health care professionals and develop leadership skills as chief resident.”

After her return to Peru, Garcia joined the faculty of Cayetano Heredia Peruvian University’s school of public health. She conducted research on HIV/AIDS, developed guidelines for managing the disease, and opened the door for patients to access their laboratory test results online. She served as minister of health from 2016-2017 and recently became the first Peruvian member of the U.S. National Academy of Medicine, one of the highest honors in the world of medicine and health sciences.

In Panama, Sosa is general director of Gorgas Memorial Institute of Health Studies and serves as governor of the Central America Chapter of the American College of Physicians. “I still remember my telephone interview with Dr. Temple,” he said. “I was doing my internship in a remote rural community with only one public telephone that could receive an international long distance call. I had to wait at the telephone company’s office and then run 200 yards to the phone, and accept the call. A few weeks later, I was notified that I had been accepted, and that was one of the happiest days of my life.”

Like Garcia, Sosa did his training in Miami at the peak of the AIDS epidemic. “I learned a lot about how to manage opportunistic infections, how to care for those afflicted by this terrible epidemic and the value of life,” he said. When Sosa returned to Panama, he promoted more aggressive diagnostic and therapeutic efforts for HIV/AIDS patients, and pushed medical authorities to buy antiretroviral drugs.

A decade ago, Sosa solved a medical mystery that had claimed more than 400 lives, when he identified a connection between patient deaths and cough syrup with a mislabeled industrial chemical from China. “Along with caring for my patients, I left Miami with a deep desire to teach everything that I had learned. Without any doubt, the William Harrington Program changed my life.”

Offering global education options

Since its founding in 2007, the Miller School’s International Medicine Institute has provided a gateway for thousands of global patients seeking health care services at UHealth, while offering education programs for physicians and medical students and conducting international clinical trials that save lives.

One example is the Observership Program for Latin American and Caribbean Physicians, launched by Harrington in 1975, for physicians unable to participate in the three-year residency program. “Most medical professionals and students come for one to six months to observe the activities of a department, division, center or institute,” said Temple, noting that more than 5,400 physicians and students have taken part in the program.

In 2008, the IMI expanded those learning opportunities through the Global Observership Program, which offers one- to three-month rotations at the Miller School and UHealth facilities. To date, the program has served more than 900 participants from Europe, Asia and Africa.

The goal is to facilitate the learning process and share best practices, so observers can benefit from the skills and expertise of UHealth’s excellent clinicians and medical students, said de Marchena.

The IMI also organizes international conferences that provide a forum to explore timely issues in medical care and research, such as Miami Valves , an annual cardiology conference dedicated to better understanding heart disease.

“Many graduates of the Harrington residency program, as well as our observerships, generously donate their time and provide financial support to our Institute,” said de Marchena. “That includes our voluntary faculty members who interview training candidates in their home countries and send us their recommendations.”

Facilitating international research is another objective of the IMI. The International Scientific Research Scholars Program promotes the advancement of biomedical research and mentors international physician scientists and post-doctoral professionals in research techniques and trial design, according to Leopoldo Raij, M.D., director of international research scholars, and director of hypertension and nephrology research at the Miller School.

The IMI’s research and clinical trials pave the way for technologies, processes and devices that have a direct impact on the lives of the patients served at UHealth. “We work with individuals and institutions on international clinical trials of medical devices led by physicians who have been trained through the IMI’s educational programs,” said Cristian Marin y Kall, M.D., director of research administration. That includes research on transcatheter aortic and mitral valve replacement for patients with heart disease.

Looking ahead to the IMI’s future, Temple said, “It’s natural for the University of Miami to take a global approach to training, research and clinical care. Our programs are well respected in the Latin American medical community. Our graduates continue to make major contributions to patients and communities, and we intend to stay true to our mission of service.”




Tags: Dr. Eduardo de Marchena, Dr. J. Donald Temple, Dr. Thomas J. Harrington, International Medicine Institute, William J. Harrington programs