INNOVATOR: Dr. Pedro José Greer, Miami’s pioneering physician of the people

VIDEO: Victoria Moll-Ramirez and Alessandra Hickson

Dr. Pedro José Greer, Jr. is an American physician best known for his dedication to taking medicine out of the hospital and into the streets and communities where people least obtain medical care. He is Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs and Chair of the Department of Humanities, Health and Society at the Florida International University School of Medicine. Dr. Greer has medical students go out with teams, including social workers, to understand patients in the context of their environment. He is founder of the Camillus Health Concern, a Catholic charity sponsored by the Little Brothers of the Good Shepherd, which delivers health services to thousands of homeless people in Miami-Dade County, and the St. John Bosco Clinic, which serves disadvantaged people in Little Havana. He was awarded a MacArthur “genius grant”in 1993 and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. He has been a board member of the American charity for the homeless, Comic Relief and believes his greatest accomplishment is “convincing my wife to marry me.”

AGE: 57

HERITAGE: I’m Cuban -Irish. I’m Cubish. I’m from one small poor corrupt island to another.

HOMETOWN: I grew up mostly in Miami. I was born [in the U.S.] by accident and went back to Cuba. My family eventually came here when I was about four years old. My father was a physician at the University of Miami. And we spent about six to nine months, and I don’t know exactly, in the Bahamas. As my father was a physician for the islands there we would go in little boats to the islands when he would vaccinate the kids and stuff.

SIBLINGS: I had two siblings, one–my younger sister died actually, which is a pretty monumental moment in my life because she was driving to spend her 18th birthday with me and she got in a car accident and died. I still have an older sister. I’m in the middle.

CURRENT FAMILY: I have been married for 32 years. My wife tells me it’s the best three years of her life. I have two children: a boy and a girl and I’m very proud of them. They’re great kids. My daughter is 28 years old and my son is 25.

BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED: Just do it for the right reason. I mean, that’s it. And with my mother, the advice was ‘you’re not better than anybody else, but then again nobody’s better than you either.’

MOMENT WHEN YOU KNEW YOU’D MADE IT: I’m waiting. For that moment. I don’t know what the definition of “made it” is. The truth is the moment I knew I made it — having an intact, great family. You know, and with that — within my profession. I’ll know I’ll have made it when we have the healthiest country in the world.

WORST DAY ON THE JOB: The truth is there really is no worst day. The worst day is when you lose a patient. The worst day is when you go in to give somebody bad news. Because you know that moment you go to give somebody bad news, that will change their lives and the lives of their families forever.

GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: My greatest accomplishment is convincing my wife to marry me. And people think I say that in jest, I don’t. She’s this remarkable individual that has put up with me for 32 years who thinks I have potential. Untapped as it may be.


WHAT ARE YOU READING RIGHT NOW: Actually, I am in the middle of reading — it was a book recommended to me by one of my faculty members — it’s called “Gang Leader for a Day.” And it was written by a gentleman who now has his PhD in sociology. He was at the University of Chicago, this was back in the late 80s. Actually went in the inner city and worked in what was “the projects” and actually hooked up with a gang leader. And it’s a wonderful description of what’s going on — it’s a real science. Not a science of taking a survey, but it’s the science of observation…It’s eye opening in the sense that as we ascend in life by position or academically, we’re exposed to so much less. But we’re expected to make decisions for things we’re not seeing. So it becomes vitally important to be able to observe.

WORLD YOU WANT TO LIVE IN: I want to live in a society –and here we are in the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King — where people are truly judged by their character. Not by the color of their skin or their ethnicity or their checkbook. I want to live in a world that is truly without prejudice. That’s the world I want to live in.

YOUR MOTTO: Take the high road. That’s the bottom line. Quit the BS. Just take the high road.

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