MDC: Just What the Doctor Ordered
Dr. Aurelio Mitjans
Dr. Onelia G. Lage
For more than five decades, Miami Dade College has been creating paths to success for students of all majors, including some of the brightest minds in medicine. The affordability and accessibility of education at MDC helped these exceptional alumni overcome early obstacles to develop distinguished careers as doctors, where they have made significant contributions to patient care, cutting-edge procedures, educational programs and medical research.
MDC Sets Highest Bar
Dr. Gregory Springett began his studies at MDC after arriving from St. Croix in the Virgin Islands in the early ’80s.
“I knew I wanted to be a physician, but I had no idea how to make that happen,” said Springett, an oncologist and cancer researcher at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute in Tampa.
He clearly remembers how MDC’s pre-med advisors worked with him to create a concrete plan for becoming a doctor. Lacking many of the prerequisites, Springett had to double and triple up on his courses each semester. Despite the grueling workload, he graduated on time, with honors, and the work ethic he learned at MDC stayed with him throughout medical school at Harvard and Ph.D. studies at MIT.
“The odds for getting into medical school can seem daunting, especially for people coming from a community college,” he said. “I never came out of MDC feeling this goal wasn’t within reach. I think that had to do with the faculty. They had high standards – as high as anything I encountered subsequently. That was critical.”
Hope Despite the Odds
Miami Dade College also was a gateway to success for Dr. Aurelio Mitjans, former chief of staff at Hialeah Hospital and founding partner of Florida Acute Care Specialists (FLACS), an organization providing hospital treatment to more than 20,000 patients each year in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
“When I graduated from high school, my father was unable to work because he had a stroke, and my mother made $1.10 an hour,” Mitjans explained. “My only hope for higher education was Miami Dade College, which offers a great education at a reasonable price.”
Recently honored with the Physician’s Recognition Award from the Dade County Medical Association for his contributions to the medical community, Mitjans takes pride in seeing Miami Dade College’s renowned reputation spread across the nation.
“The College has come a long way, expanding significantly to the point where it is becoming a major force in the United States, not just South Florida,” he said. “I attribute this to the great efforts of MDC President Dr. Eduardo Padrón.”
Inspiring MDC’s Next Doctors
Like her colleagues, Dr. Onelia G. Lage learned at MDC that opportunity and perseverance enable the achievement of great goals. MDC’s diverse student body also helped her realize that she liked working with and caring for people of all walks of life.
Lage is now an associate professor of Clinical Pediatrics and director of Adolescent Medical Education and Community Health at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist to the Florida Board of Medicine, she became the first Hispanic woman to serve as chair in 2010.
Lage maintains an important relationship with The Honors College at MDC, where she enjoys mentoring the next generation of doctors. She talks to students about careers in medicine, invites them to regional Latino medical conferences and offers them the opportunity to shadow her.
“It’s been a very nice partnership in terms of giving back,” she said. “I seek to inspire other minority students and immigrants who can’t see themselves going to college.”
MDC Medical Leaders
Hundreds of distinguished physicians began their challenging career paths at MDC. Some notable alumni include:
• Dr. Eduardo E. Acle, Medical Director, Miami Oncology Institute
• Dr. Isaac Bassan, Gastroenterologist, Bassan & Bloom M.D.s P.L.
• Dr. Francisco J. Batlle, Neurosurgeon, WellSpine Professional Association
• Dr. Hugo González, Chief Medical Officer, Sister Emmanuel Hospital
• Dr. Minh N. Ho, Fertility and Reproductive Specialist, Xpert Fertility Care of California
• Dr. Alberto Interián Jr., Director of Electrophysiology, Mercy Hospital
• Dr. Smith Joseph, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, Universal Medical Center
• Dr. Jack J. Michel, President and Chairman of the Board, Larkin Community Hospital
• Dr. Jorge Pastoriza,Cardiovascular Physician, Garcia & Pastoriza P.A.
• Dr. Leonel Pérez-Limonte, Neurologist, Bonati Spine Institute
• Dr. Ileana Piña, Associate Chief of Cardiology for Academic Affairs, Montefiore Medical Center
• Dr. Lázaro Priegues, Internal Medicine Private Practice
• Dr. Orlando Rodríguez, Associate Director of Hospitalists and Internal Medicine, Jackson Memorial Hospital
• Dr. Steven Vanni, Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurological Surgery and Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine