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FIU professor and humanitarian Dr. Pedro José “Joe” Greer to receive Presidential Medal of Freedom


greer-portraitDr. Pedro José “Joe” Greer, chair of the Department of Humanities, Health & Society at the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, has been chosen by President Barack Obama to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest recognition given to civilians by the United States.

“I am deeply humbled by this incredible honor,” said Greer, who will accept the award at a White House ceremony on August 12. “I love medicine and what it can do for our community, particularly those in need. This is our country, this is our community and it’s our responsibility as physicians to make sure we take care of those who need it most.”

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is designed to recognize individuals who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

Greer has pioneered medical delivery and education in areas of homelessness, poverty and its relationship to policy and ethics in medicine. At the FIU Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, he is the chair of the Department of Humanities, Health & Society, which incorporates ethics, medicine and society and family medicine in concert with the College of Medicine’s unique curriculum.

That curriculum, called NeighborhoodHELP™ (Health Education Learning Program) and operated under the Green Family Medicine & Society Program, will place each medical student in a team that will include students from nursing, social work, public health, and others. Each medical student will spend three years working with a household in North Miami-Dade County. The interdisciplinary cooperation is similar to the model that is taking shape in modern medicine, as doctors collaborate with counterparts, such as social workers, to address a patient’s needs.

“Our students will have the privilege of learning about the social aspects of medicine from a recognized leader in this field,” said Wertheim College of Medicine Dean John Rock. “The energy and the vision of professors like Dr. Greer will inspire our students and propel this young college of medicine into a leadership position on the national stage.”

The Wertheim College of Medicine welcomes its first class of 43 students on Monday, Aug. 3.

President Obama on Thursday praised Greer and his fellow honorees for “their relentless devotion to breaking down barriers and lifting up their fellow citizens.”

“These outstanding men and women represent an incredible diversity of backgrounds.  Their tremendous accomplishments span fields from science to sports, from fine arts to foreign affairs,” said President Obama in a statement. “Yet they share one overarching trait: Each has been an agent of change.  Each saw an imperfect world and set about improving it, often overcoming great obstacles along the way.”

Added FIU President Modesto A. Maidique, “Dr. Greer represents the best that our community has to offer. This great honor is testament to the caliber of doctors that FIU’s Wertheim College of Medicine has attracted. We are honored to call Dr. Greer one of our own.”

Greer has been awarded the prestigious MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, the Doctor of the Year for Teaching by the Magazine Hippocrates, and has received the Presidential Service Award from Presidents Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Jimmy Carter. Dr. Greer also was named the Health Care Hero of the Americas by Pan American Health Organization in Washington DC in 2005. He has advised both the Bush Sr. and Clinton Administration in issues of healthcare and poverty. He has published articles ranging from digestive and liver disorders to policy and poverty in America, as well as the book, Waking Up in America.

He did his undergraduate studies at the University of Florida and earned his medical degree from the Pontifica Universidad Madre y Maestra in Santiago, Dominican Republic. Greer did his internship, residency and was Chief Medical resident at JMH/ VA in Miami as well as two fellowships in Gastroenterology and Hepatology there. He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and the American College of Gastroenterology.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Greer will participate in a conference call with Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) at 2 p.m. The call will be in Spanish. To dial in, call 1-866-909-2663, access code 2395494.

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About the FIU Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine:
The College of Medicine was approved in 2006 by the Florida Board of Governors and the Florida Legislature.  In 2008, it received preliminary accreditation by the Liaison Committee for Medical Education of the AAMC and will admit its first class in the fall of 2009. Among the innovative elements of the FIU College of Medicine is a program called NeighborhoodHELP, which will send medical students along with their counterparts in social work, nursing and public health, into the community from the onset of their academic programs. The FIU College of Medicine is expected to have a multi-billion-dollar economic impact on Miami-Dade County, bringing thousands of jobs to the area and eventually contributing millions to the state coffers every year. For more information visit http://medicine.fiu.edu/

About FIU:
Florida International University was founded in 1965 and is Miami’s only public research university. With a student body of more than 38,000, its 17 colleges and schools offer more than 200 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs in fields such as engineering, international relations and law. FIU has been classified by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching as a “High Research Activity University” and now qualifies as a “Very High Research University”.  In 2006 FIU was authorized to establish a medical school, which will welcome its first class in August 2009. FIU’s College of Law received accreditation in the fastest time allowed by the American Bar Association.