There will be “no losers” when the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce presents the Health Care Heroes® Awards at the annual luncheon on May 12. Since 1998, the Chamber has been hosting the Awards—designed to recognize professionals, institutions and others that have made an impact in the health care community. The Health Industry is one of the largest growth industries in the State of Florida and is a very important part of the economy, the infrastructure and, most importantly, the well-being of the area.

The Health Care Heroes Program is an extremely rewarding one for the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. Not only does the Chamber have the opportunity to recognize the talent and dedication of exemplary individuals, institutions and programs in the health care community, but it also is able to showcase these “best kept secrets” – these role models – in front of the business community and in front of the public at large.

The Health Care Heroes recognition program, however, was actually founded by AXA Advisors’ South Florida Branch (formerly Equitable), a financial services firm, several years prior to 1998. Luis Chiappy, Executive Vice President, Southern Division of AXA Advisors, LLC, explained how his organization became involved with the program: “We’ve always marketed to professionals,” he said. “We felt that because they run health programs and institutions, they should have the same financial planning tools as others. In working with them over the years, we developed a good relationship with them and saw what a tremendous job they’re doing. We felt many of them were heroes and were getting little recognition from the community, and we felt they should be recognized for the work they do.”

The result was that the branch cultivated a method of acknowledgement. As Felix Martinez, Marketing Director, describes, “In the early 1990s we developed our own recognition program with other sponsors. We did it for two years, in 1992 and 1993, and it was an outstanding success. But it was a full-time job and was unsustainable for us to continue to put together.”

He went on to say that the program was put on hiatus until 1998, when people from AXA Advisors attended a Goals Conference of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. Various committees were discussing what they would like to do the following year, and the Health Industry Group in particular said it would like to have a signature event. AXA stepped up. “We said we had held this Health Care Heroes event in the past,” Martinez said, “and the structure was in place. We just didn’t have the infrastructure. We trusted the Chamber to put on a first-class event. The first year we had a tremendous turnout. We were thrilled; it was a match made in heaven.”

Nominees, or Health Care Heroes, are recognized in six categories: Health Care Professional (includes such positions as physician, dentist, health care administrator, researcher, academic and inventor, among others); Nurse; Individual of Merit (board member, philanthropist, journalist, government official, etc.); Institution/Program (a hospital, organization, government agency, school, or association, or a program within one of those entities); Bio-Medical (any person whose work within the field has resulted in a breakthrough or major development in medicine); and Youth Volunteer (any student under the age of 19 who volunteers his or her services without solicitation or payment). The winner from the Youth Volunteer category receives a $1,000 scholarship sponsored by Miami Children’s Hospital; other winners receive a Waterford bowl and a plaque.

The criteria for nominees focuses on their acts of heroism which represent a display of dedication to excellence in their area of expertise beyond the scope of their jobs. Through their commitment to their profession and community, they serve as an inspiration to others in an effort to improve the quality of health care and to discover new ways to assist those in need.

In addition to the six general categories, AXA introduced a seventh in 2000 for Lifetime Achievement. This Award goes to an individual who, over his or her lifetime, has made a significant impact or changed history in the health care industry in South Florida. “This was probably the best idea of our partnership with the Chamber,” Martinez said. “They wanted to recognize someone, looking back over their entire career—someone who was well-respected and had made an awesome contribution to the community.”

Laraine Blessing, Vice President of Regional Business Development of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, explained the selection process: “In the six categories, three finalists are chosen in each,” she said. “We do a video on each nominee, and the person who nominates them is the person who talks about them on the video. We show the videos at the awards luncheon, and then the winner is announced.”

Tom Rozek, President and CEO of Miami Children’s Hospital, chaired the Health Care Heroes selection process in 2002 and 2003. He also served as Chairman of the Chamber’s Health Care Industry Group from July 2000 to July 2004, and he explained how the procedure works: “We find people in the Chamber—a few who know a lot about health care but also others from other industries, so we can take an unbiased approach to the applications. We get a broad representation of Chamber members involved in the Selection Committee.”

He said the Committee usually has seven people, two from health care and five from other industries. “Every Committee member gets a copy of the applications. There might be five or six for Lifetime Achievement, but the Institution or Program might have 15 to 20, and the Individuals could have 25 to 40.” The Committee members review them and then make their selections. “The Committee has a very tough job in trying to identify who’s the best,” Rozek emphasized.

Linda Quick, along with John Brant of Cordis, is serving as Co-Chair of this year’s Program. Quick, President of the South Florida Hospital & Healthcare Association since 1994, has been involved with the Program since its inception by AXA Advisors/Equitable in 1992.

In addition to honoring the Health Care Heroes, the luncheon features a keynote speaker. Previous speakers have included such notables as The Honorable Connie Mack, United States Senate; The Honorable Ron Silver, Florida Senate; and Donna Shalala, President, University of Miami and former Secretary of Health & Human Services under the Clinton Administration.

Sponsors for the 2005 event as of this writing are: AXA Advisors’ South Florida Branch, Founding Sponsor; AvMed Health Plan; Baptist Health South Florida; Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida; Broad & Cassel, Attorneys at Law; Cordis, a Johnson & Johnson Company; Miami Children’s Hospital; and the Pharmed Group.

Of AXA’s decision to entrust the Health Care Heroes Program to the Chamber, Martinez said, “It could not have turned out better. We did not want to do anything halfway. This is a win-win situation.”

All nominations must be received by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, February 21, 2005. Winners will be honored at the Awards Luncheon at noon on Thursday, May 12, Radisson Downtown Hotel, 1601 Biscayne Boulevard. For more information or for a nomination form, call Laraine Blessing at (305) 577-5462.

Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Health Care Heroes® Sponsorship

Being a Greater Miami Chamber Health Care Heroes® sponsor brings much recognition. The following list includes the benefits of being a sponsor:

  • Table of 10 at the Luncheon
  • Name/Logo on Invitation
  • Name/Logo on Nomination Form and Program
  • Name/Logo included in Video Presentation
  • Booth during Reception prior to Luncheon
  • Recognition from the Dias

If you are interested in joining the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s already prestigious list of sponsors, or if you would like additional information for the May 12, 2005 Health Care Heroes Awards luncheon, please contact Tania Valenzuela, (305) 577-5491, or Laraine Blessing, (305) 577-5462,