By Lois Thomson

Rafael J. Fernandez, Jr., comes from a family of physicians – he’s the grandson of a physician, and the son and the nephew of one. In addition, his brother, spouse, and one son are all physicians. (He also pointed out he is equally proud of his other son, who is an attorney in Miami.) But while some offspring might feel pressured into following in the family footsteps, that wasn’t the case with Dr. Fernandez. As he commented, “I think it was in the genes, but I’m most fortunate, my family didn’t force me into medicine, it was my own choice.”

No, Dr. Fernandez wasn’t forced but rather has shown a love for the profession, as evidenced by the fact that he took over as president of the Dade County Medical Association in June. He said that process began a few years prior when he was invited to be a representative from the South District for the DCMA. “I came on board during a time of transition,” he said; and during that time a few highly qualified directors, along with several top physicians and leaders, “really re-energized this organization. That motivated me to continue.”

He appreciates the opportunities the association has provided, such as participating in the Physician Leadership Academy, which he said exposed him to an area not normally received in medical education and training. The continuing medical education (CME) programs that allow physicians to maintain their licensure in Florida have also been expanded. Additionally, the organization’s journal was reborn as a peer review journal, Miami Medicine, allowing both students and residents, as well as physicians, to publish their research to educate the patients, community in general, and physicians.

Finally, Dr. Fernandez said he would be remiss not to recognize the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic the past two years, which has been stressful to everyone associated with healthcare. The DCMA sought to get Personal Protective Equipment for family members of physicians who were on the front lines, taking care of the sick but then going home and possibly exposing their own family. “They were able to get a grant to manage some things like that for family members. The physical and mental health of physicians has also been taxed as a result of the pandemic, something DCMA is assisting physicians with through the development of a Wellness Program. Those kinds of accomplishments are what really motivated me to continue forward in this organization.”

For those reasons, Dr. Fernandez stated some of the things he hopes to accomplish as president: “I’d like to reach out to both members and physicians who are not members. To the physicians who are not members, I’d like to highly encourage them to join. For members, I want to make clear that I am not the DCMA; I have just been provided the privilege and the responsibility to sit in this position for one year. But the real DCMA are the members; and as members, our goal is to help physicians in Dade County address challenges that we face, to help educate the public and the legislature – regardless of party – and guide medicine in the county so that we can provide the best quality care for our patients and advocate for them in their times of need.

“I will do my best to get the message out there, to both the public and physicians, and encourage them to be active members in this organization.”

With all of the benefits of being a member, why wouldn’t the medical community want to join? Dr. Fernandez said sometimes people may not be aware of the organization. “Unfortunately, medicine is complex, there are a lot of moving parts, and it creates a lot of challenges. Commitment to the delivery of healthcare eats up a lot of our time, more so now than it did 50 years ago.” He said one way to attract people who have been on the fence is to continue offering enhancements such as the Miami Medicine journal, providing CMEs so they can see the value of membership, and showing them the opportunities that are available, because Dade County is such a diverse community.

While Dr. Fernandez realizes the benefit of being part of such an organization, he emphasizes the support he has received along the way. “I want to make sure I point out that where I am today probably has more to do with the love and support I’ve had from my family, friends, and colleagues in South Florida. I also need to recognize my dedicated staff, who help me run a solo practice here in Coral Gables.”

The DCMA can provide similar support as well.

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