But with the Korean War looming, he registered at West Virginia University. His brother dreamed of becoming a doctor, so Sayfie chose pre-med. He graduated from West Virginia in 1956, and completed medical school at Washington University in St. Louis in 1960. He had residencies at Boston City Hospitals Harvard Medical School Service and the University Hospital of Cleveland. He joined Jackson Memorial Hospital in 1964.
Nothing saddened him more than his brothers death. Dr. Ernest Sayfie, the former chief of staff at Memorial Regional Hospital in Broward County, was known as the doctor to the stars. Among his patients: Frank Sinatra and Liza Minnelli. He died in 1998 from a heart attack following kidney surgery. He was 67.
I always knew that no matter what happened to me, I could go to my brother, Sayfie said. He was my backstop. Whenever I had a problem he was there. When he died, I became the backstop, and that is a big responsibility.
Sayfie joined Mount Sinai Medical Center in 2000, and UM in 2008. He has taught at UMs medical school and at Nova Southeastern University.
taught by example
He used to frown on minimalists, people who would just do the minimum to survive. He was demanding and taught us that you always want to do everything in your power to help your patients, said Dr. Alejandro Del Valle, 37. He taught by example. I always saw him go the extra step.
His four daughters Stephanie Sayfie-Aagaard, 42, Nicole Sayfie-Porcelli, 40, Lisa Sayfie-Ranawat, 39, and Amy Sayfie, 36 know firsthand about his teaching ways.
My dad used to tell us, Where there is a problem there is a solution. We used to have sessions, where he would sit us down and ask us how our day was and what we had learned that day, said Lisa Sayfie-Ranawat. He made us feel special and taught us the importance of communication, said Stephanie Sayfie-Aagaard, who writes a society column in Sundays Tropical Life.
The new facility is a testament to Sayfies attention to detail. The staff includes a specialist in cardiovascular genetics and another in plastic surgery.
Gene has spent his professional career making all patients feel like VIPs, and this pavilion for excellence in patient care officially marks the culmination of his vision for personalized treatment, said UM President Donna E. Shalala.
Feel of a spa
The pavilions lobby has the feel of a spa, with dark wood tables, cozy white chairs and orchids. For Sayfie, relaxation and stress management are equally important to mending a person.
Patients need our time and attention. Some may view my approach as inefficient but we cannot forget that we are dealing with peoples lives here, not numbers, he said.
Near his consultation room hangs a Romero Britto portrait of him. The bright colors highlight his small glasses and smile.
He is an old-school doctor. These days no one makes themselves available 24/7, said Madeleine Arison. About 17 years ago, she and her husband, Miami Heat owner Micky Arison, found it odd that Sayfie would answer his patients calls during their consultation. Then we realized that it could easily be us calling.