Dr. Cleide Suguihara, who helped save thousands of tiny lives in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Jackson Memorial Hospital, lost her own on Thursday to complications of breast cancer.
The director of Jackson’s Molecular and Cell Biology Neonatology Research Lab and an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, born Jan. 3, 1946, was 67.
Longtime friend and colleague Dr. Shahnaz Duara, the NICU’s medical director and a pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology professor at UM, said that Suguihara specialized in premature babies’ lung conditions and ran a lactation support group for mothers with preemies in the NICU.
“The thing that was so special about her in ICU environment, where it’s easy to covert patient into a set of numbers, was she really cared about the families, particularly the mothers,’’ Duara said.
She was usually given the most “difficult’’ parents, spent as much time talking with them as they needed, and would buy gifts for “her’’ babies, Duara said.
The daughter of Japanese Brazilians, Suguihara was born in Sao Paolo and came to Miami in 1983 after earning her PhD at the University of Sao Paulo Medical School and her medical degree at the University of Campinas Medical School.
Suguihara “dedicated her research, especially in her later years, to pulmonary vascular biology and stem cell research,’’ Duara said. “She also worked on blood supply to lungs in a model that could help newborns with broncho-pulmonary dysplasia.’’
She loved teaching, Duara said, and especially relished returning to “run courses in Brazil, particularly in research methodology...There are 100 fellows trained by her all over the world.’’
Suguihara launched a monthly lactation support group after learning that she has breast cancer nearly a decade ago, Duara said, deciding to focus on the “important’’ function of the breast rather than its problems. It proved so popular that it now meets weekly.
Suguihara is survived by relatives in Brazil, who will receive her ashes following funeral services at 3 p.m. on Tuesday at the Church of the Little Flower, 2711 Indian Mound Trail, Coral Gables.
Memorial donations may be sent to University of Miami Project: New Born, c/o Division of Neonatology, Department of Pediatrics (R-131), P.O. Box 016960, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, FL 33101, a foundation that supported Suguihara’s research.