Florencio A Nadal Alonso
Florencio A's Story
BRANDON - Two decades before Florencio Nadal opened his pediatrics practice in Brandon in 1978, he was a 10-year-old Cuban citizen. What transpired in the coming years helped define him, he said.
"I am what I am today because I lost a country," Nadal said. "I came to this country ready to go, ready to work. Too many Americans don't understand history or see the rest of the world clearly. They don't understand what we have here."
Nadal was raised in the town of Bejucal, south of Havana, where his father was a general practitioner.
"My great-grandfather was born in Asturias, in northern Spain," he said. "My grandfather was also a doctor."
After the Cuban revolution ended in 1959, Nadal's family faced increasing pressure because he treated people oppressed by the government of General Fulgencio Batista, who was ousted by Fidel Castro's guerilla movement.
"My father was involved in the anti-Batista underground," Nadal said. "He treated those beaten by Batista. But Castro took everything from my uncle and he was jailed, then my dad was put in jail for trying to help my uncle."
After the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, when Cuban exiles backed by the United States tried to overthrow Castro's government, Nadal's family made plans to leave.
In March 1962, Nadal was sent to safety.
"I came via Operation Peter Pan," he said, referring to the mass exodus of thousands of Cuban children after Castro took power. Nadal ended up in Des Moines and did not see his mother or sisters for three years.
"We moved to West Tampa in 1966, when my dad found work at the Centro Asturiano Hospital as an OR tech," he said.
Nadal was part of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Academy's last high school class in 1967, then attended the University of South Florida as a premed student before working at the Port of Tampa and a department store.
Once his direction was clear, Nadal studied at Hillsborough Community College and then the Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara in Mexico. He earned his medical degree in 1974 and stayed in Mexico to teach medicine for a year.
Nadal's training included an internship in northern Canada and a pediatric residency in Jacksonville arranged through the University of Florida.
Once his qualifications were complete, Nadal returned to Tampa. In 1978, he opened his practice in Brandon.
"There wasn't much here," Nadal said. "It took a long time to get going. My father was already a general practitioner in the area, so I often worked afternoons in his office."
Today, Nadal Pediatrics has two locations.
"I love taking care of kids," Nadal said. "I have a job I thoroughly enjoy."
He worries, though, about a disturbing trend.
"Children are too sedentary," he said. "We all are. Obesity is a nationwide epidemic, and type-two diabetes is widespread in children. The average child has disappeared in America. Kids in sports are all skinny; the others are fat. There's no in between."
Another of his concerns is America's obsession with the quick fix.
"People run to an after-hours clinic," Nadal said. "It's like going to a 7-Eleven instead of the grocery store. In pediatrics, it's important to have the same doctor all the way through. The relationship is important. But it's 'See me when I want to be seen, and see me fast.'"
Nadal also bristled about treatment.
"People like tests, procedures, fancy diagnosis," he said. "It sounds important. But ... the human body works. Vitamin C works. Hugging and kissing and chicken soup - they're all great treatments."
He also thinks parents are too anxious about vaccinations.
"People forget iron lungs for polio, sanitariums, the effects of smallpox," he said. "Many infectious diseases are no longer a danger. But we're seeing a tremendous fear of vaccinations. Parents all think autism is caused by vaccines, and they forget the benefits."
For relaxation, Nadal enjoys fishing, diving, reading, politics, coffee, the Florida Gators and history.
Would he like to return to Cuba someday?
"I'd like to see it again," he said. "But this is home. I'm an American!"
MEET FLORENCIO NADAL
OCCUPATION: Pediatrician, Nadal Pediatrics
LOCATIONS: 376 E. Bloomingdale Ave., 621 Victoria St., Brandon
BORN: Cuba, 1948
EDUCATION: OLPH Academy, Tampa; University of South Florida; Hillsborough Community College; Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara, Mexico; University of Florida
BECAME A U.S. CITIZEN: 1970
MOVED TO BRANDON: 1978
MARRIED: Marcia Rains-Nadal, 2007
CHILDREN: Frank, 27; twins, Bob and Eric, 23
CALL: (813) 681-7101
Derek Maul can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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