Dr. Michael Zinner can’t wait to work for the hospital that saved his mother’s life.
Her Kendall condominium was right next to the heating unit. When carbon monoxide poisoning set in, she was rushed to Baptist Hospital, where she recovered.
“I watched them take care of her,” Zinner said. “I knew they were a magnificent hospital that really cared about patients and families.”
Years later, after working at some of the nation’s top cancer centers as a researcher and surgeon, Zinner will return to his Florida roots as the founding CEO and executive medical director of the Miami Cancer Institute at Baptist Health South Florida. The $430 million cancer center is slated to open next year at Baptist Hospital; Zinner will start in early January.
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A graduate of Coral Gables High School and the University of Florida, where he received his medical degree in 1971, Zinner went on to Johns Hopkins Hospital for what he assumed to be two years. He entered Hopkins’ surgical residency program as one of about 22 interns, and didn’t expect to survive the “cut” that culled the intern ranks to three or four.
“The Gainesville people told me I’d be back in one or two years,” Zinner said. “And I was OK with that.”
He made the cut.
In fact, he would later become vice chair of Hopkins’ Department of Surgery and co-director of its Gastrointestinal Service. He then became chairman of the Department of Surgery at UCLA Medical School and Medical Center.
In 1994, he moved to Boston, where he chaired the department of surgery at Brigham and Women's Hospital. Zinner co-founded and co-directed the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He also served as clinical director for the Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center and spent time as Surgeon-in-Chief at Brigham and Women's Hospital.
He also founded Harvard’s Center for Surgery and Public Health and serves as the Moseley Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School.
His wife’s passing — from one of the very diseases he studies and operates on — moved Zimmer to find a way to make a bigger difference in the lives of his patients.
Baptist Health officials held a national search for the spot, interviewing 32 candidates from more than 200 who had applied.
“We’re just thrilled he decided to join us,” said S. Lawrence Kahn III, founding chairman of the board of directors for Miami Cancer Institute.
Kahn said the 395,000-square foot-MCI campus will have two buildings — one clinical, for chemotherapy treatments and doctors, and one for research — connected by a bridge to the main hospital.
Baptist’s new cancer center will also house the proton therapy building, which will open in 2017.
“It’s the highest tech radiation therapy unit that we currently have,” Zinner said. “It’s the only unit we know of south of Gainesville and north of Antarctica.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am to come home,” Zinner said.