In the early 1980s, the medical community was rocked by a series of articles in the Miami Herald on “Bad Doctors” who violated the public trust through a series of misdeeds including misrepresenting their qualifications, smuggling drugs or practicing without a license.
Then Gov. Bob Graham was moved to appoint a new board to the Florida Board of Medicine. One of the key men he tapped was Dr. Robert B. Katims, a president of the Dade County Medical Association and a Miami native since arriving from New York City at age 4 in 1933.
The new board stressed reform. Soon, Katims, who earned his medical degree at Washington University in St. Louis, became chairman of the Florida Board of Medical Examiners’ foreign medical graduates committee. In that role, the former U.S. Navy medical officer, tackled another growing problem.
In 1984, Katims, an endocrinologist who died at 85 on Aug. 4 in Coconut Grove, testified before a congressional subcommittee that Florida needed tougher laws to reject candidates who had not received proper training.
Katims, who practiced endocrinology from 1959 until his retirement in 1996, urged the state to decertify foreign schools whose curriculum did not meet state standards.
“I don’t know of any evidence of widespread fraud in Florida, but I don’t think we’re immune from that,” Katims said in a 1984 Miami Herald story.
At this time, Katims served in private practice and ran an endocrinology clinic for low-income patients at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
“I knew him not as a famous doctor, but as a man of decency and gentleness and great intellectual curiosity,” said David Lawrence Jr., an early childhood education advocate and former Miami Herald publisher. “He was a truly fine man.”
Joe Reisman grew up with Katims in Miami, lifelong friends since 1941, and both graduates from Miami Senior High School’s Class of 1946.
“One day in high school he came to me and had a book in his hand. He said, ‘You need to read this’ and he’s handing me a book with instructions. It was Les Misérables. That’s the kind of person he was: giving and thoughtful and caring. He had an intellect of great proportions,” Reisman said.
“I was part of that group,” Reisman’s wife of 67 years, Norma, added. “If you had him as a friend, you had a real good friend.”
Katims is survived by his sons Lee and Neil Katims, his sister Beverly Sturman, six grandchildren, one great-grandchild and his partner of 20 years Janet McAliley, a former member of the Miami-Dade County School Board. Services were held privately.
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