Our History

The DeWitt Daughtry Family Department of Surgery History


Historical interest in development or events often relates to their ancient nature but such is not true of the Department of Surgery, the University of Miami School of Medicine, Jackson Memorial Hospital or South Florida. It is their youth that is impressive. One need only consider the size and international statue of the Department of Surgery and the Medical School and the fact that we are celebrating only our 50th anniversary, to recognize the truly remarkable nature of this development.

City of Miami:

Being a mosquito infested mangrove swamp, with no deep water port, railroad, or air conditioning, the development of Miami (South Florida) lagged behind much of the nation.

WIth the extension of the Florida East Coast railroad system from West Palm Beach to Miami, things changed rapidly. One consequence of these changed was the construction of the first hospital in Miami. As remote as it may seem, the seed was now planted for the development of a University Department of Surgery.

First hospital (Hospital for Epidemics)

1869: First train entered Miami.

Florida East Coast Railway Hospital:

In 1905 Henry Flagler opened a hospital in downtown Miami for his Florida East Coast Railroad employees. A year later, the hospital was closed and converted into an apartment building.

Henry Flagler

Railroad employees

Railroad Hospital

Friendly Hospital:

In 1909 the Friendly Hospital, located on Biscayne Boulevard and NE 8th Street, opened its doors. In 1911, this 180 bed facility would change its name to Miami City Hospital. Interestingly, the building on the left was leased in order to have more rooms to accommodate patients.

Friendly Hospital

The New Miami City Hospital:

On June 25, 1918, a new Miami City Hospital opened on 10th Avenue and 17th Street. This hospital would later be named Jackson Memorial Hospital in honor of Dr. James Jackson – a pioneer Miami physician. A major concern was that the hospital was too far away from the city.

New Miami City Hospital

University of Miami School of Medicine:

After much harangue over where to locate the state’s only Medical School, Miami was chosen and the first class admitted in 1952. A major factor in this decision was the attractiveness of JMH as the teaching institution.

First Medical School Class

University of Miami

Medical School

Chairman History

W. C. Jones, Jr., M.D. (1920-1954) – Jackson Memorial Hospital Department of Surgery:

While the details of its early development are missing, it is known that a Department of Surgery at JMH was established in the 1940’s with Dr. Walter Jones, a local practitioner, appointed Chief. This evolved into four major services with Drs. Joe Stuart, John Turner, Tom Otto, and Walter Jones as service Chiefs.

A University Department of Surgery:

The Department of Surgery at JMH had been staffed by local surgeons, under the direction of Dr. Jones for over 25 years and the city had continued to grow to a population of 172,000 residents. Associated with this, Jackson had grown into a major facility with 600 beds and the Medical School was established. The stage was set and the three major players were in place for the development of a University Department.

W. C. Jones, Jr., M.D.

John J. Farrell, M.D. (1954-1961) – Department is Formally Established:

In 1954 the University Department of Surgery was formally organized with Dr. John Farrell appointed as its first Chairman. He continued as chairman until 1961.

At this point in time, most surgery departments included many specialties organized into divisions rather than departments. The first order of business for Dr. Farrell was appointing Chiefs of these various divisions. General Surgery was divided into four services with a Chief on each. Active research programs were added procuring several NIH grants. The Surgical Training Program was reorganized and research opportunities provided. Many community surgeons remained active teachers during this period.

Department of Surgery Divisions:

  • General Surgery
  • Otolaryngology
  • Orthopedics
  • Urology
  • Neurosurgery
  • Cardiac

Dr. David Reynolds served at Interim Chairman until 1963.

John J. Farrell, M.D.

W. Dean Warren, M.D. (1963-1971) – Department is Reorganized:

Dr. W. Dean Warren, a native Floridian born at Jackson Memorial, was appointed Chairman in 1963. He resigned in 1971 to accept the position of Chairman at Emory. During this period, the department was extensively reorganized. Several divisions were granted departmental status. Plastic and Cardiothoracic Surgery remained in the Department of Surgery. Several new divisions were established. The VAMC became an integrated teaching facility. Research activities increased in numerous areas gaining an international reputation in the field of portal hypertension with the development of the Distal Splenorenal Shunt.

Division Granted Departmental Status:

  • Otolaryngology
  • Orthopedics
  • Urology
  • Neurosurgery

New Divisions Established:

  • Tissue Bank
  • Veteran Administration Medical Center
  • Transplant
  • Intensive Care

W. Dean Warren, M.D.

Robert Zeppa, M.D. (1971-1993) – A Long Reign:

Dr. Robert Zeppa was appointed Chairman in 1971. He continued as Chairman until his death in 1993. Dr. Zeppa, who had been appointed Chief of Surgery at the VAMC in 1965, was involved in much of the development during the Warren years, and thus the transition was quite smooth. The department continued to expand and 5 new divisions added. The residency complement was increased from 5 to 6 chief positions. A major development was completion of the Ryder Trauma Center, spearheaded by Dr. Zeppa, in 1992. The department continued to gain international recognition with representation in many of the most prestigious surgical organizations in the world.

Divisions Established:

  • Hyberberic Medicine
  • Surgical Oncology
  • Oral Surgery
  • Trauma/ICU
  • Colon & Rectal
  • Vascular

Robert Zeppa, M.D.

Ryder East Wing

Joseph A. Moylan, M.D. (1994-1997):

Dr. Joseph A. Moylan, Professor of Surgery at Duke University, was appointed Chairman in 1994. During his tenure, the Department of Surgery administration was reorganized and two Service Chiefs appointed. He continued as Chairman until 1997.

Joseph A. Moylan, M.D.

In 1999, the Department’s name was changed to “DeWitt Daughtry Family Department of Surgery” in recognition of the innumerable contributions of Dr. Daughtry and his family to the Department of Surgery over many years.

Alan S. Livingstone, M.D. (2000-2015)

After completing his education at McGill University in Montreal Canada and much of his residency training at Montreal General Hospital, Dr. Alan Livingstone joined the University of Miami Department of Surgery in 1976 as Assistant Professor of Surgery. He was appointed Chairman in March 2000. The transition was smooth since he had completed part of his residency at Jackson Memorial Hospital, served as Vice Chairman from 1994-1997 and Interim Chairman from 1997-2000. Major changes during his tenure have included an increase in number of faculty, an increase in research and technical training and an increase in number of cases.

Alan S. Livingstone, M.D., Professor, Department of Surgery

Omaida C. Velazquez, M.D. (2015 – Present)

Omaida C. Velazquez, M.D., F.A.C.S., was appointed Professor and Chair, DeWitt Daughtry Family Department of Surgery in August 2015. Previously, she was Professor and Chief and the David Kimmelman Endowed Chair in Vascular and Endovascular Surgery at the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. Currently, she is also Surgeon-in-Chief-for UHealth, Jackson Health System and University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. She is a member of the American Surgical Association (ASA), an elite group composed of the nation’s most prominent surgeons from the country’s leading academic medical institutions.

Dr. Velazquez’s current research focuses on further understanding and advancing new treatments for lower extremity arterial occlusive disease and diabetes-related wound healing defects. Dr. Velazquez is the Principal Investigator of a NIH-funded basic science laboratory that investigates endothelial cell biology, angiogenesis, and vasculogenesis. Her clinical expertise focuses on endovascular and other minimally invasive approaches in the surgical treatment of vascular diseases. She has extensive expertise in both open and endovascular repair of abdominal aortic aneurysms, open and endovascular treatments for carotid, mesenteric, and renal stenosis and novel treatments for critical limb ischemia.

In addition to her roles as a surgeon and a scientist, Dr. Velazquez served as the Executive Dean of Research, Research Education and Innovative Medicine for the Miller School of Medicine. Under her leadership, investigators across campus saw the clinical research infrastructure enhanced, administrative processes de-mystified and interdepartmental communications increased.

Dr. Velazquez obtained her B.S. from Stevens Institute of Technology in 1987 and obtained M.D. degree from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, New Jersey Medical School graduating Valedictorian in her class of 1991. She completed her post-graduate training in General and Vascular Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania. In addition to her clinical training, she pursued additional years in research and was the recipient of the 1997 Jonathan E. Rhoads Research Award. She received the von Liebig Foundation Award for Excellence in Vascular Surgical Research (2001), the University of Pennsylvania Center of Excellence Faculty Scholar Award (2002), and the Joel J. Roslyn Faculty Research Award (2003). Before joining the Miller School of Medicine, Dr. Velazquez served on the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania for eight years and became an Associate Professor with tenure.

Omaida C. Velazquez, M.D.
Omaida C. Velazquez, M.D.

Announcement of Dr. Velazquez’s appointment as chair of the DeWitt Daughtry Family Department of Surgery:


Dr. Omaida C. Velazquez Named Chair of Department of Surgery

Omaida C. Velazquez, M.D., professor of surgery, radiology, and biochemistry and molecular biology, and David Kimmelman Endowed Chair in Vascular and Endovascular Surgery, has been named Chair of the DeWitt Daughtry Family Department of Surgery at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, after a thorough search that reviewed the most talented leaders in the surgical field in the U.S.

For the past three years, Velazquez has served as the Executive Dean for Research, Research Education and Innovative Medicine, overseeing the efforts of hundreds of investigators who are working to unlock the mysteries of biomedical science.

“Omaida is an outstanding clinical surgeon who, at the same time, brings an extraordinary academic talent as a researcher and educator,” said Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the Miller School of Medicine and CEO of UHealth. “At every step of her career, she has always delivered at the highest level — as valedictorian of her medical school, throughout her training at the University of Pennsylvania, and thereafter as Miller School of Medicine faculty and then Chief of the Vascular Surgery Division in the Department of Surgery, and with her grants that are ranked by her peers in the top percentile of her discipline.

“Omaida is taking on the leadership of a department that was transformed by the past chair, Dr. Alan S. Livingstone. Omaida will build on that foundation and make it the best department of surgery in the country. She is also the first ‘Surgeon-in-Chief’ for UHealth – the University of Miami Health System, a recognition not only of the maturation of our health system, but also of her extraordinary leadership. In partnership with Jackson Health System, Omaida’s department will contribute to elevating all departments of surgery in South Florida, to the benefit of our patients here and throughout the Americas.”

“Omaida is both a talented clinician and a wonderful human being,” said Joe Natoli, Interim Chief Operating Officer of UHealth and Senior Vice President for Business and Finance and CFO. “She treats patients and colleagues with extraordinary skill and deep compassion. It’s those attributes that will make her the next great leader of the Department of Surgery.”

Velazquez has served on the Miller School faculty since 2007, when Livingstone recruited her to the University of Miami from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, where she was associate professor of surgery.

“At the time, our Division of Vascular Surgery was in disarray,” said Livingstone. “After a national search, I was able to recruit a young, enthusiastic, inspirational woman who I knew would become a national leader. Since Omaida’s arrival, she has fulfilled my every expectation and demonstrated that she is a true triple threat — a busy clinician, a sought-after educator and an NIH-funded researcher — which is something exceedingly uncommon in surgeons. After another national search, Omaida has once again emerged as the best candidate — this time to lead the Department of Surgery — and it makes me proud that I was the one with the foresight to bring her to our medical center. I have no doubt that she will do a wonderful job, as she always has in the past. I am confident and delighted to have her take the lead of our great department.”

“Dr. Velazquez brings an impressive combination of clinical, academic, research and leadership skills to this position,” said Carlos A. Migoya, President and CEO of Jackson Health System. “She is the right leader to take this team of highly skilled surgeons to new levels in achieving medical firsts and world-class medical care at Jackson Health System.”

Velazquez anticipates making important contributions to the field of surgery in her new position.

“Academic surgery in the United States is facing some significant challenges in its ability to promote education, to promote research, and to bring the latest technologies and innovations into the clinical arena for patients,” she said. “A chair of surgery has the ability to lead in a direction that overcomes those challenges, that turns the challenges into opportunities and inspires the next generation of surgeons.”

Velazquez’s clinical practice focuses on endovascular and other minimally invasive approaches in the surgical treatment of vascular diseases. She has extensive expertise in both open and endovascular repair of abdominal aortic aneurysms, open and endovascular treatments for carotid, mesenteric and renal stenosis, and novel treatments for critical limb ischemia.

For her, the real focus of medicine is the patient.

“Our patients are the reason why we are all here,” she said. “They are the reason why we train the next generation, why we do the research looking for the next cure or the next innovation in care. Our patients are the South Florida community and the extended communities of the Caribbean and the Americas. It is our responsibility to bring them state-of-the-art surgical care. They shouldn’t have to think about going to other health centers in the United States. They should be able to find centers of excellence for whatever illness they have, whether common or rare, right here at the University of Miami, within the Jackson Health System, or at the Miami Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Such an alliance of primary and tertiary care with academic medicine is very powerful.”

As chair of surgery, Velazquez is one of the few women, and the only Hispanic woman, at a U.S. medical institution to hold that position.

“She is the first Hispanic woman to chair a U.S. department of surgery, and I am proud that 20 percent of our chairs at the Miller School of Medicine are women, twice what it was nine years ago when I joined the Miller School,” said Goldschmidt. “This is contrary to what the opportunities are for women at many other institutions. In fact, the Society of Surgical Chairs, a unit of the American College of Surgeons, reports that only 11 of its 177 members, including interim and acting chairs, are women.”

Velazquez’s current research focuses on further understanding and advancing new treatments for atherosclerosis, lower extremity arterial occlusive disease and diabetes-related wound healing defects. She is the Principal Investigator of an NIH-funded basic science laboratory that investigates endothelial cell biology, angiogenesis and vasculogenesis.

“Omaida is a highly intelligent, thoughtful and careful leader who never makes decisions hastily, and always puts the interests of her patients, students and faculty above her own,” said Sylvia Daunert, Ph.D., Pharm.D., M.S., Professor and Lucille P. Markey Chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Associate Director of the Dr. John T. Macdonald Biomedical Nanotechnology Institute. “She is not only a nationally recognized surgeon, but also an accomplished discovery scientist and a terrific role model for our students and faculty alike. Despite her numerous accolades, Omaida is very humble and a team player. Under her leadership, our research enterprise has navigated very well and continued to grow, despite the difficult funding environment. Through her hard work and solid leadership, Omaida has gained the trust and admiration of both clinical and discovery scientists at the Miller School of Medicine. I am proud to be her collaborator and friend, and elated to now count her among my chair colleagues.”

Under Velazquez’s leadership, investigators across campus have seen the clinical research infrastructure enhanced, administrative processes de-mystified and interdepartmental communications increased.
“Omaida has worked tirelessly on behalf of the Miller School of Medicine since her arrival, making contributions as a clinician, researcher and administrator,” said John L. Bixby, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology and neurological surgery, and Vice Provost for Research. “As Executive Dean, she has been a strong partner and a genuine advocate for clinical research, providing thoughtful guidance and support for the Clinical and Translational Science Institute, and taking the lead in strengthening our research programs at Jackson Memorial Hospital. Her appointment as Chair of the Department of Surgery is a natural progression, and will take advantage of both her natural abilities and the skills she has honed at the Miller School.”

Velazquez says that advances in research and health care management are causing the traditional role of the surgeon to evolve in many ways.

“We have moved from the classic model of one-on-one care to a team approach,” she said. “Over the next decade, surgeons will be part of teams that lead advances in quality, advances in satisfaction and advances in population health management. I love the idea of being part of all that in a leadership role.”

Velazquez is a prodigious scholar who is the author of 20 book chapters and monographs, more than 100 juried or refereed journal articles or exhibitions, and nearly 100 exhibitions or abstracts. She has received 35 funded research grants. She sits on the editorial boards of three academic journals and serves as an external peer reviewer for 26 more. She belongs to numerous professional societies, including the American Surgical Association, an elite group composed of the nation’s most prominent surgeons from the leading academic medical institutions. Her more than 35 honors and awards include the Julius A. Mackie Distinguished Graduate Award, given earlier this year by the University of Pennsylvania.

A native of rural Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Velazquez and her family emigrated to the U.S. during the Mariel exodus in 1980. When she arrived, Velazquez was 14 and spoke no English, yet she had dreamed of becoming a physician since she was a small girl. If the odds were somewhat long that she would be a renowned surgeon and department chair at a major medical school 35 years later, Velazquez countered them with her characteristic focus, quiet determination and good luck in finding teachers and mentors along the way who recognized her abilities and helped her along.

Velazquez’s family settled in Union City, New Jersey, then the second-largest Cuban settlement in the U.S. outside of Miami. A bilingual program at the local high school enabled her to start in the same grade she would have been enrolled in back in Cuba. A sympathetic physics teacher, Nadia Makar, steered her through extra English, math and science courses, including summer classes, and then to the Stevens Institute of Technology, where Velazquez, who initially majored in chemical engineering, continued to double up in science courses until she was qualified to transfer to pre-med.

Velazquez was accepted by New Jersey Medical School on a scholarship, graduating first in her class four years later. That was followed by an internship, residency, research fellowship and vascular surgery fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania. She joined the faculty at Penn — the first female vascular surgeon it had ever hired — in 1999.

Velazquez is married to Romulo M. Cuy, M.D., a pediatric anesthesiologist at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami (they matched together at Penn). They have two children, Jimmy, now 21 and a senior at Caltech majoring in electrical engineering, and Julia, now 8.

To read the announcement in its original form please click here