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Community profile: Miami, Florida

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Paul Katz, MD, represents the typical 21st century Miami resident. He spent a majority of his rheumatology career in Washington DC—and the new millennium brought an opportunity to take an administrative position as senior vice president and chief medical officer at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, Florida.

“I didn’t have any ties or connection to the area other than, like most people, spending time down here on meetings or vacation. But I liked the job and fell in love with what the area has to offer,” he says.

Dermatologist Loretta Ciraldo, MD, understands the attraction implicitly. She was a New Yorker for the first 30 years of her life, but moved to the beach when her husband accepted a two-year fellowship with the University of Miami. That was in 1983. “We were so lured by the tremendous opportunities of living here, we never left,” she says.

Both physicians found a Miami that contrasted with their perceptions. For starters, it’s no longer a place where the old folks go to spend their last days in the sun. Katz’s statistics reveal the mean age of residents in the Miami Beach section is a mere 40 years old—a far cry from the Medicare scene. “The resurgence of South Beach and the MTV Music Awards are now showing that this is a much younger and more vibrant community that it was years ago,” Katz says. “That was the biggest surprise to me.”

Ciraldo’s surprise came from a different angle. From watching hit prime-time dramas like Miami Vice and later CSI: Miami, she assumed the city was a danger zone. While the 2004 FBI Crime Report statistics do show Miami is worse than the national average in murders and robberies, it scores safer than average in rapes. And the average resident doesn’t have any of these statistics on his radar screen. “I feel very safe living here,” says Ciraldo.

Today, many of the physicians these professionals recruit to the area also arrive with a misperception of the ethnic mix. For one thing, physicians don’t need to speak Spanish to communicate with their patients. Katz admits he’s certainly tongue-tied when it comes to second languages. “It can be helpful, but there are a lot of very, very successful physicians here whose Spanish is non-existent,” he notes. “Fortunately, for those of us who are not conversant, the vast majority of Spanish-speaking people are very fluent in English. They can usually take care of those of us who don’t speak it so well!”

Of course, specific neighborhoods do look for specific bi-lingual candidates, says Martin Osinski, the president of Miami-based American Medical Consultants, a health-care recruitment and consulting firm, but in some cases French or Haitian is the magic word. That’s because Miami’s population roughly consists of one-third Caucasian, one-third Latin and one-third African American. Ciraldo is from an Italian background, and is proud to announce Miami-Dade County is home to 60,000 of her countrymen. “There’s a very nice mix of ethnicity,” she says.

City officials say all cultures are finding a niche in the area. For instance, the Royal Palm Crowne Plaza Resort, an oceanfront property opened in May 2002, is the first African-American owned and operated resort hotel in the United States. Urban Beach Week, held over Memorial Day weekend, transforms South Beach’s famous Art Deco district into a hip-hop paradise, while events like the Bahamas Goombay Festival bring the party—complete with costumed junkanoo groups—into Coconut Grove’s Grand Avenue streets for a week in June.

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Julie Sturgeon

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