National Hispanic leader and philanthropist, Dr. Salomon Melgen received the ”Lifetime Honorary Member Award,” from the Dominican Healthcare Association of Florida, during the fundraiser Gala “Noche en Honor al Médico Dominicano” at the historic Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Fla., Friday night.
VOXXI chairman and co-Founder, Melgen was honored on the basis of his professional achievements, personal contribution to the association and service to the community at large.
“The journey to get here tonight has not been an easy one. When I came to the United States from the Dominican Republic, I faced many challenges. I did not speak the language and I was also discriminated against for being Hispanic,” said Melgen, during his acceptance speech. “But when one door closes, another one opens. We must learn how to fight and be persistent. It is the only secret to success in life.”
And success he’s had in everything he’s set his mind and heart to.
Soon after completing his training at Harvard University in 1986, Melgen, who was born and raised in Dominican Republic and experienced first hand the struggles of being an immigrant, became the first surgeon to perform outpatient retina surgery in South Florida, and became a pioneer in laser therapy.
In 1988, the doctor founded Vitreo Retinal Consultants, which at the time was affiliated to Harvard Medical School’s Schepens Eye Research Institute (the largest independent eye research institute in the United States). Together they conducted successful research leading to the use of the Scanning Laser Ophthalmoscope (SLO), which became the basis of the development of instruments that are currently utilized to diagnose and treat retina-related diseases.
“He’s well recognized not only in Florida, but in the whole country for his treatments for eye diseases,” said Daisy J. Baez, founder and executive director of the Dominican Health Care Association, who added that, with the award, they wanted to recognize Melgen’s significant contributions to the medical profession as well as express gratitude for his support to the association.
“Dr. Melgen attended our very first meeting,” Baez said. “He listened to our ideas and provided encouragement, feedback and guidance. He made us believe our cause was worthy and his input has been always very valuable.”
Patient’s interests at heart
Beyond his pioneering work in the medical field, what sets Melgen apart from most other doctors is that he places the patient’s interest at heart, which has earned him four times the award as one of the United States’ most compassionate doctors.
The Compassionate Doctor Certification is part of the Patients’ Choice recognition program, where patients rate and vote for their favorite physicians. The award is presented to less than 6 percent of the nation’s 720,000 active physicians – Melgen is one of them. He received the Patients’ Choice Award in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.
“Treating patients, not just their disease,” has been Melgen’s motto. Add his kindness and the product is excellent health care.
Melgen is known for saying that he does not just follow standard treatment protocols; he prefers to take the time to get to know his patient and examine relevant data to make sure he chooses the best treatment, case by case.
Among his many other recognitions, Melgen has also been presented with the Community Service Award in 2010 by the Florida Society of Ophthalmology and was also the youngest recipient of the Medal of Duarte, Sanchez and Mella, the most prestigious award bestowed by the Dominican Republic Government for charity work.
In Florida, Melgen’s office, Melgen Vitreo Retina Eye Center, treats people suffering from age related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, detached retinas, torn retinas, flashes and floaters.
Because of his personal experiences when he arrived to the United States, and thanks to his philanthropist heart, Melgen has been restless in his efforts to help the Hispanic community in the country.
“We are currently facing the civil rights movement of our time. We have to stand up and fight against discrimination and those that portray Latinos in a negative way,” said Melgen during last night’s ceremony. “That’s why I founded VOXXI, a news site for Latinos by Latinos. It has been a long-time dream of mine.”
Having an outlet like VOXXI, with no boundaries, no limits or constraints, said Melgen, is a unique opportunity to feature Hispanics without the veil of stereotypes, as well as to talk about their varied interests, including important health issues affecting the Hispanic community.
And it was among his medical and Hispanic peers, that on Friday night Melgen received the Lifetime Honorary Member Award from the hands of his colleague Dr. Rolando Grillo.
“I am very grateful to everyone for their continued support in this incredible journey,” he said. “It is truly an honor to receive this award from my colleagues who I also call my friends.”
Established in Jan. 2011 the Dominican Health Care Association of Florida, has the goal of promoting a support system among Dominican medical doctors. The majority of its 80 active members are doctors, but dentists, nurses and physician assistants have also joined. Most of them were present last night to celebrate the life and work of Melgen.