When Michael Zinner ’67 arrived in Miami on March 1 as the founding CEO and executive medical director of the brand-new Miami Cancer Institute, it was both a homecoming for the South Florida native and the culmination of a celebrated medical career rooted in the inquiry-based approaches he first learned as an electrical engineering major at the Whiting School.
MCI, which joined the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Alliance in February, is the state-of-the-art result of a decision made several years ago by Baptist Health South Florida to consolidate ambulatory and inpatient cancer care on its flagship Baptist Hospital campus. When the first patients arrive around the end of 2016, they will have access to high-tech therapies, like proton-beam radiation, MSK’s clinical trials, and the best care possible, Zinner says.
“It is the goal, over time, to build that cancer center into the destination cancer center for Florida, Latin America, and the Caribbean,” he says.
Zinner describes a straight path from his foundation in engineering to his career in surgery. “It taught me linear thinking, problem-solving, and a metered approach to problems that would stay with me the rest of my life. I applied that approach to medicine, and that is how I ultimately ended up in surgery. Surgery is essentially problem-solving,” he says.
Following his engineering degree, Zinner earned an MD from the University of Florida and completed his surgical residency at the Johns Hopkins Hospital (1971–80). He served on the faculty at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and Kings County Hospital, where he became chief of surgical oncology.
He returned to Johns Hopkins as vice chair of the Department of Surgery (1985–88), became chair of the Department of Surgery and then dean for clinical affairs at UCLA, and was then named chair of the Department of Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where he served from 1994 until he moved back to Florida—one neighborhood over from his childhood home.