He Sees a ‘Global Mission’

By Christine Morris

He Sees a ‘Global Mission’

By Christine Morris
Miller School M.D./M.P.H. graduate Daniel Baldor has found his calling as a Navy surgeon.

Daniel BaldorFor Daniel Baldor, who says he was “born into international medicine,” the groundbreaking M.D./M.P.H. program at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine was a perfect step on the path to his career destination: becoming a Navy surgeon.

Baldor, who begins a general surgery residency at the Naval Medical Center San Diego soon after receiving his Miller School degrees May 12, began his life on an Apache Indian reservation, where his father was a primary care doctor. His mother is a professor of nursing who took him to outreach projects she led in Belize, and they ended up helping with recovery in Thailand when the tsunami hit while they were there on vacation.

Those experiences, along with an undergraduate degree in political science and international relations from the University of Massachusetts in Boston, a post-baccalaureate pre-medical program at Harvard, and an internship with Physicians for Human Rights documenting Arab Spring violence against physicians and hospital patients, inspired Baldor’s determination to join the Navy as a surgeon.

“I truly believe in the vital role that the United States plays in supporting and defending freedom and democracy around the world,” he said. “And the public health component is important for the broader implication of what medicine can be used for. And for me, it’s that big floating hospital ship the Mercy.

“I see Navy medicine as something that is much beyond just hands on patients and our support of the warfighter – I also see the diplomatic mission, I see the global mission,” he said. “The Navy provides all the logistical support for every major catastrophic response globally. There is also a big role for public health in terms of disaster management.”

While moving to South Florida was a significant cultural shift for Baldor, who came from Worcester, Mass., he jumped into medical school and community service with commitment and passion. He helped establish a Gun Violence Research and Advocacy Program, talking with survivors at UM/Jackson’s Ryder Trauma Center and presenting information at public health conferences. He was involved in the Mitchell Wolfson Sr. Department of Community Service (DOCS), and he became a huge anatomy enthusiast.

He spent countless hours in the lab, and then kept going back to help with the anatomy classes.  “I feel inextricably drawn to the physicality,” he said. “I think that’s why I’m a surgeon – I’m a tactile person.”

Daniel M. Lichtstein, M.D., regional dean for medical education at the Miller School, said Baldor’s curiosity and innovation have earned him the respect and admiration of faculty and his classmates. “In any situation when you’re interacting with him, he is always seeking more – he’s never happy with the status quo,” Lichtstein said. “When you explain something, he’s always looking for more information.”

Lichtstein was particularly impressed by Baldor’s project with a fellow student to develop a series of faculty podcasts about core internal medicine topics to help third-year medical students with their oral exams. “He truly is a unique individual,” Lichtstein said.

He definitely is a driven individual. In a speech at a banquet celebrating the Miller School M.D./M.P.H. graduates at the regional campus in Palm Beach, Baldor talked about the extraordinary drive that brought him and his classmates to medical school. “We have a responsibility to take care of the population,” he said. “We have to own our position as leaders in shaping the future, especially in regard to health care.”

Baldor commissioned into the Navy in part to pay for medical school, “but for the first time in my life I feel like I’m where I’m meant to be,” he said. “I know that when I went to basic training, I belonged.

“I have found my calling.”