A press note announcing the appointment of Dr. Henri R. Ford as president of the American College of Surgeons described him as a “world-renowned pediatric surgeon, prolific physician-scientist and dean and chief academic officer of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.” It left out one visible attribute, however: a devotion to bow ties, backed up by the doctor having more bow ties than a year has days.
Dr. Ford was installed as 104th president of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) on Sunday, Oct. 22.
The pediatric surgeon told Miami Today that he abandoned long ties in the 1980s. “There is something about bow ties that is quite distinguishing,” he said, adding that the decision was influenced by seeing doctors with their long ties sometime flopping down on patients.
But while the doctor points to the 1980s as the beginning of his bow tie devotion, photographic evidence shows the surgeon sporting a bow tie as far back as a 7-year-old.
ACS Clinical Congress is one of the largest educational meetings of surgeons in the world. Dr. Ford asserted that a “bold and courageous embrace of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives helps surgeons fulfill their mission of ensuring better outcomes for all patients.”
“I believe that we are stronger and more vibrant today because of our intentional efforts, but the quest for health equity is far from over,” he said. “We must commit to the relentless pursuit of inclusive excellence, to ensure better outcomes for all patients.”
Speaking of outcomes, bow ties became “a meaningful gift from coworkers,” Dr. Ford told Miami Today. He keeps a “rotation of 50 to 80 that I regularly update for the seasons, holidays and special occasions.”
For readers keeping a fan scrapbook, the surgeon’s favorite colors are green and orange, coincidentally the school colors of the University of Miami.
He is past president of the Society of Black Academic Surgeons, the Association for Academic Surgery, the Surgical Infections Society, and the American Pediatric Surgical Association.
“Under Dr. Ford’s leadership,” the release said, “the Miller School has increased its research funding from the National Institutes of Health from $128 million in 2018 to more than $175 million in 2022.”
Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Dr. Ford was the sixth of nine children. The family moved to Brooklyn, NY, when he was 13. He excelled in high school, the UM release said, and received a full scholarship to Princeton University.
He graduated cum laude from Princeton in 1980 with a bachelor of arts degree in public and international affairs, then earned his medical degree from Harvard Medical School.
Dr. Ford is an internationally recognized authority on necrotizing enterocolitis, a lethal disease that causes inflammation of intestinal tissue in premature infants.
In 2010, he traveled back to his home country on an emergency mission to care for survivors following a devastating earthquake. The doctor “regularly returns to Haiti to teach, lead surgical teams, and provide medical assistance,” the release said.
In his humble acceptance speech Sunday, Dr. Ford said he was born to a “dynamic preacher, Guillaume Ford, and a prayer warrior,” his mother, Jeanne Jean-Louis.
“I learned from my father, albeit the hard way,” he said, “that there is truly no satisfactory substitute for excellence.
“I chose to specialize in pediatric surgery because that’s the discipline where I felt that I could make the greatest difference.”
The surgeon thanked mentors and teachers going back to high school.
The 65-year-old doctor also thanked “the woman I have been fortunate to call my wife (Donna) for over 39 years, and the mother of our two beautiful children, Arielle, and Alex.
“Donna, I stand here today because of your sacrifice, unselfishness, dedication, patience, and enduring love,” the doctor said.
The Ford offspring are his daughter Arielle, now 31, and Alex, 28. Neither chose a medical career.
Defending his long-tie ban to Miami Today, Dr. Ford said “they got in the way during examinations and surgeries.” You can find a plethora of photos of the surgeon sporting a bow tie by entering his name in Google images.