Elixir Committee Member Mike Huber: Keeping the Heart in Healthcare

  • Mike Huber on a recent medical/public health mission in Panama

As you've probably heard, we're gearing up for Mazzoni’s annual fundraiser and celebration, Elixir: the Cure for the Common Gala, which will take place on Friday, May 20 at Jefferson University’s Lupert Plaza.  Last year this event was attended by nearly 400 people and raised more than $120,000 dollars to support Mazzoni’s continuum of health and wellness services for the LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities in the Philadelphia region. This year's event will raise funds toward the purchase and renovation of a new home for Mazzoni Center at Broad and Bainbridge Streets, where we are planning to move in and consolidate our operations under one roof in summer 2017.

 
Planning for an event like this takes a great deal of time and teamwork.  We sat down with Committee Member Mike Huber, who's been a longtime supporter of Mazzoni Center and other area nonprofits, to find out what drew him to be a part of this year's team.  We learned that Mike's commitment to healthcare access and supporting diverse and underserved communities is a personal as well as a professional calling.
 
Here's what Mike shared with us: 

As a graduate from Cornell School of Hotel Administration, my previous career was in food and beverage management and several entrepreneurial ventures in catering, nightclub design and operations, and owning a restaurant and nightclub myself.  I’ve always enjoyed exploring different cultures, diversity, and bringing people together through my passion in food, entertainment and travel – all of which I still continue to do today.  

When the HIV/AIDS epidemic hit I started to see many of the people I loved and care about affected by the disease and pass away.  Although I found ways to help through working and volunteering through community outreach organizations like ActionAIDS, Philadelphia Fight, Mazzoni Center and fundraising efforts like Blue Ball, I was limited.  This challenge lead me to going back to graduate school at the age of 33 and pursuing a career in medicine as a Physician Assistant (PA).  

Upon graduating from Hahnemann University, I quickly found a rewarding Infectious Disease and HIV Management practice to become a part of, under the mentorship and guidance of Dr. John Turner.  After several years in clinical practice finally feeling like I was making a difference for people living with HIV and AIDS, I found myself pulled to another career path in my life – the art of teaching medicine.  

After 15 years in PA education and program administration, I have been afforded the opportunity to develop two other local PA programs and educate over 1,500 students.  I continually seek ways of combining my passions for clinical excellence and creative management to improve healthcare education, service and quality.   

As an educator, I’ve always felt there are certain things you just can’t teach in a classroom. Things like compassion, empathy, leadership, and teamwork must be fostered through experience and self-reflection.  Teaching my students the compassion of given back to others less fortunate is one of the humbling experiences I strive to impart upon them.  That is why each year I take over 70 of my PA students to Central America on a medical and public health mission where we treat over 1,700 patients in a rural clinic, help build homes and offer healthcare education.  

Another experience which has become a renowned cross-cultural event for PA students, faculty, alumni, and guests of local Philadelphia Physician Assistant Programs is the PA Olympics.  This event affords participants to come together and work collectively in service to raise awareness of a community-based organization.  This event was developed in 2003 by Class President Tom Monko, of Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine PA Program, and myself as the founding committee chair.  The inaugural event consisted of only three PA Programs (Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Drexel University, and Philadelphia University) and has now grown to seven participating programs and nine university campuses.  

The current PA Programs participating are: Arcadia University (Glenside and Christiana campuses), Salus University, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Philadelphia University (Philadelphia and New Jersey campuses), Drexel University, DeSales University, and University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.  The goal of the event is to unite the leadership and service engagement talents of over 500 PA faculty and students from local PA programs to raise funds for a designated charity each year.  PA Olympics will be celebrating its 14th year this April.  

As medical professionals the PA Olympics committee selected Mazzoni Center this year, to support them in reaching their goal of “serving today, building for the future.”  Their fundraising efforts will support Mazzoni Center’s construction of its new location at Broad and Bainbridge Streets, which is expected to open to patients in 2017.  The hope is to have rotations available in the new clinic for physician assistant students from these local programs so they can play an active role in Mazzoni’s mission of serving the LGBTQ community.  The opportunity for these students to interact and become more aware of the needs LGBTQ community would be an excellent addition to their clinical education.

As a teacher of medicine and cultural diversity, I feel it is my obligation to expose my students to as many learning opportunities as possible. We cannot grow as humanitarians without giving back to those whose needs are not met.  For this reason, I plan to continue to find ways to dedicate my energy giving back to my community and supporting the diversity I’m surrounded by.  Being a part of the Elixir Gala and involving my students volunteering for such a wonderful cause, helps fulfill my passion of keeping our “hearts” in healthcare.

Thanks to Mike's leadership and their dedicated efforts, students from the PA Olympics program have raised more than $15,000 in support of Mazzoni Center this spring.  We're thrilled to have them on board as sponsors of this year's Elixir event.  

Don't miss out on the festivities Friday, May 20 at Jefferson University's beautiful outdoor Lubert Plaza.  Get your Elixir tickets today!


 

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