A Q&A With Dr. Agronin at Miami Jewish Health’s MIND Institute
Miami Jewish Health is a senior living and healthcare service provider offering aging adults in the Miami area access to independent and assisted living, nursing home care, community-based programs and essential medical services. For 80 years, Miami Jewish Health has been dedicated to helping patients and their families live life better, using a comprehensive approach to care rooted in empathy. The Finker-Frenkel Family Foundation has been a proud sponsor of the MIND Institute at Miami Jewish Health since 2015.
We spoke with Dr. Marc Agronin, Senior Vice President of Behavioral Health and Chief Medical Officer at the MIND Institute, about his background, how the MIND Institute helps families across the State of Florida, and what’s next for MJH.
How did you first start working with senior patients and those with neurocognitive disorders?
My interest working with older people goes all the back to medical school. I just loved spending time with older patients. I loved hearing their stories. So, when I decided to go into psychiatry, I knew I wanted to work with older individuals. Alzheimer’s disease and other neurocognitive disorders are really common diagnoses in older patients, which is a challenge when you’re used to quickly meeting with patients, diagnosing them, and giving them a treatment plan.
With Alzheimer’s there’s no cure, no quick fix, and you are going to be working with these patients not just for a few days, weeks or months, but often for years if not decades. What I learned over time is that the more you understand these patients as individuals—their life histories and relationships—the more ways you can find to not only improve their quality of life in the short-term, but also help to slow the progression of the disease.
This led me to develop an approach that we call Miami Jewish EmpathiCareSM It’s about being present for patients, putting yourself in their shoes, and imagining what they’re going through. When you start off with that, the actions you take on their behalf are going to be more effective, because they’re based on an understanding on who that person is. There have been a lot of studies that show when doctors are more empathetic and take the time to make a connection with their patients, the patient is more hopeful, more willing to engage in treatment, and ultimately have better outcomes.
Tell me about the MIND Institute. How has it grown since you first joined MJH?
I just celebrated my 22nd anniversary at Miami Jewish Health. I started in 1999 as a psychiatrist on campus, and quickly realized that the community desperately needed the kind of help I knew we could provide. That’s when we started a memory clinic and a clinical research program where we do clinical trials on Alzheimer’s disease and other neurocognitive disorders.
As we’re developing Miami Jewish EmpathiCareSM, I realized that we were really doing something unique. Even in South Florida, which has the highest per capita age group in the country, there are very few other organizations providing this level of care to the elder population. We decided to rebrand, get into the state’s memory disorder center network, get state funding, and take it to the next level. We changed the name of the clinic to the MIND Institute at Miami Jewish Health, because we wanted to underline the idea that we’re not just in the business of treating brain disorders—what we do is about the whole mind of the patient, and the minds of their family members.
How has the Finker-Frenkel Family Foundation’s support helped you to serve more people in the community?
Partnering with the Finker-Frenkel Family Foundation is so important to the MIND Institute at Miami Jewish Health. Not only do their values and interests align with our mission, but their continued support and investment allow us to continue to innovate. With their help, our team has been able to be at the forefront of everything that we do. Our partnership with the Foundation has enabled us to develop a model of care that’s open to the entire community and provide concierge-level service to everyone who needs it.
To learn more about Dr. Agronin’s work at the MIND Institute, visit: https://www.miamijewishhealth.org/health/mind-institute/