Dr. Pedro Jose Greer Jr. is just as comfortable holding genuine conversations with the homeless and downtrodden as he is standing next to international icons like Desmond Tutu, Sandra Day O’Connor and Billie Jean King.
It’s that uncanny ability to keep things in perspective that probably led the man affectionately known in Miami as “Dr. Joe” to the White House on Wednesday to receive the highest civilian honor in the nation.
“I hope people realize that just because somebody is poor or homeless does not make them less of a person,” said Greer, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama, along with 15 other recipients from around the globe.
Greer didn’t set out to win any medals or honors when he started Camillus Health Concern in 1984 as a medical intern at Jackson Memorial Hospital. He just wanted to help.
And Camillus House has done just that, helping thousands of homeless and uninsured people who needed health care over the years. The program has become a model for other across the country and garnered recognition by Time Magazine in 1994, which profiled Greer.
Now an assistant dean at FIU’s new medical school, Greer still directs much of his efforts to providing low-cost health care and has the same humility and passion of a medical intern – only much wiser.