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Exceptional Women Faculty Honored for Mentorship, Discovery and Care

Extraordinary women faculty members at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine were celebrated at an event that inspired applause, tears — and a standing ovation for Gwendolyn Scott, M.D., professor emeritus of pediatrics, who received the Women in Academic Medicine Career Achievement Award.

Dr. Gwen Scott, left, with Dr. Hilit Mechaber.
Dr. Gwen Scott, left, with Dr. Hilit Mechaber.

“Tonight is a very timely and important moment for all of us as we pause to recognize the great achievements of some of our exemplary role models,” said Henri R. Ford, M.D., M.H.A., dean and chief academic officer of the Miller School. “It’s all about the promotion of excellence, it’s all about making sure there’s a pathway to growth and development and showcasing the talent that you have.”

Dean Ford encouraged the women who were honored to share their pathway with students, residents and junior faculty. The importance of mentoring was echoed throughout the Dec. 4 event, including in the nomination of Dr. Scott that was read to the audience by Hilit Mechaber, M.D., associate dean for student services and chair of the Women in Academic Medicine (WIAM) awards and nominations committee.

“Dr. Scott is an incredible teacher and mentor. Her approach to young learners is the gold standard that all clinical educators should strive to achieve,” Dr. Mechaber said. “Her fellows and trainees now span the globe, applying the wisdom she would effortlessly bestow each day.”

Dr. Scott recruited a team in the early 1980s to research the origins and treatment for HIV in infants — a frightening mystery at the time. “So many were too afraid of caring for these patients,” Dr. Mechaber said. With Dr. Scott, “the courageous crew cradled the babies, sheltered and assured the mothers, and did the science that not only described neonatal transmission of HIV, but carefully, and yet with an accelerated pace, determined the treatments necessary to treat AIDS and even prevent HIV transmission.”

At the Miller School, Dr. Scott served as chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Disease and Immunology for more than 40 years. “Because of Dr. Scott, babies and their mothers have lived, and we have learned how to care for them. She has trained generations to further science, education and care, all in the most compassionate way.”

WIAM Excellence in Mentorship Awards

One of two mentorship awards was presented to G. Patricia Cantwell, M.D., professor of clinical pediatrics and director of the Division of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine. “So many of our students tell us they choose pediatrics because of Dr. Cantwell. So many of our residents chose their field because of Dr. Cantwell,” wrote her nomination team.  “So many of our learners, and we, her colleagues, have altered how we approach medicine and each other because of Dr. Cantwell.”

From left, Dr. Rose van Zuilen, WIAM president, Dr. Hilit Mechaber, Dr. G. Patricia Cantwell, and Dr. Judy Schaechter.

Pediatric palliative care is one of her callings, and colleagues couldn’t say enough about her selfless dedication to patients, parents, trainees and caregivers. “Caring for children and families facing terminal disease takes a rare kind of person. … She is the true definition of an exceptional role model and the rarest of all leaders who constantly lifts her team and shuns glory for herself.”

For more than 25 years, Dr. Cantwell has provided medical support for first responders after hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York. “It has provided her with experience and strength to also care for our trainees and colleagues in times of great disappointment and loss, helping them to find their way emotionally and physically so that they can not just go on, but go beyond, in their missions and careers,” Dr. Mechaber said.

Dr. Hayley Gershengorn, right, with Dr. Hilit Mechaber.
Dr. Hayley Gershengorn, right, with Dr. Hilit Mechaber.

The second mentorship award was presented to Hayley Gershengorn, M.D., associate professor of clinical medicine and vice chief of the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine.

“She is passionate about patient care and clinical trainee education; as one of our core faculty members in the medical intensive care units, she works closely with students, residents, and fellows on a daily basis demonstrating patient care and family engagement at the bedside,” Dr. Mechaber said. “She has an enthusiasm for critical care research which quickly inspires trainees to search her out as a mentor.”

WIAM Trailblazer Award

The Trailblazer Award, which recognizes faculty “who, through their perseverance and dedication, have forged paths through previously unexplored territory to become pioneers in their field of medicine and medical research,” was presented to Erin Kobetz, Ph.D., M.P.H., associate director for population science and cancer disparity at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and UM’s co-vice provost for research.

“Dr. Kobetz’s exceptional leadership at Sylvester was critical to the recent NCI designation of our cancer center,” Dr. Mechaber said.  She has extensive experience with disparities-focused research, and has been involved in several community-based participatory research initiatives to understand racial differences in breast and cervical cancer outcomes.

Dr. Kobetz established Patné en Aksyon (Partners in Action), the campus-community partnership between Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and key community-based organizations in Little Haiti. She also created the Firefighter Cancer Initiative, which is developing new prevention protocols to reduce the high risk of cancer among Florida’s firefighters.

“Dr. Kobetz is a true trailblazer who has been critical to understanding health disparities and addressing them not only in our local community but worldwide,” said Dr. Mechaber.

WIAM Excellence in Leadership Award

Alessia Fornoni, M.D., Ph.D., professor of medicine and molecular and cellular pharmacology, received the Excellence in Leadership Award. Dr. Fornoni is chief of the Katz Family Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, and director of the Peggy and Harold Katz Drug Discovery Center.

“She has been a prolific author, a dedicated teacher, and above all a researcher on the cutting edge of some of the most impactful work we do here at the University of Miami,” Dr. Mechaber said.  “Through her innovative work, Dr. Fornoni uncovered novel pathogenetic mechanisms and therapeutic approaches for glomerular disorders that have challenged existing paradigms and have dramatically altered the research direction in these areas.” The ultimate goal is improved care for the millions of patients affected by diabetic kidney disease worldwide.

The Committee of Interns and Residents presented the CIR Women in Medicine Outstanding Female Resident award to Adriana Urruela, M.D., a resident in orthopaedic surgery. Amalia Martinez, M.D., a fellow in psychiatry, was named the CIR Women in Medicine Outstanding Female Fellow.

Women in Academic Medicine is supported by the Miller School’s Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement. The awards event also recognized women who were promoted to professor or associate professor this year:

Calder Library

Zsuzsanna Nemeth, MLIS, library associate professor


Lilian Abbo, M.D., professor

Stuti Dang, M.D., professor

Giselle Guerra, M.D., professor

Cynthia Levy, M.D., professor

Shirin Shafazand, M.D., professor


Maria Raquel Lopez, M.D., associate professor

Teshamae Monteith, M.D., associate professor

Leticia Tornes, M.D., associate professor

Kristine O’Phelan, M.D., professor


Ninel Gregori, M.D., professor

Abigail Hackam, Ph.D., professor

Hong Jiang, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor

Anna Junk, M.D., professor

Wendy Lee, M.D., professor


Sheila Conway, M.D., professor


Jayanthi Chandar, M.D., professor

Asumthia Jeyapalan, D.O., associate professor

Physiology and Biophysics

Laura Bianchi, Ph.D., professor

Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Eleonore Beurel, Ph.D., associate professor

Rosie Curiel Cid, Psy.D., associate professor

Public Health Sciences

WayWay Hlaing, Ph.D., professor


Sulagna Banerjee, Ph.D., associate professor

Tags: Dean Henri R. Ford, Dr. Alessia Fornoni, Dr. Erin Kobetz, Dr. G. Patricia Cantwell, Dr. Gwendolyn Scott, Dr. Hayley Gershengorn, HIV, HIV infection, Women in Academic Medicine