Miami Dade College alumni are everyday heroes on the pandemic’s frontlines. From nurses to teachers to first responders, alumni from some of MDC’s longest running and most highly regarded programs have come to embody heroism in the face of crisis to help us all make it safely through the pandemic.
MDC will recognize alumni on the frontlines of the pandemic response and recovery who got their start at the College with a special Heroes Edition of the Alumni Hall of Fame on Wednesday, June 9, 2021, at 6:45 p.m. The socially distanced awards ceremony will be livestreamed (mdc.edu/livestream) from MDC Wolfson Campus as we invite the entire community to virtually join us in recognizing and thanking our hometown heroes.
Heroes will be honored in the following areas: education, emergency management, fire rescue, health care, law enforcement, medicine, mental health, nonprofit, nursing, and trade and logistics.
The Miami Dade College Alumni Hall of Fame celebrates the achievements of outstanding MDC alumni who are the civic and business leaders of our community, while raising essential funds to support student scholarships for the next generation of Miami’s leaders. Since 2003, the Hall of Fame has inducted more than 380 distinguished alumni.
The 2021 MDC Alumni Hall of Fame Heroes Edition inductees are:
Teresa Ellen Murphy
Elementary School Teacher
Miami-Dade County Public Schools
Teresa Ellen Murphy, who was named Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ 2022 Francisco R. Walker Teacher of the Year, got her start at Miami Dade College. During a year unlike any other, the 27-year veteran teacher found herself teaching a new grade level – 4th grade – virtually, amid a global pandemic and while going through chemotherapy. Teaching is a lifelong passion for Murphy, who believes that students must take ownership of their learning to reach their full potential.
Senior Director, Academy for International Disaster Preparedness
Florida International University
Pete Gomez is one of two incident commanders at the COVID-19 testing site at Florida International University, where at the pandemic’s peak they performed about 3,500 COVID-19 tests a day. A city of Miami firefighter for over 35 years, Gomez has also served as the city’s emergency manager through multiple hurricanes and has led one of the 28 Urban Search and Rescue teams that have responded to scenes at national and international disasters, including 9/11 and Haiti’s 2009 earthquake.
Battalion Chief, Special Operations Division
Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue
After 20 years of running 911 calls, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Brandon Webb was pushed to the frontline. Webb works as the program manager for Florida’s Urban Search and Rescue Task Force, a team tasked with preparing and responding to state and national disasters that surpass the capacity of local authorities and resources. At the start of the pandemic, his team was initially tasked with testing large volumes of people and is now doing the same with vaccinations.
Nicklaus Children’s Hospital
Sheila Jones-Coakley is the nurse manager of the dialysis unit at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital where she is an anchor for the kids she cares for, especially during the pandemic where patients are often separated from family and loved ones. Jones-Coakley, who has been a nurse for more than 30 years, completed the LPN and RN programs at Miami Dade College, worked at a community hospital and returned as an adjunct instructor.
Chief, South Operations Division
Miami-Dade Police Department
With more than two decades of service under his belt, Chief Brian Rafky now leads the MDPD’s Special Victims Bureau (SVB). Protecting the vulnerable members of our community have been underscored during the COVID-19 pandemic. After graduating and entering the police force, Rafky worked his way up, serving as lieutenant and sergeant in the domestic crimes unit, as well as director of the Southeast Florida Fusion Center.
Shirley N. Codada, MD
Regional Medical Director
Dr. Shirley N. Codada is an internal medicine physician who specializes in hospice and palliative care, as regional medical director for its programs serving Northern Florida and Georgia. Dr. Codada was born in Haiti and has more than 20 years of experience as she oversees the medical care of hospice patients and families in four VITAS programs in Florida, including Citrus County, the Nature Coast, Pensacola and Jacksonville, and Atlanta.
EPIC Team Clinical Supervisor
Betsy Godoy-Rosado is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and mental health advocate who has dedicated her career to helping improve the lives of individuals and families in need. Today, Godoy-Rosado, who attended University of California, San Diego and completed her master’s degree at Florida International University, is the Clinical Supervisor with the EPIC Team at 4Kids, one of the leading foster care agencies in the country.
Buddy System MIA
Jessica Gutierrez-Castillo was looking for ways to help her neighbors during the pandemic. She co-founded Buddy System MIA. The network of 400+ volunteers now run errands for and delivers groceries – without charging a fee – for people with health complications to reduce their risk of contracting the coronavirus in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County. Volunteers run errands like grocery shopping and picking up medicine.
Baptist Medical Center
Caridad Cuellar was a school nurse at a middle school in Hialeah when the pandemic forced schools to shut down in March 2020. She shifted gears to provide telehealth for a community health center and, shortly after, contracted COVID-19 herself. Cuellar, who now works as an urgent care nurse for Baptist Health, received her LPN, RN and BSN degrees at MDC and plans to complete her master’s degree.
TRADE AND LOGISTICS
Cesar F. Larancuent
Head of LATAM Strategic Growth
Since the start of the pandemic, Cesar F. Larancuent has focused his efforts on coordinating the transportation of face masks, cleaning necessities, and critical medical supplies around the globe. Larancuent, who received his bachelor’s in supply chain management from MDC, has worked closely with both public and private institutions in the logistical planning and distribution of PPE equipment, hospital medical supplies, and essentials for our first responders.
Learn more about the MDC Alumni Hall of Fame and view past inductees at www.mdc.edu/halloffame