Miami, May 19, 2021 – Miami Dade College (MDC) will recognize ten alumni on the frontlines of the pandemic in a special Heroes Edition of MDC’s annual Alumni Hall of Fame ceremony Wednesday, June 9, at 6:45 p.m. The limited capacity, physically distanced awards ceremony will take place at the Wolfson Campus and livestreamed at www.mdc.edu/livestream.
This year’s honorees have gone above and beyond in their respective areas of expertise in education, emergency management, fire rescue, health care, law enforcement, medicine, mental health, nonprofit, nursing, trade, and logistics, to support South Florida during the most critical periods of the pandemic.
“True success is acting with compassion in the face adversity. These courageous and dedicated alumni epitomize what it means to ‘Be MDC’ and the importance of giving back to the community,” said MDC President Madeline Pumariega. “While we are only recognizing ten magnificent individuals, we know there are many more exemplary alumni out there helping to make the world a better place. I want to take this opportunity to thank all of them for their hard work and service excellence.”
Now in its 19th edition, MDC’s Alumni Hall of Fame celebrates outstanding alumni who are civic and business leaders in the community and across the nation, while also raising essential funds to support student scholarships for the next generation of leaders. Since 2003, MDC’s Alumni Hall of Fame has inducted more than 380 distinguished alumni. It is the signature fundraising event of the Miami Dade College Foundation. Learn more at www.mdc.edu/halloffame.
The 2021 MDC Alumni Hall of Fame inductees are:
Teresa Ellen Murphy
Elementary School Teacher
Spanish Lake Elementary
Teresa Ellen Murphy was named Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ 2022 Francisco R. Walker Teacher of the Year. During a year like no other, the 27-year veteran educator 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.
Academy of International Disaster Preparedness, Florida International University (FIU)
Pete Gomez is one of two incident commanders at the COVID-19 testing site at Florida International University, where at the pandemic’s peak, about 3,500 tests were performed daily. A city of Miami firefighter for over 35 years, Gomez also served as the city’s emergency manager through multiple hurricanes and led one of the 28 Urban Search and Rescue teams that responded to scenes at national and international disasters, including 9/11 and Haiti’s 2009 earthquake.
Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue, Special Operations Division
After two decades overseeing 911 calls, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Brandon Webb moved to the frontlines. 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 tasked with testing large volumes of people and is now doing the same with vaccinations.
Nurse Manager, Dialysis Unit
Nicklaus Children’s Hospital
Sheila Jones-Coakley is 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. Coakley, who has been a nurse for more than 30 years, completed the LPN and RN programs at MDC, worked at a community hospital, and returned to the College as an adjunct instructor.
Chief Brian Rafky
Chief, South Operations Division
Miami-Dade Police Department
With more than two decades of dedicated service, Chief Brian Rafky led the Miami-Dade Police Department’s (MDPD) Special Victims Bureau (SVB), which provides immediate response and swift follow-up criminal investigations to allegations of sexual and domestic crimes, child and elderly abuse and missing persons, among others. The bureau has played a crucial role in protecting vulnerable community members, particularly during the pandemic. After entering the police force, Chief Rafky rose up the ranks serving as lieutenant and sergeant in the domestic crimes unit and as director of the Southeast Florida Fusion Center. He is now chief of the South Operations Division.
Shirley N. Codada, MD
Regional Medical Director
Dr. Shirley Codada is an internal medicine physician specializing in hospice and palliative care at VITAS Healthcare, the nation’s leading provider of end-of-life care. She serves as regional medical director for Northern Florida and Georgia. Born in Haiti and educated in Miami, Dr. Codada has more than 20 years of experience. 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 the 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
Looking for ways to help her neighbors during the pandemic, Jessica Gutierrez co-founded Buddy System, a volunteer network serving Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties. The group now has over 400 volunteers who run errands and deliver groceries free of charge for people with health conditions to reduce their risk of exposure to COVID-19. Her organization continues combating food insecurity in South Florida with ten community fridges across Miami-Dade County.
Baptist Medical Center
Caridad Cuellar was a middle school nurse in Hialeah when the pandemic prompted the school to shut down. She continued to provide medical care and advice during this critical period through telehealth at a community health center and, shortly after, contracted COVID-19 herself. Cuellar, who now works as an urgent care nurse for Baptist Health, earned her associate and bachelor’s degrees in nursing at MDC and plans to pursue a master’s degree next.
TRADE AND LOGISTICS
Cesar F. Larancuent
Head of LATAM Strategic Growth
Since the start of the pandemic, Cesar Larancuent focused his efforts on coordinating the transportation of face masks, cleaning materials, and critical medical supplies worldwide. Larancuent, who received his bachelor’s in supply chain management from MDC in 2017, has worked closely with public and private institutions in the logistical planning and distribution of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), hospital medical supplies, and essentials to first responders.
About the Miami Dade College Foundation
Founded in 1965, Miami Dade College Foundation raises essential private funds to support scholarships, academic programs, and support services, so MDC students have the opportunity to pursue their dreams. MDC Foundation also supports world-class arts and cultural programming at MDC that enriches the community. In 2018-2019, MDC Foundation distributed more than $15 million to benefit the students and programs of MDC. Known as Democracy’s College, MDC changes lives through accessible, high-quality teaching and learning experiences that prepare students for tomorrow’s workforce. Miami Dade College is the largest degree-granting institution in the nation. The college’s eight campuses offer more than 300 distinct degree pathways, including several baccalaureate degrees in biological sciences, engineering, data analytics, information systems technology, education, public safety, supervision and management, nursing, physician assistant studies, film, and others. For more information, please visit www.mdcfoundation.com.
MDC Foundation contact: Ana Mantica, director of communications and digital engagement, 305-237-3331, email@example.com.