The Plaza Health Network Foundation recognized Margaret A. Pericak-Vance, Ph.D., director of the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, and Patricia A. Whitely, UM’s vice president for student affairs, at its Women of Distinction and Caring Luncheon on Nov. 15.
This annual event honors and celebrates women in the South Florida community who have made significant differences in the lives of others locally and globally through their leadership, volunteerism, professional work, and philanthropy. Proceeds from the luncheon benefit many of the Plaza Health Network Foundation’s patient-focused programs and services.
Dr. Pericak-Vance serves as director of the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics, executive vice chair of the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation Department of Human Genetics, and the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation Professor of Human Genetics. Internationally recognized as a leader in human genetics, she has a particular interest in neurogenetic diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and multiple sclerosis. She has several active studies in neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism. She pioneered the use of novel disease gene mapping, leading to the identification of apolipoprotein E (APOE) as the major susceptibility gene for Alzheimer’s disease.
Together with her husband, Jeffery M. Vance, M.D., Ph.D., professor and founding chair of the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation Department of Human Genetics, she established the JJ Vance Memorial Summer Internship in memory of her late son. This program centers on the biological and computational sciences and is awarded to outstanding seniors in good standing from Miami and Broward-area high schools. The recipients of the internship participate in an exciting and challenging eight-week research course at the Miller School of Medicine.
“When I look at the wonderful work of past and current recipients, it is a great honor to receive this award,” said Dr. Pericak-Vance. “We are all a part of Miami’s collective history and culture, so to be awarded for my life’s passion and something I love to do every day – how does it get any better than that?”
Dr. Whitely, who has served in her current role at the University of Miami since 1997, oversees a wide range of programs, services, and facilities that support students and enhance the student experience at the University of Miami. Specifically, she is responsible for Housing and Residential Life including the 10-year Housing Facilities Strategic Plan, the Counseling Center, Student Health Service, Dean of Students Office including Greek life, Student Life, the Butler Center for Service and Leadership, Orientation and Commuter Student Involvement, Multicultural Student Affairs, the LGBTQ Student Center, Student Activities and Student Organizations, Commencement, the Herbert Wellness Center, and the Student Center Complex.
A leader in the field of higher education and student affairs, Dr. Whitely has served on numerous national committees, including as chair of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA). In 2010, Dr. Whitely established the campus-wide “‘Canes Care for ‘Canes” initiative to promote a campus community where all ’Canes respect and support each other. Now a student-led effort, ’Canes Care for ’Canes connects students to vital campus resources and promotes acts of kindness and caring in all members of the University community.
“I am humbled and honored to be recognized by the Plaza Health Network for what has been my life’s work: serving University of Miami students for a combined 38 years,” Dr. Whitely said. “Together with many outstanding students and colleagues, it has been such a joy and so rewarding to build a caring campus community.”