2017 year in review

2017: The Year in Review

By UM News

2017: The Year in Review

By UM News
Here’s a look at what transpired at the U over the past year.

From the dedications of the new Simulation Hospital at the School of Nursing and Health Studies and a new state-of-the-art 3D printing center at the College of Engineering, to another No. 1 ranking for Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, and groundbreaking studies in medicine and marine science, 2017 proved to be another banner year for the University of Miami.


A multidisciplinary team of physicians with the University of Miami Health System and Miller School of Medicine publishes a case study in The New England Journal of Medicine describing in detail the nation’s first locally transmitted case of the Zika virus. The findings of the case study, “Cutaneous Eruption in a U.S. Woman with Locally Acquired Zika Virus Infection,” largely center on the skin rash associated with the then-23-year-old pregnant patient’s diagnosis and provide a glimpse of the skin manifestations of the Zika virus.

President Barack Obama honors Nurcin Celik, associate professor of industrial engineering in the College of Engineering, with a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers. Celik, honored for her federally funded research into smart cities, becomes the first UM recipient to receive a PECASE.

Building on its mission to cultivate inclusive health care, University of Miami Hospital opens a new and innovative clinic—the LGBTQ Center for Wellness, Gender and Sexual Health—to meet the comprehensive health and surgical needs of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning community.

Speaking to an audience of nearly 300 of the world’s leading scientists, researchers and physicians attending the 50th annual Miami Winter Symposium, University of Miami President Julio Frenk announces the creation of the Frost Institutes for Science and Engineering, an umbrella structure that will house individual institutes for the purposes of elevating science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) across the University. The Institutes are being created from a transformational $100 million gift from Dr. Phillip and Patricia Frost to support basic and applied sciences and engineering in a University-wide initiative being called STEM@UM.

Director of Athletics Blake James is named chair of the NCAA’s Division I Council, a high-level group responsible for the day-to-day decision-making for Division I. James is serving a two-year term.

Creating the first comprehensive university-based program of its kind, the National Jewish Theater Foundation’s pioneering Holocaust Theater International Initiative becomes part of the UM’s Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies.



Researchers who make up the Zika Global Network at the Miller School of Medicine and the University of Miami Health System are awarded more than $13 million in grants by the Florida Department of Health’s Zika Research Grant Initiative to increase the understanding of the health effects of the mosquito-borne virus and develop vaccines, diagnostic tests, and therapeutics to combat it.

Alex Rodriguez, a 14-time Major League Baseball All-Star and a UM trustee, donates $500,000 to the School of Business Administration to support new programs for participants in the Miami Executive M.B.A. for Artists and Athletes program and other M.B.A. students.

The University of Miami honors those who blazed a trail of diversity and inclusion during the first two decades of racial integration at the institution. UTrailblazers: Celebrating Our First Black Graduates included a series of events ranging from a library exhibit and alumni-student forum to a special gala and remarks by alumnus Harold Long, who founded United Black Students at UM in 1967.

Citing its high number of bike registrations and involvement in the charity cycling event known as the Dolphins Cancer Challenge, the League of American Bicyclists designates UM a Bicycle Friendly University.

Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, part of UHealth – the University of Miami Health System, opens the Samuel & Ethel Balkan International Pediatric Glaucoma Center, the world’s first integrated services center dedicated to helping infants and children with glaucoma.



Director of Athletics Blake James is named one of the winners of the 2016-17 Under Armour Athletic Director of the Year Award.

In a groundbreaking study, researchers with the Miller School of Medicine and Flinders University in Australia identify the first biological fluid-based biomarker for the progression of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis publishes the findings of its first FDA-approved Phase I clinical trial involving the use of human nerve cells to repair a damaged spinal cord. The trial, performed at University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital, is the first in a series designed to evaluate the safety and feasibility of transplanting autologous human Schwann cells to treat individuals with spinal cord injuries.

Jacqueline A. Travisano, a highly distinguished business and financial expert in higher education at Nova Southeastern University, is named executive vice president for business and finance and chief operating officer of the University of Miami.

Shakima Wimbley wins the 2017 women’s indoor 400-meter crown with a world-leading time of 51.07 seconds at the NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Indoor Track and Field Championships

In his first trip back at the same pool where he lost out on a chance to represent the United States at the 2016 Olympics, diver David Dinsmore wins the national championship in the men’s 10-meter platform at the 2017 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships at the IU Natatorium.


Edward Abraham, M.D., dean of the Wake Forest School of Medicine, is named the Miller School of Medicine’s new dean, chief academic officer, and physician executive of the University of Miami Medical Group.

The University of Miami is designated a Voter-Friendly Campus by national nonpartisan organizations Campus Vote Project and NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. UM, one of 83 schools nationwide and one of just six in Florida to earn the distinction, is recognized for achievements such as Get Out the Vote’s registration of 2,500 students, faculty, and staff during the election cycle; the collection of 1,200 student written pledges to vote; and an 82 percent voter turnout at the campus polling site, the Watsco Center.

The Patricia Louise Frost Music Studios receive LEED Platinum Certification, making them the first buildings in Coral Gables to earn the highest level of green-building certification.

Leaders of the University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine, and the Ministry of Health of Mexico City (SEDESA) sign a Memorandum of Understanding to establish a health care partnership with hemispheric and global potential. Its broad scope includes collaborations in teaching, research, exchange of faculty and students, and staff development.

Briadam Herrera and Randy Ableman receive top ACC honors as diver and coach of the year, respectively.

Decorated Miami women’s hoops star Adrienne Motley is selected by the Indiana Fever in the 2017 WNBA Draft, becoming just the fifth draftee in program history.

Nine former Hurricanes, including tight end David Njoku, who went in the first round to Cleveland, and quarterback Brad Kaaya, who went in the sixth to Detroit, are chosen in the 2017 NFL draft, the most since 2006.


The University of Miami ranks No. 15 on the 2017 Forbes list of America’s Best Employers—the highest-ranked University in the nation and the highest-ranked organization in Florida. This is the first time UM has been included on the list, which is based on independent surveys of employees

The University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and New York-based Aqquua LLC US reach a nearly $1.5 million research agreement to advance aquaculture technology for high-value marine fish such as tuna and hirame (Japanese flounder) at the UM Experimental Fish Hatchery.

The University of Miami breaks ceremonial ground for the Carol Soffer Football Indoor Practice Facility, which was made possible by a gift from Jeffrey Soffer and his siblings in honor of their mother.

College Choice, a leading authority in college and university rankings and resources, publishes its 2017 ranking for the Best Colleges in Florida, with the University of Miami topping the list.

Officially joining Mexico’s most prestigious academy of thought leaders, UM President Julio Frenk delivers his inaugural El Colegio Nacional address in Mexico City on health care and higher education.

Shakima Wimbley sprints her way into the record books at the 2017 ACC Outdoor Track and Field Championships, becoming the first athlete in conference history to win eight 200-meter titles.

Ten University of Miami teams are recognized for perfect 2015-16 scores of 1,000 on the latest Academic Progress Report released by the NCAA. Men’s cross country, men’s track and field, men’s tennis, women’s basketball, women’s cross country, golf, soccer, women’s tennis, women’s track and field, and volleyball were honored for excellence in the classroom.

Tennis player Estela Perez-Somarriba makes University of Miami history as the first freshman to reach the NCAA Singles Championship semifinals.



Jeffrey L. Duerk, an accomplished engineer, scientist, inventor, and leading expert in biomedical imaging who served as dean of the School of Engineering at Case Western, is named the University of Miami’s new executive vice president and provost, a position that serves as the University’s chief academic officer.

John Quelch, the Charles Edward Wilson Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, is appointed dean of the University of Miami School of Business Administration and vice provost for executive education.

Cindy Munro, associate dean of research and innovation at the University of South Florida College of Nursing and an accomplished health care researcher and leader in the field of nursing, is named the new dean of the University of Miami’s School of Nursing and Health Studies.

Ryan C. Holmes, an accomplished educator and leader in identifying and managing the complex trends in student campus life and higher education overall, is named the new associate vice president and dean of students for the Division of Student Affairs at the University of Miami.

UM’s first lady, Felicia Marie Knaul, director of the University of Miami Institute for Advanced Study of the Americas and professor at the Miller School of Medicine, becomes the first economist admitted into the prestigious Mexican National Academy of Medicine.


In a new study, Rosenstiel School researchers Brian Soden and Eui-Seok Chung find that aerosol particles released into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels are a primary driver of Earth’s changing rainfall patterns, including the severe drought in Africa and South America.

The University of Miami earns a STARS silver rating in recognition of its sustainability achievements from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. UM’s rating comes as a result of the University’s dedication to engaging students, faculty, and staff in various sustainability programs and policies.

Miami Law makes Billboard Magazine’s list of the nation’s top schools for music law programs.



For the 14th consecutive year and the 16th time, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute is ranked as the nation’s best in ophthalmology in U.S News & World Report’s Best Hospitals edition.

World-renowned economist María de Lourdes Dieck-Assad, who has served as Mexico’s ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg and as chief of the Mexican Mission to the European Union, is named the University's new vice president for hemispheric and global affairs.

The Campus Pride Index ranks UM a 4-star university, making it one of just 17 universities in the South with a 4-star or higher rating. The Campus Pride Index evaluates the openness of LGBTQ culture by rating factors including LGBTQ support and institutional inclusion, student life, housing and residential life, counseling and health, campus safety, and policy inclusion.

The Lennar Foundation Medical Center and the University of Miami Hillel’s expanded and inviting home at the Braman Miller Center for Jewish Student Life receive City Beautiful Awards from the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce.

Director of Track and Field/Cross Country Amy Deem becomes one of six coaches inducted into the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Coaches Hall of Fame, as the Class of 2017.

The American Society of Civil Engineers Miami-Dade Branch names the College of Engineering’s Innovation Bridge, the first concrete bridge on the UM campus reinforced with composite materials instead of steel, its 2016-2017 Project of the Year in Category I.

Briadam Herrera claims America’s first diving medal at the 2017 World University Games in Taipei, winning the silver in the men’s 1-meter event.


The School of Nursing and Health Studies dedicates its new Simulation Hospital, highlighting a new era of engaged learning and transformative spaces across the University.

Mathematics Professor Ludmil Katzarkov is awarded the Simons Investigator Award, one of the most prestigious in mathematics, for his novel ideas and techniques in geometry.


The University dedicates its new College of Engineering-Johnson & Johnson 3D Printing Center of Excellence Collaborative Laboratory, giving faculty and students access to 3D printing technology to make objects limited only by imagination.

A major Lancet Commission study—headed by Dr. Felicia Knaul, professor of public health sciences at the Miller School of Medicine, and co-authored by UM President Julio Frenk—finds that tens of millions of people who die in severe physical and psychological pain each year could have an easier death if an essential package of palliative care, which includes immediate-release, oral, and injectable morphine, were made available by health systems around the world.

The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative awards UM researchers five grants totaling more than $14 million to continue researching the environmental effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

With the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease expected to triple by 2050, the Miller School of Medicine and other collaborators are awarded up to $30.2 million to conduct the Alzheimer’s Disease Sequencing Project Follow-Up Study and investigate protective variants for the disease in the Amish population.

University of Miami and Florida International University investigators are awarded a $6.8 million National Institutes of Health grant to establish the Center for Latino Health Research Opportunities to research interventions for Latinos facing the greatest health risks from substance abuse, trauma/violence, and HIV/AIDS.


Ophthalmology Times ranks Bascom Palmer Eye Institute the No. 1 Overall Ophthalmology Program, the Best in Clinical Care, and the Best Residency Program in the United States.

Citing the Frost School’s degrees in music business and music engineering technology, The Hollywood Reporter ranks the music institution among the best for students who want to become world-class musicians.

Twenty-one law students from Professor Carrie Bettinger-López’s International Human Rights Law and Advocacy class team with South Florida anti-poverty organizations to produce six reports for the United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.

Ibis Yearbook and UM’s Distraction Magazine receive Pacemaker awards, the Associated Collegiate Press Association’s top award often referred to as the “Pulitzer of collegiate/scholastic journalism.”



After a 10-2 season that included a berth in the ACC Championship Game, the Hurricanes football team plays the Wisconsin Badgers in the Capital One Orange Bowl in Hard Rock Stadium.

Local, county, and state officials join UM President Julio Frenk in officially dedicating the pedestrian bridge over U.S. 1 that UM students began fighting for after the tragic 2005 death of one of their own.

About 1,000 students celebrate their hard-earned degrees at two commencement ceremonies featuring two inspiring individuals with close ties to the U—retired Major League Baseball star Alex Rodriguez, who urged them to “swing for the fences,” and Magic Leap, Inc. founder Rony Abovitz, who shared his advice in the form of a letter to the future.

The University of Miami’s and Florida International University’s libraries team up with Florida State University to create the Sunshine State Digital Network and enable cultural, historical, and educational institutions throughout South and Central Florida to share their digitized art works, artifacts, documents, and other materials with people around the world.

Mark Richt is selected the 2017 Atlantic Coast Conference’s Football Coach of the Year by a landslide vote of media members and the league’s head football coaches.

Wide receiver Braxton Berrios is named the recipient of the 2017 Jim Tatum Award, given annually in memory of the late two-time ACC Coach of the Year to the top senior student-athlete (in athletic eligibility) among the league’s football players.

University of Miami alumna Gloria Estefan, a seven-time Grammy Award-winning singer, actress, songwriter, author, philanthropist, and humanitarian who brought Latin music to the American mainstream, is honored by the Kennedy Center for enriching the cultural fabric of America.