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In Good Company

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    Two pioneering women on the UM faculty, Joanna Lombard and Giselle Guerra, are honored with In the Company of Women Awards

    UM News


    Transplant specialist Giselle Guerra, left, and architect Joanna Lombard were honored for their pioneering contributions to, respectively, health and humans services, and research and education.

    MIAMI, Fla. (March 14, 2018) – An architect who has studied the impacts of the built environment on the health and well-being of children and elders and a transplant nephrologist whose hard work and vision helped improve patient outcomes at the nation’s second largest kidney transplant program are recipients of Miami-Dade County’s prestigious “In the Company of Women” award, which recognizes outstanding women who have paved the way for others.

    Joanna Lombard, professor in the University of Miami’s School of Architecture, and Giselle Guerra, M.D., associate professor of clinical medicine at the Miller School of Medicine and medical director of the kidney and kidney-pancreas program at the Miami Transplant Institute (MTI), are among 13 distinguished South Florida women who, fittingly, received the award on a day—March 8—that celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women: International Women’s Day.

    Lombard was honored in the category of Research and Education, while Guerra was recognized for her work in the area of Health and Human Services.

    From the very beginning of her career, Lombard set herself apart by breaking the professional mold for women. Her bachelor of architecture from Tulane University, master’s degree in architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and her architecture license were received during a time when men heavily dominated the profession.

    She has further distinguished herself with a joint appointment in the Miller School of Medicine’s Department of Public Health Sciences, allowing her to join the fields of architecture, landscape, and public health in her teaching and research.

    Guerra, who joined the Miller School faculty 12 years ago, is medical director of the Living Donor Kidney Program at MTI, which she has expanded to give more people life-saving kidney transplant. A collaboration between the University of Miami Health System and Jackson Jealth System, MTI performs about 350 kidney transplants a year—with the best results among large volume centers.

    For her work, Lombard collaborates with investigators in UM’s Built Environment, Behavior, and Health Group. In one study, the researchers looked at elementary school-aged boys in Miami’s East Little Havana, investigating whether there was a correlation between their conduct grades and the type of neighborhood block where they lived. What they discovered was that boys who lived in mixed-use blocks had higher conduct grades and performed better in school. The reason?

    “When you have a corner store, more adults looking out for children, more eyes on the street, and more interaction—it’s better for people,” Lombard said. The team also studied Hispanic elders in the same area, finding that those who lived on streets with houses that had balconies, porches, and stoops functioned better both mentally and physically than elders who live without such features.

    She and Research Assistant Professor Scott C. Brown represent the School of Architecture and the Department of Public Health Sciences, respectively, as charter members of the American Institute of Architects’ Design and Health Research Consortium, an 11-university initiative aimed at investigating how design affects public health.

    Lombard’s work in both architectural design and teaching has garnered numerous awards. She was named among the DesignIntelligence 30 Most Admired Educators for 2013, has twice won the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation’s Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Preservation Education/Media award, and has won numerous faculty honors and awards in architectural design.

    Guerra’s passion for patients in need of life-saving transplants and her visionary leadership in increasing their chances of getting and surviving one prompted Carlos A. Migoya, president and CEO of Jackson Health System, to nominate her for the “In the Company of Women” award.

    “Dr. Giselle Guerra has dedicated her career to giving hope and the gift of life to patients, who are in desperate need of a life-saving transplant,” Migoya said. “She grew and created two successful transplant programs, in which patients receive a kidney from a living donor. These programs have provided amazing benefits to patients, including shorter waiting time for an organ, and better outcomes and survival rates.”

    When Guerra joined MTI in 2008, the kidney transplant program was performing very few transplants from living donors. Recognizing that these transplants are the best option for many patients, she began educating the community and growing the program.

    In 2012, Guerra created the Hispanic Kidney Transplant Clinic for pre-kidney transplant patients of Hispanic background. Designed to address cultural fears about living donations, the staff’s Spanish-speaking physicians and nurses educate families on the benefits of living donation. “Many people from all backgrounds are concerned about what it means to be a living donor,” Guerra said. “You can donate one of your two kidneys and still work, exercise, have children and enjoy a normal, healthy life.”

    While growing the Living Donor Kidney Program, Guerra felt that there was more to be done to help MTI patients. In 2014, she created the Paired Exchange Program, which allows recipients to receive a better-matched kidney, and speeds up the transplant process. On July 9, 2014, MTI successfully performed Florida’s first three-way paired kidney exchange transplant, involving three donors and three recipients. The next year the MTI team performed Florida’s first four-way paired kidney exchange.

    Drawing on her experience, Guerra has assisted transplant centers across the United States, as well as in Argentina and Mexico, in developing living donor and paired exchange programs that can help the 96,000 people in the U.S. waiting for a kidney from a deceased donor.

    Through research studies, Guerra has focused on improving the outcomes of transplant patients. Recently, she was appointed principal investigator of a national study that focuses on the mutation of the apolipoprotein L1 gene (APOL1) in African Americans and people of African descent, and how this variant leads to chronic kidney disease. The study, set to start this year, will also look at the outcomes of patients who receive a kidney from a person carrying this mutated gene. The results of this new study will help make improvements in the allocations of kidneys. The study will involve a consortium of organ procurement organizations in Florida and Puerto Rico, as well as 13 other transplant centers in the country.

    “As a woman leader in an industry that has been historically led by men, Dr. Guerra has mentored many women,” Migoya said. “Several of her mentees, including a few women, have become medical directors of transplant programs at other hospitals, or have become associate professors of clinical medicine at the University of Miami Health System.”

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