Community Voices

Friends and Neighbors: Bronze sculpture by artist Santiago Medina honors FIU medical college

Colombian-born sculptor Santiago Medina, who is also a neuroradiologist and pediatric radiologist, is based in Miami. He created ‘Flame of Excellence’ for Florida International University’s Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine.
Colombian-born sculptor Santiago Medina, who is also a neuroradiologist and pediatric radiologist, is based in Miami. He created ‘Flame of Excellence’ for Florida International University’s Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine.

The students at Florida International University Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine will have new inspiration on campus when “Flame of Excellence,” a large bronze sculpture, is dedicated this week.

The work by Miami artist Santiago Medina honors the faculty, staff, graduates and current students of the college, which celebrated its inaugural class graduation a little more than two years ago, on April 29, 2013.

The base of the sculpture represents the FIU staff and the tip of the flame is for the medical students “whose future points towards leadership and service to the immediate community and beyond.”

Medina, who is Colombian American, will be at the dedication event along with Dr. John A. Rock, Wertheim College founding dean and senior vice president for health affairs, who will officiate.

“This sculpture is not only a beautiful work of art, it is a symbol of the significant relationship between art and medicine; of the creative and visual skills doctors and artists share and without which neither can be successful,” Rock said in a release.

Medina is also a neuroradiologist and pediatric radiologist and he uses advanced Computerized Tomography (CT) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) in his sculpting technique.

His sculpture Infinity was recently admitted to the Tisch Library at Tufts University in greater Boston. Medina’s works also can be found at other United States universities, and in public spaces, here and abroad.

His painting Hope has been in the permanent collection of the Wertheim College since 2012. The oil on linen shows a sick man surrounded by his caring family members.

Medina also has studios in Pietrasanta, Italy, and Medellin, Colombia. To see some of his work visit

Unique abilities

Middle school-age students in the autism community now have classes just for them at Crystal Academy Middle School in Coral Gables. The program will help students ages 10 to 14 with autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disabilities.

As of midweek, the school has three spaces available for children who meet the requirements, according to Mary Palacio-Pike, founder/community and parent relations.

She said the class with the openings “has an experienced ESE teacher with a registered behavior technician as an aide and as it is a new launch program it has a curriculum designed and supervised by an expert ESE/BCBA education consultant.”

Palacio-Pike and her husband, David Pike, started the school in 2009 to help their son, David, who was diagnosed at age 2. Since then they have dedicated their time and resources to provide the best therapies and interventions possible, Palacio-Pike said in email.

“Our uniqueness comes through in an academic curriculum that adheres to Common Core Florida Standards in conjunction with behavior development, daily living skills, community based instruction, speech and language, music and art,” said David Pike, Crystal Academy founder and president.

The middle school will have a maximum of six students in each classroom and be led by a special education teacher accompanied by a registered behavior technician teacher’s aide to maintain at least a 1:3 teacher-student ratio at all times, Palacio-Pike said.

“We began Crystal Academy as an early intervention center almost six years ago,” she said. “As our precious population grew and resources outside our academy didn’t satisfy their needs, we continue to grow as well. As parents and providers to others, we are very thrilled to embark in this journey and be instruments for inclusion and acceptance.”

She added that Crystal Academy has a close relationship with Coral Gables government officials, police and fire departments, and the business community and that the partnerships enable the school to “implement academic, practical daily living skills, social and pre-vocational opportunities like using the trolley system and participating in hands-on life activities such as restaurant dining, bookstore, grocery store, post office, and other shopping experiences.”

Dr. Michael Alessandri, executive director at the University of Miami Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (UM-CARD), clinical professor of psychology and director of the division of community outreach and engagement, said in email that, “this program fills a tremendous void in our Community, as there are limited high quality educational programs for middle school students with autism.”

To learn more, contact Katherine “Kat” Cao at 305-567-5881 and arrange a visit to the school. You can also visit

Game Day

Now is the perfect time to make some new friends, and a great way to do that is by playing board games. The New Neighbors Club of South Dade will host “Game Day” at the next luncheon gathering starting with socializing 11 a.m. Sept. 9 at Killian Palms Country Club, 9950 SW 104th St.

Program director Thelma Tucker has planned plenty of interactive games such as bingo and other favorites.

The mission of this group is to help you make friends and create community awareness while enjoying good times. Everyone is invited to join in at a monthly luncheon or at any of the upcoming club activities. New Neighbors strives to provide friendly settings to meet those new to our area and those not so new.

Reservations are required. Email or call 305-595-0213. The deadline is Sept. 3 and cost of the luncheon and program is $26. To learn more check out

If you have news for this column, please send it to Christina Mayo at