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2023 New Face of Aging Conference Speakers

Daniella Levine Cava
Mayor, Miami-Dade County

Daniella Levine Cava was elected Miami-Dade County’s first-ever woman Mayor in November 2020. She enters the Mayor’s office following a 40-year career as a relentless advocate for South Florida families in public service and elected leadership.

As Miami-Dade County’s Mayor, she oversees a metropolitan government with nearly 30,000 employees serving nearly 3 million residents, managing an annual budget of approximately $10 billion.

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Since taking office, she has worked to protect lives and livelihoods by deploying a countywide operation to distribute coronavirus vaccines efficiently and equitably across Miami-Dade; appointing the County’s first Chief Medical officer; and working closely with city leaders and the business community to spread a unified pandemic response message. In collaboration with the Board of County Commissioners, she is working to distribute millions of federal dollars in American Rescue Plan relief funds to support small businesses and residents impacted by the pandemic, invest in critical infrastructure projects, and kickstart long term recovery.

Mayor Levine Cava’s administration is focused on building a stronger, more inclusive, more resilient Miami-Dade: prioritizing reforms to make our county safer and prevent gun violence through the Peace and Prosperity Plan; restoring and reinvigorating a thriving economy that delivers economic security for Miami-Dade businesses and families and attracts new industries; saving Biscayne Bay and building and protecting our environment; and directly engaging with residents to make local government more responsive, transparent, and accountable. Learn more about the Mayor’s key priorities and progress.

A social worker, lawyer, and community activist, she was first elected in 2014, and re-elected in August 2018, to serve as the Miami-Dade County Commissioner representing District 8. As Commissioner, she invested in Miami-Dade small businesses and expanded economic opportunity, protected the environment and our water, increased the County police force for underserved areas, advocated for an expanded, reliable public transportation system, worked to create affordable housing and revitalize neighborhoods, and helped make local government more accountable and transparent.

She came to elected office after having served as an advocate for South Florida families for over 30 years. She served special needs children, low-income families and immigrants at Legal Services of Greater Miami, and then represented children in foster care and adoption system as Acting, Associate and Legal Director for the Guardian Ad Litem Program.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, she was recruited to create a new intake system for child abuse cases with the Department for Children and Families. Her efforts were concentrated on the neighborhoods of District 8 where she helped restore the lives and homes of those devastated by the storm.

In 1996, Mayor Levine Cava founded Catalyst Miami to help low- and middle-income families through service, education, and advocacy. Catalyst helps approximately 5,000 people each year to become more self-sufficient and civically engaged.

She is the Immediate Past Chair of the South Florida Regional Planning Council (SFRPC) and served as an SFRPC Council Member from 2015 – 2020. She has served on the Florida Bar Committee on Legal Needs of Children; the boards of League of Women Voters, Orange Bowl Foundation, North Dade Medical Foundation, South Florida Health Information Initiative, and several national boards. She’s won numerous awards from various organizations including: the Commission on Ethics, Red Cross, American Society for Public Administration, ACLU, National Council of Jewish Women, League of Women Voters, among others.

Born in New York and raised partly in Latin America, Mayor Levine Cava received her bachelor’s degree in psychology with honors from Yale University and graduate degrees in law and social work from Columbia University. She came to South Florida in 1980 to join her husband, Dr. Robert Cava, a Miami native, who returned home to join his father in medical practice. Daniella and Robert raised two children, Eliza and Edward, in Miami-Dade, supported by strong networks of friends, families, and co-workers.

Michelle Branham
Secretary, Florida Department of Elder Affairs

Secretary Michelle Branham was appointed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to serve as the agency head for the Florida Department of Elder Affairs in December 2021. Under Secretary Branham’s leadership, the department serves Florida’s nearly 6 million seniors over the age of 60, providing services and supporting initiatives through Florida’s Aging Network to help seniors live well and age well in the state.

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Secretary Branham brings more than 20 years of experience to her role — in public policy, public health, and public relations and more than a decade of senior executive experience in federal and state-level public policy initiatives including advanced healthcare and Florida senior initiatives. Prior to her appointment, Secretary Branham was Vice President of Public Policy for the Alzheimer’s Association for nine years. She served as Chair for the State of Florida’s Alzheimer’s Disease Advisory Committee and was an Advisory Member for the State Plan on Aging Task Force. Additionally, she co-chaired the State Health Improvement Plan Alzheimer’s priority area and was appointed by Governor DeSantis to serve on his Safe and Limited Return Task Force during the public health emergency. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political sciences from Stetson University and a master’s degree in theological studies from Emory University’s Candler School of Theology.

Thomas T. Perls, MD, MPH
Director, New England Centenarian Study,
Professor of Medicine, Boston University
Chobanian and Avedisian School of Medicine

Thomas Perls, MD, MPH, FACP, is a geriatrician and researcher in the study of aging at Boston University School of Medicine. His expertise in epidemiology, genetics of aging and exceptional longevity makes him an international leader in the field of human exceptional longevity. As an associate professor in medicine he cares for older patients with complex medical problems and challenging affronts to their independence, while also directing the National Institute on Aging-funded New England Centenarian Study (the NECS). The NECS is the largest study of people living to 100 years and beyond in the world. He also directs the Long Life Family Study at BU. These studies are leading the way in finding out how and why centenarians and their kids, who are in their seventies and eighties, live the vast majority of their lives disability-free and in the case of supercentenarians, people who live to 110 and beyond with age-related diseases not occurring until the very end of life.

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Findings from his studies are presented in his book, Living to 100: Lessons in Maximizing Your Potential at Any Age. Springing from this work is the Living to 100 life expectancy calculator that calculates your life expectancy based upon a ten-minute questionnaire. Besides your life expectancy, you find out what you are doing right and wrong, how many years you are taking off your life, and how many years you can add with key and sometimes simple changes in your habits. Over 5000 people take the calculator a day, including hundreds of middle schools, high schools, and college classes who use it to teach kids about surviving their teens and the longterm benefits of healthy and smart decisions.

Dr. Perls is also an expert in anti-aging quackery and a consultant to the Drug Enforcement Agency and the US Department of Justice in their investigations and prosecutions of anti-aging clinics. He is a vocal critic of this pernicious, greedy, and quack-ridden industry.
With over 120 academic publications on extreme longevity and the avoidance of age-related diseases, Dr. Perls and the centenarian subjects and their children have garnered a great deal of media attention including appearances on 60 Minutes, CBS Sunday Morning, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Oprah, the nightly news programs, and NPR. He has addressed audiences nationwide including Baby Boomers and active agers, as well as those in the pension, insurance, medical, and health and legal fields.

Dr. Perls also directs the recruitment and enrollment of centenarian subjects for the Archon Genomics X Prize, where he played a pivotal role in making centenarians the subjects of this competition, which will take place in January 2013, to decipher with near 100% accuracy at unprecedented speed and affordability the entire six billion nucleotides-long genetic codes of 100 spectacular centenarians.

Centenarians and supercentenarians represent a new paradigm of aging: the older you get, the healthier you’ve been! Though genetics plays an important role in getting to 100 and beyond, the centenarian study and its collaborators show us that most people should be able to live to nearly 90 in exceptional health. These 25 to 30 years beyond age 60 of good health could mean a gold mine of new possibilities and vast potential for today’s Baby Boomers and future generations.

Dr. Gordon Chen
Principal and Board Member, ChenMed
Co-Author, The Calling: A Memoir of Family, Faith and the Future of Healthcare

Dr. Gordon Chen is the Principal and Board Member of ChenMed and co-author of The Calling: A Memoir of Family, Faith, and the Future of Healthcare. He created a world-class leadership development culture that empowers doctors to be the change they want to see in healthcare while fulfilling their purpose and creating personal opportunities. His influence and outcomes-based approach have helped grow a full-risk medical practice into a multi-state enterprise that serves patients in communities across America.

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Dr. Chen believes that physicians’ potential to lead and influence, combined with strong business leadership can transform healthcare; and fulfill a moral imperative to bring better health and health equity across America. He has developed experiential leadership training programs to create world-class physician influencers who are empowered to spread value-based, preventive care through ChenMed’s transformative primary care model.

Dr. Gordon Chen holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Brown University as part of Brown’s Program of Liberal Medical Education. He accepted a scholarship and returned home to South Florida to attend the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and remained in Miami for his internal medicine and cardiology training. Dr. Gordon Chen is also the president of Nicaragua Medical Missions, a Christian non-profit organization that strives to create medical mission opportunities to meet the needs of multiple underserved Nicaraguan communities. He is married to his medical school sweetheart, Dr. Jessica Chen, ChenMed’s Chief Clinical Officer. They have four children.

Thomas P. O’Neill
President & CEO, Cognivue, Inc

Tom O’Neill has served as president, chief executive officer and member of the Board of Directors at Cognivue® Inc, the highly respective neuroscience company focused on cognitive health, since 2018. For more than 30 years, his commercial leadership has driven top and bottom-line growth, operational excellence, and improved customer satisfaction across the consumer, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, surgical and diagnostics sectors.

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Prior to joining Cognivue, Mr. O’Neill served as president, North American Commercial Operations for Qiagen, a global leader in molecular diagnostics and life sciences, where he helped set the stage for long-term sustainable growth; as president for Hologic’s global gynecologic surgical business, leading its turnaround and significant top and bottom-line divisional success; and as president, North American Commercial Operations for Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, where he inspired 600 professionals to reignite growth for the $850 million business.

From 2009 to 2013, Mr. O’Neill held positions of increasing responsibility at Bausch + Lomb Incorporated, including as vice president and general manager, North American Vision Care. Beforehand, he served in leadership roles with SynergEyes and Valeant Pharmaceuticals. Earlier in his career, he held sales and marketing positions within the Johnson and Johnson Family of Companies including McNeil Consumer Healthcare, J&J/Merck, and Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceuticals.

Mr. O’Neill received a B.S. in Business Administration and Marketing from the University of Akron. He currently sits on Ceek Woman’s Health Board of Directors. He is also very passionate about serving his local community, including his role as president of Gigi’s Playhouse, a Down syndrome development center in Rochester, N.Y.

Jean Bell 
National Head of Healthcare, Education & Not-for-Profit, Bank of America

Jean Bell is the Global Commercial Banking Healthcare, Education, and Not-for-Profit executive for Bank of America. In this role, she is responsible for leading national teams that focus on serving clients with a broad array of industry-specific solutions, including core credit and treasury management and works with various partners to provide leasing, retirement capabilities, and other capital-raising products. Most importantly, this team provides clients with deep financial expertise focused on their unique industries.

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In 2022, Bell led the Global Commercial Banking ESG efforts assisting clients in the transition to a low-carbon economy and supporting sustainable business activities and engaging communities and clients in the advancement of economic and social progress.

Bell has 35 years of experience in the banking industry and has held a variety of other executive and management positions at Bank of America. Before assuming her current responsibilities, Bell served as the Market Executive for the Global Commercial Banking team covering the southern half of Florida.
Bell graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. She is a FINRA Registered Principal with Series 7, 24 and 63 securities licenses.

Bell, a Miami native, has been affiliated with several community & professional organizations over the span of her career. Her passion lies in helping those that are most vulnerable in society – children and the elderly. As such, Jean is currently Chairwoman of the board of Easterseals of South Florida. Bell is married with two grown children and is based in Miami,