2023 Fierce Awards: Leading Ladies

Leading Ladies 

2023 Fierce Award Winners share their keys to effective leadership 

By Victoria Atterberry 


Melissa Long, Executive Director of Human Resources 

University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences  

Melissa Long serves as the executive director of human resources at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Leading the college’s HR team, she is responsible for the strategy and management of human resource functions, employee relations, talent acquisition, talent development and more areas that assist the university’s goal to provide leadership and support for all employee units in the college. 

Long is always looking for new ways to grow, and she desires to lead her team by example—never asking anyone to do something she would not do herself. 

“When challenges arise, I take a collaborative approach and talk with trusted colleagues to bounce ideas and keep me ‘in check’ to ensure I’m considering a well-rounded approach,” she said. 

Within her role, Melissa hopes to continue to make an impact on the university’s culture by focusing on employees’ strengths, future growth and what each team member can bring to the table.

“When people feel supported and respected, they do their best work,” she said. “As a leader, I feel a responsibility to not only provide this environment for my team but also encourage other leaders to adopt this approach as well.” 

“Take a few more breaks and carve out more time to just have fun!”


Melissa Cere, Co-Owner 

Kinetix Physical Therapy 

Melissa Cere and her husband opened Kinetix Physical Therapy in 2008, becoming the first physical therapy clinic in town to offer class IV laser therapy, musculoskeletal diagnostic ultrasound and electromyography/nerve conduction studies.  

Melissa has gained recognition in the community for her specialty practice areas of pelvic health and craniomandibular rehab, and her team of physical therapists represents one of the most professional therapeutic operations in Florida.  

Melissa describes her leadership as a coaching style. She leads by example and by empowering others to grow and reach their potential. 

 “I try to ask questions that help to encourage creative thinking and problem-solving so that individuals can come around to the best answer or outcome without being told what to do,” she said.  

Being a business owner, wife, and mother can be taxing, but Melissa strives to set small, realistic goals to help keep her on track. 

“I like to sit down at the beginning of each week, look ahead to plan out my week in writing with my calendar to see how the pieces fit together to keep me on track to reach my long-term goals,” she said.

“Don’t sweat the small stuff. Give others grace, because you’ll need more of it yourself one day.”


See Also

Miranda Whitmer, M.D. 

Gainesville Dermatology & Skin Surgery 

Miranda Whitmer joined Gainesville Dermatology & Skin Surgery in 2005 and has been a partner in the group ever since. Not only is she responsible for performing her duties as a dermatologist, but she also manages the office’s medical practice of four physicians, four physician assistants and over 50 employees. 

Throughout her career, she has helped over 150 people on the path to careers as physician assistants and doctors. In addition, she has treated over 1,200 patients experiencing cancer every year for the last 17 years. 

There is no more awesome feeling than knowing you are making a direct impact in that many lives,” she said. 

 As a woman working in a male-dominated field, Miranda also wants to inspire women to break the glass ceiling of stereotypes and stigmas society has placed on them. 

“Across our country, women only hold 15% of CEO roles for healthcare organizations,” she said. “I am proud to be paving the way as a partner in the largest and busiest dermatology practice in our area.” 

“Believe in yourself and be confident in what you do. Trust your gut and never give up on your dreams. If someone isn’t supporting you, move on. You are your biggest cheerleader.”


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