News : 2017 : October

Catching up with Dean Emerita Janet Canterbury, Ph.D.

Since her retirement more than a decade ago, Janet Canterbury, Ph.D., has traveled, tried her hand as an author, enjoyed her children and grandchildren, and continued her work as a dedicated women’s rights activist.

“It is the great passion of my life, it really is,” said Canterbury. “Equality for women, and advocating for all people.”

It is the same philosophy that Canterbury delivered during a distinguished 30-year career at the University of Miami Miller School. She arrived in 1972 as an instructor of medicine and quickly endeared herself as an advocate for students through her plain-spoken, no-holds-barred advice.

Later, she became the deputy dean for medical education, where she counseled students and faculty on an official level and handled everything from admissions, to curriculum, student affairs, financial aid, alumni relations, and minority affairs. During her tenure, she helped to diversify the student population; the percentage of women increased from 13 to 51 percent; the African-American student population from 5 to nearly 12 percent; and Hispanics from 17 to 31 percent.

“We took a school that was new, that had few, if any, traditions, and we introduced not big things, but things that made a difference,” said Canterbury. “We diversified our classes, created educational programs and handbooks, we changed our facilities and added courses, I think we made a better, fairer, medical school.”

During the last five years of her academic career, Canterbury, as senior associate dean for special projects, focused on the development of the Women and Minority Faculty Development Program to enhance the recruitment, development, and career advancement of women and minority faculty at the school.

It wasn’t always smooth sailing; Canterbury was one of the first tenured women in the Department of Medicine and a staunch advocate for women’s and minority rights. .

One of the proudest moments she remembers; eliminating the process of making female students, surgical residents, and physicians change in a nurses’ dressing room, where they often missed out on many post-surgical discussions.

“We took it on and slowly got it changed,” said Canterbury. “We made a dressing room for women and a lounge for everyone where these discussions could take place.”

In addition to her advocacy, Canterbury wrote more than 100 peer-reviewed scientific/medical articles in her specialty field of endocrine control of calcium-phosphorous metabolism.

She was repeatedly honored for work on behalf of women, including the James W. McLamore Service Award, which was established by the UM Faculty Senate to recognize extraordinary service. Each year, the Janet Canterbury Award is given to the outstanding fourth-year female student at the Miller School.

Earlier this year, another honor. Canterbury was awarded the Woman of Vision honor by the National Organization For Women (NOW), with whom she has been working with for many years.

She was twice-elected President of Dade County NOW and Florida State NOW. She served two terms on the National Board as the Southeast Regional Director and currently co-chairs the Advisory Committee to National NOW with Patricia Ireland, J.D. ’75, former president, National Organization for Women; Eleanor Smeal, former president of the National Organization for Women, and Carol Moseley Braun, former U.S. Senator and diplomat. She also serves as an advisor to the NOW Political Action Committee, where she maintains a keen interest in electoral politics and in advancing women’s careers through training and formal mentoring programs.

Canterbury lives in unincorporated Miami-Dade County with her longtime partner Nancy Klimas, M.D., ’80, who won the Medical Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2011. They live on the same five-acre spread, complete with horses, pigs, and other wildlife, where Dean Canterbury used to host barbecues for faculty and students.

She also enjoys spending time with her children Eleanor, Cady, Patricia, and Martin, and their children. One of her goals is to co-write a book, with Patricia Ireland, about her experiences in the women’s movement that she will dedicate to her three-year-old granddaughter, Callie.

She says she frequently gets social media requests to link up with former colleagues and often runs into former students around town who like to reminisce with her. She is proud to point out that most of her current physicians are graduates of UM’s medical school.

Canterbury says she feels like she left UM in good hands and on the right path when she retired.

“I was passionate about the medical school because it was my job to make it better,” she said. “Not just through grades, but by producing caring, loving, physicians, and I think we did that.”