A Cornerstone of Public Health

Nov. 1, 2021

The Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health

Mel and Enid Zuckerman

Mel and Enid Zuckerman

Twenty-one years ago, Mel and Enid Zucker-man made a visionary gift to benefit the public health of Southern Arizonans, a complement to their founding of wellness brand Canyon Ranch. Their investment in the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health has paid off in countless ways, per-haps none so visible as the coordinated response to the coronavirus pandemic, from researching the epidemiologic and immunologic characteristics of the virus to promoting and delivering the vaccine to overseeing contact tracing teams.

When the coronavirus pandemic struck, MEZCOPH was prepared to work closely with government and community partners at the local and state level, as well as with the university’s international partners. While this may be the first pandemic experienced by the majority of the world’s current population, it is not the first epidemic MEZCOPH alumni have been instrumental in addressing.

“My career was heavily shaped by my experience in serving on the investigation team when hantavirus emerged in 1993 in the southwestern United States during my residency,” says Mark Smolinski ’94, who graduated with the first Master of Public Health class at the University of Arizona. He is an internationally recognized medical epidemiologist and the president of Ending Pandemics. “The complexities of how, why and where this crisis emerged gave me immense respect and gratitude for the multidisciplinary education I received at MEZCOPH.”

MEZCOPH continues to lead in response to the pandemic with the most informed, re-search-based public health guidance and programming available, and it continues to educate the public health leaders of tomorrow to meet the challenges and consequences of global pandemics. Dr. Richard Carmona, 17th Surgeon General of the United States and head of the UArizona coronavirus response, also is an alumnus of MEZCOPH’s MPH program. In fact, Carmona was a doctor before he pursued his MPH, which he decided to do because he saw that many ailments he treated were preventable.

“My own life’s trajectory is a testament to my belief in the fundamental importance of public health to the well-being of both individuals and communities,” Carmona says. “The Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health is a cornerstone of public health in Southern Arizona, serving the community and impacting Arizonans for the better every day.”

In addition to providing leadership during the coronavirus pandemic, MEZCOPH continues to implement its core values regarding health equity, often in partnership with the Zuckerman Family Foundation.

“Since MEZCOPH was established, the college has expanded its offerings to include numerous undergraduate degrees in addition to its many graduate degrees,” says Nicole Zuckerman-Morris, director of ZFF. “We are extremely excited for the new B.A. in wellness and health promotion practice, which will be offered for the first time this academic year. Preventive care is crucial to healthy lifestyles, and we are proud to support the evolving programming at the college.”

“MEZCOPH has been building healthier com-munities locally, nationally and globally for 21 years,” says Dr. Iman Hakim, MEZCOPH dean. “That is over two decades of touching lives, transformative education for students and delivering programs that improve health outcomes for everyone from infants to grandparents.

Omar Escontrias

The Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health afforded me the opportunity to be trained at an institution whose commitment to serving the population of the Southwest is rooted in its mission. As a native of Arizona, this was important to me as I pursued higher education. I have taken my experiences, training and education and applied them to my professional career -- formally as an infectious disease  epidemiologist and currently as a public health policy advisor. I help shape health policy to assess the sociopolitical determinants of health to improve the health of communities. 

- Dr. Omar A. Escontrías, DR.P.H., MPH
Senior Director of Policy at a National Nonprofit in Washington, D.C.,
2020 Recipient of the Ayman El-Mohandes Young Professional Public Health Innovation Award
Founder of Contrías Policy Associates, LLC

—Riley Iosca