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Bernadette Boden-Albala, MPH, DrPH
Director and Founding Dean

With the start of the Fall Quarter fast approaching and COVID-19 mediation efforts well underway, I write to you today to express my profound admiration and pride for our UCI Public Health community, which has come together in incredible ways to face today’s pandemic. I am struck by the diligence of our community including faculty, students, alumni, and staff in collaborative efforts underway to effectively respond to COVID-19. I am now, more than ever, proud to be your Dean.
This past month, the Program in Public Health concluded its
Health Equity Contact Tracing Workshop, a collaboration with the Orange County Health Care Agency (OCHCA) that trains public health practitioners, students, community leaders, and residents to do contact tracing. Designed with a fundamental focus on addressing disparities, this workshop has been instrumental in educating and empowering contact tracers to approach their work with equity in mind. UCI will build upon the successes of the workshop as it onboards our large DTEI graduate student contact tracer workforce led by David Souleles, COVID-19 Response Team Director.
As universities across the country continue to deliberate about whether or not to return to campus, UCI remains committed to protecting the safety and well-being of all students, staff, and faculty through a hybrid approach.  Early UCI efforts surrounding communication and community vigilance on social distancing, face coverings, and hand-washing have continued with expanded efforts for Fall Quarter to include symptom collection and triage to testing, asymptomatic testing, contact tracing, and accompanying quarantine and isolation as needed. 

Finally, let us not forget the trauma associated with COVID-19 beyond the viral physical impact. Isolation, stigma, and social injustice rise to the top of a long list. UCI Public Health Post Doc, Dr. Nessa Ryan, summarizes some important research on COVID-19 stigma across campus based on surveys conducted at the onset of the pandemic: According to the surveys administered to our diverse student body, of the 1601 respondents, about 13% and 15% experienced enacted stigma (i.e. someone mocked or avoided them) and internal stigma (i.e. feeling ashamed or worthless), respectively, while 28% feared being stigmatized in the future. The study also found that Asian students were 1.5 times more likely to report enacted stigma and 2.6 times more likely to report internal stigma. Those who were stigmatized had greater odds of being depressed and of experiencing other poor health outcomes. In her research, Dr. Ryan reminds us that all students can intervene to resist stigma in the following ways:

  • Speak up when we observe discriminatory language, images, or interactions
  • Listen to peers who are at risk of stigma and activists working to dismantle the structural contributors to stigma, particularly those describing their lived experiences
  • Reflect on our implicit biases and take action to change any subconscious biases that may be shaping our interpersonal interactions
Together, we can keep our campus community a safe space for all.

In closing,  I know we are fatigued by a virus that never seems to end, but as we look toward Fall Quarter, I am confident that our community will continue to come together in intrepid ways to effectively respond to the epidemic while helping reduce the burden of disease at UCI and across Orange County.
Also being brought to a close this month is actOC, a large-scale, population-based study done in partnership with the Orange County Health Care Agency (OCHCA) that involves COVID-19 antibody testing in a sample of approximately 3,000 Orange County residents. As we await the results of the study, much work is still being done by our faculty and students in communities like Santa Ana and Anaheim to try to slow and halt transmission. Large-scale initiatives like actOC, which aim to understand the true prevalence of COVID-19, are essential in mitigating what some call the “death gap” – the number of deaths averted if the U.S. accounted for the same share of virus deaths as it did the global population, according to the NYTimes.
Health Equity Contact Tracing Workshop

This past month, we concluded the Health Equity Contact Tracing Workshop that kicked off on Monday, July 20, 2020 with a Community Forum. The purpose of the Community Forum was to establish a community context for the Health Equity Contact Tracing Workshop and to place the Workshop within a larger community-driven COVID-19 response. Interest in the Workshop was overwhelming with nearly 700 interested registrants. The Workshop ran through August 21, 2020, and was led by Dr. Daniel Parker and Dr. Alana LeBrón.

UCI Public Health partnered with OCHCA and the Orange County Health Equity COVID-19 Community-Academic Partnership to offer this workshop to train public health practitioners, students, community leaders, and residents to do contact tracing for COVID-19.

The Workshop was designed with a fundamental focus on health equity. We integrated community knowledge about the impacts of the pandemic and pandemic mitigation strategies on low-income communities of color with established models of manual contact tracing. We also presented the latest knowledge about COVID-19 spread and mitigation. 

The Workshop was delivered through popular education methods in a hybrid format of asynchronous online content, live online group-based discussions, and role-playing sessions. To learn more about the Workshop, visit our website or watch NBC Los Angeles' report about the training. 

UCI Provides Consultation Services for
Monarch Beach Resort Coronavirus Mitigation Plan
The University of California, Irvine, is now providing expert advice to Monarch Beach Resort. The project – to develop protocols that will elevate the resort’s existing StaySafe Program – launched at the beginning of August. Public Health faculty are currently reviewing Monarch Beach Resort's plans to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 exposure for employees, guests, and members, then will issue recommendations to inform the resort's practices. Read more here.
“For Orange County to be able to reopen safely, it can’t just be public health experts saying we need to implement the kinds of policies and procedures that will keep everyone safe.”
 - Karen Edwards, Professor of Epidemiology
09/17/20: What do California's COVID-19 reopening metrics mean? A health expert answers (Andrew Noymer)
09/14/20: Anaheim luxe hotel opens to new landscape (Karen Edwards)
08/31/20: Monarch Beach Resort Call in Public Health Experts (Karen Edwards)
08/19/20: How Widespread is COVID-19 in Orange County? New Study Hopes to Find Out (Tim Bruckner)
08/19/20: More OC Businesses Might Be Able to Reopen Soon, State Officials Slated to Release New Guidelines (Andrew Noymer)
08/15/20: Fear, Language Barriers Hinder Immigrant Contact-Tracing (Daniel Parker)
08/14/20: UC Irvine Workshop Trains Residents Living, Working in COVID-19 'Hot Spots' to do Contact Tracing (Bernadette Boden-Albala)
08/11/20: Why Some California Classrooms Will Reopen for Child Care, Through Barred from In-Person Instruction (Andrew Noymer)
08/05/20: The Winter Will Be Worse (Andrew Noymer)
08/03/20: Kids Could Trigger Another Wave of COVID and the Fall May be Worse, Says Health Professor (Andrew Noymer)
08/02/20: A Coronavirus Vaccine Won't Change the World Right Away (Andrew Noymer)
08/01/20: As California Coronavirus Cases Spike, Contact Tracing Stalled by Fear and Embarrassment (Daniel Parker)
08/01/20: As the Coronavirus Spreads in Orange County, We Have a Choice (Bernadette Boden-Albala)

UCI Anti-Cancer Challenge: A Virtual Event Experience

Saturday, Oct. 3 // All day

This year, UCI has transformed its Anti-Cancer Challenge into a virtual event and program so you can participate wherever you are, whether it's logging steps from moving around at home, doing a social-distancing run in your neighborhood or riding around the community. Learn more about the annual event here.


Associate Professor Michael A. Hoyt, PhD co-authors a paper that describes the feasibility and acceptability of a novel intervention, Goal-focused Emotion-Regulation Therapy (GET), which aims to improve distress symptoms, emotion regulation, and goal navigation skills in young adult testicular cancer patients.

A challenge in identifying health disparities has been the lack of intuitive and computationally feasible methods to assess whether the pattern of spatial effects varies over time. This study co-authored by Scott M. Bartell, PhD describes modifications to GAM (generalized additive models) frameworks to improve the ways in which geographic disease risks are mapped in epidemiological studies.

Zhu, Yachen; Bartell, Scott M. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in drinking water and birthweight in the US, Environmental Epidemiology: August 2020 - Volume 4 - Issue 4 - p e0107 doi: 10.1097/EE9.0000000000000107

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are ubiquitous in the serum of the general U.S. population and were detected in public water systems serving approximately 16.5 million U.S. residents from 2013-2015. Previous studies have found associations between low birthweight and PFAS exposures. In this article, PhD student Yachen Zhu and Scott M. Bartell, PhD assess the direction and magnitude of association between PFAS and birthweight by examining county-level data from 2013-2015.

In this article, Professor Douglas Granger, PhD discusses the decades-long arc in which salivary bioscience has become increasingly useful in diverse areas, including behavioral science fields like behavioral economics and cognitive science. The pandemic has accelerated this integration and will likely lead to a new set of practices and protocols for how saliva is classified, collected, and handled.

Peters, S. U., Fu, C., Neul, J. L., & Granger, D. A. (2020). Cortisol profiles and clinical severity in MECP2 duplication syndrome. Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders12(1), 1-9.

Professor Douglas Granger, PhD co-authors a paper on MECP2 duplication syndrome (MDS), a rare X-linked genomic disorder primarily affecting males which is caused by interstitial chromosomal duplications at Xq28 encompassing the MECP2 gene. Core clinical features of MDS include choreiform movements, progressive spasticity, recurrent respiratory infections, developmental delays in the first 6 months of life, hypotonia, vasomotor disturbances, constipation, drooling, and bruxism. Prior studies suggest that HPA axis activity may be altered in MDS and measures of HPA axis activity may offer insight into disease severity.
Chen, F. R., Raine, A., & Granger, D. A. (2020). The Within-Person Coordination of HPA and ANS Activity in Stress Response: Relation with Behavior Problems. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 104805.
This study co-authored by Douglas Granger, PhD tests the within-person coordination of HPA and ANS activity in response to stress and examines for the first time the association between such coordination and behavior problems in minority urban children. Findings highlight the importance of multisystem interplay in stress responding in understanding behavior problems.

In this study, Professor Jun Wu, PhD examines the associations between economic factors and health care resources on infant mortality rates (IMR) in China, looking specifically at prefecture-level spatial heterogeneity and clustering. The study found that western China generally had stronger associations between IMR and all three variables than the middle-eastern part of China. It also identified three distinct spatial clusters. This study contributes new findings on the spatial heterogeneity of the associations between economic and health care factors and infant mortality rate in China, which calls for region-specific policies to reduce infant mortality.

Incoming PhD student Michael Pham Huynh examines the association between Body Mass Index (BMI) and elevated liver enzyme levels, including interaction by diabetes mellitus (DM) status among patients in the San Francisco Health Network (SFHN). Findings revealed that 32.2% of SFHN patients were obese, and Pacific Islanders in the safety-net had the highest rates of obesity compared to other racial groups. In SFHN, obesity was associated with elevated liver enzymes, with the relationship stronger among those without DM. Results from this study highlight the importance of directing efforts to reduce obesity in safety-net health systems.

Antibiotic resistance is a major contributing factor to global morbidity and mortality and is associated with inappropriate medication use. However, the level of antibiotic consumption and knowledge about antibiotic resistance in Ghana is inadequately quantified. In this study, PhD student Tamara Jimah and UC Presidential Chair and Professor Oladele Ogunseitan, MPH, PhD identify strategies for improved stewardship of antibiotics to prevent the proliferation of resistant pathogens by assessing the level of antibiotic knowledge, attitudes, and consumption behaviors by region, gender, age, and education in rural and urban Ghana. Their study found that antibiotic knowledge, attitudes, and use varied significantly among demographics, suggesting a context-specific approach to developing effective community interventions.

Sora Park Tanjasiri, DrPH
Professor, Department of Epidemiology

Orange County Community-Oriented Health Equity Contact Tracing (OC-CHECT), 7/1/20-6/30/21, $25,000 (PI: LeBron). Funded by the UCI Office of Inclusive Excellence to develop a health equity approach for COVID19 contact tracing in collaboration with four Latino and Asian American community partners in OC.

Through Our Eyes, Hear Our Stories: Asian American and Pacific Islander Communities in a Time of Pandemic 7/1/20-6/30/21, $25,000 (PI: Tanjasiri). Funded by the UCI Office of Inclusive Excellence to conduct a Photovoice needs assessment of the impacts of COVID19 in Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in Orange County.

Vaping among multicultural Orange County Students (¡VAMOS!), 7/1/20-6/30/22; $476,873 (T31CR2217) (PI: Tanjasiri & Foo). Funded by the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program, this study aims to identify the individual and contextual factors affecting e-cigarette use among Latino, Asian American, and other multicultural youth in Anaheim, CA

Samantha Garcia
MPH Student
Congratulations to MPH student Samantha Garcia for receiving funding for her project titled Individual, Interpersonal, and Community Factors Associated with HPV Vaccine Hesitancy among Mexican American Young Adult Women. The study is being funded by the NIH National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. Sponsors include Suellen Hopfer, PhD (Department of Health, Behavior, and Society), Sora Park Tanjasiri, DrPH (Department of Epidemiology), Candice Odgers, PhD (UCI School of Social Ecology), and Hortensia Amaro, PhD (Northeastern University Institute on Urban Health Research and Practice).
Recipients of the UCI Inclusive Excellence
Certificate Program

We are delighted to recognize Ted Gideonse, Liza Krassner, and Miryha Gould-Runerstrom as PPH's inaugural recipients of the UCI Inclusive Excellence Certificate Program. Aligned to the Inclusive Excellence Action Plan, The purpose of this certificate program is to equip students, faculty, and staff to advance the pillars of Community, Thriving, and Wellness. Each graduate completed the curriculum, including the required core course entitled UCI as a Minority Thriving University and an elective course on Community or Wellness.

Thank you!

Chuck Villanueva

Former Director of Administration, Program in Public Health

Chuck Villanueva has departed the Program in Public Health to join the School of Nursing as the Finance Director. He spent almost 2 years as the Director of Administration for the Program in Public Health, where he managed the department operations with the highest level of professionalism. He has been an asset to this program and pivotal in helping get us to a four-department program and on our way to a future school. Please join us in thanking Chuck and congratulating him for his new role!


Amy Buch

Contact Tracing Manager, COVID-19 Response Team

Amy is glad to be back at UCI. She previously worked in the Health Education Center (now the Center for Wellness and Health Promotion). Most recently, Amy worked at the Orange County Health Care Agency (OCHCA) where she served as the Health Promotion Division Manager. Amy has been retired now for over a year, but came out of retirement to assist the newly-created COVID-19 Response Team. Outside of UCI, she is also serves as a Commissioner with the Orange County Human Relations Commission, which aims to identify the root causes of hate in Orange County and address hate crimes. Amy is also part-time Public Health faculty member as CSUF and serves on the Community Benefits Committee at Mission Hospital.

Nina Raffio

Communications Specialist

Nina Raffio is a communications professional with a passion for global health and human rights. She has worked in a variety of industries from higher education to health systems and nonprofits. Nina received a B.S. in Global Public Health/Media, Culture and Communication from NYU and will soon earn her MPH from UC Berkeley. Most recently, Nina completed an academic fellowship with the Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children (FIMRC), where she developed lesson plans around gender-based violence that will soon be implemented in project sites in the Philippines. When she is not working or studying, you can find her painting, reading, or running her two husky puppies at the dog park.

Deborah Rothbart

Administrative Specialist, Dept. of Health, Society and Behavior

Deb's most recent placement was with UCI-TES as Admin Assistant III in the Administrative Department of Aanesthesiology at UCI Medical Center in Orange. She worked for the Resident Coordinator for ten months, completing projects for residents and faculty. In the past, she has also worked in administrative, sales, design and customer service roles. Deb has a B.S. in Health and Human Services from Purdue University and a Preliminary Credential in Secondary Education from Chapman University.

Deb and her 18-year old cat, Belle, are excited to be joining the Public Health team where she will serve as Admin Specialist in the Department of Health, Society and Behavior.

David M. Souleles

Director, COVID-19 Response Team

David has worked in public health for over 30 years. He most recently held the Deputy Agency Director of Public Health Services position with the Orange County Health Care Agency (HCA). In this role, he served as Public Health Director for the county.  David previously served HCA as Chief of Public Health Operations and as Division Manager for Disease Control and Epidemiology. 

Prior to joining HCA, David held various senior public health positions including an appointment by Governor Gray Davis as Chief Deputy Director for the California Department of Health Services and Preventive Health Bureau Manager and AIDS Program Manager for the City of Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services. David began his public health career in 1987 as an HIV/AIDS health educator right here at UC Irvine.

In addition to having worked for UC Irvine, David earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from UC Irvine and holds a master’s degree in public health from UCLA.

Natasha Wasim, '17

PPH alumna Natasha Wasim hosted an engaging webinar titled Public Health and the Way Forward featuring Dean Bernadette Boden-Albala, Dr. Andrew Noymer, and Dr. Daniel Parker. Watch the full discussion here.

Maribel Cervantes-Ortega

Maribel Cervantes-Ortega was the first Epidemiology PhD student to successfully advance to candidacy via Zoom. Congratulations, Maribel!

Rachel Lucia McFarland

PhD candidate Rachel Lucia McFarland presented a poster at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting, which was held virtually from June 22-24, 2020. The title of her poster was "Association of Mammographic Density with Blood DNA Methylation."

Have questions about COVID-19?

The Program in Public Health COVID-19 Chatline is now available for general questions and inquiries. The chatline is staffed Monday-Friday from 9:00AM-6:00PM PST and Saturday-Sunday from 12:00PM-4:00PM PT.
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