In the heart of Texas, a pioneering partnership is shaping the future of public health. UTHealth Houston School of Public Health and the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) are strengthening the connection between public health education and practice with the second installment of the Regional Lunch & Learn series in the Paso del Norte region. The Regional Lunch & Learn sessions offer a unique space where the DSHS regional offices connect with the academic community of UTHealth Houston School of Public Health. These gatherings are more than just meetings; they are a testament to the dedication of both organizations to come together, engage in meaningful discussions, and explore potential collaborations. The latest session featured Art Alvarado, RS, MPH, Deputy Regional Director for DSHS Region 9/10, an alumnus of UTHealth Houston School of Public Health in El Paso, and a pivotal figure in this collaboration. As Deputy Regional Director, Alvarado provides programmatic direction and regional administrative oversight.
In the fall of 2023, students, faculty, and staff learned of the state-wide and regionally-specific programs and services offered by the DSHS Region 9/10 office. Discussions were had about the prioritization of services and identification of community needs, the changing public health landscape in the region, and the challenges and needs faced by his office and the future workforce. Additionally, Alvarado shared his public health journey, including his time as a student at UTHealth Houston School of Public Health in El Paso where he earned his Master of Public Health degree.
The second half of the session was marked by Kristina Mena, PhD, professor, regional dean, and department chair, providing an overview to those in attendance from both institutions, information on UTHealth Houston School of Public Health, and the amazing work and opportunities available through the school’s location in El Paso. This included an overview and introduction to the Center for Community Health Impact by Leah Whigham, PhD, associate professor, and the center’s current and founding director.
The Regional Lunch & Learn sessions represent the dedication of both organizations to advancing public health. As these sessions continue to flourish, with one planned each semester, they promise to bring even more benefits to the public health landscape in Texas. Ultimately, this partnership is shaping the creation of a healthier and safer Texas for all its residents.
Additional information on the Academic Public Health Partnership and copies of the presentation materials shared during this session are available on the UTHealth Houston School of Public Health Academic-Practice Collaboration Hub website.