Alumnus earns spot in FDA Center for Tobacco Products

jose medina
Alumnus José L. Medina, Dr.P.H., M.P.H.

Focusing on tobacco use prevention and education

HOUSTON – José L. Medina, an alumnus of UTHealth School of Public Health in Austin, recently began working for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Tobacco Products (CTP). Previously, Medina was a Tobacco Regulatory Science Fellow at the FDA. The fellowship was sponsored by the FDA CTP and the National Academy of Medicine.

Originally from Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, Medina earned both the Master of Public Health (M.P.H. ’09) and Doctor of Public Health degree (Dr.P.H., ’13) from UTHealth School of Public Health in Austin, one of six campuses across Texas that are all part of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health. His dissertation title was, “Something real: a social marketing approach to smoking prevention among Montevideo youth.” The School of Public Health aims to train the next generation of the public health workforce to improve the health of the population through prevention and better health outcomes.

For his undergraduate degree, Medina studied public communication, earning his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras. One might wonder how he made the switch to public health after briefly considering a career in advertising, and even focusing on photography. Medina says he never felt that promoting products was satisfying or compelling.

“I have always been a fan of healthy habits,” says Medina, who also worked for many years at the American Cancer Society before attending the School of Public Health. “It only seemed natural to blend my passion and skills with my studies. My communication and public health skills come together nicely as I perform as a health communications specialist.”

As far as focusing specifically on tobacco-related health and illness, Medina says he feels it is important because it is preventable.

“I think it is important to prevent tobacco use because smoking is the leading cause of preventable death. I am passionate about smoking prevention health education campaigns and communications. I think they can make a positive impact on the health of individuals, young and not-so young alike,” says Medina. “Everyone benefits as those of us who do not smoke benefit from cleaner air.”

In his new position at the FDA in Silver Spring, Maryland, Medina works in the Office of Health Communication and Education. He provides strategic outreach support for nationwide health communication efforts about tobacco regulations and health education.

“This is an exciting professional opportunity to prevent and reduce tobacco use at a national level,” says Medina, who says he feels believing in oneself and sticking with one’s passions are important tools to use when looking for opportunities. “I knew what my passions where and after an opportunity presented itself to go back to grad school full time, I went for it. It was a risky move to leave full-time employment, move my family across the country for a new job, and later leave full-time employment again for a one-year fellowship appointment. All the hard work paid off when I was able to find a full-time position with the FDA doing the type of work I am passionate about.”

— Written by Shannon LaDuke