Public health leader to deliver commencement address

Umair Shah
Alumnus Umair A. Shah, M.D., M.P.H.

Alumnus Umair A. Shah, M.D., M.P.H.

HOUSTON – Public health leader and alumnus, Umair A. Shah, M.D., M.P.H., is slated to deliver the 2017 spring commencement address for The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health.

Shah, who is the executive director of Harris County Public Health (HCPH), 2016 NACCHO Health Department of the Year, earned a Master of Public Health degree (M.P.H.) from UTHealth School of Public Health with a focus on health services organization in 2001 and completed an internal medicine residency and primary care/general medicine fellowship with UT Physicians and the McGovern Medical School at UTHealth.

In 2013, Shah was appointed executive director and local health authority for Harris County, Texas, which is the third most populous county in the United States, with a population of 4.3 million spread over 1,778 square miles, which is larger than of the State of Rhode Island.

Before joining HCPH, Shah provided clinical care as an emergency department physician at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center and served as chief medical officer for the Galveston County Health District. He earned a B.A. in philosophy from Vanderbilt University and an M.D. from The University of Toledo Health Science Center, during which time he also completed an international health policy internship at the World Health Organization in Geneva.

Though sought nationally for his expertise, Shah remains actively engaged in both patient care and academic teaching locally. He frequently returns to his public health alma mater, UTHealth, to engage in public health discussion and events.

“It is an absolute honor to be speaking at the place where my public health journey started,” says Shah. “As a student, I remember sitting in the same chair listening to a commencement speech almost as if it was yesterday. It is my hope that through sharing my experience, I inspire these upcoming graduates to be the leaders that we need them to be in public health.”

Shah has had a long, distinguished career in public service, serving in numerous leadership positions and responding to a variety of large-scale emergencies. These emergencies include Tropical Storm Allison; Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Ike; earthquakes in Kashmir and Haiti; the H1N1 flu virus, Ebola virus and Zika virus. Notably, Shah served as co-medical branch director for the 27,000 Hurricane Katrina evacuees housed at the Houston Astrodome in 2005.

In addition to emergency planning and response, Shah’s interests include population health, wellness and prevention; health innovation/use of social media (many of you may know him by his Twitter handle, @ushahmd); health equity; global health; and community and stakeholder engagement. He frequently presents statewide and nationally on a variety of important health-related topics, and has presented to the Texas Legislature and to U.S. Congressional staff. He stays engaged in clinical patient care, academic teaching, and remains actively involved in the local community.

On a personal level, Shah is a writer, entrepreneur, sports enthusiast, husband, and father of three children.

— Written by Shannon LaDuke with excerpts from HCPH