The University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and the Pima County Health Department will launch an Academic Health Department (AHD) to enhance public health education, training and research to improve community health in Pima County. 

The AHD relationship with the UA Zuckerman College of Public Health is much like the “academic teaching hospital” model found among hospitals and medical schools, in which medical and other health professions students learn under the watchful eyes of attending physicians and seasoned mentors. The AHD will provide a number of services to both health department employees and students, and faculty and staff members at the UA Zuckerman College of Public Health. 

One key component of the AHD will be the Mini Public Health School, a monthly lecture series featuring presentations by faculty members and health department staff, who will discuss their research and community-based projects. 

Other AHD programs will include expansion of the current internship opportunities at the Health Department for UA Zuckerman College of Public Health students; bi-annual research poster forums featuring projects developed by interns; a bi-annual training for internship preceptors, faculty advisers, graduate coordinators and undergraduate advisers; a fellowship program; and plans for a Western regional conference. 

“The Academic Health Department will help bridge the gap between the education of public health professionals and the practice of public health,” said Cecilia Rosales, MD, MS, interim associate dean of community engagement and outreach and associate dean of Phoenix Programs at the UA Zuckerman College of Public Health. “This model is right in line with the mission of the Zuckerman College of Public Health and our commitment to community engagement and outreach. We are creating a model that will be shared with other health departments and tribal health departments throughout Arizona.” 

“This partnership aims to develop opportunities between our organizations to enhance research, innovation, policy and public health,” said Paula Mandel, RN, BSN, deputy director for the Pima County Health Department. “It’s about making a better workforce by helping our staff learn from our academic partners, and, in turn, sharing our boots-on-the-ground, real-world application of public health strategies with partners from the UA Zuckerman College of Public Health.”

Members of the AHD core team from the UA Zuckerman College of Public Health are: Dr. Rosales and Emily Waldron, community engagement and outreach coordinator. From the Pima County Health Department: Bob England, MD, MPH, interim director; Julia Flannery, organizational development program manager; Paula Mandel, deputy director; and Kristin Barney, MA, division manager.