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College Celebrates 2021 Annual Faculty and Staff Award Winners

The annual awards for outstanding Faculty and Staff in the College were presented in December, including the awards for Excellence in Teaching, Excellence in Research, and the Individual and Team Staff Excellence Awards. The Excellence in Community Engagement and Outreach Award will be given during our spring retreat. We applaud our outstanding 2021 award winners!

Every year, the College gives these Excellence awards to recognize outstanding effort and achievement in different areas that benefit students, the College, and the community. We are pleased to present our 2021 award winners here.

Excellence in Teaching Award

This award is given to a faculty members based on their quality of teaching, their service to the teaching profession and their service to students in terms of their overall advising and research mentoring. This year we have three recipients.

Online Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award

Leila Barraza

Leila Barraza, JD, MPH is a well-regarded faculty member and educator. She teaches a core public health law course for the online MPH and takes on significant advising and mentoring responsibilities, which include students at the doctoral, masters, and undergraduate levels. Dr. Barraza also mentors the next generation of public health lawyers through the JD/MPH program. Her students say they value her dynamic and engaged teaching style. In addition to her high teaching load, Dr. Barraza serves on departmental, college, and university committees, and participates in many external service activities, including the boards of two local non-profits.

Leila Barraza, JD, MPH

Main Campus Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award

Dr. Velia Nuño, PhD, MSW

Velia Leybas Nuño

Dr. Velia Nuño, PhD, MSW, is a highly dedicated and effective educator and faculty member. She served as Director for the Family and Child Health program for 4 years, managing the MPH programs MCH and Global Health in addition to DrPH program. Under her outstanding leadership, MEZCOPH launched a Bachelor of Arts in Wellness and Health Promotion Practice last fall. Dr. Nuño continues to oversee implementation of this exciting new undergraduate degree. In addition to teaching the in-person HPS 178 course which is required in all our undergraduate program emphases, she teaches two graduate level Family & Child Health courses. Dr. Nuno has demonstrated a deep commitment to mentoring with her strong support of over 20 DrPH students, many MPH and undergraduate students, as well as students on the CoVHORT CATS research team. Her enthusiasm for her work, contributions to the college, and support of her students exemplifies what it means to be a great professor and mentor.

Main Campus Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award

Marc Verhougstraete

Marc Verhougstraete, PhD, has demonstrated dedication, passion and commitment to the teaching profession and service to students. He teaches a graduate seminar, a service learning course, and a large undergraduate class that attracts over 100 students each spring. He is also a frequent guest lecturer in graduate-level Environmental Health Science courses. Dr. Verhougstraete recently developed a new 100-level course, focused on One Health concepts, which was funded by the competitive provost’s investment fund. Students comment that Dr. Verhougstraete goes above and beyond to support them in their academic endeavors and works alongside them in the research lab for long hours, pushing them to achieve excellence.

Marc Verhougstraete, PhD

Excellence in Research Award

This award is given to a faculty member who has made significant contributions to the College’s research mission in the past year.  This year’s recipient is:

Leslie Farland

Since joining the University of Arizona in July 2018, Leslie Farland, ScD, MSc, has displayed tremendous research productivity, paired with a commendable dedication to team science. Dr. Farland has positioned herself well as an independent investigator and leader in women’s health research. In the past year, she published a total of 15 peer-reviewed papers, including 5 as first or senior author, and 8 as second or third author. In addition, she is presently key personnel on 6 grants or contracts, including 3 as PI, and was key personnel on an additional 11 grants that were submitted, including 3 as PI. This is a simply astounding level of research productivity for an Assistant Professor. In addition to these publications and grants, Dr. Farland has been a key part of the large team that launched the CoVHORT research study in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. To date, the trial has enrolled 3500 participants, with one publication, and two additional manuscripts under review. This effort could not have been accomplished without her support.

Staff Awards for Excellence

Individual Staff Award


The nominees for the Individual University Staff Award were: Ramses Sepulveda, Content Developer III for the Arizona Prevention Resource Center in Health Promotion Sciences; Paula Hayes, Multimedia Design Assistant I for COPH Communications in Public Health Administration; Rachel Ramos, Business Manager for the Office of Financial Affairs in Public Health Administration; Kelly Heslin, Research Professional II for the SAFER program and the Arizona CoVhort team in Epidemiology and Biostatistics.

Individual Award Winner: Ramses Sepulveda

Ramses Sepulveda has continuously made the Arizona Prevention Resource Center (AzPRC) work environment more productive, creative, fun and more connected to our community partners in Southern Arizona. His identification with border communities means that he brings a personal perspective to his work. As the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, Ramses organized a list of community resources to address immediate needs for community residents. AzPRC community partner, Bonnie Bazata, Program Manager of Ending Poverty Now, praised the list as the best she had seen. The AzPRC team quickly amplified Ramses’ initiative by including these types of resources into the current AzPRC research project, providing an ongoing service to community partners as they engaged in collaborative research.

Ramses Sepulveda

Team Award


The nominees for the Team Award were: the Business Office team, the MEZCOPH Mobile Health Unit team, the SAFER Managers team from the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and the “Nosotros Comprometidos a Su Salud – Committed to Your Health” team of Rosi Vogel and Edgar Villavicencio from the Department of Health Promotion Sciences.

Some of our outstanding MHU team members

Some of our outstanding MHU team members.

Team Award Winner: MEZCOPH Mobile Health Unit (Phoenix and Tucson)

The Mobile Health Units (MHU) team members in both Phoenix and Tucson include: Rodrigo Valenzuela Cordova, Andrea Contreras, Jackie Diaz, Diana Grijalva, Jeffery Hanna, Maria Jaime, Alma Ramirez, Gaytari Sadachar, Wendy Shirley, Sheila Soto, Misael Soto, Jose Almeida and Martin Zavala. The MHU team has worked diligently during the pandemic to provide health screenings, COVID-19 vaccinations, and other services to the underserved and rural communities of Arizona. They have delivered more than 51,000 COVID-19 vaccines, including to communities that did not have easy vaccine access. With the approval of our Human Resources and Risk Management offices at the UArizona, our Mexican colleagues were allowed to vaccinate at the Nogales Port of Entry. This enabled the MHU team to maximize staffing and UArizona volunteer resources to meet the demand for COVID-19 vaccine. This effort brought together 13 affiliated physicians and nurses, including 40 support staff, who all volunteered to provide 3,254 vaccines to children 12 and older and adults 18 to 85, over a two-day period. The MHU teams have done an amazing job supporting our underserved, rural, and border communities!

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