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College Celebrates Annual Faculty and Staff Award Winners

The annual awards for Faculty and Staff in the College were presented during the virtual MEZCOPH Faculty and Staff Retreat in December, including the awards for Excellence in Teaching, Excellence in Research, Excellence in Community-Engaged Scholarship and Practice, and the Individual and Team Staff Excellence Awards. We applaud our outstanding 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 2020 award winners here.

Excellence in Teaching Award

This award is given to a faculty member or academic professional 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’s recipient is:

Joe Gerald

Joe Gerald

Joe Gerald

Joe Gerald, MD, PhD, has made exceptional contributions to teaching in the College of Public Health. He maintains a high teaching load every year, offering graduate level seminars along with a popular undergraduate Gen Ed course that attracts approximately 150 undergrads each semester.  Comments from Dr. Gerald’s classes demonstrate he is an engaging instructor with a sense of humor and has the ability to make complex subject matter clear and understandable. 

Further, Dr. Gerald continues to advance the educational programs at MEZCOPH and within the University via his leadership role as member of the MEZCOPH Education Committee, the Undergraduate Program Executive Committee and the University of Arizona Faculty Senate. In his role as Director of the Tucson MD-MPH Program, he provides oversight of the degree and related programs that is instrumental for growth and development. An outstanding example of excellence in teaching, Dr. Gerald has earned MEZCOPH’s highest recognition for his efforts.

Excellence in Research Award

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

Kate Ellingson

Kate Ellingson

Kate Ellingson

Kate Ellingson, PhD is a principal investigator (PI) on three research grants, and key personnel on 7 other grants. Within this past year, she submitted five grant proposals, serving as PI on two of them. This level of grant engagement is exceptional, especially for a non-tenure track assistant professor. Moreover, Dr. Ellingson is a primary supervisor to two PhD students, serves on three doctoral committees, and advises one MS and nine MPH students. While the College would typically count this level of student support as teaching, because Dr. Ellingson includes students in her research projects, this level of student support should also be understood as research mentoring. Through grant funding, she supported five students and one research coordinator over the past year.

The departmental minimum annual publication goal is three papers. Dr. Ellingson achieved this in first author papers alone, and contributed to another three papers as a senior or co‐author. She brings expertise to the college spanning from hand hygiene to antibiotic stewardship and methodological research. We are very fortunate to have Dr. Ellingson in the College, as both a colleague and a teacher, and she richly deserves this recognition.

Excellence in Community-Engaged Scholarship and Practice Award

This award is given to a faculty member or academic professional based on their excellent quality of community engaged activities and leadership. This year’s recipient is:

Jill de Zapien

Jill de Zapien

Jill de Zapien

Community engaged scholarship and practice is defined as an activity or project that involves the Faculty/AP “in a mutually beneficial partnership with the community.”  It includes service-based projects or service as a component of research, teaching, and dissemination and translational activities such as Community Based Participatory Research, or Service Learning.

This year we wanted to highlight the former Community Program Associate Dean that recently retired and soon after returned to continue to pursue the activities that she is most passionate about. Jill de Zapien was given a most memorable retirement party with much fanfare and festivity. Multiple colleagues spoke about her accomplishments as the first Associate Dean for Community Programs, but the accolades would not be complete without honoring Jill with the Community Service Award. Jill embodies the very essence and meaning of community engaged scholarship and practice as defined above.

For many years, Jill served the COPH and community of Arizona selflessly, without ever expecting recognition or accolades for her service. Serving community, whether internally at the University of Arizona or externally in collaboration with multiple partners and stakeholders, is her passion. This is a lifetime journey for Jill and she has served the COPH as a great role model for many of us. It is only appropriate that we honor her as we transition from her “firsts” as Associate Dean of Community Programs to the new generation that is finding their way to follow in her footsteps. The next generation of public health leaders will continue and expand what Jill started at COPH from community programs, to the work of the mobile health units, to service learning courses and other interprofessional student activities and student internships. Many of those programs and internships are now institutionalized through the Academic Health Department in collaboration with local health departments. Jill loves the College of Public Health, its students, its staff and faculty. We all thank Jill for her years of service to the College, the University and all our Arizona communities.

2020 Staff Awards for Excellence

Individual Winner

Gisela Ochoa

Gisela Ochoa

Gisela Ochoa
Administrative Associate
Office of Student Services and Alumni Affairs

Gisela's letters state: Gisela is the first person that applicants, students, faculty and visitors meet when arriving in the Office of Student Services and she greets them in a professional and friendly manner. Particularly skilled at listening and understanding the needs of others, she has an innate ability to prioritize the importance of the concern and to quickly determine who it is that the individual needs to meet with to discuss or solve it.

Students say: "We are so grateful to Gisela for all that she did to support us in the SJS planning committee, but especially for all she does every day to help make MEZCOPH run smoothly. Her dedication to the college inspires us to do our best as students and her kind smile always brightens our day.""

Team Winner



Western Region Public Health Training Center

The team at the Western Region Public Health Training Center (WRPHTC) has shown impressive dedication and agility, both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Among their numerous outreach activities, they have conducted workforce training needs assessments for more than 3,000 public health professionals in 22 state, county and tribal health departments and provided training courses that have averaged more than 30,000 registrations annually.

The WRPHTC staff have also has supported the academic mission of the college.

After review by the Office of Student Services, the WRPHTC revised its award-winning course, Public Health Essentials in Public Health, to be more student friendly and is now provided to students in the MPH and academic degree programs so they meet the CEPH foundational competency regarding the three core functions and 10 essential services of public health.

In addition, the WRPHTC team has worked on several faculty projects in the college. They collaborated with Dr. Lynn Gerald to create a certification training for school staff so that those staff members can provide albuterol to children who are having an asthma attack. This video also supported Dr. Gerald’s successful effort to have the Arizona State legislature pass a bill allowing non-clinical school staff to provide albuterol to students after successfully completing the course developed by the WRPHTC.

It is for these additional efforts that we nominate the WRPHTC staff for the Team Staff Award for their "outstanding service to the University Community and /or Visitors."

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