UTHealth School of Public Health appoints regional dean of San Antonio campus

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Melissa Valerio, Ph.D., M.P.H., has been named regional dean of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health San Antonio Regional Campus.

A native of San Diego, Texas, Valerio has served as interim regional dean since June 2014 and has been a faculty member at the San Antonio Regional Campus since August 2012.

“We’re delighted that Melissa has accepted the position of regional dean for the San Antonio campus and that she is committed to the growth and continued development of our initiatives in San Antonio,” said Osama Mikhail, Ph.D., interim dean and professor of management policy and community health at UTHealth School of Public Health and senior vice president for strategic planning at UTHealth.

She is looking forward to her role as regional dean at the San Antonio Regional Campus and says there is much to do as the campus focuses its efforts on community health and integration of health services in response to current federal and state initiatives.

“The San Antonio Regional Campus is a strong campus and we will continue to move forward in addressing the needs of vulnerable communities and populations, including the military and groups that are often unseen,” said Valerio, who referenced faculty members who are working with dairy workers, loggers, Bangladeshi factory workers and other underserved populations.

Valerio plans to review the M.D./M.P.H. program with The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio School of Medicine and maximize how the campus reaches and addresses the training of M.D. students within the public health curriculum. She also hopes to build on current collaborations with the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio and its Military Health Institute, as well as identify new community partners in the central south Texas region.

Areas of health focus include obesity, arthritis, cancer, mental health conditions and poor quality of life. Valerio wants the regional campus to continue to help improve collaboration with community partners and multi-disciplinary teams.

“Coming together with our partners to address those needs will assist in building the community’s capacity to address health disparities. The goal is to create more empowered communities that are engaged as health care consumers,” said Valerio. “Because I am from South Texas, I feel a responsibility to make a difference and to help increase quality of life and care for our communities. My goal is to work in partnership with health systems, local government and community organizations in the region so we can better understand the health issues, capacity and priorities for communities.”

Valerio’s research interests include disease self-management and health literacy. She has focused on understanding how patients and providers communicate and has worked on developing the Verbal Exchange Health Literacy framework.

Valerio received her master’s degree in health behavior and health education from the University of Michigan School of Public Health and her Ph.D. in health behavior and health education from the University of Michigan. Prior to coming to UTHealth, Valerio spent five years on the faculty at the University of Michigan School of Public Health’s Center for Managing Chronic Disease.

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