Community board to ensure ASU students meet needs of health workforce

New College of Health Solutions advisory board consists of 16 local health leaders


January 24, 2022

In an effort to assume fundamental responsibility for the overall health of the communities it serves, the College of Health Solutions has formed a Community Advisory Board of 16 local health leaders to help the college better understand current and future health workforce issues, and the challenges and needs of Arizona’s diverse communities.

Board members represent key areas critical to improving health outcomes for Arizonans. Each area aligns with degree programs the college offers in population health, health care delivery, health education and promotion, health policy, health informatics, genomics research, food security, audiology, speech-language therapy and behavioral health. Board members also represent rural health services and special populations such as veterans and people experiencing homelessness. graphic of diverse health professionals Image courtesy of iStock/Getty Images

“We have all witnessed firsthand over the past two years how rapidly health care careers can change, and we needed a responsive way to get feedback from the communities we are preparing our students to serve, which is why we reached out to our Arizona health leaders,” said Deborah Helitzer, dean of the College of Health Solutions. “These community advisers represent an amazing amount of expertise, passion and commitment to health.”

The board will help to ensure that the college continues to align its values with community values and identify the challenges, deficiencies, opportunities and strengths of the college’s degree programs to address workforce needs. In addition, the college aims for the board to make data-driven recommendations and advise on the best methods to gather and analyze workforce data. Board members will also help create a structure for incorporating community voices into the college’s degree programs and curricula.

Will Humble, executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association, said he agreed to serve on the board because of its emphasis on workplace readiness.

“Academia can sometimes get into a rut where they focus on policy and academics at the expense of preparing students, but when I looked at the college’s mission and the details of the curriculum, I could see that it was clearly focused on the practical aspects of preparing students, and, as a practitioner in the field, I felt I might be useful in helping prepare the curriculum for the constantly evolving health care landscape,” he said.

Kim Despres, the chief executive officer of Circle the City, is also a Community Advisory Board member. Circle the City is the main provider of health care services to people experiencing homelessness in Maricopa County, and as CEO for the past six years, Despres said she has experienced the complexities of helping this underserved community move from homelessness to healthy to housed. She joined the board to help create long-term solutions.

“It is critical we continue to work toward increasing community awareness about social determinants of health and breaking down stereotypes about homelessness through innovative, dynamic and diverse strategies within curriculums to help prepare those who choose this work,” she said.

M. Adelaida Restrepo, associate dean and professor at the College of Health Solutions, led the committee of faculty and staff who have worked for the past year to envision and develop the initial Community Advisory Board. Going forward, Simin Levinson, a clinical associate professor of nutrition at the college, will be leading the initiative.

Community Advisory Board members are:

  • Hamed Abbaszadegan, chief health innovation and informatics officer, Phoenix VA Health Care System, and clinical associate professor, University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix.
  • Janet Carrillo Funk, bilingual speech-language pathologist, St. Joseph’s Hospital — Dignity Health.
  • Zaida Dedolph, director of health policy, Children’s Action Alliance.
  • Daniel Derksen, chair and director, University of Arizona’s Arizona Center for Rural Health.
  • Kimberly Despres, chief executive officer, Circle the City.
  • Jeanene Fowler, program operations administrator, Maricopa County Department of Public Health.
  • Carmen Green Smith, deputy director, Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing.
  • Carmen Heredia, chief executive officer, Valle Del Sol.
  • Naomi Hixson, chief of audiology, Phoenix Indian Medical Center.
  • Karen Hoffman Tepper, chief operations officer, Terros Health.
  • Will Humble, executive director, Arizona Public Health Association.
  • Kristen Kaus, manager of education and outreach, Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).
  • Jeanne F. Nizigiyimana, co-founder and program manager, Refugee Women’s Health Clinic, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Valleywise Health.
  • Priya Radhakrishnan, chief academic officer, Honor Health.
  • Adrienne Udarbe, executive director, Pinnacle Prevention.
  • Maria Valenzuela, domestic program director, Esperança.
Kelly Krause

Media and communications manager, College of Health Solutions