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The Top 10 Health Sciences Connect Stories of 2022

Ridding medical training of racism, gaining experience by helping the underserved and growing research in Phoenix were some of your favorite stories.
The COVID-19 pandemic further exposed inequities in social determinants of health and disparities in health care delivery that are in part tied to historic issues of racism. This story is one of the top 10 Health Sciences Connect stories of 2022.

The Top 10 Health Sciences Connect Stories of 2022

With 2022 now in the rearview mirror, it seems appropriate to also glance back at the top Health Sciences Connect stories. The year was marked by milestone anniversaries – the University of Arizona R. Ken Coit College of Pharmacy turned 75, the UArizona College of Nursing turned 65 and the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson 55 – as well as major announcements and expansions including the Center for Advanced Molecular and Immunological Therapies in Phoenix. Faculty profiles, a three-part series and a look at the funeral directors who ensure donated bodies are ready for medical students round out this year’s list.

Dozens of physicians and trainees with the College of Medicine – Tucson participated in a White Coats for Black Lives demonstration following the death of George Floyd in June 2020. In honor of Black History Month, UArizona Health Sciences ran a three-part series on anti-racism in medicine initiatives. The first story looked at initiatives undertaken by the College of Medicine – Tucson and College of Medicine – Phoenix, both of which have been recognized nationally for progressively expanding diversity programs. In this story, Sonji Muhammad, the College of Medicine – Phoenix’s equity, diversity and inclusion director for undergraduate medical students, and Victoria Murrain, DO, former vice dean of diversity, equity and inclusion for the College of Medicine – Tucson, discussed social justice movements, as well as the disparities in health care exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, as catalysts for change. The second story shared the diversity, equity and inclusion efforts from the UArizona College of Nursing, the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and the R. Ken Coit College of Pharmacy. The third story highlighted the work student groups are doing to address racism in medicine.


Jared and Kat Alvarado are funeral directors for the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson’s Willed Body Program, which accepts whole body donations from Arizonans to be used as educational tools after their deaths.Donated bodies are used by medical and nursing students as educational training tools to study the human body in gross anatomy labs. The Willed Body Program accepts 150-200 whole body donations each year that serve the College of Medicine – Tucson and College of Medicine – Phoenix, the A.T. Still University School of Osteopathic Medicine in Phoenix and nursing programs at the UArizona College of Nursing, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University. Program director Jean Wilson, PhD, credits the program’s success to husband-and-wife funeral directors Jared and Kat Alvarado, who bring professionalism and respect in all their interactions with donors, their families, faculty, physicians, nurses, students and others who benefit from the program.


College of Medicine – Tucson student Leenda Osman checks a young patient’s ear at the Rocky Point Medical Centers in Puerto Penasco, Mexico. Since 2010, UArizona Health Sciences students and volunteer clinicians have provided care to underserved, marginalized communities in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico, through MexZona. The program is part of the Commitment to Underserved People (CUP) Program at the College of Medicine – Tucson. MexZona gives pre-med and medical students an educational experience in a different setting, while also providing much-needed help to patients who otherwise would not have access to health care.


Ayman Fanous, MD, the psychiatry chair at the UArizona College of Medicine – Phoenix, sees “precision psychiatry” as the wave of the future in behavioral health. Ayman Fanous, MD, the College of Medicine – Phoenix’s psychiatry chair, talks about his educational journey, his interest in precision psychiatry, his love of music and his second career as a free-form jazz musician. Recruited from the State University of New York, Dr. Fanous calls his position at the College of Medicine – Phoenix his dream job and said he was attracted to the opportunity to collaborate with the Million Veterans Program through the VA Phoenix Health Care System and work with the UArizona – Banner Health All of Us Research Program.


A rendering of the proposed Center for Advanced Molecular and Immunological Therapies building on the Phoenix Bioscience Core, looking at the Bioscience Partnership Building on the left. The Center for Advanced Molecular and Immunological Therapies, or CAMI, will be a new hub for precision medicine research, innovation and education. The center’s location at the Phoenix Bioscience Core is expected to facilitate strong connections with partners such as Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, the Mayo Clinic and the Translational Genomics Research Institute while boosting local and state economies in the process.


Judith Hunt, MD, has found her home practicing rural medicine in Payson, Arizona.Physician and College of Medicine – Tucson alumna Judith Hunt, MD, talks about her experience and motivation for providing health care to diverse patients in rural Payson, Arizona, as well as the role she plays in training the next generation of students. Dr. Hunt  is the regional site director for the College of Medicine – Phoenix’s Rural Health Longitudinal Integrated Clerkship and is a preceptor for rural rotations through the Rural Health Professions Programs, run by the Arizona Area Health Education Center.


A beloved teacher, Dr. Ott has received numerous lecturer awards from trainees and his community lectures are known to draw large audiences.Peter Ott, MD, is an associate professor of clinical medicine at the College of Medicine – Tucson, a guitar player and a ranch owner in Sonoita, Arizona. Dr. Ott talks about his medical education and additional clinical training and specializations in cardiology and electrophysiology in both his birth country of Germany and his current home in the United States.


Nancy Alvarez, PharmD, BCPS, has had a wide and varied career – from community pharmacist to call center director to pharmaceutical company executive to academia.Nancy Alvarez, PharmD, BCPS, an associate professor and associate dean for academic and professional affairs at the  R. Ken Coit College of Pharmacy, is a trailblazer in the pharmacy industry, though she hasn’t always seen herself in that way. Dr. Alvarez said for much of her life she shied away from the spotlight, only wanting to be recognized for being good at what she does rather than for being Hispanic or a woman in her job. Now, she says her views on that are changing, and she recognizes the importance of representation in health care and academia.


Taben Hale, PhD, says her curiosity drove her to try a lot of things when she was a child, and that curiosity also led to her life’s work.College of Medicine – Phoenix Associate Professor of Basic Medical Sciences Taben Hale, PhD, has a growing collection of mugs in her office, each with the title page of her students’ and researchers’ first publications. The mugs are a way of celebrating the success of those she mentors. Dr. Hale describes her mentee experience as an undergraduate student at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, in a research laboratory class led by Dr. Mike Adams, whose mentorship style eventually influenced her own.


Sabrina Plattner (third from right), senior health educator at the Zuckerman College of Public Health, has dedicated her career to promoting programs that foster healthy lifestyle principles for eating and exercise to reduce childhood obesity.Sabrina Plattner, MEd, a senior health educator in the Zuckerman College of Public Health, has dedicated her career to promoting health and wellness, more recently developing nutrition, fitness and wellness curriculum, related programs and community initiatives to prevent childhood obesity in Tucson. Today, Plattner leads Wildcat Marathoners, a running and walking program that encourages children in four Pima County elementary schools to be physically active during recess and log miles to reach half or full marathon distances of 13.1 or 26.2 miles. Students who completed at least 12.1 miles during the pilot program received a red superhero cape after running their last mile on campus.