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ASPPH Research Excellence Award

The ASPPH Research Excellence Award recognizes faculty who have devoted their careers to investigating public health issues. The award is given annually to a full-time faculty member from an ASPPH- member, CEPH-accredited school or program of public health.

2022 Winner

Maria Fernandez, PhD

University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health

Dr. Fernandez is the Lorne Bain Distinguished Professor in Public Health and Medicine, Professor of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Texas, School of Public Health (SPH) in Houston, and Director of the Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research (CHPPR). Dr. Fernandez is also the Founding Co-Director of the new UTHealth Institute for Implementation Science. She is an innovative, visionary, transformative leader who has substantively advanced the science of public health through her scholarship, mentorship of public health researchers from underrepresented minority groups, and sustained commitment to redressing health inequities in vulnerable populations.

Dr. Fernandez’s research embodies the concepts of translational, transdisciplinary, inclusive team science to enhance public health research excellence and population health equity. Her accomplishments include leading cutting-edge research on HPV vaccination and cervical, breast, and colorectal cancer screening in Latinx communities; and, more recently, hypertension control, diabetes prevention, and COVID-19 vaccination and testing. Her studies have helped elucidate behavioral and environmental factors influencing health. They have ranged from the identification of behavioral and environmental determinants, to the development, evaluation, implementation, and dissemination of multilevel interventions in real-world settings. She is currently PI on more than $40 million in active research funding and leads several multi-regional initiatives related to chronic disease prevention and control and COVID-19 testing and vaccination. To conceptualize and carryout this work, she has championed true academic-community partnerships that have created a shared vision and research agenda driven by community needs and participatory processes.

Dr. Fernandez is author and expert in Intervention Mapping (IM), a framework for developing, implementing, and evaluating multi-level health promotion that is used globally with over 1,000 publications featuring its application. She co-authored the last two editions of the IM textbook, Health Promotion Planning: an Intervention Mapping Approach, and is lead author on the new edition to be published next year.

Dr. Fernandez is an internationally known leader in dissemination and implementation research and has developed frameworks, tools, and measures that are widely used. She has been a leader in the application of Intervention Mapping to increase adoption, implementation, and sustainment of public health and healthcare innovations. She has served on the NIH study section for Dissemination and Implementation Research and Health and has mentored other researchers as part of several D&I training programs. Dr. Fernandez works closely with the World Health Organization to create capacity and opportunities to for implementation research in low-and middle-income countries.