2024 Public Health Alumni Awards

May 24, 2024

At the MPH Graduation Celebration Banquet, several end of year SPH awardees were announced. Among them were two remarkable alumni, Barbara Jimenez and Dr. Esmeralda Iniguez-Stevens.

Barbara Jimenez
Barbara Jimenez was awarded the 2024 Alumni Distinguished Award to recognize her nearly 35 years of experience within the County of San Diego’s Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA), delivering both social and public health services. Her work embodies the values and mission of the School of Public Health, which is to “develop public health leaders, advance knowledge on health equity, and collaboratively transform public health locally and globally through education, research, and service.” When presenting the award, Dr. Shira Goldenberg emphasized, “[Ms. Jimenez] is a passionate leader whose work focuses on health equity among under-resourced communities and is a recognized leader for binational health along the entire US-Mexico Border.”

Ms. Jimenez’s specific interest in border health stemmed from growing up in a family that straddled the US-Mexico border, with her mother having immigrated from Mexico and her father active in the U.S. military. “I’ve lived, studied, worked, and connected with family in many states in the US and Mexico,” she explained, “and I’ve spent decades right here in the San Diego-Tijuana border region.” Acutely aware of the interconnected nature of border communities regarding health, Ms. Jimenez pursued her MPH concentrating in Health Management and Policy. She displays unwavering commitment to helping these communities thrive. “My parents, family and community shaped the person [I am today] and [the] passion that drives me each day to serve.”

Ms. Jimenez has worn many hats since she first joined the County of San Diego in 1989. Most recently, she became a Community Operations Officer, where she developed the Department of Homeless Solutions and Equitable Communities (HSEC) through the LiveWell San Diego initiatives over the last three years. Her days often involve “immersing [her]self in the pulse of the community” by discussing strategies with community partners and her team at the County and regularly reviewing local news and social media. “My favorite activity,” she explained, “is when I get to convene with the community throughout the regions, engaging in discussions to learn their priorities, concerns, and collectively devise solutions,” a component of her work for which she was recently recognized by the Baldrige Foundation. “I do my best to make sure each day is purposeful, guided by our commitment to effecting positive change.”

Dr. Iniguez-Stevens
Dr. Iniguez-Stevens was awarded the 2024 SPH Alumni Engagement Award to recognize the more than 13 years she has committed time and effort to supporting the School’s growth and success as an alumna of both the MPH and PhD programs. When presenting the award, Dr. Shira Goldenberg emphasized, “Dr. Iniguez-Stevens embodies service to her state, her community, our neighbors in Mexico, and to our future public health leaders at SDSU.”

After completing her bachelor’s degree in animal Physiology and Neuroscience with a minor in Health Care Social Issues, Dr. Iniguez-Stevens pursued first her Master of Public Health concentrating in epidemiology at SDSU and then her Ph.D. in the UCSD/SDSU Joint Doctoral Program in Public Health. Spending her childhood in Imperial County allowed her natural interest in border health to flourish.

Now as a Research Scientist for the Infectious Disease Epidemiology Program in the Office of Binational Border Health at California Department of Public Health (CDPH), Dr. Iniguez-Stevens’ days consist primarily of designing and reviewing surveillance efforts and strengthening binational communication to ensure preparedness across the US-Mexico border. “I’m not disease specific,” she explained, “so I get to work on a range of different infectious diseases – it could be respiratory, vector borne or enteric diseases.” Dr. Iniguez-Stevens’ broad knowledge base allows her to teach courses in HIV/AIDS, Epidemiology of Communicable and Chronic Diseases, and the much beloved VIIDAI course where master’s students actively participate in cross-border collaborations.

Both of these exceptional alumni independently expressed deep appreciation that they have been able to transform their “lifelong passion” into fulfilling careers in cross-border health and shared a few pearls of wisdom with graduating students. Ms. Jimenez recommended students “embrace the inevitability of change and maintain a flexible mindset” while also carving out time to take care of themselves. Dr. Iniguez-Stevens recommended students explore various career options by speaking with their professors.

Congratulations to our outstanding alumni!

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