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The passing of Professor Steven P. Wallace last month was a tremendous loss for our community. For many of us, Steve served as a model for leading with humility and grace, and all that is possible in service, teaching, training, and mentorship.
Throughout Steve’s 31-year tenure at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, he had an impact on students. Many of the doctoral students for whom Steve served as primary advisor have gone on to tenure-track faculty positions and director roles at major centers, and he was unwaveringly committed to increasing the diversity of the public health workforce. The many recent student tributes to Steve attest to how meaningful his support and mentorship has been in their public health journeys.
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrust public health to center stage and brought about an unprecedented surge in student applications to U.S. public health schools and programs — our school experienced a record-breaking number of applicants this year. As a discipline, we are strongly encouraged by the rising interest in public health and mindful of our responsibility to provide the tools that the next generation of professionals will need to be successful and to thrive. It is a privilege to help our students follow their dreams, which includes preparing them for the inevitable challenges and stressors that will arise.
As we continue to navigate our way through the pandemic, what we know for certain is that more change is required, and that effecting positive change requires a strong, diverse, and supported workforce. Steve served as a faculty member at our school for more than three decades and as an associate director at our UCLA Center for Health Policy Research (CHPR) for 25 years — he mentored countless students along the way and remained committed to increasing diversity in the public health workforce. In Steve’s honor, a fellowship fund has been established that will provide support to first-generation students interested in advancing public health policy. Each year, a fellow will be selected to join a research team based in CHPR and gain experience and mentorship from the center’s research scientists.
The pain of Steve’s passing remains acute. Yet the many talented students and scholars Steve mentored will carry their shared values and determination forward. They will also support the next generation of public health leaders and, together, contribute to a markedly healthier and more equitable tomorrow.
Dr. Ron Brookmeyer
UCLA Fielding School of Public Health