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More than 350 friends, family, faculty, colleagues, and students came together, in person and virtually, March 31 at the UCLA Faculty Center to remember Dr. Steven P. Wallace, a long-time member of the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health community, who died suddenly in 2021. The memorial was hosted by FSPH's UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.
"Steve was fair, thoughtful, empathetic, and he always took the high road," Dr. Ron Brookmeyer, dean and distinguished professor of biostatistics, shared with those in attendance. "He wanted to do the right thing for the school, for faculty, for staff, and for students, (and was) a quiet and unassuming leader who wanted to bring out the best in others."
Dr. Wallace served as a professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the UCLA Fielding School for 31 years, including six years as chair of the department and five as vice chair, and as an associate director of FSPH's UCLA Center for Health Policy Research for 25 years.
Dr. Ninez Ponce, professor of health policy and management and director of FSPH's UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, opened the memorial with memories of Dr. Wallace and a welcome to all attendees. “What a gift Steve was to all of us; his profound impact on our education, our careers, our lives,” Ponce said. “It also reminds me how much our lives mattered to Steve; the people he mentored and inspired, the people he inspired to pursue careers in public health, in immigrant health, and older adult health; health disparities and health equity were at the forefront of his inspiration … we’re all better people for having known him.”
Dr. Wallace is survived by his wife Trudy Sonia, their son Brian Sonia-Wallace, and Dr. Wallace's sister Lisa Wallace, all of whom were in attendance and shared moving tributes. "I'm especially grateful...that we're able to be here in person and to share our memories of Steve," shared Trudy Sonia, Dr. Wallace's wife and partner for more than 43 years. "UCLA, especially the Center for Health Policy Research and the Fielding School of Public Health (were) Steve's homes away from home."
Dr. Michael Prelip, professor and chair of FSPH's Department of Community Health Sciences, shared shared memories, both of collaborating with Dr. Wallace and their lengthy friendship. “God I miss Steve; every single day I miss him,” Prelip said. “I remember Steve before I was even hired at UCLA; he was on the interview panel … from that moment, he made me feel welcome, and that was always so much of what was about him.”
Additional speakers included Dr. Janet Frank, a faculty associate at FSPH's UCLA Center for Health Policy Research; Dr. Maria-Elena Young, a faculty associate at FSPH's UCLA Center for Health Policy Research; Dr. Keith Norris, professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA; Dr. Michael Rodriguez, professor in FSPH's Department of Community Health Sciences; Dr. Kathryn Kietzman, a faculty associate at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research; Dr. Nina Harawa, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health professor of epidemiology; Dr. Lené Levy-Storms, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs; and Peggy Toy, director of the Health DATA Program at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.
Dr. Wallace’s family invites contributions to the Steve Wallace Fellowship Fund at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, which will continue Wallace’s commitment to mentoring first-generation students to become leaders in advancing public health policy.
To donate to the Fund, please visit giving.ucla.edu/FSPHmag and select the Steve Wallace Fellowship Fund. Gifts may also be sent by check, made payable to “The UCLA Foundation” with the “Steve Wallace Fellowship Fund #16030” noted in the memo line and mailed to The UCLA Foundation, P.O. Box 7145, Pasadena, CA 91109-7145.