UM Graduate, CDC Country Director Launches Guatemala’s Public Health Institute

A high-profile physician who received a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine continues to blaze trails as Director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Central American Regional Office. In February, alumnus Nelson Arboleda, M.D., M.P.H., helped Guatemala’s Ministry of Health launch its new National Public Health Institute — an effort that will greatly strengthen the country’s capacity to prepare for and respond to emergencies and disasters, train field epidemiologists and strengthen laboratory systems.

“These efforts are designed to build capacity in areas of epidemiology, laboratory, research, ethics, health education and management,” said Arboleda, who serves as a voluntary professor in the Miller School’s Department of Public Health Sciences.

The institute’s launch, held at Guatemala’s National Presidential Palace, was attended by many dignitaries, including Guatemala’s President Otto Pérez Molina, U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala Todd Robinson, and Guatemala’s Minister of Health, as well as officials from the diplomatic corps, and the international and regional health communities.

Arboleda has also been designated an international “Health Ambassador” by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. His remarkable success comes as no surprise to his Miller School mentors in the public health program, which provides students with a global perspective.

“We are very proud of him,” said Jose Szapocznik, Ph.D., professor and Chair of Public Health Sciences and Director of the Miami Clinical and Translational Science Institute. “He has been a champion for public health causes and represented the United States effectively with our neighboring countries.” The new institute, he said, “will be of great benefit to the country and the region, and also provide further opportunities to engage public health students.”

In his role with the CDC, Arboleda has established strong partnerships with the governments of Central America. The new center is part of the U.S. government’s recently launched Global Health Security Agenda, which is one of its highest public health priorities, aimed at refining and strengthening the ability to prevent, detect and swiftly respond to public health threats worldwide, said Arboleda.

“The goal is to tackle a range of health issues with an approach tailored to local and regional conditions and needs, which include influenza, emerging infectious diseases, HIV/AIDS, and zoonotic and parasitic diseases,” said Arboleda. “The establishment of this institute will help provide sustainable health programs and innovative solutions to the people of Guatemala and the region for many years to come.”

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