Alex Ortega has been appointed as the next dean of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Thompson School of Social Work & Public Health by the UH Board of Regents at a meeting on February 16. His appointment is effective September 1, 2023.
Ortega is a nationally regarded health policy and health care equity researcher and currently serves as a professor and director of the Center for Population Health and Community Impact in the Dornsife School of Public Health at Drexel University in Philadelphia. He is also a senior associate editor of Health Services Research (HSR), the official journal of AcademyHealth. He previously served in various faculty and leadership roles at UCLA and Yale University.
Ortega grew up in Hawaiʻi and attended Hickam Elementary, Aliamanu Middle and Radford High Schools. He is excited to return to the islands and continue to advocate for the important research done at UH Mānoaʻs Thompson School of Social Work & Public Health.
“I am excited to return home to Hawaiʻi and join the Thompson School and to work with UH’s ʻohana to focus on its core mission of promoting social justice and well-being throughout the islands, the nation and globally,” he said. “This is an incredible opportunity to collaborate with students, faculty, staff, alumni and the local community as the school enters a new era of interdisciplinary education and training, research, community engagement and partnership building, and diversity initiatives.”
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“We are so pleased to welcome Dean Ortega back to Hawaiʻi,” said UH Mānoa Provost Michael Bruno. “His experience and impactful research in public health, particularly in health equity for some of the nation’s most disadvantaged communities, makes him a vital addition to the Thompson School and the work we’re doing to serve communities throughout the state.”
Ortega is known for his research and public advocacy in improving the health and well-being of Latino youth and families in the U.S., especially those who are undocumented immigrants or are otherwise disenfranchised. He has directed National Institutes of Health (NIH), Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and foundation-funded research for nearly 25 years in a variety of sites and contexts, including Puerto Rico, California, and New England. He has been awarded over $20 million in federal research grants over the course of his career.
He is currently the principal investigator of three NIH R01-funded studies. Two are focused on understanding the impact of increasing frequency and intensity of natural and manmade disasters in Puerto Rico on the mental and physical health of the population and on the islandʻs entire health care system. The third study is determining the complexities of access to health care for mixed status Latino families in California, where at least one family member is an undocumented immigrant and one is a U.S. citizen.
Ortega holds a PhD in epidemiologic science from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, an MPH in epidemiology and biostatistics from Boston University, and a BA in economics from the University of New Mexico.