Two members of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine faculty, Tatjana Rundek, M.D., Ph.D., and José Szapocznik, Ph.D., have been elected to the Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine of Florida (ASEMFL).
“ASEMFL is an evidence-based scientific advisory body that is independent of the government, yet helps find solutions to the most pressing concerns related to human health, climate change, and other issues that are highly relevant to those of us who live and work in Florida,” said Dr. Rundek.
The ASEMFL is to the state of Florida what the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine are to the nation. The Florida-based organization is focused on providing unbiased, expert advice to state government and other organizations on current and future challenges facing the world and Florida in particular. To this end, ASEMFL elects scientists, engineers, and physicians from around the state who have achieved national and international recognition for their scientific accomplishments.
Drs. Rundek and Szapocznik were two of 15 academic experts inducted in 2022.
Dr. Rundek is a professor of neurology and public health sciences; Evelyn F. McKnight Endowed Chair for Learning and Memory in Aging; scientific director, Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute; executive vice chair of research and faculty affairs in the Department of Neurology; and director, Clinical Translational Research Division in neurology. She was elected to ASEMFL for her outstanding contribution and leadership in the science of atherosclerosis, neurovascular ultrasound, and research education and mentorship.
Outreach, Mentorship, Leadership
Among her many accomplishments, Dr. Rundek is president of the Intersocietal Accreditation Commission, which accredits neurovascular ultrasound, CT, MRI, and other diagnostic technologies for improvement of diagnosis and vascular health.
“In that role, I do a lot of outreach to scientific and professional communities, but also mentorship and education on the use, importance, and impact of diagnostic vascular technologies for the benefit of health,” Dr. Rundek said.
As an investigator, Dr. Rundek, along with colleagues at the Miller School, has helped lead the global effort to understand genetic and environmental drivers of atherosclerosis.
ASEMFL elected Dr. Szapocznik for his “exemplary contributions to prevention science and globally impactful substance use prevention for youth and families.”
For the last four and a half decades, Dr. Szapocznik has made important contributions to developing and testing interventions in the areas of mental health and drug abuse. He has received more than $120 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health, and 35 years ago authored the first randomized trial of family therapy ever published.
“My work focuses on the prevention and treatment of drug abuse among adolescents and adults in minority populations — specifically Hispanic and African American populations,” said Dr. Szapocznik, who is head of secretariat, Panel for a Global Public Health Convention; professor, public health sciences, architecture, psychology, and educational and psychological studies; chair emeritus, Department of Public Health Sciences; and founder and honorary director, Miami Clinical and Translational Science Institute.
Contributions to Behavioral Health Care
Dr. Szapocznik has been honored throughout his career for his work in family therapy and Hispanic behavioral health, including receiving the Latino Behavioral Health Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his outstanding contribution to clinical psychology, family therapy, behavioral science, and prevention of drug abuse.
But, he said, being inducted into the ASEMFL will help him to reach out beyond mental health disciplines to address one of the biggest inequities in today’s mental health care landscape.
“Based on our research, we know what evidence-based interventions work for minorities suffering from drug abuse, yet behavioral health services are not always required to use those evidence-based interventions. As a result, many patients do not receive the best evidence-based care,” Dr. Szapocznik said. “I hope this seat at the table gives us the ability to improve the quality of services that are delivered in behavioral health to minority populations.”
This year’s and previous years’ inductions of Miller School faculty will help the school cross disciplines and academic boundaries to collaborate for change, according to Dr. Rundek.
“We have a lot to contribute with our unique catchment area, with regard to the aging population, minority demographics, and a large proportion of people who are not born in the U.S., including me,” she said.
Drs. Rundek and Szapocznik will join previous ASEMFL Miller School inductees including Maria T. Abreu, M.D., professor of medicine; Stephen D. Nimer, M.D., director, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center; Jeffrey M. Vance, M.D., Ph.D., professor, Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation Department of Human Genetics; and Guillermo "Willy" Prado, Ph.D., vice provost for faculty affairs, dean of the Graduate School, and professor of nursing and health studies, public health sciences and psychology.
The formal induction will take place during the ASEMFL’s 2022 annual meeting, to be held in Orlando in early November.