UCGHI Board of Directors welcomes new co-vice chairs

April 2, 2019

In April 2019, the UC Global Health Institute (UCGHI) welcomes co-vice chairs, Jonna Mazet and Lara Stemple to its Board of Directors.

Jonna Mazet, DVM, MPVM, PhD (UC Davis) and Lara Stemple, JD (UCLA) will serve alongside Anil Deolalikar (UC Riverside), chair of the Board. “We are lucky to welcome co-vice chairs from such different disciplinary and work backgrounds. They will both bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to UCGHI,” said Deolalikar.

“We simply couldn’t turn down either of these great candidates for vice-chair; so we created the co-vice chair positions,” said Tom Coates (UCLA), director of UCGHI. “The Board and UCGHI in general, is an intentionally collaborative space, so naturally we wanted both Jonna and Lara on our team.”

Mazet and Stemple come from different corners of the global health field.

Jonna Mazet is a professor of epidemiology and disease ecology at UC Davis, where she also serves as the executive director of the One Health Institute and global director of PREDICT (Project of USAID Emerging Pandemic Threats Program), which works in more than 30 countries to discover and mitigate the risks from emerging infectious agents.

Jonna Mazet headshot
Courtesy of Jonna Mazet

“I originally went into global health from a conservation perspective,” explained Mazet. “I’ve always been concerned about humans’ impact on the planet, and the more I got to know issues that affect the health of Earth’s inhabitants – humans, animals and ecosystems – the more I wanted to dedicate my career to questions of sustainability and health.”

Mazet initially trained as a wildlife veterinarian and soon after earned a PhD in epidemiology. She is thankful for this cross training because it immersed her in questions and issues that affect both human and animal health.

Because she knew that policy is another piece of the global health puzzle, Mazet took a job with the state of CA. “My experience working in government really motivated me because I saw the impact that science has, and does not have, on policy,” said Mazet. She continues to support and develop science to improve policy that promotes health for the planet and all of its citizens.

On the other hand, Lara Stemple comes to global health from a legal perspective. She is assistant dean of the Graduate Studies and International Student programs at UCLA. She also serves as director of UCLA Law School’s Health and Human Rights Project.

Stemple found her path to global health at an early age. “I was an activist for reproductive health and rights as a high school student in Arizona, so I’ve been interested in the connection between law, politics and women’s health for a long time,” said Stemple. This interest stayed with her through her studies at Harvard Law School where she worked on issues concerning female genital mutilation and human trafficking.

Lara Stemple headshot
Courtesy of Lara Stemple

“My first job out of law school was a fellowship in the international department of the NGO known as the Center for Reproductive Rights,” said Stemple. She lobbied United Nations delegates on issues related to women’s health and developed reports aimed at exposing human rights abuses related to reproductive health and rights.

After her fellowship, Stemple moved to LA to work as a policy advocate for the Pacific Institute for Women’s Health, where she was one of two lawyers on staff. She later served as the executive director of Just Detention International, a health and human rights organization working to end sexual victimization in prisons, jails and immigration detention centers in the US and internationally.

Stemple arrived at UCLA in 2005 to oversee the law school’s master’s and doctoral degree programs; she created the Health and Human Rights Project in 2009. She continues to teach and write in the areas of human rights, global health, gender, sexuality and incarceration. She is the first lawyer to join the UCGHI Board.

UCGHI’s new co-vice chairs may have different areas of expertise but they have something in common: an early involvement with UCGHI.

Mazet served on the original advising committee established by UCGHI’s founding director Haile Debas (UCSF) during UCGHI’s formative stages in 2008-09. She also helped set up the One Health Center of Expertise in 2010 – co-writing the funding proposal with Deolalikar.

"I was thrilled to take that collaborative process into real-life application by engaging with colleagues across the campuses to put together that application for the center of expertise,” said Mazet.

Although she did not serve as co-director of the One Health COE, Mazet supported the effort as executive director of the One Health Institute at UC Davis, which housed the administrative offices of the One Health COE, and now its second iteration, the Planetary Health COE.

Stemple’s involvement with UCGHI began in 2010 when she co-founded the Women’s Health and Empowerment COE with Paula Tavrow (UCLA) and Phil Darney (UCSF), serving as the COE’s first deputy co-director. “It was an exciting time as the COE brought together faculty from across California, most of whom had never met, but who shared a commitment to promoting women’s health and empowerment around the globe,” said Stemple.

Both co-vice chairs are eager to support UCGHI, now at a higher level, because they believe in the collaborative mission of the institute.

“The commitment to cross-disciplinary approaches is the most inspiring part of UCGHI from my perspective,” said Stemple. “No single discipline can solve the world’s most intractable problems in global health; success depends upon multi-pronged approaches that build upon the different strengths each discipline brings to the table.”

UCGHI’s emphasis on the interdisciplinary nature of global health also motivates Mazet. 

“The excitement of UCGHI really leading the way in the evolution of academia – from individual PI-driven silos to collaborative problem solving – is what keeps me enthused about the concept," said Mazet.

“I hope to help UCGHI continue its exciting trajectory,” said Stemple.

Mazet and Stemple will take their seats as co-vice chairs at the UCGHI Board meeting in April 2019. They succeed Steffanie Strathdee (UCSD) who now co-directs UC San Diego’s new Center for Innovative Phage Applications and Therapeutics (IPATH).