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María E. Fernández, PhD

Maria E. Fernandez, PhD

Vice President, Population Health and Implementation Science, UTHealth Houston


As vice president of population health and implementation science, María E. Fernández, PhD, leads UTHealth Houston’s efforts in population health sciences including research to improve the integration of innovations and discoveries into real-world settings.

Her strategic vision for improving population health includes forging new collaborations within the university, engaging community partners and a wide range of stakeholders, and applying population health sciences across disciplines to address persistent and emerging population health needs. She also works with faculty to close research-to-practice gaps across health science disciplines to improve health, health equity, and quality of life. These efforts will boost UTHealth Houston’s profile as a leader in population health sciences.

As a champion of research to improve health equity in vulnerable populations, Fernández has spent her career designing and testing multilevel interventions to improve health and championing the adoption and use of evidence-based interventions, practices, programs, policies, and partnerships that help meet the health care needs of communities.

In 1998, Fernández joined the faculty of UTHealth Houston School of Public Health as an assistant professor of health promotion and behavioral sciences. Since then, she has been an active member of the school’s faculty, administration, and research community. She is the founding co-director of the UTHealth Houston Institute for Implementation Science, as well as director of the Texas Prevention Research Center and the Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research at the School of Public Health.

Fernández, the Lorne Bain Chair in Public Health and Medicine, has contributed significantly to the field of cancer and chronic disease prevention and control, especially in underserved communities, and is renowned for her scientific leadership and mentorship of junior investigators. She serves as principal investigator on more than $40 million in active research funding from the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Texas Department of State Health Services, the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, the Health Resources and Services Administration, the World Health Organization, and various other funders.

Prior to joining the UTHealth Houston faculty, Fernández earned multiple degrees from the University of Maryland, including a master’s degree in health education and a PhD in health education and behavioral epidemiology. She completed a National Cancer Institute-supported postdoctoral fellowship in cancer prevention and control at UTHealth Houston School of Public Health.

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