A $14 million gift from the Irvine Health Foundation will be used to help further establish UC Irvine‘s Program in Public Health as a community resource on public health research and work.

The Program in Public Health will use the funds to establish seven endowed chairs, a process that can take five to seven years. It will be “hiring experts that are going to work on issues and health problems in Orange County together with communities in Orange County,” said Bernadette Boden-Albala, the program’s director.

That work by those seven chairs will include identifying public health problems impacting the community, engaging in research and enhancing public health, particularly health equity, Boden-Albala said.

And given the diversity in the county, she said, there are myriad public health issues for these faculty members  to “roll up their sleeves” and get to work addressing.

“We’re focused on Orange County first and foremost, and I hope that by hiring these faculty and working with the community, that this ends up being a model for health and wellbeing,” she said.

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Calling the grant “unprecedented and very exciting,” Boden-Albala said the foundation and the program together sought to create something that would continuously serve the community, not just address a one-time funding need.

“The support that they’re giving us will continue to really enhance health and wellbeing in Orange County,” said Boden-Albala, who joined the program in 2019 and is working to grow it.

With this grant, Irvine Health Foundation has now given more than $20 million to UCI, according to the university. It has partnered on projects such as the Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders and the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory.

“We are incredibly grateful for this support from the Irvine Health Foundation,” said Steve A.N. Goldstein, UCI’s vice chancellor for health affairs. “Their generosity takes us one step closer to transforming the Program in Public Health into a school and enables us to attract additional superb public health faculty who prioritize world-class research and community health.”

The Program in Public Health includes 1,300 undergraduate students, as well as about 100 students pursuing masters in public health and 100 Ph.D. students. It also included about 175 faculty and staff members, as of the fall of 2022.

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