By Cindi Meche

UNM College of Population Health Names New Associate and Assistant Deans

The University of New Mexico’s College of Population Health (COPH) underwent significant growth in 2023, more than doubling its faculty and staff. This growth created the need for a new leadership team to represent and guide the burgeoning institution.

Tracie C. Collins, MD, MPH, MHCDS continues to serve as the dean of the College and is now joined by a new associate dean and three assistant deans.

In welcoming these new additions to the leadership team, Collins expressed her enthusiasm, saying, "We are proud to have these four accomplished academic leaders on board, each contributing their unique expertise to advance our mission."

Lauri Andress, PhD JD, MPH, now serves as the associate dean for COPH. With 38 years of experience and an MPH, JD, and PhD, Andress has a rich background. She has worked in public health governance and politics, played a key role in launching the Centers for Health Equity in Wisconsin and Louisville, and held positions such as Public Information Officer and Chief of Public Affairs in Houston's Department of Health and Human Services. During her doctoral studies at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy, she worked with Alvin Tarlov, MD, a leading expert in population health. Andress’ scholarship focuses on policy advocacy, and messaging about social determinants of health, particularly health equity on an international scale.

At the core of Andress' vision is a commitment to reshaping societal perceptions of health, emphasizing equity, mutual respect, and social justice. In her role as associate dean, she brings strengths in translating public health theories on oppression, equity, and collective power.


It is important to me to be part of efforts to alter structures, systems and institutions that serve as barriers for New Mexico’s most vulnerable populations
Lauri Andress, PhD JD, MPH UNM College of Population Health

Julie Reagan, PhD, JD, MPH joins COPH as the assistant dean for education. She earned her MPH and PhD in Public Health from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, School of Public Health, and her law degree from the University of Houston. Reagan has more than twenty years of practice experience as a state government attorney, primarily in public health agencies. After transitioning to academia, she developed a deep interest in best practices for public health pedagogy. Her teaching and research expertise includes public health, public health law, health law and ethics, health policy and management, and health care administration, all of which will be valuable in her new role. Her focus in this role as assistant dean for education will be to support COPH in its efforts to advance the quality of its existing BSPH, MPH, and PhD degrees and to lead the college in its goal of expanding from an accredited program to an accredited school of public health.


I am proud and honored to join the College of Population Health to lead its education team during this exciting time of expansion. Serving as the College's Assistant Dean of Education provides me a unique opportunity to advance public health within New Mexico's diverse communities.
Julie Reagan, PhD, JD, MPH UNM College of Population Health

Elizabeth Yakes Jimenez, PhD, RDN, takes on the role of assistant dean for research. She is a pediatric registered dietitian with an MS in public health nutrition from Case Western Reserve University and a PhD in epidemiology from the University of California, Davis. She has been faculty at UNM since 2011, first as an assistant professor on central campus, and then as a research associate professor and research professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Internal Medicine at the UNM School of Medicine. In those roles, she conducted community-engaged and clinical research, program evaluation and quality improvement projects to develop and test interventions to improve maternal and child health, to better prevent and treat malnutrition and chronic disease, and to strengthen integration of community services and medical care. She has worked in research administration roles since 2017 and has experience overseeing fiscal, human resources, human subjects’ protection, grant and contract submission and monitoring, and reporting systems for faculty and staff involved with federal and foundation grants and state contracts, all of which is valuable experience to bring to her new role. Her focus in this role as assistant dean for research will be optimizing pre- and post-award support for faculty, supporting research collaborations within UNM and with communities, expanding research mentoring opportunities for early career faculty and students, and maintaining strong relationships with the UNM Health Sciences research infrastructure.


I am thrilled to join the UNM College of Population Health to support faculty and students in conducting all of their amazing research designed to improve health outcomes and promote health equity for New Mexicans.
Elizabeth Yakes Jimenez, PhD, RDN UNM College of Population Health

Lastly, Kenneth D. Ward, PhD, joins COPH as the assistant dean for faculty affairs. He previously served as a professor and director of the Division of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Memphis School of Public Health and as an adjunct professor of Preventive Medicine at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine. Ward's research focuses on reducing the burden of tobacco use and improving methods to help smokers quit. Much of his work has been in international settings, including the Eastern Mediterranean Region, where he was a founder and intervention director of the Syrian Center for Tobacco Studies. He was a Fulbright Scholar at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and continues to work with colleagues there to improve access to cessation services among underserved populations. In addition to tobacco control, Ward is interested in community approaches to addressing chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and obesity. As assistant dean, Ward will oversee efforts to recruit, develop, and retain a talented group of faculty members who are committed to improving population health in New Mexico and beyond.


I’m very happy to be part of the COPH during this exciting time of growth, and I look forward to helping our talented faculty achieve great things!
Kenneth D. Ward, PhD UNM College of Population Health

About the UNM College of Population Health

In 1994, The University of New Mexico opened its first program offering as a Master of Public Health, housed in the School of Medicine. This marked the initial step in UNM’s journey toward establishing a presence in public health education. As the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) accredited master’s program flourished, and a Bachelor of Science in Population Health was being added to the programming, UNM took the decisive step of establishing the College of Population Health (COPH) in 2016. In the spring semester of 2023, the UNM College of Population Health successfully launched its first PhD program in Health Equity Sciences in partnership with New Mexico State University. Within one year, COPH hired more than 20 new faculty to support this growth including the aforementioned deans to support the growing structure. COPH is now preparing for full College CEPH accreditation in 2026 and working on launching a new social worker program.

Categories: College of Population Health, Top Stories