Q & A with Rob Tufel, president of the Public Health Alumni Association

Rob TrufelRob Tufel MSW, MPH ’90, began his term as president of the Public Health Alumni Association (PHAA) board of directors on July 1, 2013. Tufel is the executive director of Cancer CAREpoint in San Jose, and has more than 20 years’ experience in the health field, with a focus on AIDS as well as brain tumors. In this Q&A, he talks about his vision for the PHAA board for the 2013-14 academic year.

Q. What motivated you to become involved in the Public Health Alumni Association?

A. Several years ago, I was reading in the newspaper about the drastic cuts to the UC system and thought that it was a real tragedy that it was becoming more difficult for students to get an affordable education at one of the best universities in the country. I don’t have children myself but an investment in education is good for everyone. Both my parents were public school teachers and I grew up with a great respect for public education and the opportunities it offers people to move forward and advance. I decided that, instead of just donating to the school, I wanted to make an additional commitment of offering my skills and time. I received such an excellent education at UC Berkeley School of Public Health that I wanted to make sure that others had that same opportunity.

Q. What would you like to see PHAA accomplish while you are president?

A. At our last meeting of the board we focused in on our two main goals. First, we want to increase alumni involvement and, second, we want to increase interactions between current students and alumni. I want us to be a board that understands and accurately represents the interests of the alumni and can communicate those interests to the UC Berkeley Public Health community at large.

In addition, I think the Public Health Alumni Association Board is a diverse group in the broadest sense of the word—in terms of ethnicities, national origins, occupations, disciplines, religious backgrounds, sexual orientation, etc. It is important that the School actively works to support a diverse student body and especially welcome underserved students. As a board we want to be a part of that effort. For the past several years, we have held a fundraiser to provide scholarships to underserved students, but I hope we can build on that activity to get even more alumni involved so we can raise funding for more scholarships.

Q. What are some of the challenges facing PHAA? What are some of the opportunities?

Tufel at the annual Alumni Brunch and Silent Auction

Tufel at the annual Alumni Brunch and Silent Auction with former board member Mariah Lafleur

A. It’s important to the board members to actively work with the new dean, Dr. Stefano Bertozzi, to provide him with the board’s perspective on public health at UC Berkeley and to hear his ideas and plans for the coming year. That we can work together with the new dean at the start of his career at Berkeley is a great opportunity for the board and all alumni.

A challenge for our board is how to engage alumni who live outside of the Bay Area. We currently have two board members from Southern California but the remainder of our directors all live in the Bay Area. It would be great to see alumni organize in different cities and towns to support the school, either through organizing their own events in their cities or increasing their donations. I hope we can generate enough excitement and interest in PHAA for that to happen.

Q. What would you like to say to your classmates and fellow alumni?

A. I believe that UC Berkeley School of Public Health alumni are incredibly committed to the field of public health as a result of both our education at Berkeley as well as our work experience. We know first-hand the positive impact public health has on society. We all have our passions and our causes but I hope our alumni will remember that their Berkeley education provided them the groundwork to make a measurable difference in their work and ultimately their lives.

1 Comment

  1. Margot Smith, Dr,P.H. on

    I would love to see a return of the missionary zeal about Public Health that I felt from the field when I was there…we had the tail end of it in the 60s. Now it seems it is all about administration and financing. Where is the zeal for family planning, immunization, children’s health, maternal and child coverage, international health, etc? That would inspire me.

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