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Deborah L. Helitzer, ScD

Professor and Dean

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Contact Information

Phone: (505) 272-4979

Academic Career

Helitzer, the founding dean of the College of Population Health, received her ScD from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in 1989. She conducted her doctoral research in Malawi, Africa, on the barriers to malaria chemoprophylaxis in pregnant women. While in the Department of International Health, Division of Health Systems at John Hopkins, she also led a study on the predictors of AIDS among adolescent girls in Malawi.

In 1995, she became a research assistant professor at the UNM Master of Public Health (MPH) Program. Over the years, she has held a number of posts and leadership positions within the university including: vice chair of research for the department of Family and Community Medicine, assistant dean for research, assistant/associate dean for research education; and associate vice chancellor for research education.

Teaching/Research Interests

Helitzer's research has focused on interventions in communities and clinical settings. Among the many topics she has studied with colleagues are: diabetes, injury prevention, teen pregnancy prevention, childhood adversity, health literacy, cancer, obesity prevention, patient-provider communication and more. She is also known for her research on malaria. She has also taught several courses in the MPH and Master of Science in Clinical Research (MSCR) programs.

Helitzer’s research has received multiple accolades and awards. One such accolade is from Sonia Shah, author of  “The Fever,” who wrote: "One of the best ethnographic studies on health beliefs was conducted by Deborah Helitzer of the University of New Mexico...her findings carry profound implications for humankind's struggle with the (malaria) parasite."

Practice and Research Pages


New UNM College of Population Health set to open in 2016
(HSCNewsBeat; Sep. 5, 2015) ─ The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center is launching a new, multidisciplinary College of Population Health to train students in the art of keeping people healthy.

2013 Recipient of HSC Excellence in Population Sciences Research Award
(Women of Distinction; 2013) ─ If you ask Deborah Helitzer about the most important advice she received in her life, she would say it was from her grandmother, who would say "from talking, comes talking", which means that if you talk to one person they will lead you to another. 

HSC Receives Grant for Employee Health Study
(HSCNewsBeat; May 5, 2005) ─ What causes chronic disease?  Doctors have long known that stress can trigger disease, make medical conditions worse, and create barriers to obtaining appropriate health care.