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GCSW Associate Professor Appointed Humana Endowed Chair

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Luis R. Torres, a leading researcher on minority health disparities, is honored with the Humana Endowed Chair in Social Determinants of Health.

August 29, 2019

(HOUSTON, TX) –The Graduate College of Social Work (GCSW) is proud to announce Associate Dean of Research and Strategic Partnership Luis R. Torres has been named the Humana Endowed Chair in Social Determinants of Health beginning September 1, 2019.

The appointment comes as the result of a historic partnership between Humana, one of the nation’s premier health and wellness organizations, and the University of Houston. This partnership establishes the Humana Integrated Health System Sciences Institute at The University of Houston.

“Dr. Torres is uniquely qualified to serve in this important new role,” said Dean Alan Dettlaff. “As the University of Houston works collaboratively with Humana to address the health and well-being of our surrounding communities, Dr. Torres will ensure this work is done using a social justice lens.”  

The newly-appointed Institute Director, Dr. LeChauncy D. Woodard, will work collaboratively with Dr. Torres and the four other designated chairs from the UH Colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Optometry, and Pharmacy. Together they will shape the vision, mission, and strategic goals of the institute to further research development, interprofessional teaching/training, and comprehensive healthcare.

When asked about the growing importance and inclusion of social work in public health development, Torres said, “I will bring a critical perspective to the work of the Institute to ensure that social justice issues, as they relate to health and healthcare, are at the front and center of all our efforts.”

Regarding the importance of the establishment of the Institute, Dr. Torres, whose research has been largely focused on understanding health disparities in Latino and minority populations, shared how these issues impact public health.

“Where we live…what we eat…our ability or inability to make meaningful connections with those around us and rely on each other for support, all impacts our health,” Dr. Torres said. “Health problems aren’t just caused by pathogens. They are also caused by these social determinants of health that make us sick and then keep us from accessing timely, high-quality, culturally-grounded, evidence-based healthcare.”

Torres joined the university in 2008 and has served many roles including Foundation chair and a key GCSW liaison for many University initiatives. He has continuously engaged in teaching, mentoring, research, shared governance, and community engagement/service to the benefit of both the GCSW and broader community.

"We can and must do more to address these social determinants if we truly want to improve the health of individuals, communities, and populations,” said Torres. “Health is perhaps the most critical social justice issue of our time.”