California honors Bibbins-Domingo for contributions to public health

Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo smiles for the cameraToday Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, MD, PhD, MAS received the highest honor the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) offers, the Beverlee A. Myers Award for Excellence in Public Health. The award recognizes her career contributions with particular focus on her service during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Bibbins-Domingo was celebrated for her work as a researcher, clinician and mentor and for her efforts in roles as Chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Vice Dean for Population Health and co-founder, with Dean Schillinger, of the UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations, which generates actionable research to reduce health disparities in at-risk populations in the San Francisco Bay Area.

According to the nomination put forth by previous recipient Claire Brindis, DrPH, Dr. Bibbins-Domingo has shown “tenacious dedication to assure that research and evidence shaped policies” help to achieve health equity and social justice.

Brindis wrote: “In helping to train the next generation of public health leaders, she reminds them, ‘It is time we learn from the lessons of past epidemics and their disproportionate effect on minority communities. This time must be different.’”

Just a few months into the pandemic, Dr. Bibbins-Domingo was already chairing the UCSF COVID-19 Community Public Health Initiative, which catalyzed and supported community-academic partnerships to reach those communities most affected by COVID-19. This initiative supported the founding and participation of UCSF in coalitions including the Latino Task Force and Umoja Health, as well as the work of the UCSF LatinX Center of Excellence and the UCSF Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative to provide education, testing, vaccination, outreach, and support focused on Latinx and Black communities in the Bay Area.

Dr. Bibbins-Domingo also worked with Erica Pan, Sandra Huang and Mara Peterson to develop and launch the UC-CDPH COVID Modeling Consortium, a partnership between the University of California and CDPH to support the state’s ability to gather, synthesize and use data as circumstances changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The consortium has provided a forum for collaboration between CDPH scientists, public health decision-makers and UC investigators. It also created data-sharing platforms and funding mechanisms for UC investigators working on issues of priority for CDPH. Dr. Bibbins-Domingo is also a principal investigator for UC’s research supporting CDPH’s efforts to incorporate wastewater and testing data, and geographic information about social drivers of health into a comprehensive system for pandemic surveillance.

Dr. Bibbins-Domingo leads the research team that has used California death records to document excess mortality during the pandemic. This work highlighted the higher risk of death faced by essential workers and was included in Supreme Court briefs in a case addressing workplace vaccine mandates.  

Dr. Bibbins-Domingo’s pre-pandemic research agenda also focused on health equity, with work examining racial and ethnic disparities in cardiovascular disease. This work employs clinical epidemiology, implementation sciences and computer simulation modeling. More recently, Dr. Bibbins-Domingo helped launch the UCSF Population Health Data Initiative to enhance the data infrastructure for work in population health. Dr. Bibbins-Domingo continues to lead partnerships with the San Francisco Department of Public Health funded by the CDC to enhance equitable planning post-pandemic.

In July, she will begin a leave of absence from UCSF to assume a new role as Editor-in-Chief of the JAMA network of journals.

The award presentation can be viewed here.