The University of Iowa College of Public Health is pleased to announce the recipients of the college’s 2019 Outstanding Alumni Awards: Paul Pomrehn Jr., who earned a master of science degree in epidemiology, and now works as a visiting professor in the Adult Psychiatry Outpatient Clinic at UI Health Care; and Christopher Buresh, who earned a master of public health degree, and is now professor of emergency medicine at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.
This award recognizes College of Public Health alumni who have made distinguished contributions to the field of public health and demonstrated a strong interest and commitment to the mission, vision, and values of the college.
“Our graduates serve in leadership roles across Iowa, the nation, and the world,” says Edith Parker, dean of the College of Public Health. “We’re delighted to honor both Paul and Christopher for their outstanding professional achievements and for their commitment to the ideals of our college and the broader mission of public health.”
College of Public Health alumni awards are presented in two categories: graduates within the past ten years who have achieved important and promising accomplishments and have exceptional potential for future success, and other alumni for accomplishments throughout their careers who have attained widespread recognition and respect for significant contributions in their field.
Additional information about the 2019 award recipients follows:
Paul Pomrehn received an MD degree from the University of Iowa in 1975 and an MS degree from the UI Department of Preventive Medicine and Environmental Health (now part of the College of Public Health) in 1979. His dedication to teaching, research, and service has had a powerful impact on disease control and prevention.
Pomrehn has held numerous academic leadership roles at the UI, including serving as interim head of the Division of Epidemiology in PMEH and associate dean for student affairs and curriculum in the College of Medicine. He also served as interim head of the Department of Community and Behavioral Health from 1997 to 2000.
He has made significant contributions to training clinicians and practitioners in preventive medicine and community health. He was board certified in preventive medicine and received an award from the Association of Teachers of Preventive Medicine for teaching prevention to medical students. He served an important role in the medical curriculum reform that transformed how medicine is taught at Iowa. He also chaired the CPH committee that designed the MPH degree.
His research in cardiovascular risk factors demonstrated the role of lifestyle and work environment on lipids and blood pressure. He led the Iowa component of the multi-center, randomized Community Intervention Trial for Smoking Cessation (COMMIT). Pomrehn has been active in community leadership roles, including the Free Medical Clinic while in medical school, the VNA Board of Directors, and serving as board chair of the Iowa affiliate of the American Lung Association. Former Iowa Governor Vilsack appointed him to chair the Iowa Smoking Prevention Task Force.
These service, teaching, and community-based research experiences at the interface between behavior and mental health motivated him to complete residency training in adult psychiatry at Stanford University from 2001-05. Upon his return to Iowa City, Pomrehn served as medical director of psychiatric services for the Community Mental Health Center of Eastern Iowa. He is currently a visiting professor supervising residents in the Adult Psychiatry Outpatient Clinic at UI Health Care.
Christopher Buresh is a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine. He received an MD degree from the University of Iowa in 2001 and an MPH degree from the UI College of Public Health in 2012.
Buresh has had a significant impact in global public health. In 2012, he co-founded the Community Health Initiative (CHI) to address the needs of rural Haitians who otherwise lacked access to care. CHI partners with a growing number of sister organizations and isolated rural Haitian communities to provide health and human services.
He also helped establish the Global Emergency Medicine Training Fellowship, which is a year-long research fellowship for emergency physicians interested in global health. He has assisted University of Iowa and CPH faculty in implementing research and prevention programs and has served on the Injury Prevention Research Center Global Injury Prevention team for many years.
In his role as an emergency physician trainer, Buresh has been a proponent of population-based and preventive approaches. He emphasizes public health as he teaches medical students, and he encourages them to seek the MD/MPH combined degree. He is the co-course director for one semester of a medical student course that focuses on the intersection of clinical medicine and public health. He introduces students to public health concepts and helps future clinicians understand why public health is so vital to society.
Buresh is the former Medical Director of the Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition, and currently serves as the American College of Emergency Medicine’s Ambassador to Haiti, and is a member of the International Federation of Emergency Medicine Clinical Practice Committee. He has been honored with numerous awards for his excellence in teaching, patient service, and volunteer work.