Faculty and Staff Support the U: Community Health Expert Strengthens Hispanic Families, and the University

Guermillo "Willy" Prado

Guillermo “Willy” Prado

Professor Guillermo “Willy” Prado is committed to making South Florida a better place to live. As director of the Division of Prevention Science and Community Health at the Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine, Prado has pioneered programs that reduce drug abuse and other health problems among Hispanic youths by strengthening their families. As a generous donor to the University, he also contributes to the education of a new generation of community leaders.

“I’ve given to our University for many years through the annual United Way drive and the Momentum2 campaign,” says Prado, M.S. ’00, Ph.D. ’05, the Leonard M. Miller Professor of Public Health Sciences. He also has contributed to the Master of Public Health Scholarship Fund and José Szapocznik Leadership Fund, which provides scholarships for public health students, and to the Springboard Program, which supports innovative, independent projects by students who are working toward or recently earned a master of public health.

Born in Mexico City, Prado moved to Miami at age 3 and graduated from Coral Gables High School. “My parents worked multiple jobs so that my brother and I could have a better life,” he says. “That inspired me at an early age to give back to our community.”

After earning a bachelor’s degree in math and statistics from the University of Florida, Prado joined the University of Miami in 2000 as a graduate student. Through the years, he has been involved in innovative teaching, research and service projects, and developed the Miller School’s foundation class in prevention science and community health.

Now, Prado is planning a doctoral program in prevention science and community health that would be the first such Ph.D. program offered by a U.S. medical school. “If we receive approval, we hope to admit the first students in the fall of 2015,” he says.

Once the doctoral program is established, Prado’s goal is to provide financial support in the form of scholarships to the aspiring prevention scientists. He also hopes to establish a world class Center of Excellence focusing on improving the health of adolescents.

Nationally known for his research, which has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Prado is a member of the National Hispanic Science Network’s Steering Committee. Last year he chaired the Society for Prevention Research’s 21st Annual Conference and the National Hispanic Science Network’s 14th Annual Conference. The Familias Unidas (United Families) intervention program he developed with Hilda Pantin, professor and executive vice chair of Public Health Sciences, has been so effective in preventing or reducing substance use and other risky behaviors among Hispanic youth, it has been expanded to tackle obesity. Familias Unidas also has drawn international interest, including the recent formation of a collaborative program with Ecuador.

“It has become the ‘gold standard’ for Hispanic families,” says Prado. “We help parents learn from each other in a group setting, and show them how to discuss sensitive topics with their children.”

When Prado isn’t working, he enjoys reading, running, and working out at the UHealth Fitness and Wellness Center. “I wake up every morning and look forward to coming here and making a difference in others’ lives,” he says. “It’s very rewarding to be part of our great University, and I encourage other faculty and staff to give back as well. Go ’Canes!”

Read about other faculty and staff who support the U.





Posted in Features, NewsComments (0)

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Inspires Ninth Graders to Find Their Passion

By Robert C. Jones Jr.
UM News

At UM's Whitten Learning Center, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen greets one of the more than 130 students participating in Breakthrough Miami College Bound.

At UM’s Whitten Learning Center, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen greets one of the more than 130 students participating in Breakthrough Miami College Bound.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (July 7, 2014) – A former teacher who once took the advice of a parent and ran for elected office, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen told a group of ninth-grade students on the University of Miami campus Monday that Congress should mirror the racial and ethnic diversity of the nation and urged the youngsters to consider entering the political arena after college to help solve problems. Read the full story

Posted in Features, News, ’Canes in the CommunityComments Off

UQuit Helps Diverse Smokers Kick the Habit

By Maya Bell
UM News

Tobacco, Obesity, and Oncology Lab. In case it is needed, the top row from left to right, Victoria A. Rodriguez, MSW; Stephanie Kolar, Ph.D.; Marcia McNutt, MPH; Brooke Genkin Rogers, MPH; Chelsea Greaves, MPH; Alyssa Vazquez, BA; Shaneisha Allen, BA; and seated is Monica Webb Hooper, Ph.D.

The TOOL team includes Monica Webb Hooper, seated, and, standing from left, Victoria A. Rodriguez, Stephanie Kolar, Marcia McNutt, Brooke Genkin Rogers, Chelsea Greaves, Alyssa Vazquez, and Shaneisha Allen.

MIAMI, Fla. (June 27, 2014)—For nearly 30 years, cigarettes ruled Jerome Hicks’ life, robbing him of his health, his money, and his time. But one Monday morning in 2013, the disabled concrete finisher woke up with the determination, the support system, and, most importantly, the tools to conquer the deadly addiction that disproportionally harms African Americans like himself.

Before even climbing out of bed, he applied a nicotine patch to his left arm, then got dressed, and headed to the first of eight intense counseling sessions of UQuit, a smoking cessation study being conducted by the Department of Psychology’s Tobacco, Obesity, and Oncology Laboratory, or TOOL. In just four years, the study has screened 1,000 potential participants, a notable milestone as it seeks to determine whether the combination of nicotine replacement and traditional cognitive behavioral therapy is as effective an intervention for mostly low-income, racially and ethnically diverse smokers as it has proven to be for middle-class white smokers.

Monica Webb Hooper, associate professor of psychology and a member of the cancer prevention, control, and survivorship program at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, established TOOL in part to answer that question. As she notes, African American and Hispanic smokers suffer more health consequences from cigarette smoking, yet they are underrepresented in smoking cessation clinical trials. She is encouraged by both the response to and the preliminary results of UQuit. The only evidence-based smoking cessation research clinic in South Florida, UQuit is funded by the James and Esther King Biomedical Research Program, the Pap Corps Champions for Cancer Research, and the University.

“We are having an impact,” Webb Hooper said. “Smokers and their families are interested in what we are doing and want to be involved because, by word of mouth, they know it can work.”

To date, more than half of the 250 smokers who completed UQuit, many of whom are African Americans like Hicks, managed to stop smoking by the end of the four-week program. A year later, 45 percent still hadn’t resumed the costly habit, an extraordinary success rate.

“Nine out of ten attempts to quit smoking are unsuccessful, especially for people who try to do it alone,” Webb Hooper notes.


After 30 years of smoking, Jerome Hicks is now free of cigarettes.

Now 45, Hicks, who began smoking at age 15, hasn’t touched a cigarette since that Monday morning he attended his first session of UQuit, which asks participants to attend eight individual or group counseling sessions over four weeks, and wear an increasingly lower-dose nicotine patch for eight weeks.

In the counseling sessions, participants learn strategies to cope with nicotine withdrawal, to change the patterns that perpetuated their habit, and to handle stress without the smoking crutch they’ve relied on for so long.

They also hear a lot of hard science and cold facts—including how the nicotine patch doesn’t include the 7,000 other chemicals and toxins in cigarettes, or how more people die each year from smoking-related diseases than from alcohol, cocaine, heroin, car accidents, murder, suicide, fire, and AIDS combined.

“It works because we provide the gold standard,’’ said TOOL research associate Shaneisha Allen. “We don’t just give them a nicotine patch. We target all three parts of nicotine dependence—the emotional dependence, the physical dependence, and the habit. We provide a great support system, and we believe in them. We also know you never quit quitting. If you don’t succeed the first time, you try again. We provide positive motivation.”

Hicks’ initial motivation came from his doctor, who warned him that his lungs were turning black from his two-pack-a-day habit. But, he says, UQuit counselors enabled him to endure nicotine withdrawal, banish the thoughts and routines that revolved around his next smoke, and enjoy spending his free time—and his money—on healthier pursuits, such as reading and exercising.

“I couldn’t have done it without the program. It wasn’t easy, but it changed my behavior,” said Hicks, who has a plate in his neck from a job injury. “I learned I could control my stress without smoking, and I did. “I’m really proud of that. Now I wake up every morning with more money in my pocket and feeling really good.”

For more information about UQuit, visit http://www.psy.miami.edu/tool, or call 1-877-850-8665 (TOOL).

Maya Bell can be reached at 305-284-7972.




Posted in Features, NewsComments Off

WW II Vet, Former POW, and UM Alumnus Tells His Story

By Robert C. Jones Jr.
UM News

Jack Diamond recounts his World War II service and life in a German POW camp during a StoryCorps interview on the UM campus.

Jack Diamond recounts his World War II service and life in a German POW camp during a StoryCorps interview on the UM campus. Photo by Andrew Innerarity.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (June 27, 2014) – There was little they could do. Cut off from the rest of the 106th Infantry Division during the early days of the Battle of the Bulge, Pfc. Jack Diamond and his fellow soldiers would soon be surrounded by German forces, leaving them to face the grim reality of becoming prisoners of war. Read the full story

Posted in Features, NewsComments Off

Faculty and Staff Support the U: Retired Air Force Officer Remains on the Frontlines—of UM Information Technology, and Giving

As an information technology specialist in the U.S. Air Force, Darren Roach served in the Pentagon and the White House.

As an information technology specialist in the U.S. Air Force, Darren Roach served at the Pentagon and the White House.

Retired Lt. Col. Darren Roach, B.B.A ’91, M.B.A. ’92, knows the difference scholarships can make. “I would not have been able to earn an M.B.A. if not for the donors who funded my scholarship,” says the alumnus, who joined the University of Miami a year ago as senior manager of Application System Development in Information Technology. “Now, it’s my turn to give back to our great University.” Read the full story

Posted in Features, NewsComments Off

  • Features
  • Tags
  • Popular
  • Subscribe
  • Subscribe to the Veritas RSS Feed
    Get updates to all of the latest Veritas posts by clicking the logo at the right.

    You can also subscribe to specific categories by browsing to a particular section on our site and clicking the RSS icon below each section's header.

UM Facebook

UM Twitter