San Diego State University School of Public is honored to present this year’s Inaugural Distinguished Alumni Award to Dr. Wilma Wooten, graduate of the joint San Diego State University (SDSU), Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH)/University of California San Diego (UCSD) Preventive Medicine Residency, Class of 1989. Dr. Wilma Wooten, Public Health Officer and Director of Public health Services in the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA), is being honored by the SPH with our first annual alumni achievement award for her immense contribution to public health across San Diego over the years and during the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Although she has served in her current role with San Diego HHSA since 2007, Dr. Wilma Wooten became a household name as the San Diego Union-Tribune “2020 Person of the Year,” navigating our communities through the political, emotional, and logistical challenges of COVID-19. Dr. Wooten was honored in a virtual ceremony that took place Friday, April 9.Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Wooten and SD HHSA leveraged strategic partnerships with local government, schools, businesses, community and faith-based organizations to build capacity for COVID-19 education, outreach, and prevention. Dr. Wooten has navigated difficult situations with local, state and federal government officials, including an unexpected amount of vitriol from some County residents in regards to mask mandates and other public health interventions. Nonetheless, the urgency of the pandemic has not stopped her from continuing a number of important health initiatives around Hepatitis C, Tuberculosis, HIV and Opioid use and Perinatal Equity.
Dr. Wooten serves SDSU SPH in multiple capacities, including as an adjunct professor and as a member of the SDSU SPH Advisory Board. Dr. Wooten notes attending SDSU Graduate School of Public Health was an amazing opportunity that connected her to different programs and populations, and gave her the necessary critical thinking skills needed in her career. Her advice to rising public health students is her own personal motto that has helped her cope with the pandemic: “When going through rough times, remember that this too shall pass and stay the course!”