By: Mira Garin
Nick Macchione first became interested in a career in public health watching the HIV/AIDS epidemic unfold in New Jersey while completing his undergraduate degree in biology with a minor in psychology. Seeing the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to helping prevent new infections while simultaneously assisting those living with HIV/AIDS, Mr. Macchione learned that first connecting with people “where they’re at” and providing culturally and linguistically competent services lay the groundwork for helping people implement behavioral changes for better health.
His calling to public health then led him to join the City of Newark Department of Health and Human Services where he led the HIV/AIDS and community health education teams. From there, he was selected as the Executive Director of the HIV Health Services Planning Council in Newark. During the next five years, he led a large and complex health service delivery system while simultaneously earning two master’s degrees in health services management and health policy from New York University and Columbia University, respectively. He also earned his certificate in Managerial Epidemiology & Public Health Policy from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
In 1997, Mr. Macchione was recruited to become the Executive of the County of San Diego’s Office of AIDS Coordination where he assisted with the design and implementation of the Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA). He quickly shifted into the role of Deputy Director by 1998, and ten years later Mr. Macchione was promoted to HHSA Director. He continues to serve in that role today. Leading with purpose and passion, Mr. Macchione was key to designing and implementing the nationally recognized population health strategy Live Well San Diego which launched in 2010. Focused on improving life expectancy and social well-being throughout the county, this program aims to provide all San Diegans opportunity to be healthy, safe and thriving. “I am passionate about addressing poverty and health equity,” Mr. Macchione explained, “[and] for performance of the public good.”
When COVID-19 began to sweep through San Diego County, Mr. Macchione drew on his experience in infection control from the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Stepping away from HHSA’s daily operations, he began to build a multi-sector collaborative effort between public and private institutions with a heavy emphasis on health equity and protecting disproportionately impacted communities. The County’s COVID-19 T3 Strategy to ‘Test, Trace and Treat’ was stood up during this period and proved to be a critical component of the County’s ability to achieve and maintain one of the highest testing and highest vaccination rates in both California and the nation overall.
When he’s not working on emergency pandemic response, Mr. Macchione explained, “I spend every day in service of the 3.3 million people in our county” working with HHSA’s 8,000 employees and hundreds of community partners “to advance opportunities for all San Diegans to live well.” On any given day, he may be helping open new affordable housing developments and behavioral health programs, collaborating with members of the Board of Supervisors to implement health initiatives, meeting with city officials, state and national associations to share best practices, problem-solving with community partners about pressing health needs, or any other number of tasks. Despite his busy schedule, Mr. Macchione carves out time to teach at San Diego State University’s School of Public Health. “The School of Public Health is my second work home,” he explained. “I’ve been teaching and mentoring students in the SDSU College of Health and Human Services for as long as I’ve been at the County – approaching 26 years.”
Mr. Macchione exemplifies understanding that collaboration often starts with helping the incoming generation of healthcare leaders. “I accept this award on behalf of our County Health and Human Services Agency and all the amazing students, faculty and administrators from the SDSU College of HHS. I am the leader I am today because of my work families at the Agency and the College who have helped improve the lives of so many San Diegans.”
We are honored to present this inaugural Public Health Impact Award to Mr. Macchione.