Arizona College of Public Health Establishes
Dr. Augusto and Martha Ortiz Endowment
Jan. 17, 2002
From: Vicki B. Gaubeca (520) 626-7301
The Arizona College of Public Health has established the Dr. Augusto and Martha Ortiz Endowment to honor and memorialize their pioneering work in community health care over the past five decades in Arizona.
In 1972, the Ortizes moved to Tucson, where Dr. Ortiz joined the UA College of Medicine faculty and worked at El Rio Health Center, several rural and urban clinics and the Rural Health Office, which now is part of the Arizona College of Public Health. As medical director for the Rural Health Office, he established the Mobile Clinic program and a lay health worker training program. In addition, he teaches health professions students to understand their obligation to reach out to under-served communities.
"Dr. Ortiz represents the absolute best of medicine," says Anthony Vuturo, MD, professor emeritus of family and community medicine at the UA College of Medicine and senior vice president at Canyon Ranch. "For the last 25 years, he and his wife have brought medicine to people who had little or no access to it. He took medicine to the people of Arizona in ways that we only talk about in textbooks."
The endowment will be used to continue support and maintenance of the mobile medical unit; the development of community health programs; new technologies that provide state-of-the-art access to medical treatments, especially for rural populations; other programs that improve health care and community education services; and scholarships to students in the health professions.
He combines the best of curative, preventive and health promotion care services, adds Dr. Vuturo. And he has specific interest and expertise in herbal remedies used by many Native American populations.
Prior to moving to Tucson, in the early '50s, Dr. Ortiz began serving a mostly Hispanic population out of his private medical office in central Phoenix. He began to realize that about 40 percent of his patients suffered from some sort of back pain. By asking thorough questions, he found out that many of them had been migrant farm workers and that they used a short-handled hoe (12 to 15 inches long) while weeding or thinning crops, 10 to 12 hours a day for many years. He learned that the workers had to stoop when using the tool and that this put an enormous strain on their backs. After learning this, he participated in many legislative hearings to ban the short-handled hoe. Such efforts eventually were successful in Arizona, California, Texas and New Mexico.
He also learned that access to health care services by many Arizonans not only was limited by their financial ability to pay for these services, but also by their geographic and psycho-social status. To help address this problem, he started a "Neighborhood Doctors Office" program in three low-income neighborhoods in Phoenix. He convinced nearby hospitals to offer laboratory, X-ray, pharmaceutical, emergency, and even in-patient services on a sliding fee scale. He and 83 other physicians took turns offering health care in all three offices, which later evolved into community health centers in Phoenix.
Donations to the endowment should be made to Arizona College of Public Health/UAF, PO Box 245163, Tucson, AZ 85724, Attn: Ortiz Endowment. For more information, call Kim Gunn, Arizona College of Public Health development director, (520) 626-5983.
Established by the Arizona Board of Regents in January 2000, the Arizona College of Public Health is the first public health college in the southwestern United States and represents a tri-university collaborative effort among the University of Arizona, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University. The College of Public Health's mission is to promote the health of individuals and communities with a special emphasis on diverse populations and the Southwest. Programs concentrate on the reduction of health disparities, the development and maintenance of healthy communities, and the promotion of healthy lifestyles