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Dr. Hansel Tookes Named as One of the 2020 Herald Influencers

Hansel Tookes, M.D., M.P.H., an alumnus of the Master of Public Health program at the Department of Public Health Sciences, was one of two University of Miami leaders to be selected to the Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald and Bradenton Herald 2020 Florida Influencers series. Dr. Tookes and a group of statewide leaders from a variety of perspectives and industries will assess major challenges in the state of Florida, as well as find solutions for these challenges.

“I spent the last decade working to change policies to improve the lives of some of our most vulnerable communities, and I learned most of all that both sides (blue and red) ultimately want what’s best,” said Tookes in an interview with University Communications. “We have made considerable progress in this state, but there are forces at work that threaten our progress. I’m excited to share my perspective and keep everyone honest as we fight for social justice and equality.”

Since he was a public health and medical student, Dr.  Tookes, who is now an assistant professor in the Miller School’s Department of Infectious Diseases, determinedly advocated for syringe services programs (SSP) to reduce the rate of HIV and other infectious diseases.

He founded the IDEA (Infectious Disease Elimination Act) Exchange, an SSP that provides resources for people who inject drugs to prevent and reduce the spread of HIV, Hepatitis C, and other blood-borne diseases. At the IDEA Exchange, which opened its doors on Dec. 1, 2016, people can exchange their used needles for clean ones, as well as get tested for HIV and Hepatitis C.

In 2019, the state legislature passed a bill to expand the program statewide with approval by county commissions. To operate the SSPs, Florida counties can now initiate contracts with their local hospital, health clinics, or medical schools.

Mr. Rudy Fernandez, the vice president for public affairs and communications and chief of staff to the president at the University of Miami, was also named to the 2020 Florida Influencers series. Mr. Fernandez served as a special assistant to the president in the George W. Bush White House before joining the University in 2007.

Learn more about the 2020 Florida Influencers series here.