Who We Are
Hortensia Amaro, Ph.D., NAM

Hortensia Amaro, Ph.D., NAM

ASEMFL President Elect
Distinguished University Professor and Senior Scholar on Community Health, Florida International University

Hortensia Amaro, Ph.D., is Distinguished University Professor and Senior Scholar on Community Health at the Wertheim College of Medicine and Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work at Florida International University. She previously served as Associate Vice-Provost and was the first top-ranking Latina administrator at the University of Southern California where she was also Dean’s Professor of public health and social work. Prior to that, she served as Distinguished Professor and Associate Dean at the Northeastern University College of Health Sciences where she was also founder and director of the Institute on Urban Health Research. Previously, Dr. Amaro was professor at the Boston University School of Public Health and School of Medicine where she was among the first nationally to introduce courses on gender health disparities and on race/ethnicity health disparities.

Dr. Amaro’s scholarship has dramatically advanced the understanding of gender and ethno-racial inequities in health including substance use disorders and co-occurring disorders treatment, HIV prevention and other urgent public health challenges. Her distinguished career has spanned scholarly research, translation of science to practice, top-level policy consultation and service on more than eight National Academies committees and boards. She has authored more than 180 scholarly publications, many widely cited. She has made landmark contributions to improving behavioral health care in community-based organizations by launching addiction treatment programs that have helped thousands of families and informing practice in agencies around the world. For example, she has served as a consultant trainer on substance use disorder treatment to the U.S. State Health Department in Costa Rica, Venezuela and Puerto Rico, and as a Visiting Professor at Ben Gurion University, Israel. Dr. Amaro has served in prominent role in scientific journals including as Associate Editor of the American Psychologist, American Journal of Public Health, Psychology of Women Quarterly, Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology and as a special issues editor for Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Committed to research that can have an impact at the local level, while at USC, Amaro led the first comprehensive assessment of conditions of communities surrounding the USC University Park and Health Sciences campuses. In partnership with community-based organizations and using over 30 databases, her report provided geographically specific census track data and findings from focus groups with local residents on social determinants of health, health issues and community resources that identified the communities at greatest risk. The State of the Neighborhood Report released in April 2015, provided the first study of these communities and became a resource used by USC administrators to guide funding for community programs. Faculty used it as a teaching resource to familiarize students with conditions in neighboring communities. And local elected officials, community agencies and community stakeholders used it to inform policies, place-based interventions to uplift community conditions and research to further our understanding of the drivers of health in these communities.

In addition to research, Dr. Amaro has translated research to practice. She founded five culturally informed and evidence-based programs for treatment of substance use disorders and co-occuring mental health disorders and trauma among disenfranchised minority women and their children (including parenting, pregnant, and postpartum women and women returning from incarceration) in Boston. Taking her work to the policy level, she served as Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of the Boston Public Health Commission and during her tenure, critical public health policies were enacted (e.g., smoking ban, limiting placement of trash transfer stations in low-income neighborhoods, anti-racism training and equity programs, and integrating trauma-informed services throughout the city health department programs).

At the national level, she has served on review and advisory committees to the National Institutes of Health, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Health Research and Services Administration. She currently serves as a Senior Advisor for the National Academy of Medicine’s (NAM) Culture of Health Program funded by RWJF, Chairs the NAM Latino Members’ Committee, and is Co-chair of the consensus study and series of reports to the US Congress on metrics, outcomes and cost-benefits of the federal program on opioid prevention and treatment overseen by SAMHSA.

At the international level, she has served as a consultant on addiction treatment for the U.S. State Department’s Latin America programs- training cadres of clinicians in Costa Rica, Venezuela and Puerto Rico to provide state of the art services for women and their children. She has represented the U.S. at international forums on women’s health and was Distinguished Visiting Professor at Ben Gurion University in Israel.

In recognition of the impact of her scholarship, Dr. Amaro was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2010. Dr. Amaro has received over 50 awards including two honorary doctoral degrees in humane letters by Simmons College in 1994 and the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology in 2012. Other major awards include the prestigious 2015 American Public Health Association’s Sedgwick Memorial Medal for Public Health Service, the 2014 National Elizabeth Beckman Award for professors who inspire their students to change the world, the 2013 Ernest R. Hilgard Lifetime Achievement Award from the General Psychology Division of the American Psychological Association, the 1996 Scientific Publication Award of the National Association of Women in Psychology, the 1993 Early Career Award for Distinguished Contributors to Psychology in the Public Interest from the American Psychological Association, the 1991 Alfred L. Frechette Award from the Massachusetts Public Health Association, and the 1984 Kellogg Fellowship: Leadership Development for Minority Women in Mental Health. She has also served as a distinguished visiting professor in women’s health at Ben Gurion University in Israel.

Dr. Amaro is a member of the ASEMFL Board and serves on the Executive Committee as Secretary. She served as Chair of the 2022 and 2023 ASEMFL Annual Meetings. She has also been active in Board committees evaluating data collection on membership trends and connection to other state based ASEM groups.

She received her doctorate in psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1982. Born in Cuba, she came to the U.S. as a refugee at the age of 10, grew up in Los Angeles and is a Florida resident.