Who We Are
José Szapocznik

José Szapocznik

Professor & Chair Emeritus, Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine

Abstract: Preventing chronic diseases efficiently by protecting and increasing tree canopy

Greenness or vegetative presence (or its lack) is pervasive. Our research in Miami-Dade County with 250,000 racially/ethnically diverse Medicare beneficiaries has linked high greenness when compared to low greenness, to statistically significant reductions in odds of diabetes, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, stroke/TIA, acute myocardial infarction, atrial fibrillation, heart failure, ischemic heart disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, non-Alzheimer’s dementias, arthritis, and chronic kidney disease. A unique contribution of this work is our measurement of greenness at the level of the Census block, a very small geographic area around the beneficiaries' homes. While many cities around the world are implementing greening initiatives to combat climate change, targeting blocks in which vulnerable (e.g., poor) individuals live could considerably improve population health, at relatively low or no additional cost.


Szapocznik, a clinical psychologist, is Professor of Public Health Sciences, Architecture, Psychology, and Educational & Psychological Studies (in the schools of Medicine, Architecture, Arts & Sciences, and Education, respectively). He has over 300 scholarly publications, has received over $125 million in NIH funding; is Chair Emeritus of the Department of Public Health Sciences, Founding Director and former PI of the Miami Clinical Translational Science Institute (CTSA), and former Executive Dean for Research and Research Education, all at the University of Miami. In its 24th year, he is also Founding PI/Director of the Florida Node Alliance of the National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network, a clinical trials research center. Szapocznik mentored dozens of early-career investigators, over a dozen of whom are today tenured professors, center directors, chairs, deans, and provosts, including prominent racial/ethnic minority investigators.

His honors include the Presidential Award of the Society for Prevention Research, the Distinguished Professional Contributions to Public Service Award of the American Psychological Association, an NIMH Merit Award, twice the Outstanding Publication Award of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, the National Leadership Award for Academic Excellence from the National Hispanic Alliance for Health, the Award for Special Contributions to Cultural Diversity of the American Family Therapy Academy, and the Ruben Hill Award of the National Council on Family Relations. Within the US Department of Health and Human Services, Szapocznik served in the National Advisory Councils of the NIH/National Institute on Mental Health, the NIH/National Institute on Drug Abuse, the NIH/National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, the SAMSHA/Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, and was the first behavioral scientist ever appointed to the NIH-wide AIDS Program Advisory Committee (currently the NIH Office of AIDS Research Advisory Council).

Szapocznik’s research has focused on the role of context (physical, sociocultural systems,) on health, with a particular focus on the health of under-represented racial and ethnic minorities. He established and chaired for its first decade the first, and at the time only, Hispanic health science network in the U.S., and was a member and/or chaired over a dozen national research policy committees for the US DHHS and national professional and advocacy organizations focused on minority health

Selected Spatial Justice-related Publications

  1. Brown, S.C., Aitken, W.W., Lombard, J., Wang, K., Rundek, T., Byrne, M.M. Toro, M., Nardi, M.I., Kardys, J., Parrish, A. & Szapocznik, J. (2023). Precision Greenness and Stroke/Transient Ischemic Attack in 249,405 US Medicare Beneficiaries. Journal of Stroke, (Accepted for Publication, Dec. 2022), 2022 In Press, 25(1):173-176. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5853/jos.2022.02922
  2. Wang, K., Lombard, J., Rundek, T., Dong, C., Gutierrez, C. M., Byrne, M. M., Toro, M., Nardi, M.I., Kardys, J., Yi, L., Szapocznik, J., & Brown, S.C. (2019). Relationship of Neighborhood Greenness to Heart Disease in 249,405 US Medicare Beneficiaries. Journal of American Heart Association, 8(6), e010258. DOI: 10.1161/JAHA.118.010258. Publication by JAHA on March 5, 2019. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/JAHA.118.010258.
  3. Aitken, W.W., Lombard, J., Wang, K., Toro, M., Byrne, M., Nardi, M.I., Kardys, J., Parrish, A., Dong, C., Szapocznik, J., Rundek, T., & Brown, S.C.. (2021). Relationship of Neighborhood Greenness to Alzheimer’s Disease and Non-Alzheimer’s Dementia Among 249,405 U.S. Medicare Beneficiaries. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 81 (2), p.597-606.
  4. Perrino, T., Lombard, J., Rundek, T., Wang, K., Dong, C., Gutierrez, C. M., Toro, M., Byrne, M.M., Nardi, M.I., Kardy, J., Szapocznik, J., & Brown, S., (2019). Neighbourhood greenness and depression among older adults. The British Journal of Psychiatry: the journal of mental health science, 215(2), 476-480. Published Online June 12, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1192/bjp.2019.129