December 16, 2015

COPH HBHE Faculty is New UAMS Global Health Director

Nickolas Zaller, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the COPH Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, has been named the new Director of the UAMS Office of Global Health. Dr. Zaller will lead ongoing global health activities at UAMS and coordinate with campus academic leaders with global health interests to form a program that serves the entire university.

When Dr. Zaller joined UAMS in 2014, one of the first visits he made on campus was to the Office of Global Health.

“One of my first priorities was to meet with Don Simpson, who was the Director of Global Health, to find out how I could be involved in global health activities at UAMS,” Dr. Zaller said.

Dr. Zaller’s approach to public health research is not only global in scope but also multidisciplinary, at times including medicine, pharmacy, the social and behavioral sciences, nursing and law. Mentoring students, post-doctoral fellows, and medical residents keen on doing research, domestically and abroad, has also been a strong theme throughout his academic career. He says that he intends to continue to emphasize mentoring, teaching and a multi-disciplinary approach in his new role.

Dr. Zaller’s interest in international public health dates back to his undergraduate education and now extends to four other continents. While a student at Kansas University, he earned a bachelor’s degree in Microbiology and East Asian Studies. Following graduation, he was a Fulbright Scholar in Beijing, China, where he spent a year studying reproductive health. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in International Health and Infectious Disease Epidemiology from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He returned to China to spend two years doing doctoral research on blood donation practices, HIV risk and cultural beliefs about blood.

While Dr. Zaller was faculty for seven years at Brown University’s Alpert Medical School, his research, teaching and mentorship activities focused on the interconnection of infectious disease, illicit substance use and incarceration. Some of that work again took him to China and other parts of the world. He continues to be involved in an interdisciplinary research team composed of colleagues at Brown University and Anhui Medical University and School of Public Health in Anhui, China. The team has examined the health outcomes of rural-to-urban migration, particularly HIV risk among women, and currently is investigating factors that affect HIV testing among men in China who have sex with men and women.

Dr. Zaller has also developed ongoing collaborations with Ukraine researchers on policy strategies for treating HIV and TB among injection drug users. He has also has served as a consultant to colleagues in Kenya, Chile and India.

“I am interested in finding ways to take lessons learned from international communities and apply them locally,” Dr. Zaller said.

For example, his current course, Drugs and Society, informs students about the effect of public policy on increased drug use and poor health outcomes among substance-users.

In addition, he helped launch a new initiative at UAMS – a primary care clinic for returning prisoners using a community health worker model.

“While community health workers are not as widely used in the United States, they have been used in dozens of countries to increase access to care and to improve clinical outcomes among some of the most marginalized and disenfranchised populations in the world,” Dr. Zaller said.