2006.04.21: April 21, 2006: Headlines: COS - Peru: Public Health: Medicine: Arizona Daily Star: Peru RPCV Andy Nichols' story inspires public-health grad student

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Peru: Peace Corps Peru: The Peace Corps in Peru: 2006.04.21: April 21, 2006: Headlines: COS - Peru: Public Health: Medicine: Arizona Daily Star: Peru RPCV Andy Nichols' story inspires public-health grad student

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Peru RPCV Andy Nichols' story inspires public-health grad student

Peru RPCV Andy Nichols' story inspires public-health grad student

Before Nichols entered politics, the former Peace Corps volunteer who spoke Spanish paved the way to create rural and border health programs. He created a public-health program at the UA, which eventually became the Zuckerman College of Public Health. He was instrumental in establishing five federally funded rural-health centers in Arizona and he helped establish the federal U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission, which coordinates binational border health programs.

Peru RPCV Andy Nichols' story inspires public-health grad student

Ernesto Portillo Jr.: Andy Nichols' story inspires public-health grad student

Apr 21, 2006

Arizona Daily Star

Alana Shacter, a graduate student at the University of Arizona, never knew state legislator Andy Nichols.

But when she applied for a scholarship through the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, the Sabino High School graduate read up on Nichols, a Tucsonan who died five years ago on April 19.

She found inspiration.

Shacter, 24, discovered Nichols' passion for solving rural Arizona's health problems. She learned he brought together health officials from the United States and Mexico and he established the state's rural health-care delivery system.

In Nichols, she saw a single person's persistence to bring positive change to communities and people's lives.

"I'm grateful for what he did," Shacter said.

So are a lot of people.

Nichols was 64 when he died of a heart attack. He was survived by his wife, Ann, and their children Cathy, Michael and Miles.

Nichols, a physician and former medical director of the Arizona Rural Health Office in the UA College of Public Health, was a leading proponent of Proposition 204, a 2000 ballot measure approved by voters that required Arizona to allocate millions of dollars in tobacco-settlement money to increase health-care coverage for the working poor. He promoted child safety legislation such as prohibiting children from riding unrestrained in the beds of pickup trucks, and pushed for legislation that lowered blood-alcohol levels for driving under the influence of intoxicants.

But his work will continue through people like Shacter, a Nichols Initiative Scholar, who received a $1,000 scholarship.

While the money is not much, it allows the graduate students to pursue valuable research projects during internships.

Shacter created a first-of-a-kind database of 76 vehicle crashes involving illegal entrants over a 10-year period in the state.

Shacter, who is studying epidemiology, said the database could be used to craft future public policy in treating trauma cases. Local and state officials can determine what resources are being used and decide how to best allocate resources based on her research.

That is how Nichols worked. He researched a problem, developed the data and pushed for legislation.

Nichols was elected to the state House as a Democrat in 1992 after losing his first two attempts. He left the House in 2000 when he was elected to the state Senate.

In the Legislature, the liberal Nichols earned some respect from Republicans. He crafted bipartisan legislation in a Legislature dominated by Maricopa County conservatives.

"He possessed a quiet passion and persistence," said Alison Hughes, the former director of the UA's Rural Health Office, who worked with Nichols. "He was so low-key in how he approached things."

Even before Nichols entered politics, the former Peace Corps volunteer who spoke Spanish paved the way to create rural and border health programs.

He created a public-health program at the UA, which eventually became the Zuckerman College of Public Health. He was instrumental in establishing five federally funded rural-health centers in Arizona and he helped establish the federal U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission, which coordinates binational border health programs.

"That's a legacy," Hughes said.

That legacy will bear fruit in the work done by Shacter, Xochitl Coronado, and Anne Hill and Eva Shaw, graduate public-health students who received the scholarships.

Shacter will graduate in May. And when she gets a job in public health, she'll follow Nichols' ideals.

* Ernesto Portillo Jr.'s column appears Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Reach him at 573-4242 or at eportillo@azstarnet.com. He appears on "Arizona Illustrated," KUAT-TV Channel 6, at 6:30 p.m. and midnight Fridays.

©2006, NetContent, Inc. (TUCS4010687 )





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Story Source: Arizona Daily Star

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