New Leadership for HRI and HEALTH-RCMI

Virmarie Correa-Fernández helms the HRI as its interim director.

April 15, 2024 /

Alison Medley

 Bettina Beech and Virmarie Correa-Fernandez headshots

Bettina Beech, chief population health officer at the University of Houston, will succeed Ezemenari Obasi as Principal Investigator of the RCMI-funded HEALTH Center for Addictions Research and Cancer Prevention (HEALTH-RCMI) at the University of Houston.

With Obasi’s departure last February, the UH Division of Research has also appointed Virmarie Correa-Fernández as interim director of the HEALTH Research Institute. 

Addressing Chronic Disease and Improving Quality of Life

Beech is a clinical professor of population health in the Tilman J. Fertitta Family College of Medicine and leads the University’s UH Population Health initiative. She oversees the integration of population health education and research across the University involving all disciplines from medicine and engineering to social science and education. 

“I am honored to lead a center in the Research Center in Minority Institutions (RCMI) network that has been supported by the National Institutes of Health for nearly four decades,” Beech said. “Research is one of the most important vehicles in a public university, and center grants, like HEALTH-RCMI, are critically important to build the infrastructure for the University to attract students, early-career faculty, and senior faculty to collaborate across disciplines.” 

The center will continue its commitment to advancing innovative approaches for addressing chronic disease. Beech emphasized, “I feel honored to pick up the mantle and through the lens of health equity improve quality of life for everyone.”

Helping Everyone Achieve a Lifetime of Health

Correa-Fernández is associate chair of the department of Psychological, Health, and Learning Sciences at UH. She has been an affiliate of the HEALTH Research Institute since it launched in 2016 and brings over two decades of dedicated experience in tobacco cessation research to her role as interim director of HRI.

“Since the inception of HRI, I believed in the idea behind the institute— bringing interdisciplinary groups together to address health equity,” Correa-Fernández said. “I'm excited to maintain the vision and pursue opportunities for growth.”

A New Era of Research Excellence

Established in 1985 by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, the Research Centers in Minority Institutions (RCMI) program addresses research infrastructure and workforce diversity by funding institutions that serve minority and underrepresented populations.

HEALTH-RCMI launched in 2020 as a first-of-its-kind center in Houston. “The RCMI program at UH is a unique facet of the University’s research infrastructure,” said Claudia Neuhauser, interim vice president for research at UH. “Dr. Beech’s expertise will be invaluable in stewarding this important award, and we anticipate transformative outcomes under her leadership."

News Category
Institute Happenings