Los Angeles City officials honored two Keck School of Medicine of USC faculty recently for their public health work in tobacco control, prevention and research that formed the scientific foundation for local policies.

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer and 13th District Councilman Mitch O’Farrell commended Jonathan Samet, MD, MS, Distinguished Professor and chair of preventive medicine, and Flora L. Thornton Chair in Preventive Medicine, and Lourdes Baezconde-Garbanati, PhD, MPH, professor of preventive medicine, at the Aug. 18 City Council meeting, which was followed by a reception.

“Dr. Jonathan Samet and Dr. Lourdes Baezconde-Garbanati have devoted more than 25 years to tobacco research and action, and they provided the expert testimony on which this council relied,” Feuer said, referencing the city’s 2014 ban on the use of electronic smoking devices in smoke-free spaces, making Los Angeles the first major U.S. city to adopt strict e-cigarette rules.


Decades at the forefront of tobacco control

Samet, director of the USC Institute for Global Health, has participated since the 1980s in the U.S. Surgeon General’s reports on smoking and health, and served as senior scientific editor for the 50-year anniversary report in 2014. Most recently, he contributed to the 2016 Surgeon General report on e-cigarettes and youth, the first of its kind. This fall he will step into a new role as dean of the Colorado School of Public Health.

“I began my career in public health research with the idea that research could make a difference — that what we did could impact policy — as it has,” Samet said. “If you look back at 30, 40 years of tobacco control, it’s not been so much at the national level, but at the local and state levels, where evidence-based actions have made a difference.”

Working at the intersection of culture and community health, Baezconde-Garbanati is Associate Dean for Community Initiatives in the Keck School of Medicine Dean’s Office. She is also co-principal investigator of the Office of Community Engagement of the Southern California Clinical Translation Institute. She is a faculty member in, and co-director of, Global Health Leadership Track in the Master of Public Health Program, and director of the Center for Health Equity in the Americas and Immigrant Health Initiative. She also directs community outreach and education at the Institute for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Research. She is an appointee of the Governor of California to the Tobacco Education and Research Oversight Committee, and has worked with California’s Department of Public Health at the state level and with the City and County of Los Angeles for decades on tobacco prevention and control issues.

“E-cigarettes have seen their biggest decline this year — ever — after a continuous streak of five consecutive years of triple-digit growth,” Baezconde-Garbanati said. “That’s due to the new local ordinances and state laws and the rising safety concerns that have been reported.”

— Larissa Puro