The Diversity Program Consortium (DPC) community is still processing and grieving the untimely passing of our friend and colleague, Dr. Steven P. Wallace. The loss of such a monumental force for positive change is deeply felt across the consortium.
Steve will be remembered for his devotion to education, diversity and inclusion, and his commitment to promoting equity in biomedicine and public health. Not only was he a man of accomplishment but a person who engaged in life, with a laugh that rang out in hallways, a passion for coffee, and a knowledge of the best restaurants and endless subjects—and always with a bicycle and bike helmet.
Steve was a key contributor to the original application to serve as the DPC Coordination and Evaluation Center (CEC) at the University of California, Los Angeles. When the grant was awarded in 2014, Steve served as the co-Director for the Evaluation Core and subsequently assumed the role as a multi-Principal Investigator. Leading the core charged with longitudinal evaluation to measure the impacts of planned interventions across the DPC programs, he blended his research of public health policy into the interdisciplinary research of the DPC. Steve brought a keen eye for detail, a thoughtful mind, and a passion for people from diverse backgrounds to be represented in research fields.
In the words of Dr. Keith Norris, lead investigator of the CEC, “Steve brought his passion and commitment to social justice and equity each and every day with a calm demeanor and caring spirit. In his many roles as professor and investigator, Steve mentored hundreds of students, postdoctoral fellows, and other faculty.”
Throughout his work as a professor at UCLA, leading and developing research grants, teaching, and publishing more than 100 papers, Steve made a significant impact in all the arenas of research and policy he entered.
Importantly, his work changed people’s lives.
As a professor for the Fielding School of Public Health (FSPH) for 31 years, Steve was a nationally recognized expert for his investigations of aging and the consequences of health policy on immigrant populations and people from the Latinx, American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian, Pacific Islander and African American communities. As an associate director for the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, he influenced California health policy through his research on the true cost of living for older residents (Elder Index). The resulting legislation required the Elder Index to be applied by state agencies to strategic planning calculations. In addition to his role with the CEC, Steve led two NIH grants examining the impact of immigrant policies and health care access for California adults and children. As an expert prioritizing human experience, he challenged the structural and racialized selection of immigrants, as well as overarching narratives about who deserves public health services.
When working with others, Steve, the professor, was first a person committed to supporting the team to reach a shared goal. As a mentor he impacted his mentees through not only what he knew but also who he was. As Lourdes Guerrero, CEC and RCMAR colleague described, ”He was the type of mentor who took you under his wing without smothering you. Before you knew it, you were flying! He gave generously of his time and expertise, and pushed you to be the best version of you—as a student, as a scholar, and a researcher. He believed in your unique contributions and valued you as a person.”
As a leader within the CEC, he was a great mentor, colleague, friend, thought partner, guide, and compassionate human being who always stood up for the rights and opportunities of others. The DPC leadership at the National Institutes of Health reflect,
“During these challenging times, we continue to be reminded of the fragility of life. While we are deeply saddened by Steve’s passing, we also feel grateful for having had the privilege of working with him on this important national initiative. He had a gift for giving and receiving candid feedback and always brought his dedication, knowledge, humor, and positive outlook to the task at hand. Steve’s life showed his clear commitments to the goals and aspirations of the consortium, and promoting equity in biomedicine and public health. He connected with so many of us across the consortium and always brought a thoughtful, practical perspective to each challenge. To quote Nelson Mandela, 'What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we led.' Steven Wallace led a significant life – we will miss him. We extend our deepest condolences to his family, students, and everyone who had the opportunity to work with him.”
We invite the DPC community to share their memories and reflections. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that contributions be made to the Steve Wallace Fellowship Fund at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. Contributions may be made through the UCLA Development office online. To make a gift by check, please make payable to “The UCLA Foundation” with the “Steve Wallace Fellowship Fund #16030C” noted in the memo line and mailed to The UCLA Foundation, P.O. Box 7145, Pasadena, CA 91109-7145.
May we see, as he did, human dignity and remember that life is to be lived.