Seniors Select Public Health Professor for Outstanding Faculty Award | St. Lawrence University

Seniors Select Public Health Professor for Outstanding Faculty Award

Members of St. Lawrence University’s Class of 2021 nominated and selected Ernesto Moralez, assistant professor of public health, to receive the 2021 Owen D. Young Outstanding Faculty Award.

The award honors a member of the teaching faculty for their dedication and commitment to the education and growth of students both in and out of the classroom who then delivers the Last Lecture to the graduating class. Moralez offered his remarks to the Class of 2021 during the Senior Class Awards ceremony on Friday, April 16.

“I am proud to get this award because it came from the students and they chose me to be a part of their graduation experience,” Moralez said. “The fact that I received it during my first year at SLU makes me feels especially honored and that the students feel like I belong here.” 

During the Class of 2021’s final lecture as undergraduate students, titled “Better Health Through Social Connectivity,” they listened as Moralez shared research about the many benefits quality social connections can and do have on their lives, as well as research about domains of regret and how people often wish they had spent more time building and enjoying connections with those around them.

“It is commonly known that poor social connections and isolation can have detrimental effects on the health and well-being of a person. So then could we argue that healthy social connections can lead to better health? The answer is absolutely,” Moralez said.

“It is commonly known that poor social connections and isolation can have detrimental effects on the health and well-being of a person. So then could we argue that healthy social connections can lead to better health? The answer is absolutely.”

Ernesto Moralez, Assistant Professor of Public Health

Moralez shared two central pieces of advice with the class based on research about what people regret later in life: “Live with passion and care about what you do,” and “Life is a team sport, so put together a good one that supports one another.”

“What I will urge you to do over the next few days is take that time to tell people not just goodbye, but what they really mean to you. If you run into that one student that you didn't get to know but you admired them in class, stop them and tell them,” he said. “If there was a staff member or faculty member who had some lasting impact on you, let them know. Tell everybody your truth. And going forward: make those calls, make those visits, write letters, and listen. Really listen. There is always time, until there is not.”

Moralez joined the St. Lawrence community for the Fall 2020 semester as the University’s first full-time hire for the public health department. He is a health behavior scientist whose work focuses on developing health education and chronic disease prevention strategies to address health disparities. Moralez’s research interests include evaluating the use of community health workers as chronic disease prevention and management experts, designing community-based approaches to tobacco and alcohol cessation, and the impact social determinants have on individual health.

At St. Lawrence, Moralez teaches Introduction to Public Health, Introduction to Epidemiology, Social Determinants of Health, Health Behavior and Promotion, and Research Methods in Public Health. He holds a Ph.D. in Health and Behavior Science from the University of Colorado Denver, a master’s degree in public health from and a bachelor’s degree in Human and Community Services from New Mexico State University.