Cobina Award
SEAHEC Executive Director Gail Emrick MPH with Dr. José J.Bernardo Campillo García Secretario de Salud Publica de Sonora;and Jennie Becenti, MPH Executive Director, Tohono O’odham Department of Health and Human Services.
  Sonoran Governor Guillermo Padrés Elías recognized SEAHEC’s leadership in improving health care in Arizona’s border communities last week by awarding SEAHEC’s Director Gail E. Emrick the “Border Health Employee of the Year Recognition,” at the 4th annual meeting of the Binational Health Councils of Arizona and Sonora on October 24th. Presented by Sonoran Secretary of Health Dr. José Jesus Bernardo Campillo García, the award commended SEAHEC Executive Director Ms. Emrick for her work in spearheading the Arizona Border Communities Health Network among other initiatives on which she has collaborated. As SEAHEC’s Director, Ms. Emrick has leveraged numerous grants and resources for border health projects among them a US Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration (USDHHS HRSA) network development grant for Arizona and Sonora’s border communities – and aptly called the ABC Health Network which promoted collaborative planning for improved health; funding for farm worker health promotion from the Cochise Community Foundation; an award to promote adolescent life planning and wellness along the border with funds from the Santa Cruz Community Foundation and the Arizona Department of Health Services, Office of Border Health, among others. Other dignitaries presiding at the annual meeting included Mr. Robert Guerrero, the Director of the Office of Border Health for Arizona’s Department of Health Services, Ms. Jennie Becenti, and Health Director for the Tohono O’odham Nation, Nogales Sonora Mayor Licenciado Ramón Guzman Muñoz, as well as a representative from the United Nations Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

Binational Health Councils

The Binational Health Councils are made up of health professionals from communities on both sides of the US Mexican border who are dedicated to improving health and well-being of our border populations. The US Mexico Border Health Commission provides technical support to the councils. In Arizona there are four councils including the Cochise County/Agua Prieta council, the Yuma/San Luis Council the COTRINA or Tri-national Health Council representing the Tohono O’odham nation and communities of Puerto Peñasco, Sonoita, and Caborca; as well as the council of Ambos Nogales.

A Career in Building Community

A founding member of the Ambos Nogales Binational Health council more than two decades ago SEAHEC has continually worked to address border health issues in collaboration with our colleagues in Sonora. A native of Arizona, Gail Emrick has served as SEAHEC’s Executive Director since 2008. Demonstrating her lifelong commitment to the underserved, Ms. Emrick’s achievements related to border health during this time have included: Recruitment and training of future health providers in rural, border and tribal communities in 3 of Arizona’s border counties; Participation in the Leaders Across Borders program, sponsored by The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the US Mexico Border Health Commission and the University of Arizona, Ms. Emrick was selected as part of a ten member binational team of health leaders to work collaboratively on priority health issues; Creation and implementation of Healthy Farms, a binational effort to improve health of farm workers and establish criteria for farm health education and safety, in collaboration with the Arizona-Mexico Commission, and the University of Arizona College of Public Health; Adjunct Faculty for the Border Health Service Learning Institute, of the University of Arizona College of Public Health; and Design and support for the Migrant First Aid Station, in collaboration with the Kino Border Initiative, Santa Cruz Community Foundation, and Secretaria de Salud of Sonora. Ms. Emrick is an International Health specialist who has dedicated her life to improving health and health services for people, families, and communities in Latin America and the US Mexico border region. Her hallmark is designing creative ways to work binational on issues that include adolescent health and farmworker health.

Early International Work

As a high school student in 1978, Ms. Emrick participated in Amigos de las Americas, which sparked her interest in Public Health. At age 16, she was educating children on dental hygiene in Guatemala. A year later she was vaccinating children in Nicaragua. Her experience in this international youth program inspired Ms. Emrick to pursue a professional degree in health and Latin American development. Graduating in 1987 with a joint master’s degree in Public Health and International Affairs, Ms. Emrick focused on Latin American economic and political development. From 1987-1990, in the midst of the Guatemalan civil war, Ms. Emrick directed a Mayan Women’s Health Network in the Guatemalan Highlands, in collaboration with Aesculapius International Medicine and the Catholic Diocese of Sololá Guatemala. Ms. Emrick returned to her home state in the early 1990’s to work with the Arizona-Mexico Foundation, the Arizona Rural Health Office and the U of A Family and Community Medicine, coordinating various public health projects including training of community health workers in breast and cervical cancer awareness and prevention. From 1999 to 2008, Ms. Emrick and her family resided in El Salvador, where she directed a Food Security project with an international nonprofit, Project Concern International, before returning the Arizona to head SEAHEC.


Established in 1987 to improve the recruitment, placement, and retention of culturally competent health professionals in rural Arizona, the Arizona Area Health Education Centers Program or Az AHEC, is administered through the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center, and the Board of Regents. As part of this statewide network, SEAHEC is an independent 501c3 and serves the area of Santa Cruz, and Cochise Counties, as well as southern Pima County, underserved Tucson communities and the Tohono O’odham Nation. SEAHEC provides leadership in building community partnerships to address gaps in Southern Arizona’s health care delivery system. SEAHEC has eight established High School Career Clubs in Douglas, Bisbee, Nogales, Rio Rico, South Tucson, and the Tohono O’odham Nation. For health professions students, SEAHEC provides housing and other support for rural clinical rotations, as well as service learning and volunteer opportunities. For health professionals, SEAHEC provides Continuing Education/CME and professional training, as well as technical support and workforce training for community health workers. For more information contact: Kathleen Gilligan, Program Coordinator, SEAHEC 520 287 4722, and see our website at