NEWS | May 24, 2013

Two UC Davis physicians honored as health-care heroes


Two UC Davis Health System faculty were recognized today as 2013 Health Care Heroes by the Sacramento Business Journal for their outstanding achievements in making a difference in the health of the Sacramento region.

Robert Hales Robert Hales

Psychiatrist Robert Hales was recognized in the mental health practitioner category and cardiologist Amparo Villablanca was recognized in the researcher category.

Award category: mental health practitioner

Hales is the Joe P. Tupin Endowed Chair, a distinguished professor of clinical psychiatry and chair of the UC Davis Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences; medical director of mental health services for Sacramento County; and a renowned adult psychiatrist who specializes in neuropsychiatry, clinical psychopharmacology and mental-health services research.

He was nominated for the Business Journal honor by Mary Ann Carrasco, deputy director of the Sacramento County Division of Behavioral Health Services. Carrasco said she wanted to recognize Hales for his longtime, tireless efforts to ensure that Sacramento County has the psychiatry coverage needed for county-operated mental-health clinics, and for his efforts to integrate mental-health with health-care services.

Under Hales’ guidance, UC Davis psychiatrists and psychologists enlist a team approach to provide psychiatric and psychological clinical services at a broad array of county-operated facilities, including the Intake Stabilization Unit, Mental Health Treatment Center, two adult psychiatry outpatient clinics and the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Clinic. All told, 20 psychiatrists and psychologists and 15 psychiatric residents and post-doctoral clinical psychologists work at the county mental-health sites. All of the UC Davis School of Medicine’s students spend at least four weeks each year working at county mental-health facilities.

Award category: researcher

Dr. Villablanca © UC Regents
Amparo Villablanca

Villablanca is the Frances Lazda Endowed Chair of Women's Cardiovascular Medicine and a professor of cardiovascular medicine at UC Davis, where she is best known for launching the nation’s first program dedicated to women's heart health in 1994. Villablanca’s clinical and basic science research focus on identifying the unique heart-disease risk factors for women, reducing gender-based health disparities and translating laboratory outcomes into novel treatments for heart disease.

It is her leadership in community-based education and research and her mentorship of the next generation of women physicians that are most remarkable, according to Jessica Nunez de Ybarra, president of the Sacramento Latino Medical Association, who nominated her as one of this year’s Health Care Heroes.

Villablanca is actively engaged with women most at risk in providing education and risk-behavior modification to reduce mortality from heart disease. She conducted a groundbreaking study to determine if a culturally relevant education program could reduce the risks of heart disease among African-American women. She recently launched a similar initiative to determine if a culturally and linguistically appropriate education program could make a difference for Latinas in their risk factors for heart disease.

Villablanca also has a long track record of advocating for organizational changes that support women who are dedicated to both their scientific careers and families. Her commitment includes co-directing the UC Davis Women in Medicine and Health Sciences Program, a role that brings her front and center in ensuring the full participation and success of women in academic medicine. Her efforts have led to a National Institutes of Health grant for research on factors and interventions that promote and support the careers of women in medicine and science.

The complete list of winners is published today in a special section of the Sacramento Business Journal and available online at

UC Davis Health System is improving lives and transforming health care by providing excellent patient care, conducting groundbreaking research, fostering innovative, interprofessional education and creating dynamic, productive partnerships with the community. The academic health system includes one of the country's best medical schools, a 631-bed acute-care teaching hospital, a 1,000-member physician's practice group and the new Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing. It is home to a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, an international neurodevelopmental institute, a stem cell institute and a comprehensive children's hospital. Other nationally prominent centers focus on advancing telemedicine, improving vascular care, eliminating health disparities and translating research findings into new treatments for patients. Together, they make UC Davis a hub of innovation that is transforming health for all. For more information, visit