Mario Cruz Jr. was born and raised in Flagstaff, Arizona, and has been living in Tucson, Arizona for the past five years. Moving from a small community and being immersed into a diverse city was a big shift, and as many know coming into a new city alone brings on many challenges. One of these challenges was being able to observe and recognize that his hometown did not have many organizations that were focused on tackling the health disparities that Latinos as a community face. As a result, Mario wanted to pursue a career that would help him on his mission to provide culturally competent resources to all racially ethnic communities both in his Hometown of Flagstaff and Tucson.

Since his move to Tucson, Mario has obtained a Bachelor’s of Science in Public Health with an emphasis in health promotion. Along with pursuing a degree, he was also an intern for the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation working on their Syringe Access Program (SAP). During his time as an intern, he helped with the data entry, allocation of resources, and several other administrative tasks to keep the harm-reduction program running smoothly.

More recently, Mario was working with the Pima County Health Department as a contact tracer focused on COVID-19. During his time as a contact tracer, his purpose was to inform individuals of their exposure to a confirmed case of COVID-19 and ensure they had adequate resources and information to keep themselves and their families safe. This experience has enabled Mario to develop his professional career in the public health sector by providing culturally competent resources to the community of Pima County.

Currently, Mario is the Lead Epidemiologist for the Mayahuel Prevention Consortium (MPC) at Amistades, Inc. As the Lead Epidemiologist, he focuses on the data collection and analysis of underage drinking, marijuana, psychostimulant, and opioid use among Latino youth and young adults in Pima County. Along with the data collection effort for the MPC, Mario is also responsible for coordinating with the evaluation team to strengthen prevention capacity and enhance the existing prevention infrastructure.