Community Profile: Dr. Deanna Lewis

by Joyce Bolinger
Photo by Rachel Marie Photography

She was the first woman Tucson Firefighter. A Physician Assistant for 18 years, currently serving immigrant aslyum seekers. Studied Chinese medicine and massage in Beijing. Oh yes, an MBA and DrPH in public health, both degrees from the University of Arizona. A founder and Executive Director of a non-profit. AND, maker of “gourmet” soaps.

Dr. Deanna Lewis defies expectations. “I thrive on new experiences,” she says. No kidding.

As a faculty member at the University of Arizona’s Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, she’s developing new courses for the college of public health to include the first stand alone LGBTQ+ course and a course of mindfulness. Lewis is advocating for a course specific to public health for future health care providers. Her focus has always been on inclusion and equity, especially for medically underserved people to include LGBTQ+, non-binary, gender-nonconforming and transgender populations.

“We need a diverse lens…if we don’t understand our implicit bias, we’re never going to be as effective as we could be,” she tells students. She believes “public health=social justice.”

After receiving her Physician’s Assistant certificate from Stanford University, Deanna returned to Southern Arizona to work in Tubac. She realized the dire need for rural medical services and, in 2002, founded a mobile health clinic and a community health organization, Dequenesh (an Ethiopian derived word meaning “You Are a Wonder.”)

Receiving an MBA from the UA Eller School of Business in 2009, her purpose was to learn how to build a sustainable non-profit. The viability of Dequenesh reflects her determination. In her “leisure time”she loves to craft gourmet soaps and uses funds from sales to provide stipends for C4 (Center 4 Community Campus Connections) Fellows and reinvest back into the LGBTQI+ community.

She urges those interested in packages of botanical soaps (including seven varieties of basil) to visit the Center 4 Community Campus Connections website or to learn more about Deanna go to Forward Moving Concepts.

“I came out at 17 in 1979,” she recalls and experienced both a lot of “incredible” support and “harshness” from intersections of racial and gender bias. Now, at age 59, she/ze identifies as an Afro-Euro, non-binary, cis-gender female. “Gender identity is fluid,” she says.

A member of the LGBTQ Alliance Fund board, Deanna says “my passion lies in how do we insure that every person can optimize quality of life. We underestimate how connected we are.”


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