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Colette Sims, health advocate for Tucson's under-served communities, dies of coronavirus

Colette Sims, health advocate for Tucson's under-served communities, dies of coronavirus

From the May's Tucson-area coronavirus coverage: Cases rise, judge rules that state can keep nursing home data from public series

Colette Marie Sims, a longtime cultural and medical anthropologist at the University of Arizona and health advocate for under-served communities, died from a coronavirus-related illness, a longtime friend said.

Sims worked in the UA’s Department of Family and Community Medicine since 2007, and as an anthropologist conducting research among ethnic populations to increase understanding the factors that influence receiving health care.

“As a cultural-medical anthropologist working in Family and Community Medicine at the University of Arizona, she was a fierce advocate for the health and well-being of African Americans and all under-served communities,” said Scott Blades, who served with Sims in the Coalition for African American Health and Wellness.

Sims was a longtime member of the Tucson nonprofit and a “great supporter” who arrived shortly after the Pima County Health Department created this initiative in the mid-1990s, said Mary Stoute, president of the coalition.

“Health and wellness was her passion,” Stoute said. “Our focus was always on some health issue, we would focus on HIV/AIDS, babies, we did some things with prostate cancer and Colette was right in the mix, whatever we were working on, she was working on.”

Sims spent years learning about the issues affecting African Americans, particularly dealing with health-care disparities; it was the subject of her dissertation in the early 2000s.

“I believe that our ability to understand the patterns of health behavior among older Black women must first begin with an appreciation of their membership in a ‘racial’ group which impacts all their experiences,” Sims wrote.

Sims’ daughter Adrieenne said her mother would challenge others to grasp opportunities to learn something new.

“She would make you research, comprehend, understand and make you form your own critical thought,” her daughter wrote. “She believed in you when others did not, she helped you reach higher intellectual bounds.”

Sims also used these skills to help tutor middle school students in the Tucson Unified School District since 2013, according to her LinkedIn profile.

For her work at the university, Sims was awarded the UA Foundation Meritorious Award in Teaching as well as the coalition’s Harriet Tubman Vanguard Award for her contributions as a community health activist.

Contact Star reporter Shaq Davis at 573-4218 or

On Twitter: @ShaqDavis1

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Shaq is a public safety reporter and the Road Runner columnist, keeping readers up to date on transportation news. In 2017, he started as an apprentice and later worked part-time until graduating from the UA and being offered a full-time position in 2018.

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