It was with a deep sense of loss that I received the news of the sudden and unexpected passing of a friend and tireless fighter for border health, Daniel Marks Reyna, 59 years old, who died of a heart attack on Friday, 29 July.
Dan Reyna served as General Manager of the U.S. Section of the Border Health Commission since 2006. In addition, he had a long career devoted to improving the health and quality of life of the people who live along the U.S.-Mexico border, working in the Texas Department of Health and as Director of the New Mexico Office of Border Health from 1993 to 2006.
Born in Brownsville, Texas, he graduated in 1974 from Texas A&M University- Kingsville with a degree in secondary education. In 1982, he obtained a masters degree in public administration from the University of Texas-El Paso and then studied law at St. Mary's University School of Law. In 2000, he also obtained a masters degree in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania.
As a retired colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, Reyna served from 2003-2004 as Senior Health Action Officer and also as liaison with the Coalition Forces in Afghanistan and diverse national ministries, including the Ministry of Health. Several years earlier, he had also served in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Among his many honors, he was awarded the Joint Service Achievement Medal, the Bronze Star, and the Legion of Merit award.
It was his tireless efforts to improve border health that linked Dan Reyna with PAHO/WHO. His sudden absence is a serious blow. His collaboration with the PAHO/WHO U.S.-Mexico border office began in 1998, first as a member and later as president of the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission.
For many years, he closely collaborated in the organization of the National Infant Immunization Week and Vaccination Week in the Americas. He actively participated in the coordination of events and activities with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the PAHO/WHO U.S.-Mexico Border Office in El Paso to help emphasize the importance of vaccination in the border area. He also strongly supported the activities for the Border Binational Health Week, through joint efforts with the PAHO/WHO office and other partners.
As a member of the Advisory Committee of the U.S.-Mexico Border Office Virtual Health Library, Dan Reyna helped promote its utilization and strengthen research in border health and included the PAHO/WHO office in the Panel of Experts and border research forums.
Dan Reyna played a pivotal role in establishing the strategic alignment for setting priorities in border health issues; this was formalized a joint declaration by the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission and the PAHO/WHO U.S.-Mexico Border Office. He was known as a fervent defender of his convictions, promoting important border health agreements, managing resources, and speaking out as a firm spokesman for the border states in relations with the Federation.
Only a few weeks ago, Dan, as he was known to friends and family, visited our regional Headquarters, accompanying the commissioners on their annual visit to Washington. How could we have imagined that this would be his final farewell! His passing, so unexpected, is a tremendous loss for the health community and border health in particular.
Pan American Health Organization