woman inset everglades

Driven by gratitude and a love of learning

As a biology major at the U, Sandra Aronberg (inset) spent many hours working on research projects in the Florida Everglades.
By Pamela Edward

As a biology major at the U, Sandra Aronberg (inset) spent many hours working on research projects in the Florida Everglades.

Driven by gratitude and a love of learning

By Pamela Edward
Crediting the “huge” influence of the Department of Biology on her life trajectory, Sandra Aronberg, B.S. ’73, has built a distinguished career in medicine and public health—and a steadfast record of giving to her alma mater.

As an undergraduate biology major at the University of Miami in the early 1970s, Sandra Aronberg spent a lot of time “sloshing around the Everglades,” as she put it.   

Originally from Lake Worth, Florida, Aronberg transferred to the University in her sophomore year, having started at Auburn. She chose the U with an eye toward a possible career in marine biology, but was primarily attracted to the undergraduate honors program.

“[The honors program] allowed a lot of leeway in the classes selected, some independence in my studies, and allowed me to participate in several research studies that I might not have had the opportunity to do so otherwise,” said Aronberg.

The experiences she had stay with her today, 50 years later. 

There was the time she was working on a large study that examined how using controlled burns could reduce the devastating impact of wildfires on the Everglades. “We actually participated in fighting the fires,” she recalled. “I can’t even imagine what liability waivers would be necessary now to allow students to do that!”

Another study explored the potential impact on building a large international airport in the Everglades. “I had to spend an entire day sitting in a tree above an alligator pond collecting air samples,” Aronberg said. “Not sure that is a favorite memory, but it definitely was memorable.”

There were the regular trips in an old biology department truck to the Miami Seaquarium to obtain filtered seawater needed for research, with the chance to linger and enjoy the marine attraction. And the “exotic orchid or two” that Aronberg’s undergraduate advisor, famed botanist and orchidologist Calaway Dodson, would bring back from his world travels as gifts for Aronberg’s mother.=

“There was a great family feel to the Department of Biology and the people I worked with at the time,” Aronberg said. “And it played a huge role in shaping my life and career.”

That enduring sense of belonging and gratitude drives Aronberg’s steadfast giving to the University. With only two exceptions, she has made an annual gift to the Department of Biology every year since 1981.

As an undergraduate, Aronberg volunteered at South Miami Hospital, which affirmed her interest in medicine as a career. She earned her M.D. in 1977 and practiced obstetrics and gynecology in Beverly Hills, Calif., until a wrist injury compelled a career change and a return to school.

Aronberg earned a master’s in public health in 1988 from U.C.L.A. and, influenced by several professors there, gravitated toward environmental health sciences, epidemiology, and health policy and management. Until recently, she taught health policy in U.C.L.A.’s School of Public Health.

Aronberg also lends her expertise in medicine and public health in service to her community and society. She has served on several commissions and committees of the city of Beverly Hills, including those for health and safety, public works, and climate action.

For many years she has been involved with a nonprofit organization in Southern California that provides affordable mental health services. She was environmental ambassador for Physicians for Social Responsibility and lobbied the federal government as part of the U.C. San Francisco’s Program for Reproductive Health and the Environment.  

In addition to her annual giving, Aronberg has stayed connected to the U through alumni events in Southern California, including summer send-offs for incoming first-year and tranfer students. And after a pandemic-related hiatus, she looks forward to reconnecting with fellow ’Canes, and to celebrating her 50th reunion next year.

Aronberg has never lost sight of the foundational qualities that the University of Miami imparted, and that have served her well throughout her career. “Miami taught me dedication, time management, teamwork, and perseverance,” she said. “The University [also] helped develop my love of science and learning—all extremely important.”