Arias-Cantu returns to SOPHE as Deputy Chief Executive Officer

As SOPHE approaches its 75th Annual Conference and the yearlong celebration of the 75th year in existence, we are so excited to announce the return of Maricela Arias-Cantu to the organization as its Deputy Chief Executive Officer.

After being away for nearly three years, she is tremendously excited and eager to return to SOPHE and help lead the way into the next 75 years. She begins in her new role on March 11.

“I am thrilled about coming back to SOPHE and reconnecting with members and staff,” Arias-Cantu, who was previously SOPHE’s Director of Professional Development, said. “I am excited about continuing the growth of existing partnerships and forging new relationships. SOPHE is a dynamic organization with passionate members and staff that believe strongly in the mission of building and promoting healthy communities. The nature of the position aligns perfectly with my passion for promoting health education and culturally competent care.”

“We are beyond excited to have Maricela back on the SOPHE team,” SOPHE CEO Dr. William Datema said. “Not just her familiarity with our membership and entire community, but her knowledge and connections in the field will be invaluable for our entire organization. We are absolutely thrilled.”

Arias-Cantu is currently the Director, Education, Content Strategy, and Engagement at the National Council on Aging where she creates meaningful educational and engagement opportunities for aging-service professionals, plays a role on the organization’s social impact working group and has been instrumental with the rebrand of its learning management system, NCOA Connect.

In her former role with SOPHE, she oversaw and diversified the educational portfolio, helped transition its conference during the pandemic in less than two weeks, and launched a new learning management system. Arias-Cantu has also served on the leadership team at the American Organization of Nurse Executives (now American Organization for Nursing Leadership) and previously worked for the Endocrine Society, American Society of Nuclear Cardiology, and American Diabetes Association.

She clearly believes in the value of health education and SOPHE’s mission.

“I believe that health education is a key component of promoting healthy communities on a global scale,” she said. “It is important that we build a strong health education workforce, advance research, and advocate for health equity policies. All these drivers play a crucial role in shaping a healthier and more informed society. Together, we can empower individuals about disease prevention and health promotion, thereby contributing to building resilient communities and addressing health disparities.”

Already well-established with SOPHE’s culture, membership and resources, Arias-Cantu plans to hit the ground running and has very clear goals in mind.

“My goal is to align SOPHE’s strategic goals in an ever-changing landscape to achieve health equity and build a strong infrastructure of agile systems, so we can adapt and be responsive.”

As an active member of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), Maricela earned her certified association executive (CAE) credential in 2023, was selected in 2010 as a Diversity Executive Leadership Program (DELP) Scholar, and currently serves on the CAE Item Writing Committee. She earned a Master of Healthcare Administration and a Master of Science in Biology from Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a minor in Chemistry from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas.

Maricela volunteers and serves on the National PTA Board of Directors and has held volunteer leadership positions at the American Red Cross, local Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops, and local and council PTAs. She lives in Woodbridge, Virginia with her husband of 24 years, three children, Richard, Salma and Ava and their dog, Rudy.

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The Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE) is a nonprofit association that supports leaders in public health, health education and promotion to advance healthy and equitable communities across the globe. SOPHE members work in health care settings, communities, organizations, schools, universities, worksites, and in local, state and federal government agencies. For more information visit