SPH news

Posted Date: September 18, 2015

Dr. Sharon Homan, new Associate Dean of Research

Sharon Homan, MS, PhD, has been named as Associate Dean for Research for the UNT Health Science Center School of Public Health (SPH).

She had previously served as Biostatistics and Epidemiology Chair for the school.

Serving as Interim Chair of Biostatistics and Epidemiology is Associate Professor Sumihiro (Sumi) Suzuki, PhD.

Dr. Homan has a substantial background in research and research administration.  In this new role, she will lead the efforts of the school’s Research Committee to advance and further develop faculty research efforts and collaborations.

Dr. Suzuki’s background includes leadership of the school’s MPH program in Biostatistics.

SPH professors moving from assistant to associate professor are Hsueh-Fen Chen, PhD, Health Management and Policy; Joon-Hak Lee, PhD, Environmental and Occupational Health; and Rajesh Nandy, PhD, Biostatistics and Epidemiology.

Posted Date: September 11, 2015

A UNT Health Science Center project aimed at addressing interpersonal violence has been awarded $2.2 million in funding over the next three years by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health.

The project – called TESSA (Technology Enhanced Screening and Supportive Assistance) – is being led by Emily Spence-Almaguer, MSW, PhD, School of Public Health Associate Professor of Behavioral and Community Health. Four other UNTHSC professors are serving as co-investigators, partnering with nine North Texas health clinics through UNT Health Family Medicine, JPS Health Network and North Texas Area Community Health Centers, Inc.; the Women’s Center of Tarrant County; One Safe Place; Safe Haven; and MedStar Mobile Healthcare Area Ambulance Authority.

TESSA is a technology-assisted screening and intervention program that integrates services between primary health clinics and organizations serving interpersonal violence victims.

Interpersonal violence (IPV) places families and individuals at risk for injury and long-term health and mental health conditions associated with stress.

In 2013, among the 1.9 million residents of Tarrant County, 12,446 family violence incidents were reported to police, with an estimated 58 percent involving injuries.

Statistics show that poverty and homelessness place women at a higher risk for IPV, and among homeless women in Tarrant County in 2013, 46 percent experienced physical or sexual victimization, 20 percent reported intimate partner violence, and 17 percent reported incidents meeting the legal definition of rape in the prior 12 months.

Studies have shown that abused women are 60 percent more likely to report health problems and are at an increased risk for high cholesterol, heart attack, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, joint disease, asthma, activity limitations, smoking, binge drinking, depression and other mental health disorders.

Health care expenses for IPV survivors are 42 percent higher, and still many cases go unreported because victims are held back from seeking care due to fear, discomfort, apprehension and resources.

“The goal of TESSA is to increase immediate safety and promote long-term health among individuals who have experienced IPV, particularly persons who are homeless and living in poverty,” said Dr. Spence-Almaguer.

“IPV screenings are more likely to occur in emergency medical settings,” she said, “although many long-term health consequences of IPV are conditions addressed in primary care clinics. By establishing a collaborative, integrated system among health clinics and IPV-oriented organizations, our hope is to enhance and coordinate the process of identifying victims and providing access to immediate interventions for clinic patients, including medical assessment of injuries, crisis management, health coaching and health navigation services, and follow up support.”

TESSA will also provide training and support services for clinic personnel; a private, electronic check-in system with patient and clinician components; an electronic system for IPV screening and assessment of key stress, risk, protective and behavioral health indicators; and an online classification and guidance program for clinicians.

TESSA health advocates will be placed in organizations throughout Tarrant County to promote safety, health and establishment of a home base for victims’ medical and support services.  Health advocates will reach out face-to-face and through video calls for rapid response.

As TESSA project leader, Dr. Spence-Almaguer brings nearly 25 years of experience in the areas of rape crisis, domestic violence and stalking programs. Her 2013 study of victimization experiences and health needs of homeless women in Fort Worth, Texas, led to community changes including development of a victim advocacy program, shelter policy updates, and a homeless women’s outreach task force.

TESSA co-investigators include UNTHSC professors Scott Walters, PhD, Department of Behavioral and Community Health; Kimberly Fulda, DrPH, UNTHSC Family Medicine; Brad Cannell, PhD, MPH, Biostatistics and Epidemiology; and Sharon Homan, MS, PhD, School of Public Health Associate Dean for Research. Collectively, this team of investigators brings expertise in motivational interviewing, solution-focused practice, technology-enhanced human service interventions, primary care research, data analytics, women’s health and program evaluation.

Posted Date: September 8, 2015

KurzFor the first time at the UNT Health Science Center, The UNT System Board of Regents has bestowed the unique and special honor of the Dean Emeritus title to Richard S. Kurz, PhD, on the day of his retirement.

The announcement was made by Thomas Yorio, PhD, UNTHSC Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, who recognized Dr. Kurz for his distinguished service to the university and his contributions in helping to find solutions for a healthier community.

Dr. Kurz led the UNTHSC School of Public Health, serving as Dean and tenured Professor of Health Management and Policy, for eight years. He will continue as an adjunct faculty member following retirement to complete several projects.

Posted Date: August 27, 2015
Dean Kurz with new Interim Dean Dr. Dennis Thombs

Dean Kurz with new Interim Dean Dr. Dennis Thombs

Richard S. Kurz, PhD, Dean of the UNTHSC School of Public Health (SPH), will retire on August 31, after leading the SPH and serving as tenured Professor of Health Management and Policy for the last eight years. He will continue as an adjunct faculty member following retirement to complete several projects.

“Retirement is a decision my family and I have been considering for some time,” he said. “Over the last eight years, I have been very fortunate to work with an outstanding team of public health faculty and staff, and we have built a foundation for continued progress in the future. Our public health faculty, students, alumni and staff are making a difference in communities both locally and around the world.”

“As always, I send thanks to everyone I have worked with, both in and outside the school, for your support and commitment, and I hope you will continue to advance the momentum that we started,” Dr. Kurz said.

Left: Dean Kurz with new Interim Dean Dr. Dennis Thombs Right: Reverend Ralph Emerson wishes Dr. Kurz well in his retirement

Reverend Ralph Emerson wishes Dr. Kurz well in his retirement

Dr. Kurz retires after a lengthy career in academics and community service. He has served as Chair of the National Board of Public Health Examiners, as a Commissioner on the Accreditation for Healthcare Management Education, as Chair of the Association of University Programs in Health Administration, and on advisory boards and task forces for the CDC and Veterans Administration.

He has assisted the Texas Department of State Health Services with the accreditation of health departments and was recognized in the Dallas Business Journal’s “2013 Who’s Who in Health Care—25 People Who Are Changing the Industry in North Texas.” He received Texas Public Health Association’s 2013 President’s Award and the 2012 Healthcare Hero award from the Fort Worth, Texas, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and United Healthcare.

“We greatly appreciate Dr. Kurz’ leadership and vision,” said Thomas Yorio, PhD, UNTHSC Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs.

Dr. Yorio presents retirement gift to Dr. Kurz featuring the school's official seal

Dr. Yorio presents retirement gift to Dr. Kurz featuring the school’s official seal

“Under his leadership, the school launched a number of successful initiatives, including a Master of Health Administration program, a new doctorate program, online programs and the Texas Prevention Institute. Dr. Kurz has also been very active in leading community collaborations to study and solve some of our most pressing health issues, such as infant mortality.”

As a national search is conducted, Dennis Thombs, PhD, FAAHB, will serve as interim Dean of the SPH.

He has served as Professor and Chair of the school’s Department of Behavioral and Community Health for the last five years.

He is also Director of the school’s Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) program.

Dr. Thombs, a past President of the American Academy of Health Behavior, is the author of Introduction to Addictive Behaviors, now in its fourth edition.

His research on addictive behavior has been supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the National Institute of Mental Health and U.S. Department of Education.

He has authored 80 articles in peer-reviewed national and international journals.

Posted Date: August 14, 2015

Udoka_ObinwaUNT Health Science Center student Udoka Obinwa has been awarded the Dr. Gerry C. Gunnin Public Health Memorial Scholarship from Texas Health Resources.

Obinwa is a Master of Public Health (MPH) student in the UNTHSC School of Public Health’s Biostatistics and Epidemiology Department.

Prior to enrolling with UNTHSC, Obinwa studied parasitology, entomology and medical laboratory science, gaining skills in infectious disease diagnosis and prevention.

“I grew up in Nigeria, a country that still suffers greatly from infectious diseases like malaria, typhoid fever, schistosomiasis, HIV/AIDS and so on,” he said. “I chose to study parasitology and entomology at the university level to gain knowledge for combatting these diseases. After graduation, I volunteered at the Regional Reference laboratory of Global Health AIDS Initiative Nigeria (GhAIN) in Wukari, Taraba State, where I helped evaluate a large number of registered HIV patients due for free Antiretroviral Therapy. I later participated in a malaria indicator survey conducted by the Carter Center in Plateau State, Nigeria, where I witnessed a high burden of malaria and anemia among children in some rural areas. These experiences spurred me to seek further training in public health.”

Obinwa calls himself “passionate about improving the health of individuals, especially vulnerable groups like children.”

He has been involved in community health services and events with the Tarrant County Public Health Department, Baylor Scott and White Medical Center, UNTHSC Safe Transition and the Student Outbreak Response Team.

He currently works with Community-wide Children’s Health Assessment Survey data as an intern at the Community Health Research Department of Cook Children’s Health Care System.

“I hope to help alleviate some of the environmental-related health challenges kids suffer through my research efforts as an epidemiologist with sound biostatistics skills,” he said.

Obinwa says he hopes to someday start an organization where he can partner with governmental health agencies to organize intervention programs targeted at malaria and other parasitic diseases in Nigeria and other developing countries.

“This scholarship is indeed an encouragement and a great boost to my dreams,” he said.

Posted Date: August 12, 2015

Students seeking a Master of Public Health degree in Health Management and Policy are now able to complete the program entirely online through the UNT Health Science Center School of Public Health.

This degree helps prepare students for careers in policy development, policy analysis and health systems management.

Course topics include health systems, health economics and finance, health insurance and managed care, health law and ethics, private and public sector management, and state and national health policy.

“As more and more students look for the convenience and flexibility of online learning options, the UNTHSC School of Public Health continues to explore different ways to meet their needs,” said Thad Miller, MPH, DrPH, Acting Chair, Health Management and Policy. “This new opportunity gives students another path for completing their degree.”

Posted Date: August 5, 2015

A new Advisory Council will begin working with the UNTHSC School of Public Health this fall, to help shape the structure and direction of the school’s Master of Public Health and Doctor of Public Health programs.

The Council is comprised of alumni and other professionals who are leaders in public health, health care, business and community, with a commitment to the education and preparedness of the next generation of public health leaders.

This new group is modeled after the successful MHA Advisory Council for the SPH Master of Health Administration program and will meet two to three times each year.

“We are pleased to welcome these new members, their guidance, experience, ideas and energy,” said Dean Richard S. Kurz, PhD. “The addition of this new Council is a great benefit for both the SPH and our students.”

New Council members are:

  • (Advisory Council Chair) Matt Richardson, MPH, DrPH, Director, Denton County Health Department
  • Allen Applegate, Lieutenant, United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, Quarantine Public Health Officer, CDC San Francisco
  • Elizabeth Sobel Blum, Senior Community Development Research Associate, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas
  • James Dickens, Office of Minority Health, Health and Human Services (HHS), Region 6, Dallas
  • Greg Eastin, Strategic Planning, Parkland Health System
  • Susan Garnett, President and CEO, Mental Health and Mental Retardation of Tarrant County
  • Angela Girgenti, Office of Women’s Health, HHS, Region 6, Dallas
  • Anita Kurian, MMBS, DrPH, Associate Director, Tarrant County Public Health
  • Shirley Little, MA, CEO, The Martin Group
  • Aisling McGuckin, RN, MSN, MPH, Director of Program Services, March of Dimes Foundation, Dallas
  • Camille Miller, MSS, President and CEO, Texas Health Institute, Austin
  • Patrick Moonan, DrPH, Epidemiologist, CDC Surveillance, Epidemiology and Outbreak Investigation Branch – Division of Tuberculosis Elimination, Atlanta
  • Tricia Nguyen, MD, Executive Vice President, Population Health, Education and Innovation Center, Texas Health Resources
  • Tony Shuman, President & CEO, YMCA of Metropolitan Fort Worth
  • Don Smith, Vice President for Community Development, United Way of Tarrant County/Director, Area Agency on Aging
  • Verrinder (Vinny) Taneja, MBBS, MPH, Director, Tarrant County Public Health
  • Patsy Thomas, President, Mental Health Connection
  • Larry Tubb, Senior Vice President, System Planning, Cook Children’s Medical Center
  • Libby Watson, Strategic Collaboration, LLC
  • Stephen Williams, MPA, MEd, Director, Houston Department of Health and Human Services
  • James Zoretic, MD, MPH, Assistant Commissioner for Regional and Local Health Services, Region 2/3, Texas Department of State Health Services

The Council’s first meeting will be held August 26.

Posted Date: June 19, 2015

Three Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences MPH students in the UNTHSC School of Public Health have recently received national scholarship awards.

Kikelomo  (Kike) Akintunde and Emanehi (Ema) Iyioriobhe were invited to attend the recent American Industrial Hygiene Association’s AIHce2015 Conference in Salt Lake City, where Kike received a $4,000 scholarship from the American Industrial Hygiene Foundation and Ema was presented a $2,000 scholarship from the American Industrial Hygiene Association.

Student Obioma Ilouga was also recently awarded a $5,000 Workcare Safety and Health Scholarship from the American Society of Safety Engineers.

Posted Date: June 19, 2015


School of Public Health (SPH) adjunct instructor Melissa Oden has found a unique way to bring real-world perspectives to her students’ work in the Maternal and Child Health MPH degree program.

As students wrapped up the spring semester in Dr. Oden’s Human Sexuality and Health class in May, they shared their final presentations with community judges representing non-profit, health care, educational and other related organizations. Judges helped evaluate and recommend grades based on the ideas presented, professionalism, research and impact of the projects.

Ten presentations were made, covering such topics as:

  • Prevalence and risks of “sexting,” and its relation to other high-risk sexual behaviors
  • Effects of body image on sexual health among adolescents
  • A new idea to help locate and rescue international sex trafficking victims
  • Breaking the cycle of intergenerational teen pregnancy
  • Sex trafficking among minors in the United States
  • Revenge porn: weaponizing sex in digital form
  • The effects of clothing choices on stereotyping in the professional environment
  • Sexual health of youth in foster care
  • Sexuality education for the younger ages
  • The physical and mental implications of why people have sex: a modern look at a complex topic

Business entrepreneur Sue Wallace, one of the judge panelists, said she was “fascinated to hear the students’ views on several difficult topics regarding human sexuality.”

“I was impressed by their brilliant minds in addressing these tough subjects,” Ms. Wallace noted. “I applaud Dr. Oden for helping to open their thought processes and assist and challenge them to ‘think outside the box’ when addressing these critical issues that face our societies today.”

Jorge Urby from Parkland Health and Hospital System, Dallas, stressed the importance of this class “because it exposes students to a topic that many people find taboo but that needs to be discussed and understood better.”

“Giving presentations in front of a panel of professionals is a great learning experience for students,” Urby noted, “especially since they will be doing more of that as they continue with their career trajectory.”

Other judge participants were educational consultant Dr. Calvin Lawrence; Dr. Matthew Weaver, formerly with United Way of Tarrant County; and Ms. Dina Davis, former Vice President of Program Development with Girls Inc. of Tarrant County.

In addition to serving as an adjunct instructor in the SPH Department of Behavioral and Community Health, Dr. Oden is the school’s Public Health Practice Experience Liaison.

Posted Date: June 16, 2015

Research_Schmooze_1The UNT Health Science Center School of Public Health and Texas Prevention Institute took their third “Research Schmooze” out to the community when they recently partnered with the Cook Children’s Center for Children’s Health for anetworking event at Pappasito’s Mexican restaurant.

The purpose was to network on topics impacting early childhood development, mental health, obesity/healthy lifestyle, oncology and environmental exposures on children’s asthma.

Thirty-two participants joined in table-topic discussions, generating ideas for joint projects and research collaborations.

According to Center for Children’s Health Senior Vice President Larry Tubb, “The Research Schmooze was a great opportunity for bringing UNTHSC together with Cook Children’s, to address some of the highest-priority children’s health issues in our community today. The Center’s goal is to create collaborations that will allow us to make North Texas one of the healthiest places to raise a child, and partnerships with organizations like UNTHSC are key to helping reach that goal.”

With data collected and analyzed by UNTHSC research teams, the Cook Children’s Health Care System presented Community-wide Children’s Health Assessment & Planning Surveys (CCHAPS) in 2008 and 2012 to identify specific health issues affecting children in the local six-county area. Counties studied were Tarrant, Wise, Parker, Johnson, Hood and Denton. A “Share One Thing” online discussion board was also developed, inviting community members to join in and offer their own ideas for improving children’s health.

“After two successful, internal Schmooze events that brought our own faculty and researchers together, it seemed like a natural next step to move out into the community to explore important local issues with partners like Cook Children’s,” said UNTHSC Research Manager Robyn Remotigue, CRA.