SPH news

Posted Date: August 9, 2017

AAFSPHV President Dr. Kelly Vest honors Dr. Fogelberg at the annual American Veterinary Medical Association conference in Indianapolis

For years, SPH Assistant Professor Katherine Fogelberg, DVM, PhD, has donated her spare time and veterinary services to treat and find homes for rescued pets.

She’s worked with zoo and wildlife animals as far away as South Africa, and has helped connect veterinarians with public health emergency preparedness efforts in the U.S.

She developed an international partnership for SPH students that ties veterinary aid services to human/animal public health and disease prevention.

And most recently, to recognize her contributions in the field, Dr. Fogelberg was named as the 2017 Public Health Veterinarian of the Year by the American Association of Food Safety and Public Health Veterinarians (AAFSPHV).

Trained as a vet with a special interest in zoo medicine, Dr. Fogelberg began exploring the connection of animals to the health of people during her doctoral studies, ultimately leading her to work with Dr. David Sterling to develop a class on this topic for the SPH.

Since then, she has designed and now directs a graduate certificate program in Food Security and Public Health for UNTHSC that studies the food chain implications of animal health on people, and she is helping SPH students see public health in different ways.

“One of Dr. Fogelberg’s achievements since joining UNTHSC has been to connect our public health students with the international organization Veterinarians Without Borders. She led the first group of students to Uganda last year, establishing a link between veterinary aid efforts and protections on the health of people,” said Dr. Dennis Thombs, SPH Dean.

“There are many illnesses and diseases that can be passed from animals to people. So far, our student volunteer teams been able to assist with TB testing and prevention efforts,” he said.

Also important is Dr. Fogelberg’s work with the Society for Disaster Medicine and Public Health, to establish collaborations between emergency first responders, public health professionals and veterinarians.

“Disaster situations like those we saw with hurricanes Katrina and Ike impact animals as much as people,” she said. “Roughly 30 percent of people in a disaster will refuse to evacuate without their pets. Shelters may not be able to accept animals, and it’s devastating for individuals and families who become separated from their pets. It impacts the overall health and well-being of a community.”

“The implications of the human/animal bond are far-reaching. In areas where livestock means livelihood, a disaster could also affect the ability of farms and related businesses to make a living and deliver products,” she said.

As SPH Director of Quality Instruction and Assistant Professor of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, Dr. Fogelberg draws on the different aspects of animal/public health to share a broad perspective with students and inspire their passions the way she found hers.


Posted Date: August 8, 2017

UNTHSC student Tonychris Nnaka, BSN, RN, has been named as the 2017-18 Dr. Gerry C. Gunnin Public Health Memorial Fellowship recipient. The award is presented by Texas Health Resources (THR).

Nnaka is a Master of Public Health (MPH) candidate in Epidemiology and Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences and serves as a research assistant for the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics.

He is also President of the UNTHSC Public Health Student Government Association.

The Gerry C. Gunnin, PhD, Public Health Memorial Scholarship was established by THR as a tribute to Dr. Gunnin’s leadership and legacy of advancements in public health.

Dr. Gunnin served as President of the Presbyterian Healthcare Foundation and as Vice President of the THR Community Health Improvement Department from 1995 to 2001.

Fellowship recipients are selected based on their commitment to public health and to the communities in which they live and/or work.

Posted Date: July 31, 2017

A new article in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment suggests that a computer program could be the most effective way of prompting substance-using probationers and parolees to start a treatment plan.

This news is especially important considering the millions of probationers across the United States who need substance abuse treatment yet never actually initiate or complete it.

In 2015, nearly 25 million adults in the U.S. reported illicit drug use in the prior month, and nearly 65 million reported binge alcohol episodes. Of those in need of treatment, only 14% actually started an intervention program.

“Health and justice systems are overburdened in terms of costs and resources,” said Scott T. Walters, PhD, Professor and Chair of Health Behavior and Health Systems at the UNT Health Science Center School of Public Health, who served as an investigator on the study of MAPIT motivational computer technology as a way to increase substance abuse treatment initiation.

With researchers from George Mason University, Dr. Walters and colleagues compared results from MAPIT to in-person motivational interviewing and standard probation intake processes for prompting individuals toward treatment.

More than 300 probationers in Dallas, Texas, and Baltimore City, Maryland, participated in the randomized, controlled study, funded by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

MAPIT employs user-friendly, voice-automated online software to stimulate the desire to begin treatment, set goals and stay motivated in recovery.

The program interacts with users by recognizing patterns and preferences in their reasons for wanting to finish probation, making suggestions for strategies that might work specifically for them.

After two months, people who were randomly assigned to MAPIT were more than twice as likely to begin treatment, compared to those routed to standard justice system processes.

“The start of probation is a critical time to educate and motivate individuals. MAPIT provides a platform for addressing substance use and other high-risk behaviors,” Dr. Walters said.

“The success of MAPIT shows that a computerized intervention as part of a screening and treatment referral program can improve short-term treatment initiation among substance-using probationers. Programs like this can significantly impact public safety and health without placing additional burdens on the criminal justice system,” he said.

Posted Date: June 30, 2017

A new CDC journal article questions the common use of BMI, or Body Mass Index, as a measurement of health for African American women, suggesting instead a more holistic, multifaceted approach to preventing chronic disease and motivating healthy behaviors.

Authors of the article “Beyond Body Mass Index: Are Weight-Loss Programs the Best Way to Improve the Health of African American Women?” published in Preventing Chronic Disease: Public Health Research, Practice and Policy, June 2017, are public health doctoral student Leilani Dodgen, MPH, CHES, and Emily Spence-Almaguer, PhD, Associate Professor and Associate Dean for Community Engagement and Health Equity, at the University of North Texas Health Science Center School of Public Health.

African American women have a higher prevalence (82%) of being overweight and obese than white women (63.2%) or Hispanic women (77.2%), and the rates of chronic disease, disability and premature death among African American women run disproportionately high.

DODGEN_AH1When compared with white women in the same weight-loss programs, African American women lose less weight and maintain weight loss for a shorter time.

Culturally appropriate interventions and motivational themes designed for African American women over the last 20 years have failed to yield significant or sustainable weight loss results.

To address these issues and find solutions, the authors and their team engaged North Texas women in community-based participatory research, gathering data and cooperatively developing a culturally diverse wellness pilot called “SHE Tribe.”

This social network-based healthy lifestyle intervention, which stands for “She’s Healthy and Empowered,” was developed through support from the National Institute on Minority Health and the Health Disparities Exploratory Centers of Excellence of the National Institutes of Health.

At SHE Tribe gatherings, women pursue a lifestyle of health by making small changes that empower action for lifelong wellbeing.

Maximizing the strength of women’s social networks, the program provides participants with online assessment tools, facilitated guidance and a wellness score according to five areas of well-being:  goals, self-care, physical activity, nutrition and relationships/social support. As participants set individual goals, they also practice healthy behaviors and reflect on their interest and motivation for making changes.

A program goal is to also inspire participants to lead their own SHE Tribes to promote a larger culture of health.

Based on SHE Tribe findings and other research, the authors concluded that African American women may benefit from this broader approach to health that aligns with values of the community, shifting beyond BMI as the main measure of wellness.

“The prevalent use of BMI combined with the U.S. obsession with weight has made BMI a primary choice for indicating chronic disease risk and measuring health,” Dodgen said. “But BMI reduces the complexities of health to one primary indicator and its accompanying solution, weight loss.”

In most programs, African American women are unlikely to transition from a range considered obese (BMI above 30) or overweight (BMI range of 25-29) to a normal range (BMI less than 25). The average African American woman weighs approximately 187 pounds with a BMI of 32.2 and would need to lose almost 20 pounds in order to reach just the top of the overweight threshold.

Most participants don’t lose enough to reach the BMI target for reducing cardiovascular disease and diabetes risk, and when measured at 18-month follow-ups, many of those who do lose weight will regain up to 33 percent over time.

A weakness of BMI, the authors said, is that it fails to account for differences in body composition, fitness levels and nutritional variances that can predict health and longevity. People can be obese but in good health because of diet and even a moderate amount of physical activity. Muscle mass can also be a factor in adjusting a person’s weight-loss goals.

“Research increasingly shows mortality to be more dependent on cardiorespiratory fitness than BMI,” Dr. Spence-Almaguer said. “This is good news for people who have been unsuccessful at weight loss or maintenance. A moderate level of physical activity can improve health regardless of whether a person loses weight.”

Posted Date: June 27, 2017


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Alita Andrews

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As a Health Advocate for the UNT Health Science Center TESSA program serving Tarrant County victims of interpersonal violence, Alita Andrews offices at One Safe Place, a non profit agency in Fort Worth that gives help and hope to families and individuals looking to get back on their feet.

Andrews helps clients focus on their mental and physical well-being, self-care strategies, personal safety and navigation of health resources to connect with primary care services/ information and work toward improving their overall health outcomes.

Her role is different from that of a counselor or case manager, as she specifically focuses on the impact that violence and trauma can have on health.

She works with individuals like the young mom, battling serious effects of diabetes because her abuser wouldn’t allow her to seek medical care for her condition, or the middle-aged woman suffering from high blood pressure, panic attacks and other health issues related to the physical and emotional harm she had been forced to endure for years.

It is Andrews’ mission to help individuals like these in overcoming the barriers to their wellness and recovery.

At first, she met with clients in a very traditional office space.

Standard bookshelves.

Nondescript side table.

Desk facing the door with two chairs in front.

Over time, though, with help from the TESSA and One Safe Place teams, Andrews transformed the environment into a warmer, more welcoming space.

Her desk was moved to the side, eliminating the physical barrier between health advocate and client.

A cozy rug and more relaxing chairs were added to invite quiet, one-on-one conversations.

Clients could feel safe knowing they no longer had to sit with their back to the door.

A storage closet was updated to create a coffee nook.

Dim lighting and calm colors also helped with the change, and stress balls, adult coloring books and other counseling aids were brought in to give relief during difficult moments.

This idea – representing just one of the ways Andrews cares for clients and helps them feel more secure and welcomed – was recently recognized at the One Safe Place five-year anniversary, where she was presented an award for exemplifying one of the agency’s top core values of “safety.”

“The role of the health advocate is to give people choices and help them take control of their lives; it may be overwhelming at first, which is why it’s so important to welcome them in a space that feels comforting,” said Jessica Grace, LMSW, TESSA Program Manager. “We want clients to know it’s more about them than a complicated process or system.”

Andrews, who is a 2016 UNTHSC School of Public Health MPH graduate, said the clients are her main motivator for coming to work every morning.

“They have all come to One Safe Place to find support and a new start. Wherever they are in their journey, I’m happy to be a cheerleader and support system to helping them find themselves,” she said.

Organizations like One Safe Place, which houses 18 different victims’ advocate agencies, are important in connecting individuals with health care resources, children’s services, law enforcement and legal aid, counseling, chaplain’s assistance, case management, employment programs, housing resources and more.

Approximately one in three Texas women will experience domestic violence during their lifetime. For the years 2014 and 2015, Tarrant County was the second highest community in Texas for domestic violence deaths.

Since 2015, TESSA has been led by Dr. Emily Spence-Almaguer, SPH Associate Professor and Associate Dean for Community Engagement and Health Equity. TESSA is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health.

“The clients we see are so resilient and are survivors; their strength is awe-inspiring,” Andrews said.

“Some of my best experiences are when clients I haven’t heard from in a while call and update me on their progress and all the things they’re now doing on their own,” she said. ”It’s a great honor to watch this happen, and I’m happy to be a part of it.”

Posted Date: June 19, 2017

CAAD17A Clean Air Action Day event will be held on Friday, June 23, from noon to 1 p.m. in the campus Library Mini Auditorium, LIB 110.

UNT Health Science Center students, faculty and staff are encouraged to attend.

Clean Air Action Day encourages North Texans to do one thing to improve the air quality for the health of the local community.

Participants will have an opportunity to take part in an action pledge and watch short videos focused on environmental and human health.

This event is come-and-go.

Attendees are encouraged to save the driving and instead bring their own brown bag lunch to the event.

Free Alchemy Pops will be provided from a local frozen pop store that sources locally when possible, and free water bottles from Air North Texas will be distributed while supplies last.

Posted Date: June 12, 2017

Teaching Excellence 1Seven School of Public Health faculty members and one SPH doctoral student recently completed an eight-month Faculty Seminar Series focused on teaching excellence.

In partnership with the UNTHSC Center for Innovative Learning, SPH Assistant Professor Katherine Fogelberg, DVM, PhD, developed and led the program, which began in September 2016.

The approach was campus-wide, with every UNTHSC school participating.

Over the fall and spring semesters, 12 “lunch and learn” seminars were presented on the building blocks of teaching excellence, educational philosophy and theory, psychology, practice, technological tools and research-proven techniques for engaging postgraduate learners.

“Quality learning begins with quality teaching, and this program was quite successful in its first year,” Dr. Fogelberg said. “Across the university, 19 faculty and one student completed the requirements for their Certificate of Completion, and five earned their Certificates of Teaching Excellence based on added participation in the pre- and post-seminar teaching observations.”

Dr. Fogelberg and the Center for Innovative Learning are now in the process of planning a follow-up series for the fall.

“We hope to see new and returning faces for the upcoming academic year, and we look forward to building on the success of this year’s program,” she said.

From the School of Public Health, Dr. Karen Bell, Dr. Brad Cannell and Dr. Karabi Nandy earned the Certificate of Teaching Excellence.

SPH doctoral student Leilani Dodgen earned the Certificate of Completion, along with faculty members Dr. Doug Livingston, Dr. Neda Moayad, Dr. Candace Robledo and Dr. David Sterling.

Dr. Fogelberg, who serves as Director of Quality Instruction for the SPH, is also Assistant Professor and Director of the MPH in Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences program, and the Graduate Certificate program in Food Security and Public Health.

Posted Date: June 5, 2017
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    Dr. Doug Livingston

    SPH News Brief: Dr. Doug Livingston’s abstract related to community efforts for reducing adolescent alcohol use and access was selected as an “Abstract of Distinction” by the Society for Prevention Research (SPR) and was recognized at the organization’s 25 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., held May 30-June 2, 2017. This year’s meeting focused on the theme of Prevention and Public Systems of Care: Research, Policy and Practice. This was the first year that SPR conferred this honor. More information on Dr. Livingston’s research can be found here: https://www.unthsc.edu/school-of-public-health/study-finds-alcohol-prevention-strategies-effective-american-indian-teens-rural-youth/.

    Dr. Livingston is Assistant Professor of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the UNTHSC School of Public Health.Dr. Livingston was also published in the May 2017 issue of the American Journal of Public Health. With colleagues from the University of Florida, he reported research showing that federal regulation of precursor chemicals can positively reduce cocaine availability in the United States and can be correlated to a decline in maternal and neonatal hospital stays. Earlier this year, Dr. Livingston spoke with White House officials on these findings.

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    SPH students at the CDC, Atlanta

    SPH News Brief: Recently, SPH students Amy Board (DrPH ‘17) and Erica Stockbridge (PhD ’17) made Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) presentations in Atlanta related to national research consortium efforts on tuberculosis prevention and monitoring. During their doctoral studies, both students have worked with SPH professor Dr. Thad Miller, Principal Investigator, on the CDC-funded Tuberculosis Epidemiologic Studies Consortium (TBESC). Also attending in Atlanta was UNTHSC MPH student Armando Moreno. Dr. Miller is Associate Professor, Department of Health Behavior and Health Systems, at the UNTHSC School of Public Health.

  • Dr SterlingSPH News Brief: Dr. David Sterling, Professor of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, at the UNTHSC School of Public Health, was recently recognized as one of five finalists for the UNT Health Science Center’s new honor, the Faculty Achievement Award. Honorees were chosen by a committee of their peers, led by the Faculty Senate. As a finalist, Dr. Sterling was recognized for demonstrating excellence in teaching, scholarship, service and leadership. Dr. Sterling has been with the UNTHSC School of Public Health since 2008 and has most recently been in the news for his work with children’s asthma management in the Fort Worth Independent School District, through the “Asthma 411” program. He is a long-time panel reviewer for the National Institutes of Health, EPA and other agencies, and maintains an active research program. Among his funders have been the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, the Environmental Protection Agency, Texas State Department of Health Services and various not-for-profit foundations. This June, he was recognized as a Fellow in the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA). According to the organization, only five percent of AIHA membership can qualify for the Fellow Award, presented as a high recognition to those who have made significant contributions to the field of industrial hygiene.

Posted Date: June 1, 2017
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Nineteen UNT Health Science Center MHA students have found their 2017 summer internships, thanks to a “speed interview” event on campus with potential healthcare employers.

In quick rotations, students were able to meet with representatives from 11 local healthcare organizations to showcase their talents, interests and resumes.

Participating organizations included JPS Health Network, Children’s Health Dallas, Children’s Health Plano, UNTHSC, Lake Granbury Medical Center, Kane Hall Berry Neurology, North Central Surgical Center Hospital, Southwest Sports and Spine Center, Texas Health Resources, Weatherford Regional Medical Center and Wise Regional Health System.

“The MHA speed interview event is a great way to connect students with internship opportunities,” said Martin Ostensen, MHA Program Director. “All of the students who interviewed in the timed sessions presented well and impressed the visiting organizations with their polish and professionalism.”

Students will be working on a variety of projects and healthcare assignments this summer. One such project is the design and implementation of an emergency operations plan to meet new Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) guidelines. Another project will involve development of a model and criteria for patient room improvements.

Posted Date: May 25, 2017
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Dr. Moranetz with SPH Dean Dennis Thombs

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She promised not to cry, but there were still some emotional moments as Dr. Christine A. Moranetz presented her Last Lecture to students, faculty, community colleagues and close friends.

For nine years, Dr. Moranetz has served in a variety of leadership positions for the UNT Health Science Center School of Public Health, and as Associate Professor preparing for retirement, she had a lifetime of reflections, stories, learning examples and advice to share.

The tradition of The Last Lecture, initiated by the UNTHSC Public Health Student Government Association, provides students a chance to hear closing thoughts and gain inspiration from professors they have studied with over the years.

“I’ve been working on this presentation for quite a while, and I’ve prepared 180 slides for our three-hour workshop today,” Dr. Moranetz joked, opening her talk. “Seriously, I have so much to tell you, but I think you’ll be glad to know that I’ve condensed it into a one-hour presentation focused on my top ten words of advice.”

SPH graduate research assistant Md Abdullah Al Mamun, who has been mentored in his PhD studies by Dr. Moranetz, described her in opening introductions as “a professor who shares compassion with each of her students, who nurtures us and lets us thrive.”

Dr. Dennis Thombs, Dean, echoed those thoughts in his remarks, saying, “She always puts students first.”

Former student Allen Applegate, DrPH, MPH, CPH, traveled to Fort Worth from San Francisco to attend the presentation, saying, “Dr. Moranetz had such a positive impact on me as a student and on my career. It was an honor to be part of her final lecture as she reflected on her meaningful career and those who helped her achieve success. The wisdom she shared was heartfelt and inspiring.”

Applegate, who now serves as Lieutenant Commander for the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, US Department of Health and Human Services, worked with Dr. Moranetz during his UNTHSC doctoral studies.

Between reflections on her long career in both health promotion/disease prevention and academics, Dr. Moranetz shared some of her interesting hobbies, favorite quotes and very personal, touching stories.

In David Letterman style, she offered her “Top 10 Countdown,” noting that, “While this is particularly directed to the students, I hope that some of what I share speaks to everyone in the room.”

She offered this inspiring list of advice:

  • #10: Dream big. Dr. Moranetz challenged students to “do one thing that scares you,” and to think in new and creative ways.
  • #9: Be courageous. After a long battle with cancer and now four years in remission, Dr. Moranetz advised that sometimes there will be things that seem insurmountable, when you feel that you “just can’t do it,” but with courage and the help of friends and family, the impossible can be achieved.
  • #8: Develop compassion and empathy. Dr. Moranetz illustrated this advice with a story of her mother’s career as an honored World War II Army nurse who served two tours of duty in the Pacific before returning home to continue her professional career stateside.
  • #7: Serve others. “That’s what we do if you’re in public health, that’s what we are about,” Dr. Moranetz said. She encouraged working with populations most in need of public health students’ time and talents.
  • #6: Leave a legacy. In describing one of her proudest career achievements – a dramatic educational theater project she co-developed on AIDS/HIV prevention that has continued for 24 years – Dr. Moranetz encouraged students to create their own legacy, professionally and personally.
  • #5: Strive for equality and social justice. She challenged the audience to embrace diversity and advocate for gender equality.
  • # 4: Cultivate friendships. “Live, laugh, play,” Dr. Moranetz said. “I’m a loyal friend and my friends have been loyal to me; we’ve been through a lot together.” She shared stories of professional colleagues who have remained friends for decades.
  • #3: Stand by your faith and convictions. In advising students to “be honest and true,” Dr. Moranetz reflected on the example her father set in his military service and commitments to veterans and the community. Quoting a Native American Cherokee proverb, she said, “Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.”
  • #2: Live in the moment. “Keep a journal, reflect, make time to be grateful for what you have, don’t let worry and tension keep you from enjoying life,” she said. ”You might not know this, but I enjoyed learning to ballroom dance. I took lessons for 12 years and competed in professional-amateur competitions for seven years. What dancing taught me is how important it is to ‘follow’ – you don’t have to lead all the time. Life is a dance, enjoy it.”
  • #1: Get out of your head and into your heart. In closing, Dr. Moranetz shared a number of thoughts, including the famous Helen Keller quote, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.”

“It’s been said that great teachers inspire, and I hope, from the bottom of my heart, that I’ve been an inspiration to you, as you have been to me,” Dr. Moranetz said.

Dr. Moranetz has served as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, DrPH Program Director, PhD Program Director and Chair of the Department of Public Health Education in the School of Public Health. On mentoring her last doctoral students, she will retire from UNT Health Science Center this summer.