School of Public Health

Public health honors graduate takes on sexual violence, COVID-19 to help others

By Sally Crocker

Julia AikenSchool of Public Health honors graduate Julia Aiken is researching a topic that far too few people know about, that the #MeToo movement also has special significance for male victims of sexual violence.

She hopes to get her work published, but for now, there’s more to do in a number of areas, including commencement, moving on with her career after graduation and continuing to assist with Tarrant County Public Health’s COVID-19 contact tracing efforts throughout the summer.

Aiken recently received this year’s Kenneth H. Cooper Award for Outstanding Research, as the graduating public health student best demonstrating excellence and quality in the application of research methods. The award is named for bestselling author and health/wellness guru Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper, founder of the Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas.

In addition, she has been named to a prestigious group, the Delta Omega national public health honor society.

Aiken graduates this month with an MPH in Public Health Practice.

She has been interested in sexual health research since her undergraduate days at Oklahoma State University, leading her to public health.

“Around 2016, before #MeToo became a widely-publicized movement, I conducted social media research on sexual consent, rape and assault through OSU’s Sexual Health Research Lab, and later went on to become a peer-educator teaching safe sex practices at the University of Central Oklahoma,” Aiken said.

“I would get so mad about the injustices of gendered violence – immersing myself in research gave me a way of channeling those frustrations, to look at the problem from a clinical perspective with solutions to reduce that suffering.”

Aiken pointed out that, while it’s not talked about as much, a staggering number of men – about 1 in 6 – are sexually abused before the age of 18, creating lasting trauma that can impact their future health and the health of others.

“Research to prevent the violence and sexual assault of men is years behind that of women, so there’s some catching up we need to do,” Aiken said. “It wasn’t until actor and former NFL player Terry Crews publicly stepped forward in 2017 that men received a place in the #MeToo movement alongside women.”

With a focus on prevention, Aiken began working with SPH faculty member Dr. Stacey Griner last November, to analyze CDC data on the prevalence of sexual assault among males in the U.S. and the health outcomes associated with this type of violence. The two are now co-authoring a paper on the topic.

“Studies show that violence is a learned behavior, impacted by what individuals believe is normal and acceptable,” Aiken said. “It is a growing, global public health problem – each year, more than one million people lose their lives and many more suffer injuries from violence. It is preventable.”

Aiken’s goal is to use her data collection, coding and analysis to show that there are real people behind the numbers, real lives at stake.

She’s interested in other areas of public health prevention as well, and while celebrating commencement online isn’t how she expected to finish the semester, she sees many opportunities for the field of public health as the result of COVID-19 and other serious problems our world faces.

The ideal next step for Aiken would be a position combining her interests in both data collection/analysis and community service, like some of the projects she’s taken on for the Women’s Center of Tarrant County and, most recently during the pandemic, for Tarrant County Public Health.

“Most people don’t think or hear much about public health until times of crisis, such as with COVID-19, or even more so for preventing sexual violence,” Aiken said. “That’s when the work of our public health system and the many scientists behind the scenes comes to the forefront … that’s why I chose the field and am so excited to launch this next stage of my career.”

Julia Aiken
School of Public Health

COVID-19 shines bright light on inequities impacting health in the African American community

By Sally Crocker

Covid African Americans

Even though states and cities are now reopening, the threat of COVID-19 still looms large for especially vulnerable groups across the U.S. that have been hardest hit during the pandemic.

African Americans represent 13% of the country’s population, according to U.S. Census data, yet these communities account for more than half of all COVID-19 cases and almost 60% of related deaths so far.

Erica Spears
Dr. Erica C. Spears

“The pandemic has underscored the dire consequences of the health disparities that persist in African American communities,” said Erica C. Spears, PhD, MA, a health disparities researcher and HSC Assistant Professor of Health Behavior and Health Systems.

“During this crisis, there’s a spotlight on some of the ways structural inequalities negatively impact health. You can’t have a healthy community if part of it is marginalized. It’s a time to consider the bigger picture and recognize that we are all part of the same community.”

There are many factors that impact health, including education; employment; income/financial security; housing, safety and other social and environmental issues; lifestyle behaviors; family genetics; and access to healthcare.

Data shows that as a group, the African American or Black population experiences significant disparities related to chronic conditions, access to care, preventive screenings and mental health.

Dr. Spears grew up in New Orleans, a city that is roughly 60% African American and was at one point considered a COVID-19 hotspot. A number of chronic health conditions plague the city’s residents at disproportionate rates, conditions that are also listed as underlying factors in many of the COVID-19 deaths the city has suffered.

“As with so many communities around the U.S., there are food deserts where people don’t have access to grocery stores, fresh foods or healthy options,” she said. “If you have diabetes, which is very much related to what you eat, but there are limited healthy food options in your area, how can you improve your condition? … When you don’t feel safe walking in your neighborhood, how does that affect how you exercise?”

With COVID-19, sources like the CDC say, disparities like these go a long way in making African Americans more vulnerable to serious health implications, even death.

“It’s not that more African Americans have become infected with the virus, it’s that the underlying health conditions – like diabetes, asthma, hypertension, obesity and others – where the African American community is already disproportionately represented make the consequences of contracting COVID-19 potentially more severe,” Dr. Spears said.

Health disparities, she noted, are complicated and go back through generations of stress, unequal opportunities and options, and other socioeconomic factors that manifest in worsened health outcomes.

“Our immune system is a function of the communities we grew up in and where and how we live now, the environments we are a part of every day. Genetics and our early-life exposures have a profound impact on health, as do the stressors in your life, such as whether you have access to good food, transportation, child care, a safe place to live, financial security, healthcare or even the ability to take time off work when you’re sick,” Dr. Spears said. “It all adds up.”

Most of us in the U.S. have never been through something like COVID-19, so it’s challenging for everyone right now, she said, especially as communities continue testing the waters for a safe return to everyday life.

“For all of us, maybe it will be a time of reflection, to ask ourselves, what parts of public health’s greatest challenges can I do something about,” Dr. Spears said, “to help promote a healthier place in my own community, in the country and in the world.”

“It might be working on research and advocacy, supporting your community in some other way, or perhaps just being a little nicer to the cashier at your local store or the person who delivers your packages. Amid the many crises created by COVID-19, we also have an opportunity to learn and grow as a society … we have a chance to show how we care for each other through our actions, and to hopefully grow stronger as a collective.”

Covid African Americans
School of Public Health

Public health student graduates with high honors, high hopes for the future

By Sally Crocker

Julian Rangel1
Julian Rangel

Missing graduation during COVID-19 is especially bittersweet for students like Julian Rangel, who have worked hard to get to this moment but understand well the reasons why online commencement ceremonies are one of the safest options right now.

Rangel graduates this month with an MPH in Public Health Practice.

He and his HSC cohort group have grown close in the last two years, working together on academics, research, Public Health Minority Association (PHMA) initiatives and projects aimed at building a healthier North Texas community.

Rangel was recently awarded the HSC School of Public Health Leon Brachman Community Service Award as this year’s graduating public health student best exemplifying the ideals of academic excellence, leadership and community service. He has also been named into the Delta Omega national public health honor society.

He’s done a lot during his graduate program.

In addition to serving as an officer for PHMA and as a member of the SPH Equity, Diversity and Inclusion committee, Rangel has assisted One Safe Place (OSP) and HSC’s TESSA (Technology Enhanced Screening and Supportive Assistance) Program in providing services to North Texas victims of domestic and interpersonal violence (IPV).

During his graduate internship, he focused on interpersonal violence within the LGBTQ+ community, leading to new projects and programs for the Tarrant County Council on Family Violence (TCCFV).

“There’s a notion that interpersonal violence doesn’t happen much in the LGBTQ+ community, but it does,” Rangel said. “The prevalence rate is just as high, if not higher, than for cisgender, heterosexual women. For some people on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, it can range all the way up to 60%.”

Rangel developed a TCCFV resource guide on LGBTQ+ services for legal and advocacy support, faith based community referrals, shelters, help groups, churches, psychological resources, HIV testing services and other assistance programs.

He also helped OSP staff look inward to develop ways for enhanced outreach to this community. With the Resource Center out of Dallas, he developed a cultural humility-training program, fostering better understanding of LGBTQ+ terms, how to speak the language of this population, and how IPV affects this population. Follow-up surveys helped measure the training’s effectiveness. Action committee initiatives followed, to develop ways of demonstrating that OSP is a place for all of the community, Rangel said.

Within the last year, he has also been named to the Tarrant County Ending the HIV Epidemic Task Force, a CDC initiative rolled out by the Public Health Department, to reduce HIV transmission and infection.

“For a long time, our nation was very aware of HIV and focused on prevention,” Rangel said, “but HIV/AIDS has not been as prominent an issue in recent years. The task force is highlighting that this is still an important public health concern and is working to develop a comprehensive community plan covering four key areas: prevent, respond, diagnose and treat the virus.”

Rangel considers himself as being “pretty lucky” during the COVID-19 pandemic because he has a very supportive family living nearby, plus others to lean on in his academic, professional and personal networks.

He’s planning to stay in the Fort Worth area after graduation, continuing with some of the community service agencies he’s been involved with, as he looks for the ideal public health career opportunity.

“One silver lining in this pandemic, if there is one, is that there’s a lot of hope right now for public health,” Rangel said. “While many of us are missing the simple things we usually enjoy because of social distancing, plus being unable to celebrate graduation together, we also take seriously the jobs we have ahead of us to make a difference in the world through public health.”

Fort Worth leader and philanthropist Leon Brachman was a member of the 1992 steering committee that explored development of the SPH; he was instrumental in the school’s 1999 founding. Each year, one graduating SPH student is selected for an outstanding achievement award in Brachman’s name.

Julian Rangel1
School of Public Health

Best-selling author, healthcare leadership expert shares advice with MHA students

By Sally Crocker

Quint Studer
Quint Studer

U.S. businessman, entrepreneur, author and leadership consultant Quint Studer is a healthcare management icon that students learn about through case studies and examples of success.

Being able to hear Studer speak at conferences and large-scale events is eye opening.

To connect with him personally is something that many aspiring, young healthcare leaders might only wish for, yet a group of Master of Health Administration (MHA) graduate students at the HSC School of Public Health were recently able to do just that, thanks to closer connections being forged online by professionals and the education community working remotely in a new and different environment during COVID-19.

Dr. Stephan Davis, MHA Program Director, took a chance when he reached out to Studer through LinkedIn, asking if he would be interested in sharing perspectives on healthcare with students preparing to embark on their own careers in a new time for the industry.

The answer was yes, resulting in one of those rare, once-in-a-lifetime conversations that few healthcare leaders ever have the chance to engage in.

Studer has authored seven leadership-based books both inside and outside the healthcare industry. His books have ranked on Wall Street Journal and Business Week bestseller lists. He writes a syndicated, weekly, employee-development column for the Pensacola News Journal, is co-owner of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos Minor League Baseball team and also owns several businesses in the downtown Pensacola area.

His family of companies also includes the Pensacola nonprofit Studer Foundation and Studer Community Institute, helping people understand their community, and supporting local organizations that serve children, the disabled and the elderly.

He was honored with the first Marketing Visionary IMPACT Award in 2014 and has been named twice to Modern Healthcare’s 100 Most Influential People in Healthcare list.

Studer was relaxed and informal the day he met with HSC students, Zooming in from his Florida home office, with Blue Wahoos memorabilia, books and other personal items in the background.

He was prepared to share insights and predictions on the healthcare industry, but he also wanted to hear from students and faculty and was open to any and all types of questions.

As might be expected, many of those questions centered on where students could take their healthcare leadership degrees and experience in the midst of the pandemic.

The current growth in telemedicine services is important, Studer said, as he stressed finding the right fit and being committed to your own personal and professional development throughout your career.

He offered advice on success and what it looks like from different views, whether it’s your own, from the perspective of the doctor or healthcare administrator, or in the eyes of the patient.

80 percent of failure in a job, Studer offered, has to do with clarity.

“Share your priorities with your boss and others in leadership, so your list matches theirs,” he said. “Ask for feedback on what you’re doing well and what you could do better, and let them know you can take the feedback.”

A personal example was when he asked those questions of his wife, to get her “what’s your what” on something he could do better. “Make the bed!” was her immediate reply. The answers, he  advised, are not always what you might expect.

Studer emphasized the importance of mid-managers, noting that with 94-98 percent of healthcare employees reporting to a middle manager, the organizations with the best people in those positions “will win.”

Some key takeaways for students were questions to ask as a healthcare leader: am I hiring right, am I developing right, am I getting engagement, are we achieving outcomes and meeting our goals and mission.

Being self-aware, coachable, flexible and open to change are also important, especially now as the healthcare industry responds to COVID-19.

Studer was optimistic on his vision for graduate students, concluding, “The best part about the future of healthcare is you, your diversity, your energy and your passion.”

“Our students and faculty really connected with his message and the examples he shared from his 30-plus years in the industry. We hope to have more opportunities moving forward, as our classes continue online in response to COVID-19 social distancing, to engage with other healthcare experts in this way as well,” said Dr. Arthur Mora, HSC Chair of Health Behavior and Health Systems.

Students described the opportunity to meet with Studer as insightful, thoughtful, inspiring and encouraging.

Daniel Figueroa said she learned that, “I must make myself indispensible to the organization where I work. Clear communication on what makes me a successful addition to the company is easily attainable by asking leadership the following: a year from now, if I exceed your expectations, what exactly will I have accomplished?”

“Be kind to yourself, be confident and vocalize your opinion, and make yourself indispensable,” summarized student Chiamaka Udoye.

“The HSC MHA program is so grateful for the time Quint Studer spent with us,” Dr. Davis said. “He brought tremendous perspective to our students and faculty, consistent with his values of generosity, learning, mentorship and giving back to others. We were very lucky to engage with this extraordinary healthcare, community and thought leader.”

Quint Studer
School of Public Health

HSC researcher weighs the options, benefits of mobile mental health technologies for patients during COVID-19 and beyond

By Sally Crocker

Mental Health
Desktop and mobile health technologies have emerged as a real bright spot during the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping patients connected with their health providers as an alternative to in-office visits.

Mental health technologies have come to the forefront recently as viable options for support of psychiatric disorders, linking patients with physicians, therapies and help networks via their smartphones and handheld, electronic devices.

These types of mental health tools and applications gained a boost in April when the FDA eased regulations and released updated guidelines recognizing their use as a means of reducing contact and potential exposure during the pandemic.

Walters Headshot 2
Dr. Scott Walters

In a new research report published by Psychiatric Research and Clinical Practice, HSC School of Public Health Regents Professor Scott Walters, PhD, and colleague Steven J. Ondersma, PhD, from Wayne State University, provide timely advice for clinicians considering mental health applications for their patients.

“While we didn’t envision when we wrote the article how much telehealth and digital solutions would grow in importance during 2020, the recommendations we give are very much in synch with current guidance for patients who cannot be seen in person during COVID-19,” Dr. Walters said.

The two researchers have a background in technology-delivered assessment and behavioral and motivational health interventions.

Their paper gives an overview of the ways computer and mobile technologies have been used to treat substance use, smoking, depression, anxiety, sleep and eating disorders and other conditions, to help patients self-manage, connect with supportive care resources, track symptoms and triggers, develop and practice new skills, set goals and build healthier lifestyle habits.

The authors also review ways that mental health providers can evaluate evidence-based, technology-delivered interventions from an application development standpoint and with regard to security and privacy, effectiveness, ease of use, compatibility with medical record systems and cost.

“We found approximately 1,400 apps promoting different aspects of mental health. This underscores the key role that providers play in recommending these tools to people who need them,” Dr. Walters said. “It’s crucial for clinicians to understand and apply the same rigor in evaluating these tools as they would other mental health interventions, according to the best fit and quality for their patients.”

The recent proliferation of mental health apps could be compared to the many choices in COVID-19 masks that consumers are now finding online, Dr. Walters said.

“Trying to evaluate can be a challenge with so many options. Which one is most effective? Most practical? How much does it cost? The history is so short, that there are sometimes not enough user ratings or qualified reviews to know. The expert must make a recommendation based on their judgment,” he pointed out.

There’s no doubt that technology has been rapidly transforming healthcare in recent years, and now during the pandemic, it seems that mental health care will be reshaped significantly by social distancing and online options, Dr. Walters said.

“Less strict FDA regulations can be a good-bad thing – good if the interventions are really effective in helping patients,” he said.

In the past, providers might recommend homework like journaling or similar assignments to help their patients continue therapies between office visits. Now there are other options, including many that people can access on their own.

Regardless of the methods, however, the important role of mental health providers remains the same – in a new and changing environment, their knowledge and expertise is key in guiding patients to the right tools.

“We have 100 years of research on traditional treatment methods – yes, psychiatry is that old – with about 10 or 20 years of experience in apps and web-based tools, so there’s still more to explore,” Dr. Walters said.

“COVID-19 presents an interesting opportunity for mental health professionals to guide their patients as they make important decisions.”

Mental Health
School of Public Health

To go or not to go? So many questions on navigating the health system during COVID-19

By Sally Crocker

Drs Office Waiting

The gradual rollback of COVID-19 social distancing guidelines in Texas and across the U.S. has many vulnerable populations, including adults 65 and over and those with underlying health conditions, asking questions.

This is an especially scary time for our aging population and those dealing with chronic medical conditions, says Kayla Fair, DrPH, MPH, BSN, RN, HSC Assistant Professor of Public Health Education.

K Fair
Dr. Kayla Fair

Prior to joining the HSC School of Public Health, Dr. Fair has done “a little bit of everything” as a nurse caring for patients in settings that include critical care, pediatrics and transplant, as well as working to improve the health of communities as both a researcher and practitioner.

“Older adults and those managing chronic medical conditions may experience challenges navigating the many recent changes in our healthcare system in response to COVID-19, including transitions to telehealth visits,” Dr. Fair said. “This can be further complicated if they are not comfortable with technology and/or online health platforms, or have limited access to computer or internet service.”

“As a nurse, I have had several conversations with family members and friends about whether they should go to previously scheduled appointments now or wait it out. Ultimately, this is a conversation that patients should be having with their providers, as every situation is unique. Your provider’s office can supply additional information about the best course of action.”

Sometimes a phone call can take care of prescription refills and other needs between office appointments.

Patients should also utilize the expertise of other healthcare team members, including local pharmacists, Dr. Fair said.

“Your pharmacist is another good resource for medication questions and the specifics on your insurance plan’s approved refill schedules. The pharmacy may also have information on discounts or prescription coupons to help with out-of-pocket costs.”

Providers are continuing to give updated guidance, especially now as communities move into the summer months, on how appointments are being managed, what to do on arrival, whether patients should wait in the car until they are called, how companions and special assistance accommodations are being addressed, whether masks and gloves should be worn to the office, if temperature checks are required at the door, and what to do if you have any cold, flu, COVID-19 or other potentially infectious symptoms before or on the day of an appointment.

“It’s an important time to communicate with your provider, especially for those who may be immunocompromised, recovering from surgery or undergoing chemotherapy, radiation or other cancer treatment, and any patient with questions,” Dr. Fair said.

“I am concerned about recent reports that many patients are delaying or avoiding emergency medical care due to fears about being exposed to COVID 19.  If at any time you feel that you or a loved one is experiencing a life threatening or rapidly deteriorating health status, please seek care immediately. Do not delay,” Dr. Fair advised.

Signs and symptoms that you or someone you know may be in need of immediate medical care can include shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chest or abdominal pain, facial drooping or uncontrolled bleeding.

Any concerning change in health status should be addressed immediately. Call 911 for any life-threatening emergency.

Resources for high-risk groups, including those older than 65 and those managing chronic health conditions during COVID-19, include:

CDC Recommendations for High Risk Groups, for adults over 65, people with asthma or chronic medical conditions, and HIV patients.

When to Seek Emergency Care – never avoid emergency rooms or wait to see doctors if you feel your symptoms are truly serious

American Heart Association: What Heart Patients Should Know About Coronavirus, for patients with heart disease.

American Cancer Society: Coronavirus, COVID 19 and Cancer website for cancer survivors.

American Diabetes Association: Coronavirus and Diabetes for individuals with diabetes.

US Department of Health and Human Services: Interim Guidance for COVID 19 and Persons with HIV.

Stay Safe and Informed about Coronavirus Disease, offering resources and weekly webinars/information sessions for patients with chronic lung conditions.

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: Coronavirus: What People with Asthma Need to Know, for those with asthma and allergies.

The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth Center for Geriatrics, an interdisciplinary Center guided by values and committed – through education, research and patient care – to improving the quality of life and promoting optimal aging for older adults.

Caregiver Action Network: COVID 19 and Family Caregiving, a resource for caregivers, including guidance on communicating with medical providers.

Alzheimer’s Association: Coronavirus: Tips for Dementia Caregivers, offering coronavirus resources for caregivers of dementia patients.

Drs Office Waiting
School of Public Health

SPH names 11 honorees to Delta Omega Public Health Honor Society

By Sally Crocker

Delta Omega Logo

This year, two HSC School of Public Health alumni, one outstanding Tarrant County community member and eight graduate students are being inducted into Delta Omega National Honor Society, Alpha Sigma Chapter, recognizing and encouraging public health education, practice, research and related professional achievements.

Alumni Honorees

Brittany MarshallDr. Brittany Marshall
Dr. Marshall is a CDC Foundation Program Manager based in Atlanta who also serves as Adjunct Assistant Professor of Clinical Research and Leadership for George Washington University.

Dr. Marshall has held various public health leadership positions during her career, including as past Chair of the American Public Health Association (APHA) Student Assembly, representing 7,500 public health students on APHA’s Executive Board.

She has been named as an Emerging Leader by the Society for the Analysis of African American Public Health Issues; was presented with the YoungGov40 Award from Young Government Leaders Atlanta; was recently named as a “40 Under 40 in Public Health Leader” by the deBeaumont Foundation; and was selected as a 2019 “Top 10 Outstanding Atlantan.”

Dr. Marshall currently holds an APHA Executive Board position, with term ending in 2023.

Kent Palmore
Palmore holds a Bachelor of Biomedical Science degree from Tarleton State University and a Master of Health Administration degree from HSC. He has seven years of experience in healthcare, developing, coordinating, implementing and facilitating continuous quality improvement activities.

Palmore was recently named as a Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality (CPHQ).

His primary focus is on healthcare quality, monitoring and interventions for Value-Based Purchasing, Hospital Acquired Conditions (HAC) Reduction Programming and Hospital Readmission Reduction Programs.

Palmore’s work on CMS Core Measures and the HAC Reduction Program contributed to Baylor Scott and White – All Saints Medical Center’s 2018 five-star hospital rating, recognizing the highest quality of patient safety for a non-profit, acute care facility.

Palmore has also mentored HSC MHA and MPH students in healthcare improvement and quality, to build a new generation of SPH students prepared to enter the healthcare workforce.

He was named SPH MHA Alumnus of the Year in 2014.

Community Honoree – Misty Wilder

Misty WilderHSC Healthy Start Program Director Misty Wilder is Chair of the Tarrant County Infant Health Network, Co-Chair of the Tarrant County Birth Equity Institute and has taken on numerous other community leadership roles during her career.

Nominated to Delta Omega as a “leader in the Tarrant County public health and MCH field” by SPH Assistant Professor Dr. Erika Thompson, Wilder serves as a site supervisor for HSC MPH students.

“Misty is dedicated to reducing disparities for African American mothers and babies, as well as lifting up Black health professionals in the field. Her dedication to reducing health disparities in our community is an inspiration and motivation,” Dr. Thompson said.

“I’ve also seen Misty train our MPH students – she provides them with excellent networking and professional development opportunities and truly mentors our students to succeed,” Dr. Thompson added.

“Misty is the personification of a public health leader in Tarrant County, and I could not speak of her more highly – she is a wonderful collaborator and strong public health advocate.”

Student Delta Omega Honorees

The 2020 SPH Delta Omega student inductees are Julia Aiken, David Kauvar, Joy Jackson, Traci Murray, Michael Petrus-Jones, Idara Akpan, Julian Rangel and Smriti Maskey.

Julia AikenJulia Aiken
MPH student Julia Aiken has assisted the HSC Pharmacotherapy Department with mental health outcomes analysis for cancer patients and has assisted in collaborations with the North Texas Eye Research Institute on a pediatric vision screening study.

She authored a United Way of Tarrant County Community Needs Assessment, assisting community members with secondary data to inform their work on behalf of the local community.

During her academic career, Aiken has been committed to research and projects aimed at reducing sexual health disparities.

Her work has led to presentations at APHA and the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality annual conference.

She also initiated a project with data from the National Survey of Family Growth, to explore sexual coercion and assault of men, and the respective association to health outcomes.

Idara Akpan
Second-year MCH student Idara Akpan was nominated for Delta Omega by SPH faculty member and MCH Program Director Dr. Erika Thompson.

“I have had the privilege of teaching Idara in three courses, serving as her faculty advisor for practice experience and as her program advisor,” Dr. Thompson said. “Idara was previously a pharmacist in Nigeria before entering our public health program. Her passion for addressing health disparities and needs is what drove her to training in public health.”

“Idara is thoughtful, inquisitive and driven to succeed. What I appreciate most is that she is not here just to get a grade, but rather to have a meaningful understanding of the issue at hand,” Dr. Thompson noted.

“She has also done phenomenal work with her practice experience, engaging with the refugee population to understand health disparities among this group. Moreover, Idara goes above and beyond to receive additional training outside the classroom, including with MCH organizations, as well as lectures and other events. She is going to be an outstanding member of the public health workforce, and I look forward to seeing her future career.”

Dr. Joy Jackson
Jackson holds a PhD in Microbiology and currently serves as Assistant Professor of Practice in the UT-Arlington Biology Department.

She previously served as Assistant Professor of Biology for the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

Dr. Jackson became interested in a public health career as a way of building on her laboratory experience to research, analyze, conduct surveillance and create ways of decreasing and eventually eliminating bacterial and viral spread in communities.

With a desire to play an integral role in building healthier communities, she has been recognized for her work with robotics training for 6th to 8th-grade math/science teachers and as a STEM Saturday Instructor.

She has also been involved with Million Women Mentors: Advancing Women and Girls in STEM Careers Through Mentoring; Ladies STEMulated to Learn (Girls in STEM); and was named as a University of Arkansas, Pine Bluff, Faculty Honoree for her teaching, mentoring and community outreach.

Lt. Col. Dr. David Kauvar
Lieutenant Colonel Kauvar currently serves as Attending Vascular Surgeon and Associate Professor of Surgery for the U.S. Army Medical Corps, and as Officer-In-Charge and Surgeon, Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan, Task Force 115th Combat Support Hospital, Camp Cropper, Iraq.

SPH Senior Associate Dean Dr. Matt Nolan Adrignola nominated Lt. Col. Kauvar for Delta Omega in recognition of his research on morbid obesity and his other work in public health.

As a vascular surgeon, Dr. Kauvar treats complex patient conditions reflecting a cross section of the world’s most pressing public health concerns, including smoking, hypertension, obesity and diabetes.

“He is an individual who embodies strong family values, a sense of duty and self-sacrifice for his county,” Dr. Adrignola noted, “and possess an unyielding commitment to military medicine and graduate medical education.”

Smriti Maskey
Smriti Maskey, a second-year HSC MPH student with concentration in Maternal and Child Health, began examining public health issues affecting maternal and child health populations while living and working in Nepal.

At HSC, she has led an innovative project to explore sexual health needs among adolescent patients and has been an outstanding student in her MCH classes – “a true pleasure to have in the classroom and asks critical questions,” according to nominating faculty member Dr. Erika Thompson.

Maskey has been involved in local community trainings on MCH topics and has worked with the HSC Pediatrics Department to explore HPV vaccination, adolescent sexual and reproductive health, and other child health issues.

“She is a stellar student in the classroom, always giving 100 percent to her work. She will make an outstanding public health professional,” Dr. Thompson said. “I have been impressed with how Ms. Maskey is able to integrate her past international public health experiences with the principles and topics discussed in class – this has provided for rich discussions with her fellow classmates.”

Maskey was awarded a Dean’s Scholarship to pursue her MPH degree and has since worked with different SPH faculty members on grant applications and other research activities.

She has volunteered for the local MLK Community Center, Tarrant Area Food Bank, Trinity Habitat for Humanity and others.

Maskey was one of three SPH students selected for the Texas Public Health Association’s oral competition at the group’s 2020 education conference.

She is currently working on a manuscript in collaboration with faculty from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and is in discussions with a Victoria University PhD candidate on a public health cohort study to be conducted in Nepal.

Traci MurrayTraci Murray, PhD, BSN
Dr. Murray began the HSC MPH Professional Option degree program while working in a remote New Mexico community for the United States Public Health Service (USPHS) Indian Health Service, providing culturally appropriate outpatient and family education focused on health promotion and disease prevention.

She has been recognized with the USPHS Achievement Medal for her work as a Nurse Educator.

Dr. Murray has also worked as a Public Health Associate for the CDC.

During her career, she has been deployed twice to Florida’s State Bureau of Epidemiology for Zika Response, and was deployed during her HSC MPH program last year to the Texas-Mexico border to assist refugee populations.

She is a local chapter member of NAACP, and focused her PhD dissertation on the role of faith-based organizations on African American health outcomes.

Dr. Murray completed the MPH in 19 months, as a full-time student in a part-time program while on full-time, active duty for the USPHS.

Without breaks, she managed a deployment to the border, relocated from New Mexico back to Texas, and transitioned into a new USPHS administrative role.

Michael Petrus JonesMichael Petrus-Jones
After earning a BA in Psychology, Petrus-Jones pursued clinical mental health experience, holding positions as a psychiatric nursing assistant for a state hospital and as a research assistant for a psychiatric clinical trials company.

He began HSC graduate studies in 2015, earned his Master of Science in Medical Sciences in 2016 and began medical school that fall. He is now a 4th year DO/MPH dual degree student graduating in May 2020.

Petrus-Jones will begin pediatric residency this summer, with emphasis on community outreach, advocacy, mental health, diversity/inclusion in medicine and treating underserved populations.

He was inducted into the national Gold Humanism Honor Society and has dedicated his career so far to serving vulnerable populations, such as the LGBTQ community and underserved children.

He has been a member of the HSC SPH Academic Community Partnerships Advisory Board since 2017, and as the Board’s first student member, has helped provide student insight into questions concerning public health curriculum and community outreach.

In 2019, Petrus-Jones helped organize a statewide LGBTQ medical/healthcare conference for Texas medical schools and health science centers.

He served as President of the HSC LGBT and Allies Association during the 2017-2018 academic year, expanding the organization to include student representatives and members from programs outside the medical school, including the SPH.

While at HSC, he has given many volunteer hours to health outreach and education programs for local children, including health fairs, after-school programs, bicycle safety events, underinsured medical evaluations and high school health careers mentorship events.

Julian Rangel1Julian Rangel
Rangel, graduating MPH–Public Health Practice student, who also holds a BS in Biology with minor in Political Science.

He is currently a Development and Engagement Public Health Intern at Tarrant County One Safe Place.

Rangel is a member of the HSC Public Health Student Government Association and has served as a School of Public Health Ambassador since 2019, fostering relationships with potential and newly-admitted SPH students, answering questions for those interested in enrolling, and helping to create and promote SPH media content, while supporting other student-oriented efforts.

Rangel recently joined the HSC TESSA (Technology Enhanced Screening and Supportive Assistance) program, supporting victims of interpersonal violence.

He has also collaborated on an LGBTQ service panel for the Tarrant County Council on Family Violence, to assess knowledge, beliefs and attitudes related to the LGBTQ community and domestic violence/intimate partner violence, and has worked on other local efforts in this area.

Rangel is a recent member to the Tarrant County HIV Taskforce, Prevention Workgroup.

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School of Public Health

New MHA Director joins HSC at critical time in healthcare leadership

By Sally Crocker

Stephan Davis HscAt 17, Stephan Davis, DNP, MHSA, FACHE, left St. Louis for New York City to study jazz performance. It wasn’t long, though, before he was so moved by the people and needs he encountered there that his career path and life ambitions turned to serving others through nursing and ultimately healthcare leadership and education.

“Music seemed the most important thing in my life back then, but as I became exposed to some of the greatest needs in public health, I wanted to be part of the solution,” said the new Assistant Professor and Director of HSC’s Master of Health Administration (MHA) program.

Dr. Davis has joined HSC at a most significant time, as the world looks to healthcare and public health for guidance, answers and leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Perhaps more than ever before,” he said, “professionals in these fields are being called to lead the world in new ways to transform healthcare delivery and discoveries.”

In his new HSC role, Dr. Davis works with graduate students preparing to lead health systems, long-term care organizations, hospitals and health-related corporations. He will also work with local, state and national communities, alumni and partnering organizations that provide SPH students with internships and experiential learning opportunities.

During a 2019 campus interview, Dr. Davis saw a familiar Martin Luther King quote on healthcare and equality in the School of Public Health and experienced “one of those moments when you realize you might really belong somewhere,” he said.

The quote took him back to his early dreams as a young saxophone player who became so inspired to help others that he changed his life to pursue nursing.

“The works and words of MLK and other leaders of his time have great significance to this day with regard to social justice and health equity for all, and were especially meaningful to me as a young person wanting to do my part in creating positive change for the world,” Dr. Davis said.

From those early NYC days to the present, he has blended a unique harmony of musical inspiration with a desire to build healthier communities through leadership, advocacy, teaching and service.

Today, he holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, a Master’s in Health Systems Administration (MHSA) from Georgetown, and a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree in Executive Leadership and Policy from Yale University.

These educational and career experiences have led Dr. Davis to different professional opportunities with hospitals, health systems, the insurance industry, healthcare task forces and national boards.

Along with his new role at HSC this spring, he also assumes a key national leadership position with the American College of Healthcare Executives as Chair of the ACHE LGBTQ Forum, advancing diversity and inclusion in healthcare leadership.

He views this as a critical position right now, given that historically underrepresented and excluded groups have been most vulnerable to the devastating health and economic effects of COVID-19.

“The pandemic has really brought home the need for health system and public health leaders,” he said. “There has never been a more important time to be called to lead change and advance health.”

Because great passions are never left far behind, Dr. Davis has always found ways to keep music in his life, and especially so during COVID-19.

He still plays and composes, and after moving to his new home in the DFW area, is now taking comfort in playing saxophone from his balcony for neighbors that he looks forward to meeting in person soon.

“COVID-19 has reminded me of how much music can uplift the soul at challenging times,” he said.

He’s experienced some real musical highs during his lifetime, and up until now it’s been hard to compete with being called “Coltrane” by the late, great Aretha Franklin after Dr. Davis performed “Amazing Grace” in prelude to her finale at a 2009 Kennedy Center MLK celebration.

“There are moments when everything just comes together and seems so right, like the way I felt then and do now as part of the North Texas and HSC community,” Dr. Davis said.

“For me today, those initial inspirations are harmonized with my current melody and mission to improve public health and the well-being of communities locally, nationally and around the world.”

Stephan Davis Hsc