Dr. Stephan Davis could never have predicted the tumultuous world events that would impact his new leadership role with the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) LGBTQ Forum.
As the HSC Assistant Professor and School of Public Health MHA Program Director prepared for his incoming year in this important, national position, getting ready to serve as Chair from April 2020-March 2021, the world was reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, special attention was being paid to health inequities dramatically threatening the lives of African Americans and other vulnerable populations, and the call to end racism and cultural divide was moving communities across neighborhoods and continents to take action.
This year’s LGBTQ Pride Month has never had more meaning.
“Pride Month has always been special for me as an adult,” Dr. Davis shared in a recent ACHE blog post. “Having grown up as part of a Midwestern Black family with traditional values, I was raised to believe that being gay was morally wrong, and I was required by my parents to attend conversion therapy in effort to alter my orientation.”
“It was only as an adult that I was able to begin to embrace all of who I am. For me, this is what National Pride Month is all about.”
Pride Month is a way of bringing people together each June to honor the work that has been done over the last several decades, and continues now, to raise awareness, advocate for and protect LGBTQ human rights.
With experience as a nursing leader, healthcare executive and educator, Dr. Davis said he has witnessed “tremendous change” since he began working in hospitals 15 years ago.
“We see organizations today making bold commitments to LGBTQ inclusion, and over the years we have seen increasing numbers of LGBTQ healthcare executives reaching the highest levels of leadership while being ‘out,’ as accrediting bodies and other healthcare organizations have strengthened their inclusion policies and efforts.”
The national Forum that Dr. Davis now leads has been a part of that change, established four years ago by ACHE in its continuing diversity and inclusion endeavors.
“The progress in healthcare that I’ve seen over my own years of experience has been inspiring, but we still have far to go,” Dr. Davis said.
“As a Black gay man, this Pride Month feels a bit different. In this moment, I believe it is clear that no group will advance and realize true equity without the partnership of others.”
Dr. Davis said he hopes that Pride Month 2020 will encourage dialogue focused on how people of all perspectives can be better allies, build broad coalitions and advocate for justice for all communities and individuals.
“For members of all historically marginalized and excluded groups to be safe from victimization, achieve health, realize their full potential and contribute to society, we must be allies with each other and work together to advance equity, inclusion and belonging for all people,” he said. “Our voices collectively can go farther and have more impact when we work together.”
There was a big celebration in Kuwait when new HSC graduate Maurico Ripley’s diploma arrived with the daily mail.
Ripley is a Chief Warrant Officer 3 (CW3) who has been deployed to the Middle East for most of his graduate program, studying with the HSC School of Public Health online – and today, he proudly holds an MPH degree with a Graduate Certificate in Food Security.
He has a big job as Army Reserve Senior Food Safety Officer, managing teams that inspect all food products coming in to base stations from the U.S.
Since the military procures items like fresh milk, poultry, fruits, vegetables and more from local contacts within the Middle East, it is also CW3 Ripley’s job to audit food-manufacturing facilities and ensure that U.S. Forces food rules and regulations are met.
“I basically act as USDA/FDA Inspector in the Middle East,” he said.
At some point further down the road, he hopes this experience will lead him to a similar position at the federal level back home, possibly as a U.S. based FDA Consumer Safety Officer.
When CW3 Ripley is not on deployment status, he serves as a Health Inspector for the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District (SAMHD). He has been with SAMHD since 2007 and with the Army Reserves since 2001.
“So far, I have deployed quite a bit, spending time in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan,” he said, so it was not a surprise to be finishing his last HSC class and preparing for graduation this year while once again serving his country overseas.
Ripley was deployed at about the time that COVID-19 began to spread throughout the world, arriving in Kuwait in mid-March, as military public health leaders were advising on appropriate measures for U.S. troops’ safety during the pandemic. He expects to return home to San Antonio sometime in December.
It was an exciting moment and a real feeling of accomplishment for the officer when his HSC degree arrived.
It was also time for a party, as friends from his unit hosted a cookout and shared their congratulations with a card and cake.
Adding the MPH to his other academic experience – bachelor’s degrees in Geography and Criminal Justice – has expanded his knowledge in public health, Ripley said, providing insight into the ways that public health policy, epidemiology, biostatistics, food safety and public health leadership can all inform his work.
“I had been looking for an affordable online MPH program when I found HSC,” he said. “HSC is recognized as having an excellent program in Texas.”
“Being able to complete this higher level of education has given me greater perspectives, opportunities to do more in my current work and career progression down the road, and has earned recognition from my peers for what the degree means. It’s been a really rewarding experience.”
The world is having some important conversations right now.
The burden of COVID-19, especially on communities of color, has been heavy over the last several months. Health and social inequities, racism and basic human rights have taken center stage as problems that all citizens must address.
In recent weeks, one of the leading voices standing for change has been the American Nurses Association (ANA).
The month of May has typically served as a time to honor the many contributions of these healthcare professionals and to recognize the mother of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale.
200 years from her birth, nurses are today following in her bold and compassionate footsteps to stand united in advocating for a new, healthier, more just and inclusive future for all communities and within the profession.
Nurses from around the U.S. recently joined HSC faculty leaders and ANA President Ernest J. Grant, PhD, RN, FAAN, for a National Nurses Month webinar focused on leading change and advancing health during the current, unprecedented times.
HSC’s MHA Online and MPH Online faculty hosted the virtual educational event, opened by the University’s Vice Provost of Academic Innovation, Jessica Rangel, MSL, BSN.
Special guest Dr. Grant shared important national nursing perspectives and words of support for all the efforts of nurses, in both everyday situations and today’s new normal.
Drs. Davis and Fair addressed the importance of nursing leadership in this pivotal moment, along with the various educational and professional pathways available to help nurses prepare for new challenges.
Discussions focused on essential competencies for nursing leadership and public health; career planning and development; individual talents and strengths; advanced academic degrees; the importance of self-awareness; and developing personal mission, vision and values statements.
“Given the increasing complexity of the healthcare system, nurses are being called to lead, but that responsibility may not always come with the education and training needed to support their work,” Dr. Davis said. “One of the goals of this program was to give nurses information, examples and a view into different educational and professional pathways that can help them prepare.”
Supporting and advocating for enhanced ethnic and gender diversity in the workforce was also an important focus of the webinar.
“At this critical time in our nation, nurses have a responsibility to use our voices to call for change,” Dr. Grant said. “This pivotal moment calls for each of us to ask ourselves which side of history we want to be on and the legacy we will pass on to future generations.”
Being able to provide this online educational experience for nurses, Dr. Davis said, was a great way to connect with the profession, engage in meaningful, national dialogue and offer what is planned to be just the beginning of more HSC-sponsored healthcare leadership workshops.
“At a time when there are so many challenges in healthcare and our world,” Dr. Davis said, “investing in leadership development opportunities for members of the most trusted profession in America is very important to improving the health of the public.”
When Bruce Crow, PsyD, MPH, retired after 30 years of active duty as a U.S. Army Colonel and military psychologist, he was still in the prime of his career and seeking answers to one of the biggest problems plaguing those in the uniformed services today – suicide.
According to the American Psychological Association, approximately 17 U.S. veterans die every day by suicide, and among active-duty troops, suicide rates are on the rise. Over the past decade, these growing numbers have raised public and professional concerns, with suicide now being the second-leading cause of death in the military.
“In many ways, suicide is not well understood,” Dr. Crow said. “As a clinical psychologist, I was trained to focus on the individual, but there is perspective to be gained by studying the problem from a broader, population health approach, especially as relates to clusters, communities and groups, like those developed among a military base, unit or team.”
Being able to complete an MPH degree online through the HSC School of Public Health provided Dr. Crow with the opportunity to study suicide risk factors and prevention through the population health lens.
A number of important factors can be associated with risk, including social or environmental stressors, relationships, workplace issues, injuries and health conditions, sleep disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance use and others.
Dr. Crow enrolled in HSC’s MPH program while stationed in San Antonio, where he had served as Chief of Behavioral Medicine at Brooke Army Medical Center, completing the program in December 2019.
He now applies his public health training in a senior position with the Department of Veterans Affairs Suicide Prevention Program in Washington, D.C., as Associate Director, Program Evaluation.
Dr. Crow is being honored this year with one of the top School of Public Health graduation awards, for exemplary leadership and service to the school and community.
In an interesting twist, he is no relation to the man for whom the annual SPH award is named – Bob J. Crow, former Amon G. Carter Charitable Foundation Executive Director and member of the Steering Committee founding the SPH in Fort Worth more than 20 years ago – but the two do seem to demonstrate the same values and commitment in their work and contributions to community.
As a clinical psychologist, Dr. Crow’s work addressing uniformed services combat stress control, suicide prevention, life threatening behaviors, soldier shootings and post-incident behavioral health response began in the late 1990s.
For eight years, he served as Clinical Psychology Consultant to the U.S. Army Surgeon General in Washington, D.C., and spent four years as Director of the Warrior Resiliency Program for active duty Army personnel at the Fort Sam Houston military base.
Prior to his position with the VA, he served as Senior Fellow for the Military Suicide Research Consortium at the University of Washington in Seattle.
He is the recipient of numerous awards.
“Being able to complete my MPH demystified public health and showed how the broader components of this approach to the problem of suicide can offer insight to complement and expand what might be done for prevention on an individual basis,” Dr. Crow said.
“While there have been conflicting research findings, it does not appear that suicide is directly related to combat or deployment,” he said, “making it all the more crucial to get to the real issues behind the problem.”
As Dr. Crow and colleagues continue their critical work in this area, he said he is glad to have gained formal public health training and a view of population health that adds to his clinical psychology background.
“Being able to apply the public health perspective has confirmed for me that pursuing my MPH was a good decision; it has opened up new ways of tackling solutions,” he said.
When Jialiang Liu was a little girl, she wanted to be just like her dad.
Her father is a pediatrician in China, and both parents have always encouraged their only child to go for her personal best, even if it meant spending years away from home to pursue graduate school in another country.
“I always dreamed of going into medical practice like my dad, but along the way I discovered public health and research science,” said the graduating HSC student who has spent seven years in Fort Worth, working first on an MPH and now the completion of her PhD in Biostatistics through the School of Public Health.
“Now we are both doctors, with the same goal in mind, just in different types of practice,” she said. “The role of a pediatrician and a public health scientist are complementary, in that they both focus on improving health, whether it be the health of individual patients or larger populations and communities.”
Commencement ceremonies are online this year, and while Liu’s parents won’t be traveling to Texas due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, the family will still be celebrating this proud moment – just remotely.
Liu is graduating with high honors as this year’s SPH Dean’s Award winner for scholarly excellence in research.
She has also published two peer-reviewed articles in the scholarly journal Nutrients with Dr. Tao and other colleagues, analyzing essential dietary intake among minority women of childbearing age and magnesium intake among Hispanic adults.
In addition, she’s worked on projects impacting probationers, geriatric patients and vulnerable populations through the Tarrant County Community Supervision and Corrections Department, HSC’s m.chat health coaching technology program and the HSC Center for Geriatrics.
Liu first became interested in public health as an undergraduate in China, where she provided statistical support for epidemiologic research at a public health institute.
She found that she really liked biostatistics, deciding to pursue that field to improve lives through quantitative research.
She wanted to see more of life in other countries as part of her graduate studies, ultimately settling on Texas as an interesting place to be. When she found HSC, the journey began.
Liu hadn’t considered going for a PhD, but the encouragement she received from her SPH faculty advisor, Dr. Sumihiro Suzuki, early in her MPH program inspired her to take her talents one step further in making meaningful contributions to public health research.
“I never thought about one day working toward a PhD – it just wasn’t anything I ever considered,” she said.
She decided to go for it, and now her goal is to become a public health academic expert.
At this point, she is working on publishing her dissertation and presenting one of her dissertation topics at the upcoming Joint Statistical Meetings, one of the largest gatherings of statisticians held in North America.
Interacting online has pretty much become a way of life now for most people during the pandemic, and Liu said she’s ok with that, as long as it helps people stay safe and healthy.
“Family Zoom get-togethers, my dissertation defense, commencement, job interviews and professional activities are all different at this point,” she said.
“When the time is right, I plan to take a little break to just enjoy my personal life a bit, maybe take a trip, see more places and experience more of the world before launching into my next steps.”
School 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.”
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.
“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.”
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.
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.”
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.
“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.”