SPH news

Posted Date: May 2, 2018

By Sally Crocker

Betsy Price Presentation 2

Mayor Betsy Price has been a tireless advocate for improving the health and well-being of Fort Worth residents, from backing the Blue Zones and FitWorth initiatives for a healthier community, to supporting a Smoke-Free Fort Worth and leading the charge for safe neighborhoods, bike sharing, safe roads, physical activity, children’s literacy and an engaged public.

Betsy Price Presentation 5To recognize her many contributions to the community, UNT Health Science Center’s Alpha Sigma Chapter of Delta Omega Honor Society in Public Health has awarded Mayor Price with honorary membership.

“Honorary membership is presented to individuals who have made exceptional strides in public health,” said Dr. Dennis Thombs, UNTHSC School of Public Health Dean.  “Each year, we name certain students, faculty, alumni and select community members to this national honor society, to recognize the merit of their work and encourage further excellence and commitment in public health.”

Mayor Price was recognized at the May 1, 2018, Fort Worth City Council meeting by Dr. Thombs; Dr. Emily Spence-Almaguer, UNTHSC Associate Dean for Community Engagement and Health Equity; and Dr. Witold Migala, Associate Professor and President of the Delta Omega Alpha Sigma Chapter.

“UNT Health Science Center has been pleased to work in partnership with Mayor Price and local leaders on a number of healthy-community programs over the years, and we look forward to continuing our association,” Dr. Thombs said. “Our goals are the same, based on a desire to help our community thrive through improved quality of life for all.”

Posted Date: April 25, 2018

By Sally Crocker

Elizabeth Velarde 2

As a busy mom juggling graduate school, part-time employment, volunteering in the community and caring for her family, UNTHSC public health student Elizabeth Velarde understands the challenges that parents face when time is at a premium and it’s important to get things right.

Before coming to UNT Health Science Center to pursue her MPH in Maternal and Child Health, Velarde was a bilingual community educator for Family Compass, a North Texas nonprofit organization dedicated to equipping parents with the tools they need to build safe, healthy, stable families.

She trained as a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician in 2014 and has since been providing one-on-one instruction to parents on how to properly use child car seats.

“With funding through a State of Texas grant, a coworker and I created a car seat program for Family Compass when I worked there, and because I have such a personal, vested interest in the program, I have continued to stay on as a volunteer,” she said. “We distribute and help install free car seats at community events and teach parents about important safety issues. Statistics show that many parents are not using their child car restraints as intended and need help in getting it right. That’s where we come in.”

At any given event, Velarde and Family Compass staff distribute around 35 to 40 child car seats.

Elizabeth Velarde 1“That might not sound like a lot, but one appointment can sometimes take up to an hour. A family we recently served had a minivan and five kids. Installation can be a hot, sweaty job, especially with older cars, seat belts that won’t cooperate or just a tight fit,” she said.

Many parents are also unaware that car seats expire, generally about six years after the manufacture date.

Velarde met a family at one event who had been passing safety seats down from one child to the next; in setting up the replacements, she discovered that one had been expired for over 10 years.

“Most people are very compliant once they are trained. The issue usually is that they just don’t know all the guidelines,” she said. “I have a daughter who is 8 now, and I’m pretty sure I did everything wrong at first. There is just so much to learn as a parent.”

In addition to the community events, Velarde has also taught parent education classes at apartment complexes, PTA meetings, day care locations, homeless shelters, the county jail, anywhere she could connect with parents. Family Compass receives referrals from Child Protective Services and provides case management home visits to these families, as well as teen parents. The agency offers car seats for all clients and the community.

“It’s very rewarding to be able to reach so many different families and help meet their needs. Most parents have 100 things on their list and would love to focus more on areas like this, but they might also be facing the stress of putting food on the table, paying the rent, finding a job or a place to live, escaping domestic violence or other situations, so if we can help a little, it really means a lot,” she said. “We want everyone to leave safer than they came.”

For more information on child car safety, parents can visit the healthychildren.org website.

Posted Date: April 19, 2018

By Sally Crocker

Laura Phipps 3

A UNT Health Science Center public health student has developed a sustainable infection control and infectious waste management program for Phebe Hospital in Liberia, where one of the first known cases of Ebola virus in Liberia was diagnosed in 2014.

DrPH candidate Laura Phipps, MPH, CPH, RS, who graduates in May from the UNTHSC School of Public Health, traveled to Liberia as part of her major doctoral project, which included researching international guidelines for waste management systems in low-resource settings, constructing an assessment survey, collecting data through personal interviews and observation, developing written policies and procedures, and designing training programs for Phebe staff on appropriate waste management and infection control practices.

Phipps presented the first trainings on site for housekeeping and nursing staff, then developed a health care waste management plan and annotated training presentations for the hospital to continue the program on its own, updating as needed and ensuring that all new staff are oriented to the program as they are hired.

“When the Ebola outbreak brought international attention to Liberia and the Liberian health care system, agencies like the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent teams to Phebe Hospital to establish response systems that are still in place today. But over time, with staff changes and resources that are severely stretched, adherence to the systems decreased,” she said.

Laura Phipps 1“Phebe is one of Liberia’s oldest medical centers, and as part of the region’s county health system, is considered as a Level 2, mid-level hospital,” Phipps said. “Approximately 100-150 outpatients are seen each weekday, with 75 to 100 patients typically treated each day in the emergency room. The Phebe Hospital and School of Nursing compound is the site of not only the County Health Team, but also additional government and private health agencies and non-governmental organizations, making Phebe a vital part of Liberia’s health care delivery system, and making it crucial for the hospital to consistently follow a standardized protocol for infection control and safe waste management.”

Since Phebe Hospital has no Human Resources department, Phipps’ plan also addresses new employee training, continuing education processes and emergency event response.

“Liberia is now calling for hospitals to have standardized policies in writing for waste management, so it’s possible that the Phebe plan could be used as a template for other health care facilities in the region,” Phipps said.

Phipps’ interest in global public health sparked an earlier trip to Haiti, where she gained prior experience working with mobile clinic services in remote, underserved villages and provided maternal health trainings, in addition to conducting a community needs assessment to help inform future health care aid and initiatives for these populations.

“My experiences in Haiti helped me prepare for Liberia and really opened my eyes to the health and social issues in developing countries,” Phipps said. “What struck me as most significant was the resilience of both countries. They are among the poorest areas of the world, yet the people are remarkable in their ability to stay strong through difficulty and challenge. The value of going overseas and working in these countries is about being able to help, and it is life changing in the deeper understanding and concern that you gain by connecting with these people, seeing their lives and learning what they face in the context of health and survival.”

Posted Date: April 16, 2018

By Sally Crocker

This year’s UNT Health Science Center Research Appreciation Day (RAD) followed in its long tradition of featuring outstanding speakers, quality research, poster presentations and honors for student and team member achievements.

RAD is an institutional event encompassing medicine, public health and basic science. The program provides an opportunity for students, faculty and staff to share their research efforts with the campus community and the public.

The program encourages the development of joint research projects and increases the community’s awareness of the outstanding quality and range of research conducted at UNT Health Science Center.

This year’s School of Public Health awardees were:


Rad Thombs And 1st Place Winner 2018

First place winner Abdullah Mamun with SPH Dean, Dr. Dennis Thombs

1st Place Poster ($500)

Presenter: Abdullah Mamun

Title: Using Machine Learning Technique To Explore Factors Associated With Change In Quality Of Life Among Permanent Supportive Housing Residents


2nd Place Poster ($350)

Presenter: Alexis Rendon

Title: Differences By Depression Severity Category In Cigarette Smoking Among Low-Income Housing Residents


Rad Thombs And 3rd Place Winners 2018

Third place winners Armando L. Moreno (left) and Brandon Hoff (right) with Dean Thombs

3rd Place Poster ($200) – (TIE)

Presenter: Armando L. Moreno

Title: A Market-Based Approach To Improving Passive Surveillance Of Tuberculosis In Tarrant County



Presenter: Brandon Hoff

Title: The Association Between Enrollment In The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program And Household Food Security Status


Congratulations to all of the 2018 honorees from the School of Public Health and across the university. For the full list of UNTHSC winners, visit the RAD website.

Posted Date: March 30, 2018

By Sally Crocker

Week Of Service 2018 1 Week Of Service 2018 3 Week Of Service 2018 4

Students, faculty and staff from the UNT Health Science Center School of Public Health (SPH) recently gave their time and energy to help local non-profit organizations during the SPH Week of Service.

Week Of Service 2018 2

SPH volunteers assisted at the Tarrant Area Food Bank, First Street Methodist Mission and Community Food Bank, and organized a campus-wide, children’s book drive for the R.D. Evans Community Center.

“Being a part of the local community is important to us, and public health is very much about serving others and helping to build healthier communities,” said Dr. Dennis Thombs, SPH Dean. “These organizations touch the lives of so many, and it’s rewarding to work side-by-side with them, even if just for a day or a few hours, and be able to assist in their much-needed efforts.”

The mission of the Tarrant Area Food Bank is to empower communities to eliminate hunger by providing food, education and resources through innovation and collaboration. The Food Bank serves over 500,000 nutritious meals each week.

First Street Methodist Mission is dedicated to serving people in need in Fort Worth and other local areas by providing emergency food, clothing, infant formula, limited financial assistance and case management services in an atmosphere of respect and compassion.

The Community Food Bank is committed to “feeding families and feeding hope” by providing food, education, programs and resources to area families in need. The agency serves as both a food pantry, providing food directly to those in need, and a food bank, collecting and distributing food to hunger-relief charities and organizations.

Posted Date: March 19, 2018

By Sally Crocker

Oden and Hopkins

Dr. Melissa Oden with Russell Hopkins

SPH team leads this CDC-funded project

A quick reference guide to help small towns and rural communities prepare for potential disaster situations is now available for free download on four Texas websites and is being rolled out across the U.S. by a UNT Health Science Center public health professor and her team.

This Toolkit for Rural Communities is the result of a CDC grant through a Planners4Health partnership between the American Planning Association Texas Chapter and the Texas Public Health Association. It will be presented nationally at the 2018 Disaster Preparedness Summit of the National Association of County and City Health Officials in Atlanta and rolled out in May at the Texas Department of Emergency Management’s annual conference.

A team of students from the UNTHSC School of Public Health and the University of Texas at Arlington’s Urban Planning and Social Work departments, led by Dr. Melissa Oden, UNTHSC Assistant Professor and Public Health Practice Experience Liaison, developed this kit in response to the needs of Van Zandt County, Texas, after a series of seven devastating tornadoes hit the community – the lessons learned, and resulting recommendations, are applicable to any community preparing for or dealing with the aftermath of a disaster.

Based on months of study, focus groups, personal interviews and other community-based research, the kit offers advice on disaster planning, immediate response and long-term recovery, with chapters and special considerations for economic impact and funding, infrastructure, mobilizing supplies, insurance, health care and EMS services, volunteer management, emotional/spiritual and social services, animals and pets, communications, resource planning and team development.

“We are grateful to so many individuals who assisted in this process, especially the Van Zandt community members who shared feedback with the team on what they wish they had known beforehand and what they would recommend to others preparing for or potentially facing a disaster from fire, flood, tornado, hurricane or other life-threatening conditions,” Dr. Oden said.

Russell Hopkins, a contributor to the project who serves as Director of Public Health Emergency Preparedness for the Northeast Texas Public Health District (NET Health), serving Van Zandt and six other counties, said the importance of the Toolkit is that it gives “rural communities the ability to immediately start building a recovery team and, importantly, provides a sound strategy to follow, based on the science and principles used in public health.”

“This Toolkit allows public health to take a leadership role in the recovery process, ” Hopkins said. “We hope that communities both in Texas and beyond can benefit from this important resource.”

Posted Date: March 13, 2018

By Sally Crocker

MeganBhattiThe last few months have ushered in a whirlwind of change for UNTHSC School of Public Health student Megan Bhatti (MPH, Health Management and Policy), who is interning this spring in Washington, DC, for U.S. Congresswoman Kay Granger, representing the 12th District of Texas.

Bhatti applied for the internship the day before Thanksgiving and learned the very next week that she had been accepted.

She was assigned to start on January 8, which meant planning for a move in record time, in the midst of finals, end-of-semester projects and the holidays.

Luckily, a cousin who lives in the area offered a temporary place to stay until Bhatti could scope out housing.

With that covered, she still had the job of packing, making flight arrangements and getting everything settled at home for the next few months.

“It was exciting but also challenging in a lot of ways,” she said. “Just figuring out what to pack took some thought. Not only did I have to plan for colder weather, I also had to get four months’ of business clothes into just two suitcases.”

Bhatti is settled now in the DC scene, where days are busy attending briefings, answering citizen phone calls to Representative Granger’s office, hosting Capitol tours, running errands and working on special projects.

In between, she often finds time to sit in on Congressional hearings and attend various political events around town. Interns are encouraged to take advantage of the many different learning and networking opportunities available, to gain the most from their experience.

“So much of what you discover comes from being in DC itself,” Bhatti said. “Internships are what you make them. By keeping your eyes and ears open, and taking it all in, you learn a lot. Most people are also willing to give advice and answer questions if you ask, so it pays off to put yourself out there and engage with as many as you can.”

After graduation, Bhatti would like to work in health policy, analysis and advocacy.

“I’ve learned so much from my UNTHSC classes and relationships with my professors,” she said. “I first became interested in health policy after taking a class with Dr. Lykens, and later I was part of the 2017 spring legislative leadership class that visited the Texas State Capitol in Austin. Professor Ostensen’s public health law course also helped influence where I want to go in the future.”

By far, though, Bhatti said she believes that some of the most important things she’s learned as a student so far have come from outside the classroom.

“There’s no greater way to learn about health policy than by seeing it in action on the Hill,” she said.

Posted Date: March 7, 2018

By Sally Crocker

United Way logo


Assessment to Help Determine Priorities and Funding Allocations in the Community

United Way of Tarrant County has selected UNTHSC to conduct a comprehensive community needs assessment to uncover the most pressing social issues affecting the health and prosperity of the Tarrant County population.

This project will be led by researchers from UNTHSC’s School of Public Health (SPH) under the guidance of Dr. Emily Spence-Almaguer, Associate Dean for Community Engagement and Health Equity.

The research leadership team will include Danielle Rohr, MS, serving as Project Director, and Dr. Karen Bell, Assistant Professor of Health Behavior and Health Systems.

The community needs assessment is part of United Way of Tarrant County’s new strategic plan.

The results of the assessment, which will include in-depth, one-on-one interviews and focus groups with local leaders, civic representatives and citizens, will allow United Way of Tarrant County to determine priorities and future funding allocations to not only address the issues but to determine the root causes and solve them.

“This research will help us discover prominent issues that are having profound effects on the community and citizens’ health and prosperity,” said TD Smyers, President and CEO of United Way of Tarrant County. “We are proud to partner with UNT Health Science Center.”

The project is made possible by a $250,000 grant from the Sid Richardson Foundation. The foundation has focused their distribution of major grants to organizations that are dedicated to improving Texas communities. Findings from the assessment are expected in the fall of 2018.

“We are committed to engaging with the community through education, collaboration and research, to help address issues impacting the health and well-being of Tarrant County residents,” said Dr. Dennis Thombs, SPH Dean. “The research team brings extensive experience in community needs assessments and projects of this type, and the information to be discovered should be important in guiding future solutions for Tarrant County.”

United Way of Tarrant County has worked to improve the lives of those in the community for more than 95 years. Each year, United Way helps more than 300,000 people through its resources.


Posted Date: February 26, 2018

By Sally Crocker

Deepak PrabhakarDeepak Prabhakar, MD, MPH (Epidemiology), graduated from the UNTHSC School of Public Health (SPH) in 2006 and now serves as Director of Psychiatric Education at Henry Ford Health System, Detroit.

He is also Training Director for the Psychiatry Residency Program at Henry Ford Hospital/ Wayne State University and Clinical Assistant Professor at the Wayne State University School of Medicine.

As current President of the Michigan Council of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Dr. Prabhakar says that his education and later work experience at UNTHSC continue to influence all aspects of his work today.

“It was during courses like Intermediate and Advanced Epidemiology that certain principles of research were clearly laid out, principles that I continue to use not only in my work now but also while teaching my own classes,” he explained.

“At UNTHSC, I was also fortunate to work as a teaching assistant with wonderful professors and mentors,” he said. “This experience was especially helpful, as it set the foundation for some of the principles of adult learning that I have been using since. The valuable research experience I gained working on a major NIH-funded study, Cancer Risk in Workers Exposed to Oncogenic Viruses, related to lung cancer risk among workers in the meat and poultry industry, not only prepared me for the research I have been doing since, but also gave me a rare opportunity to interact with individuals across different parts of the country.”

Dr. Prabhakar’s initial role in the study was to conduct personal interviews consisting of about 250 questions each.

“As challenging as that might sound,” he said, “it was heartening to see that people really wanted to give their time and participate to help influence outcomes related to an industry in which their near and dear ones had spent their whole life working. It should come as no surprise that the ability to be patient while actively listening has helped me tremendously in the clinical realm ever since.”

During his time at UNTHSC, Dr. Prabhakar also worked as project lead on the North Texas Mental Health Transformation Initiative, involving local community health networks, criminal justice and county officials in a comprehensive assessment to identify the mental health needs and service gaps across a seven-county region of North Texas.

This work led to publication of the first Epidemiologic Profile of Mental Health for North Texas and was later profiled as a “best case” in Community Quality-of-Life Indicators, published by the International Society of Quality-of-Life Studies.

Dr. Prabhakar’s work now is even more far-reaching as he addresses suicide, one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. that is at its highest point in the last 30 years.

He is currently involved in NIH-funded research investigating the risk association between suicide and non-psychiatric factors, such as medical conditions.

“Traditionally, most interventions have focused on improving suicide-related outcomes in specialty psychiatric settings; however, most patients who attempt or die by suicide never receive psychiatric care, making it important to study and implement prevention strategies in general health care settings,” he said.

In all of his roles today – researcher, state leader, professor, mentor, advocacy and change agent in the areas of mental health and psychiatric education – Dr. Prabhakar says he is happiest and feels most fulfilled when he sees “patients getting better, families getting much needed resources, and medical students and residents learning the art and science of medicine.”

“It’s key that we switch every now and then from an individualized care approach and wear the public health hat to inform outcomes at the group level,” he said. “My state leadership role has allowed for advocacy on behalf of our patients who often don’t have a voice, and in my educational role at Henry Ford, it’s personally gratifying to teach and mentor the psychiatry workforce of tomorrow.”

In offering advice to current students in public health and medicine, Dr. Prabhakar said, “Seek mentorship early on, seek collaborative and learning opportunities across disciplines, and don’t discount the importance of lateral learning, or learning from your peers. Some of the most valuable lessons that I learned at UNTHSC and since then have come from my peers.”

Posted Date: February 21, 2018

By Sally Crocker

Carolyn Bradley Guidry nesbitt

Carolyn Bradley-Guidry (right) with Dr. Shawna Nesbitt

After leading the UT Southwestern Medical Center (UTSW) Department of Physician Assistant (PA) Studies to national recognition with the Diversity Through Excellence Award from the Physician Assistant Education Association Education last fall, UNTHSC School of Public Health DrPH student Carolyn Bradley-Guidry, MPAS, PA-C, CPH, has now been honored with Dr. Shawna Nesbitt for the 2017 Outstanding Physician-PA Partnership of the Year Award from the Texas Academy of Physician Assistants.

Bradley-Guidry is an Assistant Professor of Physician Assistant Studies in the UTSW School of Health Professions as well as the Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the entire UTSW School of Health Professions, which includes PA Studies, Physical Therapy, Clinical Nutrition, Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling, Radiation Therapy and Prosthetics/Orthotics. Dr. Nesbitt serves as Professor of Internal Medicine and Associate Dean for Student Diversity and Inclusion at UTSW.

The partnership between Bradley-Guidry and Dr. Nesbitt has two aspects, clinical and administrative.

Clinically, the two work together in the specialty Hypertension Clinic of the UT Southwestern Clinical Heart Center, focusing on managing medically-complex patients with resistant and/or secondary forms of hypertension.

Nominations from colleagues for this award highlighted that the PA-Physician Partnership between Bradley-Guidry and Dr. Nesbitt “exemplifies what a provider team should be.”

“They value and respect each other’s profession and role, they have provided professional service by sharing their knowledge of hypertension to providers in Texas, they work together to build diversity in both professions, and they provide service to the community. They are outstanding role models for the next generation of PAs and physicians,” the colleague wrote.

Another nomination said that their “positive impact on patients and families, as well as their diversity work at the UTSW Medical School and School of Health Professions” puts them in the “top 1% of all partnerships” the colleague had encountered.

“It is very exciting to see our students working to improve patients’ health and demonstrating such a commitment to diversity and inclusion in this way,” said Dr. Dennis Thombs, UNTHSC School of Public Health Dean. “These partnerships and honors represent important strides aligning with the values of public health and creating healthier communities, and we congratulate Carolyn on her accomplishments.”

Bradley-Guidry plans to complete her DrPH degree from the UNTHSC School of Public Health in 2019.