SPH news

Posted Date: March 7, 2017


Dr. Yoav Hoffman_2

Dr. Yoav Hoffman

Two physicians who have served on the front lines of war, caring for northern border Israeli civilians and war casualties from neighboring countries, most recently Syrian refugees, will speak at UNT Health Science Center on Monday, April 3.

Dr. Yoav Hoffman and Dr. Tal Marshak of Galilee Medical Center will discuss their work and share personal experiences with emergency preparedness during times of war, co-hosted by the UNTHSC School of Public Health and TCOM.

This visit is part of Partnership2Gether, a joint program of the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County and the Jewish Agency, to promote mutually beneficial endeavors and connections between the local community and the Western Galilee region.

Dr. Hoffman is Assistant Director of the hospital’s Pediatric Intensive Care Department (PICU).  Since 2013, the PICU has taken care of pediatric casualties from Syria as well as serving the local population.

With responsibility for mass casualty events preparedness, Dr. Hoffman leads the hospital during emergency situations such as war, fires and chemical disasters.

Dr. Tal_Marshak

Dr. Tal Marshak

Dr. Marshak is Senior Surgeon and Head of the Rhinology and Skull Base Surgery Unit.

Since 1956, Galilee Medical Center has served as the largest government hospital in its region and currently treats a local population of 600,000.

After the medical center was bombed during the 2006 Lebanon War, an entire underground hospital was created, to provide uninterrupted service during times of crisis.

The April 3 conversation with these physicians is open to UNTHSC students, faculty, staff and the community and is the kickoff event for Public Health Week 2017. The event will be held from 3-4 pm in MET 125.  Advance registration is not required.

For more information, contact Dr. Marcy L. Paul, UNTHSC School of Public Health, at marcy.paul@unthsc.edu or 817-735-0537.

Posted Date: March 1, 2017
Smoke Free3

Melaine Akakuru and Caren Gonzalez

Smoke Free1

Amruta Barve, Samyuktha Kolluru, Jennifer Cofer with Smoke-Free Fort Worth, and Elisa Benavides

Smoke Free2

Alice Miank and Megan Bhatti provide information to booth visitors











UNT Health Science Center public health students volunteered at the recent Cowtown Marathon Health and Fitness Expo February 24-25, 2017, sharing information about the Smoke-Free Fort Worth effort to pass a comprehensive smoke-free city ordinance in public locations and workplaces. School of Public Health Epidemiology student Kayan Dunnigan led the student volunteer group to help staff the organization’s exhibit booth.

Posted Date: February 22, 2017

Stephanie Spohr

Stephanie Spohr, MA, a UNTHSC public health student working toward her PhD in Public Health Sciences (Behavioral and Community Health concentration), has been named as one of 400 finalists from among 7,000 applicants for the U.S. Presidential Management Fellowship, a flagship leadership development program for graduate-level candidates.

The program is designed to develop potential government leaders and build a spirit of public service. Students who receive a two-year appointment will work at a Federal agency, with opportunities to participate in rotations at other governmental divisions throughout the program. More than 160 hours of interactive leadership, management and policy training are provided, as well as on-the-job mentoring.

On completion, Fellows can convert to permanent or term positions with a Federal agency, or may choose to pursue the private sector, academia or non-profit leadership positions.

“I am honored to be selected as a finalist for this prestigious program,” Spohr said. “I applied for this Fellowship because it has great opportunity for me to gain practical and influential management experience in public health. I had previously interned with the Region 6 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in Dallas, and the Presidential Management Fellowship would be a valuable combination for me to achieve.”

Spohr said she hopes to continue building toward a future career position with the Department of Health and Human Services or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, to continue her research in technology-based substance abuse interventions for vulnerable populations.

Posted Date: January 31, 2017

Nicaragua_Etienne_JaimeUNTHSC School of Public Health graduate Etienne Jaime (MPH ’16) found a path to helping underserved Nicaraguan communities through last year’s American Public Health Association (APHA) conference.

By networking with presenters and taking advantage of section meetings and events, he connected with staff from AMOS Health and Hope, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the health of communities suffering from poverty, disease and preventable deaths. The organization works alongside communities in health, education and development.

Jaime interned last summer and was hired for a full-time position after graduation.

As Monitoring and Evaluation Manager, he is involved in community-based participatory research and data analysis to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of AMOS programs.

He is currently assisting with outreach efforts addressing clean water and sanitation, maternal and child health, child malnutrition and Zika virus prevention.

Nicaragua_Etienne_Jaime_3“The most interesting part of my work is connecting with community members and community health workers and being able to see changes happening in Nicaraguan communities,” Jaime said.  “The organization’s culture and values fit with mine, and the AMOS team has such an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives.”

Jaime said his UNTHSC training has been important in preparing him for this role in international public health.

“Because the School of Public Health supports students in attending conferences like APHA, I was able to find AMOS and this unique experience. I encourage other students to be involved in associations and networking, because it really helps in connecting with causes and programs and building career options,” he said.

At UNTHSC, Jaime combined studies, receiving both the MPH in Behavioral and Community Health and a Graduate Certificate in Global Health.

Posted Date: January 23, 2017

Walters_storyAbout two thirds of people in the criminal justice system abuse alcohol or drugs, yet less than half ever complete treatment.

A recent study by Scott Walters, PhD, and colleagues, looks at the factors that motivate people to successfully complete probation and exit the justice system. The study was published in the January 2017 issue of Evaluation and Program Planning (People’s Reasons for Wanting to Complete Probation: Use and Predictive Validity in an e-Health Intervention).

“Historically, the US criminal justice system has relied on external factors to try and motivate people to comply with justice conditions, including increased fees, monitoring or jail time, but most people have a broader set of reasons as to why they want to exit the justice system, such as family, employment or improved quality of life. If we could identify these reasons ahead of time, we could do a better job in motivating people to comply with their probation requirements,” said Dr. Walters, who serves as Professor and Chair of Health Behavior and Health Systems for the UNT Health Science Center School of Public Health.

To find those motivating factors, the research team created survey questions around two themes: “tangible loss,” focused on external and present-focused reasons to finish probation; and “better life,” focused on internal, future-oriented reasons.

113 substance-using probationers from Dallas, Texas, and Baltimore City, Maryland, participated in the study. The average age was 35. Approximately two thirds were male. The questions were embedded in MAPIT (Motivational Assessment Program to Initiate Treatment), an online intervention tool for probationers that was being evaluated in a randomized clinical trial.

“Tangible-loss reasons for wanting to complete probation are things like wanting to avoid fees and court costs; the time it takes to attend court hearings; having to check in with others, or being required to tell others about the probation, such as an employer,” Dr. Walters said. “On the other hand, people seeking a better life may want to set an example for others, make their families proud, relieve guilt or be able to move on with their lives in a positive way.”

Among those surveyed, “getting on with life” was cited as the top reason for wanting to complete probation (nearly 87%), followed by legal pressure (73.5%) and time (60%). Relationships and having freedom were important motivators for 55.8% of participants. About half of those surveyed indicated that finances were an important reason for complying with probation conditions.

“It turns out that people’s reasons for change predicted what they actually did on probation. People who chose more ‘better life’ reasons were more likely to go to treatment, and less likely to use drugs. On the other hand, ‘tangible loss’ reasons weren’t related to outcome at all. This kind of information can give us advance notice of who might do well or poorly on probation, and it can also serve as the basis for delivering more effective interventions. By highlighting internal, future focused reasons, probation officers might be able to stimulate change early in the probation process,” Dr. Walters said. “When we tailored our online intervention trial based on these factors, people were quite positive about the perceived accuracy and helpfulness of such a program.”

Dr. Walters completed the study with UNT Health Science Center public health doctoral student Stephanie A. Spohr and Dr. Faye S. Taxman, University Professor, George Mason University.

Posted Date: January 20, 2017
MHA ACHE winners photo

Pictured from left to right: Dr. Aman Kaila, Ashnia Taher, ACHE mentor Paul Aslin, Martin Ostensen, Patrick Li, Chelsea Kleen and Shriya Sarin


Problems were immense for a West Coast safety net health system that became the focus of a 2014 Harvard Business Review case study. The system was in financial trouble and had lost its CEO. Operational inefficiencies ran deep, and morale had tanked.

“Imagine the challenge of trying to turn that situation around,” said UNTHSC Assistant Professor Martin Ostensen, JD, MBA, MHA.

Ostensen, who serves as MHA Program Director for the School of Public Health, helped coach a team of five UNTHSC students who took on this challenge, recently winning first place at the annual North Texas American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) Case Competition.

The UNTHSC team was given three weeks to develop a written analysis and recommendations, culminating in a presentation to an expert panel of judges.

Team members Dr. Aman Kaila, Chelsea Kleen, Patrick Li, Shriya Sarin and Ashnia Taher first worked through a SWOT analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats facing the health system.

From there, they prioritized problems and developed advice for a turnaround plan.

An ACHE mentor, Paul Aslin, FACHE, Chief Operating Officer and Vice President of Wise Health Clinics, Wise Health System, counseled the team through the process, as well as Thomas Fairchild, PhD, UNTHSC Vice President for Organizational Excellence.

The students took home awards that included a cash prize, paid registration to ACHE’s 2017 Congress on Healthcare Leadership and an invitation to attend ACHE North Texas Chapter Board meetings for the coming year.







Posted Date: January 9, 2017

Dr. Emily Spence-Almaguer & Dr. Tracey Barnett

As the School of Public Health (SPH) moves into 2017, plans are in the works to strengthen programs, build deeper community partnerships and enhance academic quality. To help support those goals, two new Associate Deans have recently been appointed, and departments within the SPH have been updated, under the direction of two new Chairs.

Dr. Emily Spence-Almaguer has been named to the newly-developed position of Associate Dean for Community Engagement and Health Equity, where she will serve as the primary SPH representative to community organizations and partners interested in or engaged with faculty, staff, students or School infrastructure. She will also establish and monitor School objectives related to faculty and student community service; community-based learning experiences for students, including MPH practice experiences; community-based research and evaluation services; and public health workforce training for the North Texas region, strengthening UNTHSC’s capacity for community-engaged work.

Also joining the SPH Executive Team is Dr. Tracey Barnett, who will serve as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. In this role, she will provide leadership to enhance the quality of academic programs and revise curricula in line with recently updated Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) accreditation criteria.

Dr. Spence-Almaguer has been with the SPH since 2012, as Associate Professor of Behavioral and Community Health and Director, Community Outreach Core, for the Texas Center for Health Disparities.  She has worked extensively in the local community on research and interventions related to intimate partner violence, sexual violence and stalking, and was instrumental in developing a 2013 study on the victimization experiences and health challenges of homeless women in Fort Worth, in partnership with the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition, Salvation Army and other agencies (https://www.unthsc.edu/school-of-public-health/new-study-focuses-on-victimization-of-fort-worth-homeless-women/). She has extensive experience in the development, administration and evaluation of social service programs. Dr. Spence-Almaguer holds a PhD in Social Welfare from Florida International University.

Dr. Barnett joins the SPH from the University of Florida, Gainesville, where she most recently served as Associate Professor, Department of Epidemiology, College of Public Health and Health Professions and College of Medicine, and as Director, Social and Behavioral Sciences Concentration, for the PhD in Public Health program. She is trained as a medical sociologist and has experience in behavioral/social epidemiology and health services research. Dr. Barnett’s research on tobacco and alternative tobacco use has been supported by the National Cancer Institute, U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the American Cancer Society. She holds a PhD in Medical and Applied Sociology from Western Michigan University and also served a postdoctoral Health Services Research Fellowship through the Rehabilitation Outcomes Research Center/South Georgia Veterans Health System, Florida.

Dr. Sumihiro Suzuki

Dr. Sumihiro Suzuki

Dr. Sumihiro Suzuki has been named as Chair of the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, which will now include the public health biostatics, epidemiology and environmental health programs.

Dr. Scott Walters has been maned as Chair for the new Department of Health Behavior and Health Systems, which will encompass health management and policy, behavioral and community health, maternal and child health and public health education programs.

These changes in department structure align with recent Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board approval effective January 1, 2017.

Dr. Suzuki has been with the SPH since 2007 and was named Associate Professor in 2014. He served as Interim Chair for Biostatistics and Epidemiology from 2015 to 2016 and has been Program Director for the MPH in Biostatistics and PhD in Biostatistics and Epidemiology since 2014. His research interests include statistical methodology research in the area of sequential analysis, as well as applied research in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and obesity.  Dr. Suzuki received his PhD in Mathematical Sciences with a major in Statistics from the University of Texas at Dallas.

Dr. Scott Walters

Dr. Scott Walters

Dr. Walters joined the SPH in 2011 as Professor of Behavioral and Community Health. His research focuses on the use of motivational interviewing and technology as behavioral health interventions. His current projects involve testing in-person and web-based interventions for increasing judicial probation compliance, technology-assisted health coaching for people in permanent supportive housing, and a screening and intervention program to reduce interpersonal violence. He has served as a standing member of the NIH/NIAAA Epidemiology, Prevention and Treatment review subcommittee. Dr. Walters holds a PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of New Mexico.




Posted Date: December 20, 2016

The UNTHSC School of Public Health seeks outstanding students for its PhD degree program in Public Health Sciences. Students are being recruited for two concentrations within the PhD program: Behavioral and Community Health and Epidemiology. Accepted students will be provided tuition and fee waiver for four years, a $24,000 stipend each year, medical insurance coverage, a laptop computer and support for conference travel.

The priority deadline to apply is January 15, 2017.

“We seek highly talented, ambitious applicants who aspire to careers in academia or other research settings. Our PhD program emphasizes strong faculty-student relationships focused on helping students develop skills needed to become independent investigators and scholars,” said Dean Dennis Thombs, PhD, FAAHB.

In the PhD concentrations in Behavioral and Community Health and Epidemiology, students will work with faculty who focus on the following areas:  health disparities and underserved populations; community-based participatory research; healthy aging and health-related quality of life; alcohol, tobacco and other drug use; and online/mHealth interventions (health interventions supported by mobile devices).

Applicants with Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees will be considered for acceptance into the PhD program.

“Fort Worth, Texas, is one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. It is a dynamic environment with many opportunities to explore,” Dr. Thombs said. “The university and the local community have much to offer in terms of a progressive and welcoming place to live, study and gain professional experience.”

The School of Public Health is a member of the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health and is accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health.

For information, call the Office of Admissions at 817-735-2401, email sph@unthsc.edu or visit unthsc.edu/school-of-public-health/doc.

Posted Date: December 19, 2016

Dr. Erin Carlson

As a public health student working on her doctoral degree, Erin Carlson, DrPH, questioned how reaching out to one local apartment complex could make a significant impact in breast cancer prevention.

What she learned, after early detection saved the lives of several South Dallas women in that neighborhood, was that there are no small efforts in public health.

Dr. Carlson – who taught Health Management and Policy for UNT Health Science Center before joining the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) in a new position – was recently invited back to campus by the UNTHSC Public Health Student Government Association to present The Last Lecture, where professors are asked, “If you could give one closing lecture, what would you say?”

“It’s important to know in public health that you don’t have to travel halfway around the world to make a difference in people’s lives, because every effort counts wherever you are,” Dr. Carlson said. “If you can touch someone’s life – help someone who might not otherwise have survived, like the women we reached in South Dallas, then you will have made a difference.”

Dr. Carlson recalled growing up in a small town outside Lincoln, Nebraska, where her father embraced family, community and caring for others in both his personal and professional life. His work as a country lawyer was as much about being a friend and good neighbor as it was about offering legal advice.

“His example helped me see the importance of being truly interested in the details of people’s lives,” Dr. Carlson said. “My dad didn’t just know people as clients. He got to know them. He inquired about their kids and grandkids, their interests, their goals. He cared about their farms, their lives and their livelihoods, and what was important to them. And it’s when you take the time to inquire and really get to know those details of people’s lives that you can truly begin to care about them and help them.”

To further illustrate, she shared a story of a nursing exam where the final question asked students to name the housekeeper they passed every day between classes, underlining the importance of people and relationships, especially in a profession that takes care of others.

“Wherever you go as public health professionals, get to know those details of people’s lives. Keep your eyes, ears and hearts open to opportunities around you – whether that’s in your own community or anywhere in the world – because if each of us can positively touch even one life, then that’s how we together will make a difference,” she said.

Dr. Carlson currently serves as Associate Professor for the UTA College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

Posted Date: November 10, 2016

On any given day, you might find UNTHSC School of Public Health assistant professor Marcy L. Paul, PhD, eaglescout_h3_1reading to elementary students in local schools and day care centers, working with parents-to-be at area churches, helping high school kids clean up the environment, or connecting with others to build a healthier community.

It’s no surprise then – when she was recently contacted by family friends looking to get involved in a community project to help high school student Bryce Kleinman, 17, earn his Eagle Scout merit badge – that Dr. Paul had just the project in mind.

With assistance from his Scout troop, his dad Sam Kleinman, MD, a pediatric anesthesiologist at Cook Children’s Medical Center, and mom Diane, Bryce helped a Southeast Fort Worth day care center become a Texas Mother-Friendly Worksite.

Businesses and organizations designated as Mother-Friendly Worksites have a commitment to breastfeeding employees and their families by offering privacy and flexibility for moms to express and store breast milk.

Bryce’s plan was to create a private space for moms by designing and building a curtained area. He also made a table, framed the center’s official Texas Mother-Friendly Worksite certificate and decorated with colorful accessories, to give moms a comfortable, personal experience of their own.

“Having this quiet and cozy space is truly a benefit, and already we have a mom using the space,” said Jeannie Ransom, Sunrise Early Learning and Development Center CEO. “Now when parents come to tour, we are able to showcase and promote that we are a mother-friendly site.”

Through the project, Bryce and his Scout troop learned a lot about Tarrant County’s H3: Healthy Moms-Healthy Babies-Healthy Community collaboration, focused on battling the high rates of infant mortality among African American families.  Infant mortality is defined as the loss of a child within the first year of life.

Dr. Paul serves as Project Manager for H3 and is helping to find solutions for this far-reaching public health concern.eaglescout_h3

Through the H3 collaboration, community members and organizations who live, work and serve in Southeast Fort Worth neighborhoods come together to focus on the “Life Course” approach, recognizing that birth outcomes are driven by women’s overall health and the community health problems they experience throughout their lifetime.

In short, the healthier a woman’s life is – throughout her life – the healthier her pregnancy, and her baby, can be. Connecting community members to resources and support systems in their own community is one key factor in having a healthier Life Course.

“I believe that when there is a need in the community, it is part of one’s civic duty to help meet it,” Bryce said. “This project added value to the community and was a tremendous learning experience both for me personally and for my entire troop.”