SPH news

Posted Date: July 27, 2016

SPH student Dominique Pean (left) with brothers Christian and Alan and their parents.


Dominique Pean remembers the night his older brother Alan was shot in a hospital emergency room.

With a history of depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder, Alan, a 26-year-old college student, had become increasingly paranoid and delusional leading up to the night he sped to the ER seeking help.

Nearly totaling his car on the hospital parking lot and crashing into other parked vehicles around him, Alan was injured and confused as he screamed out for help from aliens he believed were chasing him.

Sometime between assessment of his injuries and further observation that was expected to lead to a psychiatric evaluation, Alan’s behavior turned even more bizarre and dangerous. Two off-duty police officers moonlighting as hospital security responded, and as they fought to restrain him, he was shocked by a Taser and ultimately, sadly shot in the chest by a bullet.

As Alan’s life hung in the balance, his family struggled to understand the series of events that had led to such trauma, in a place that Alan had run to for safety and help.

Alan is a survivor, having come through the worst and moved his life forward, and today his family is on a mission to help change perceptions of mental illness, especially within health care settings.

Alan’s brother Dominique, a UNTHSC School of Public Health MPH student, recently brought this story to campus as part of an Interprofessional Education (IPE) event, to help students explore misconceptions about mental health and areas where gaps in the health care system may fail patients and their families.

Since the shooting, Dominique and his family (his father is an internal medicine physician, his mother works in health care administration, and his older brother Christian recently completed his medical degree and is pursuing an orthopedic surgery residency at NYU) have been on a mission to share their experience and help champion change, appearing in the New York Times, Huffington Post, This American Life podcasts, and television shows like Dr. Oz (“Why Americans Need to Talk about Mental Health”).

During the campus IPE event, attendees split into groups to play different roles – as hospital CEO, nurse, physician, security, legal counsel and patient advocate staff – to analyze the case and recommend alternate solutions.  During a panel discussion, Pean family members took questions and helped students look at some of the far-reaching issues related to mental health, racial inequity, security and protocol, patient safety, communications and administrative/legal response.

“The system broke down for Alan, and my brother’s case isn’t an isolated one,” Dominique said. “We see situations like this occurring in other cities and communities around the country, and it’s our hope that by sharing this personal story, my family can help champion change around improved care, management and policy for mental health patients.”

“Those in health care and public health professions are in a good place to make change,” Dominique said. “We want to help make sure something like this doesn’t happen to anyone ever again.”

Posted Date: July 26, 2016


Jennifer Cole, MPH, UNT Health Science Center School of Public Health graduate, has been named by the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) as one of 16 new fellows to engage in an intensive one-year assignment at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Cole’s fellowship placement will be with the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and Tuberculosis Prevention, in Atlanta.


Posted Date: July 13, 2016

Sara Ann Aldridge

Growing up in a family where she would become the first to graduate high school, Sara Ann Aldridge says she has always been interested in “finding out how people have come to be where they are in life.”

A UNTHSC School of Public Health MPH student (Behavioral and Community Health and Global Health) graduating this year, she has personally experienced the challenges of growing up with limited health resources and has spent time learning in other countries like Guatemala and Indonesia, to also see the larger global health perspectives across cultures.

This understanding of how daunting and complicated it can be to navigate health systems when seeking preventive and ongoing care has driven her toward an interest in helping to solve global health concerns in the future.

“A big part of my inspiration comes from my mother, who encouraged me and taught me to value determination, compassion and persistence,” Aldridge said.

Now, she’s taking her inspiration to the next level, as part of the inaugural class for the newly developed Siemens Foundation-PATH Ingenuity Fellows program, just announced this summer.
Aldridge is one of six students selected nationally to participate.

With funding through the Siemens Foundation based on a mission of inspiring innovation, research and continuous learning, Aldridge will be working at PATH, a Seattle-based, international nonprofit organization dedicated to saving lives and improving health, especially among women and children.

The fellowship provides hands-on research experience and instruction on addressing global health issues in settings where barriers to accessible health care exist.

Students will also be mentored by Siemens Healthineers employees, giving them access to market-leading technologies in areas like chemistry, hematology, molecular biology, immunoassay testing and informatics.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to work with people who are making a difference in global health, to help me gain more in-depth knowledge and research experience that I can apply in the future,” Aldridge said.

With plans to pursue a DrPH degree in Maternal and Child Health Policy next fall, she hopes one day to work on women’s health issues for a global organization like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Water.org or the World Health Organization.

Posted Date: July 8, 2016

Matthew Johnson (SPH MHA ‘16)

Matthew Johnson (SPH MHA ‘16) has been named as a 2016-17 Administrative Fellow at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB).

He previously served as an intern for UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, and for JPS Health Network in Tarrant County.

Johnson said he was drawn to the business side of health care, crediting his interest to having grown up in a “family of caregivers,” where his father is a physician, his mother is a nurse, and his brothers are also involved in health professions.


Sarah Jones.MHA

Sarah Jones (MHA ’15)

Last year, SPH student Sarah Jones (MHA ’15) also served as a UTMB Administrative Fellow, where she had opportunity to work with staff on two new hospital openings, as well as several process improvement initiatives, policy and procedures teams, and other special committees.

She has since joined UTMB in a full-time position as Perioperative Services Business Operations Manager.

Her interests include service-line business operations, population health management and quality process improvement.

Posted Date: June 10, 2016

Dr. Liam O’Neill

Health care researchers publishing new studies use methods to remove identifiable patient information when sharing their data, which is often required by grant funding organizations and journals publishing the research.

Yet, even with those precautionary measures, a UNT Health Science Center public health professor has found that online attackers could still identify individual patient health records through cross-referencing against publicly available databases.

Liam O’Neill, PhD, Associate Professor of Health Management and Policy at the UNTHSC School of Public Health, published the report in the June 2016 issue of Anesthesia & Analgesia with colleagues from the University of Iowa and George Washington University.

The article was featured as the June cover story and was also highlighted in a recent podcast. The journal’s editor-in-chief, Dr. Steven L. Shafer of Stanford University, said he believes the article “will have profound implications for digital sharing of patient data” in the future.

“Posting health information that has been properly ‘de-identified’ for public use is assumed to pose no risks to patient privacy, yet computer scientists have demonstrated that this assumption is flawed,” Dr. O’Neill said.

“Knowing a person’s date of birth is insufficient by itself, for example, to identify an individual,” he said, “yet, 87 percent of the specific combinations of date of birth, postal code and gender occur only once among the entire U.S. population.”

“The first step is for an online attacker to link two or more open databases based on overlapping attributes,” he said.

For their study, Dr. O’Neill and colleagues used the State of Texas surgical database – containing public information on more than 2.8 million records – to show that there is a 42.8 percent chance that an online attacker could match an anesthesia record to a de-identified hospital database to uncover sensitive patient information.

The percentage is even greater, they reported, for patients undergoing multiple procedures or from smaller states.

“Few people today would think that the combination of hospital and surgical procedures could be enough to link to a single inpatient record out of a database of millions,” Dr. O’Neill said, “which is why the use or exchange of this type of data is largely unregulated. But methods of online attack are advancing rapidly, faster than methods of defense,” Dr. O’Neill said.

While supporting research transparency, the authors recommended a change in peer-reviewed editorial policy, where study data could be requested from a journal’s editor, rather than being publicly shared in de-identified format.

Funding for this study was provided by the National Science Foundation.

Posted Date: June 9, 2016

From the conference: SPH student Adebola Adeyemi; SPH poster winner Vedant Gohil; UCLA Professor Shane Que Hee, AIHCE Biological Monitoring Committee Chair; Dr. Youcheng Liu, SPH; SPH student Emanehi Iyioriobhe; and SPH poster winner Caleb Okafor.

Two UNTHSC public health students won Best Student Poster awards at the 2016 American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exhibition, recently held in Baltimore.

The international conference is held annually for professionals in industrial hygiene and other occupational and environmental health and safety professions.

The organization’s Biological Monitoring Committee recognized Vedant Gohil for his presentation on “Tobacco Harvesting Work, Exposure to Nicotine, Vital Signs and Nicotine Poisoning,” and the Protective Clothing and Equipment Committee honored Caleb Okafor for his poster, “Determinants of Nicotine Exposure in Tobacco Harvesting Workers: A Pilot Study.”

Both are Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences MPH students.

Posted Date: May 25, 2016

In a war-torn country where poverty, starvation, poor living conditions and limited access to health care paints a bleak picture, there is still a certain formality in the way life is lived and customs are observed.

As UNT Health Science Center Assistant Professor Erin Carlson, DrPH, experienced during a recent trip to Uganda – where she assisted with tuberculosis (TB) screening and prevention efforts as part of a Veterinarians Without Borders international outreach team – following established social protocol is essential to working with government, schools and health officials.

“The culture in Uganda is very polite,” Dr. Carlson said. “As we traveled to schools offering TB education for students, we learned that there is an expected manner of introductions that should be observed prior to addressing business.”

Typically, Dr. Carlson said, a meeting would begin slowly, very mannerly, with a number of friendly questions.

“Good morning. How are you today? Did you sleep well last night? We would begin in that fashion after we were introduced by our driver and translator,” she said. “Interestingly, it was considered a real sign of respect to take the time to inquire about details such as how a person slept.”

Working with a retired teacher and a university administrator who were also volunteers, Dr. Carlson developed curriculum so that children could be taught healthy behaviors and then take the ideas home to their families.

“The goal is for children to become the generation that makes change for improved health conditions,” she said.

“In a country where the population is starving, it’s hard to say don’t eat from a sick animal, so we try to teach culturally-relevant ideas like boiling milk, cooking meat thoroughly, signs to watch for, and what to do if an animal or person becomes ill,” Dr. Carlson said. “The education programs have to match how people live and the resources they have available.”

The connection between the UNTHSC School of Public Health, where Dr. Carlson teaches Health Management and Policy, and the Veterinarians Without Borders effort is a partnership that began earlier this year, when another public health professor and three students took the first Uganda trip.

The collaboration was designed to bring a public health perspective to international veterinary relief efforts, recognizing zoonotic diseases that can be spread between animals and humans, including TB, brucellosis and African sleeping sickness.

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Posted Date: May 24, 2016

For the second year, two UNT Health Science Center School of Public Health students have been selected from a nationwide search for the Graduate Student Epidemiology Training Program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA).

The summer program provides hands-on Maternal and Child Health epidemiology training.

Selected this year were Alex Espinoza, who will travel to Hawaii, and Moriam Animashaun, who will work in Washington, D.C.

Espinoza will study with the Hawaii Department of Health – Family Services Division in Honolulu, helping to evaluate racial, ethnic and socio-economic disparities in adolescent oral health.

Animashaun will be assigned to analyze the utilization of school-based health centers and their impact on attendance and/or truancy rates. She will be working with the District of Columbia Department of Health – Community Health Administration Unit.

SPH students Kari Teigen (MPH ’15) and Sophia Anyatonwu (MPH ’15) were selected for the program last year.

Teigen, who studied with the Kansas State Department of Health, now works for the agency as a Maternal and Child Health epidemiologist.

Anyatonwu now works as an epidemiologist for the Hays County Local Health Department in Austin. She completed last summer’s HRSA training through the Georgia Department of Public Health.

Posted Date: May 19, 2016
Habitat_6 Habitat_4 Habitat_2


UNT Health Science Center School of Public Health (SPH) students, faculty and staff recently participated in a Habitat for Humanity effort to help build homes for two Fort Worth families.

The effort was coordinated by the UNTHSC Public Health Student Association.

“It was great for our school to participate in this important effort,” said Dennis Thombs, PhD, SPH Interim Dean.

“Since 1976, Habitat for Humanity has been committed to working hand-in-hand with the families they serve to build quality, affordable homes using donations of funds, materials and volunteer support,” he said. “We are committed to helping find solutions for a healthier community, and Habitat’s mission matches well with ours.”

Habitat_5 Habitat_3

Posted Date: May 13, 2016


During a recent trip to South Korea in which he represented the UNTHSC School of Public Health (SPH), Joon Lee, PhD, Associate Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, presented two of his research studies to scholarly and governmental audiences.

He spoke on “An Application of Entomology in Urban Social Environment” at Andong National University and also presented “An Integrative West Nile virus Vector Management-Case of Fort Worth, Texas, USA” to both Chungbuk National University and the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While there, he was also hosted at the Seoul Metropolitan Government Research Institute of Public Health and Environment, where he learned about the government’s management system for food, air and water quality monitoring and response, along with their public risk communications system.

“Students at the two universities I visited were interested in learning about graduate study in the U.S. and the types of opportunities we offer through the UNTHSC MPH programs,” Dr. Lee said.

Dr. Lee’s work on West Nile virus prevention efforts in North Texas over the last several years, and his recent advice to local communities and the news media regarding growing Zika virus concerns, also led to meetings with high-ranking government officials during his visit, to explore opportunities for collaborative research and projects in the future.

“Following last year’s outbreak of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in South Korea – the largest virus spread outside the Arabian Peninsula, with potential death tolls for the disease of about 3-4 of every 10 patients diagnosed – the government is very interested in developing a vigilant system to detect and prevent future virus threats like Zika,” he said, “and I am hoping to get involved with these governmental institutions over the next few months, so we can work together on solutions for this current global public health concern.”