SPH news

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.”

Posted Date: October 19, 2016
Kshitiz Rakesh, MPH

Kshitiz Rakesh, MPH

When Kshitiz Rakesh (MPH ’15 Biostatistics) transferred to the UNTHSC School of Public Health (SPH), he was seeking a program that would challenge him beyond the coursework, involve him in real-world health problems and solutions, and push him to advanced levels of statistical programming and data analysis. What he found was a place that gave him the experience and credentials to land a job at Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School Teaching Hospital.

Rakesh, who has recently begun a new position as statistical programmer in the hospital’s Division of Neurology and Epilepsy, credits the UNTHSC research projects he worked on, as well as the guidance of SPH faculty, in helping him reach this point in his career.

“The SPH does a phenomenal job to ensure students are proficient and ready for the roles they will take on in their careers,” he said. “I worked with different researchers on projects related to pharmacology, community health, preconception peer education and disability in Hispanic elderly populations during my degree program, giving me the equivalent of two to three years of practical experience I could list on my resume as a fresh, new graduate. That really helped make the difference for me.”

“Being involved in research in addition to my coursework and internship was so valuable, and professors like Dr. Sumi Suzuki, Dr. Subhash Aryal, Dr. Brad Cannell and Dr. Marcy Paul helped me to learn so much more,” Rakesh said. “The experiences encouraged me to take the initiative and push myself beyond, to look at public health issues in different ways. I grew so much in terms of my knowledge, proficiencies and critical thinking.”

While at UNTHSC, Rakesh also pursued Advanced Certification in his field, encouraged by his professors to take that extra step.

“The SPH really moves you in a direction where you are prepared and ‘good to go’ when applying for jobs. There was such a varied mix of faculty and students from different professional and social/cultural backgrounds that it helped me think beyond my own world as I completed my degree,” he said.

In his new position at Boston Children’s, Rakesh will be working on statistical development, programming and analysis of patient data for various research studies.

Posted Date: October 12, 2016

zoonotic_diseaseScientists have long recognized the connection of diseases spread between animals and people, through viruses, bacteria, parasites and fungi. This is so common, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that an estimated six out of every 10 infectious diseases in humans are spread from animals.

On November 9, 2016, UNTHSC public health students will host an informational “World War Z – Zoonotic Disease Awareness” fair to help educate students, faculty, staff, health professionals and the general public about this crucial global public health concern.

The free event will be held on the UNTHSC campus from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., featuring guest speakers, activities and entertainment, door prizes, food and refreshments.

UNTHSC Epidemiology alum Conner Carlsen, MPH (’16), has been selected as keynote speaker for the event.

Ms. Carlsen, with professor Katherine Fogelberg, DVM, PhD, and two other students, traveled to Uganda earlier this year to assist with international zoonotic disease testing and prevention efforts. Their work opened a new partnership with the international Veterinarians Without Borders organization, the University of Georgia, University of California-Davis and Makerere University-Uganda.  Ms. Carlsen currently works for the Department of State Health Services Region 7 in Temple, Texas, as a vaccine preventable disease investigator.

Other November 9 event speakers will include Dr. Joon Lee, on the topic of West Nile Virus (WNV); Dr. Fogelberg, addressing Neglected Zoonotic Diseases (NZD), One Health; Dr. Michael S. Allen, speaking on Tick-Borne Diseases; Dr. Guy Dixon, discussing Zika Virus; and Dr. Maya Nair, on the subject of Bioterrorism.

Students from the UNTHSC “Diseases from Animals to Humans” class are hosting the event.

For more information, contact: MGMTWWZ@GMAIL.COM

Posted Date: October 3, 2016

Casie Stoughton, RN, MPH

Caring for 250,00 people in addition to your own family can be a challenging job.

So when Casie Stoughton, RN, MPH, decided to pursue a public health graduate degree, she knew the best option would be through online study (SPH Master of Public Health Professional Option).

At the time, Stoughton was serving as Assistant Director for the City of Amarillo Department of Public Health. She has since been promoted to the Director position and credits her advanced degree from the UNTHSC School of Public Health as being important in helping her career move forward.

“One of my mentors is our former Director Matt Richardson, who received his MPH and DrPH degrees through the UNTHSC School of Public Health and is now the Denton County Health Director,” Stoughton said. “Matt is a big supporter of the school and encouraged me to take the next step. Being in Amarillo, I live a great distance away from schools of public health, so finding the online option was perfect for me.”

Stoughton manages a staff of 35 public health workers, with responsibility for TB clinics and immunizations, refugee health, public health preparedness, surveillance and prevention of communicable diseases, and epidemiology study/analysis related to patterns, causes and effects of local population health.

“Having a background of 10-plus years in public health really made the degree come alive for me,” she said. “I was able to apply my ‘boots on the ground’ field experiences toward the class work – not only has it broadened my horizons, it also validates what we do each day in our jobs and why.”

Stoughton’s favorite part of the job is when she’s out in the community, working directly with local residents or solving a problem.

“Being able to ‘touch’ our clients personally is important. And of course, there are many meetings, and I also work closely with the media, as they are key to helping us get our messages to the community,” she said.

Stoughton said she “absolutely recommends” the UNTHSC School of Public Health and encourages her staff to pursue advanced degrees for further career development.

“We’ve been fortunate that the city allows me to budget for staff education, to help our people become even stronger in their roles, as the team taking care of the health and welfare of our community,” she said.

Posted Date: September 28, 2016
ipe_7 ipe_3 ipe_5

“In any field, it’s important to know how to work together with people who are different and come from backgrounds other than our own. Especially in community health, we find solutions in unique ways through collaboration with others. Each perspective brings something important to the table,” said Karen Bell, PhD, Assistant Professor and Director of the UNTHSC Department of Behavioral and Community Health.

Dr. Bell recently co-presented an Interprofessional Education (IPE) event for incoming School of Public Health graduate students with Assistant Professor Marcy Paul, PhD, to address beliefs, questions and myths about different public health concentrations and the overall field.

Prior to attending, the 47 new students were asked to complete a survey of their own backgrounds, academic concentrations, how they would rank statements about common public health assumptions, and to write words and phrases that they felt best described different types of public health practitioners.

“Warm, inviting, jovial, loving, prevention-oriented, focused on a healthy society, approachable, good listeners, casual dressers, fun and big picture people” were all how students thought of Behavioral and Community Health professionals, while “serious, strict, technical, intelligent, math wizards, nerds, critical thinkers, research focused and people with tedious jobs” were some assessments of biostatisticians.

Epidemiologists were viewed as “science-oriented,” people who work “overtime,” and those involved in “the disease process, data analysis/collection, surveillance investigations and working closely with physicians.” Some students noted “exotic international locations” when describing an epidemiologist, and also saw them as “inquisitive, pioneers in public health and first responders.”

Students described Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences professionals as being “hippies, outdoorsy, tree huggers and one with nature,” focusing on environmental issues like air quality, pollution, infectious disease, healthy drinking water, “messy” landfills, workforce hazards and occupational health. They were seen as “not so great at math” and “protectors of humans, animals and trees.”

Health Management and Policy professionals, on the other hand, were labeled as “well dressed, leaders, change agents, business and policy oriented,” sometimes as “bossy” and as people who “love health records.” One comment described them as having the “largest form of control over public health.”

SPH faculty also weighed in on the conversations, including Assistant Professor Doug Livingston, PhD, a Biostatistics and Epidemiology researcher.

“Epidemiology is hard to pin down. What people do really varies.  Some are out in the field. As for me, I stay out of jungles. Much of my work is in front of a computer,” he said.

Importantly, the event pushed students to think beyond their initial perceptions and look at public health in a broader way.

“When you graduate, you’ll be working with many people across professions and within communities – even the word community can have different applications, whether it’s a neighborhood, city, county or state, even a country,” said Dr. Paul.

“So think on a larger scale than your own ‘world,’ because people representing varied backgrounds, experiences, even cultures, are all part of the larger public health community that it takes to recognize assets and challenges, solve a problem or create change.”

Posted Date: August 15, 2016


In a study of 1.2 million patients treated at 292 Texas hospitals over a one year time period during 2013, Liam O’Neill, PhD, Associate Professor of Health Management and Policy at the UNTHSC School of Public Health, and a student cohort have found that hospitals with mostly private rooms had a lower risk for central-line patient infections, acquired through tubes or catheters used for testing or to carry nutrients or medicine through the bloodstream.

Dr. O’Neill recently presented this data at the Service System Engineering Conference at the School of Economics and Management at the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, where local media covered his talk.

“The findings showed that regardless of whether patients were assigned to a private room,” Dr. O’Neill said, “those who were cared for at hospitals that offered a higher percentage of private rooms overall measured lower in hospital acquired infections.”

“This supports using the ‘percentage of private rooms’ ratio as a structural measure of hospital quality,” he said.

Dr. O’Neill also recently shared these findings at the AcademyHealth Conference in Boston, a national organization for health services and policy research professionals.

SPH Health Management and Policy doctoral student Sae-Hwan Park has been a partner in this study.