School of Public Health

SPH news

Posted Date: June 27, 2017


TESSA award_Alita

Alita Andrews

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As a Health Advocate for the UNT Health Science Center TESSA program serving Tarrant County victims of interpersonal violence, Alita Andrews offices at One Safe Place, a non profit agency in Fort Worth that gives help and hope to families and individuals looking to get back on their feet.

Andrews helps clients focus on their mental and physical well-being, self-care strategies, personal safety and navigation of health resources to connect with primary care services/ information and work toward improving their overall health outcomes.

Her role is different from that of a counselor or case manager, as she specifically focuses on the impact that violence and trauma can have on health.

She works with individuals like the young mom, battling serious effects of diabetes because her abuser wouldn’t allow her to seek medical care for her condition, or the middle-aged woman suffering from high blood pressure, panic attacks and other health issues related to the physical and emotional harm she had been forced to endure for years.

It is Andrews’ mission to help individuals like these in overcoming the barriers to their wellness and recovery.

At first, she met with clients in a very traditional office space.

Standard bookshelves.

Nondescript side table.

Desk facing the door with two chairs in front.

Over time, though, with help from the TESSA and One Safe Place teams, Andrews transformed the environment into a warmer, more welcoming space.

Her desk was moved to the side, eliminating the physical barrier between health advocate and client.

A cozy rug and more relaxing chairs were added to invite quiet, one-on-one conversations.

Clients could feel safe knowing they no longer had to sit with their back to the door.

A storage closet was updated to create a coffee nook.

Dim lighting and calm colors also helped with the change, and stress balls, adult coloring books and other counseling aids were brought in to give relief during difficult moments.

This idea – representing just one of the ways Andrews cares for clients and helps them feel more secure and welcomed – was recently recognized at the One Safe Place five-year anniversary, where she was presented an award for exemplifying one of the agency’s top core values of “safety.”

“The role of the health advocate is to give people choices and help them take control of their lives; it may be overwhelming at first, which is why it’s so important to welcome them in a space that feels comforting,” said Jessica Grace, LMSW, TESSA Program Manager. “We want clients to know it’s more about them than a complicated process or system.”

Andrews, who is a 2016 UNTHSC School of Public Health MPH graduate, said the clients are her main motivator for coming to work every morning.

“They have all come to One Safe Place to find support and a new start. Wherever they are in their journey, I’m happy to be a cheerleader and support system to helping them find themselves,” she said.

Organizations like One Safe Place, which houses 18 different victims’ advocate agencies, are important in connecting individuals with health care resources, children’s services, law enforcement and legal aid, counseling, chaplain’s assistance, case management, employment programs, housing resources and more.

Approximately one in three Texas women will experience domestic violence during their lifetime. For the years 2014 and 2015, Tarrant County was the second highest community in Texas for domestic violence deaths.

Since 2015, TESSA has been led by Dr. Emily Spence-Almaguer, SPH Associate Professor and Associate Dean for Community Engagement and Health Equity. TESSA is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health.

“The clients we see are so resilient and are survivors; their strength is awe-inspiring,” Andrews said.

“Some of my best experiences are when clients I haven’t heard from in a while call and update me on their progress and all the things they’re now doing on their own,” she said. ”It’s a great honor to watch this happen, and I’m happy to be a part of it.”

Posted Date: June 19, 2017

CAAD17A Clean Air Action Day event will be held on Friday, June 23, from noon to 1 p.m. in the campus Library Mini Auditorium, LIB 110.

UNT Health Science Center students, faculty and staff are encouraged to attend.

Clean Air Action Day encourages North Texans to do one thing to improve the air quality for the health of the local community.

Participants will have an opportunity to take part in an action pledge and watch short videos focused on environmental and human health.

This event is come-and-go.

Attendees are encouraged to save the driving and instead bring their own brown bag lunch to the event.

Free Alchemy Pops will be provided from a local frozen pop store that sources locally when possible, and free water bottles from Air North Texas will be distributed while supplies last.

Posted Date: June 12, 2017

Teaching Excellence 1Seven School of Public Health faculty members and one SPH doctoral student recently completed an eight-month Faculty Seminar Series focused on teaching excellence.

In partnership with the UNTHSC Center for Innovative Learning, SPH Assistant Professor Katherine Fogelberg, DVM, PhD, developed and led the program, which began in September 2016.

The approach was campus-wide, with every UNTHSC school participating.

Over the fall and spring semesters, 12 “lunch and learn” seminars were presented on the building blocks of teaching excellence, educational philosophy and theory, psychology, practice, technological tools and research-proven techniques for engaging postgraduate learners.

“Quality learning begins with quality teaching, and this program was quite successful in its first year,” Dr. Fogelberg said. “Across the university, 19 faculty and one student completed the requirements for their Certificate of Completion, and five earned their Certificates of Teaching Excellence based on added participation in the pre- and post-seminar teaching observations.”

Dr. Fogelberg and the Center for Innovative Learning are now in the process of planning a follow-up series for the fall.

“We hope to see new and returning faces for the upcoming academic year, and we look forward to building on the success of this year’s program,” she said.

From the School of Public Health, Dr. Karen Bell, Dr. Brad Cannell and Dr. Karabi Nandy earned the Certificate of Teaching Excellence.

SPH doctoral student Leilani Dodgen earned the Certificate of Completion, along with faculty members Dr. Doug Livingston, Dr. Neda Moayad, Dr. Candace Robledo and Dr. David Sterling.

Dr. Fogelberg, who serves as Director of Quality Instruction for the SPH, is also Assistant Professor and Director of the MPH in Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences program, and the Graduate Certificate program in Food Security and Public Health.

Posted Date: June 5, 2017
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    Dr. Doug Livingston

    SPH News Brief: Dr. Doug Livingston’s abstract related to community efforts for reducing adolescent alcohol use and access was selected as an “Abstract of Distinction” by the Society for Prevention Research (SPR) and was recognized at the organization’s 25 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., held May 30-June 2, 2017. This year’s meeting focused on the theme of Prevention and Public Systems of Care: Research, Policy and Practice. This was the first year that SPR conferred this honor. More information on Dr. Livingston’s research can be found here:

    Dr. Livingston is Assistant Professor of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the UNTHSC School of Public Health.Dr. Livingston was also published in the May 2017 issue of the American Journal of Public Health. With colleagues from the University of Florida, he reported research showing that federal regulation of precursor chemicals can positively reduce cocaine availability in the United States and can be correlated to a decline in maternal and neonatal hospital stays. Earlier this year, Dr. Livingston spoke with White House officials on these findings.

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    SPH students at the CDC, Atlanta

    SPH News Brief: Recently, SPH students Amy Board (DrPH ‘17) and Erica Stockbridge (PhD ’17) made Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) presentations in Atlanta related to national research consortium efforts on tuberculosis prevention and monitoring. During their doctoral studies, both students have worked with SPH professor Dr. Thad Miller, Principal Investigator, on the CDC-funded Tuberculosis Epidemiologic Studies Consortium (TBESC). Also attending in Atlanta was UNTHSC MPH student Armando Moreno. Dr. Miller is Associate Professor, Department of Health Behavior and Health Systems, at the UNTHSC School of Public Health.

  • Dr SterlingSPH News Brief: Dr. David Sterling, Professor of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, at the UNTHSC School of Public Health, was recently recognized as one of five finalists for the UNT Health Science Center’s new honor, the Faculty Achievement Award. Honorees were chosen by a committee of their peers, led by the Faculty Senate. As a finalist, Dr. Sterling was recognized for demonstrating excellence in teaching, scholarship, service and leadership. Dr. Sterling has been with the UNTHSC School of Public Health since 2008 and has most recently been in the news for his work with children’s asthma management in the Fort Worth Independent School District, through the “Asthma 411” program. He is a long-time panel reviewer for the National Institutes of Health, EPA and other agencies, and maintains an active research program. Among his funders have been the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, the Environmental Protection Agency, Texas State Department of Health Services and various not-for-profit foundations. This June, he was recognized as a Fellow in the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA). According to the organization, only five percent of AIHA membership can qualify for the Fellow Award, presented as a high recognition to those who have made significant contributions to the field of industrial hygiene.

Posted Date: June 1, 2017
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Nineteen UNT Health Science Center MHA students have found their 2017 summer internships, thanks to a “speed interview” event on campus with potential healthcare employers.

In quick rotations, students were able to meet with representatives from 11 local healthcare organizations to showcase their talents, interests and resumes.

Participating organizations included JPS Health Network, Children’s Health Dallas, Children’s Health Plano, UNTHSC, Lake Granbury Medical Center, Kane Hall Berry Neurology, North Central Surgical Center Hospital, Southwest Sports and Spine Center, Texas Health Resources, Weatherford Regional Medical Center and Wise Regional Health System.

“The MHA speed interview event is a great way to connect students with internship opportunities,” said Martin Ostensen, MHA Program Director. “All of the students who interviewed in the timed sessions presented well and impressed the visiting organizations with their polish and professionalism.”

Students will be working on a variety of projects and healthcare assignments this summer. One such project is the design and implementation of an emergency operations plan to meet new Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) guidelines. Another project will involve development of a model and criteria for patient room improvements.

Posted Date: May 25, 2017
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Dr. Moranetz with SPH Dean Dennis Thombs

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She promised not to cry, but there were still some emotional moments as Dr. Christine A. Moranetz presented her Last Lecture to students, faculty, community colleagues and close friends.

For nine years, Dr. Moranetz has served in a variety of leadership positions for the UNT Health Science Center School of Public Health, and as Associate Professor preparing for retirement, she had a lifetime of reflections, stories, learning examples and advice to share.

The tradition of The Last Lecture, initiated by the UNTHSC Public Health Student Government Association, provides students a chance to hear closing thoughts and gain inspiration from professors they have studied with over the years.

“I’ve been working on this presentation for quite a while, and I’ve prepared 180 slides for our three-hour workshop today,” Dr. Moranetz joked, opening her talk. “Seriously, I have so much to tell you, but I think you’ll be glad to know that I’ve condensed it into a one-hour presentation focused on my top ten words of advice.”

SPH graduate research assistant Md Abdullah Al Mamun, who has been mentored in his PhD studies by Dr. Moranetz, described her in opening introductions as “a professor who shares compassion with each of her students, who nurtures us and lets us thrive.”

Dr. Dennis Thombs, Dean, echoed those thoughts in his remarks, saying, “She always puts students first.”

Former student Allen Applegate, DrPH, MPH, CPH, traveled to Fort Worth from San Francisco to attend the presentation, saying, “Dr. Moranetz had such a positive impact on me as a student and on my career. It was an honor to be part of her final lecture as she reflected on her meaningful career and those who helped her achieve success. The wisdom she shared was heartfelt and inspiring.”

Applegate, who now serves as Lieutenant Commander for the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, US Department of Health and Human Services, worked with Dr. Moranetz during his UNTHSC doctoral studies.

Between reflections on her long career in both health promotion/disease prevention and academics, Dr. Moranetz shared some of her interesting hobbies, favorite quotes and very personal, touching stories.

In David Letterman style, she offered her “Top 10 Countdown,” noting that, “While this is particularly directed to the students, I hope that some of what I share speaks to everyone in the room.”

She offered this inspiring list of advice:

  • #10: Dream big. Dr. Moranetz challenged students to “do one thing that scares you,” and to think in new and creative ways.
  • #9: Be courageous. After a long battle with cancer and now four years in remission, Dr. Moranetz advised that sometimes there will be things that seem insurmountable, when you feel that you “just can’t do it,” but with courage and the help of friends and family, the impossible can be achieved.
  • #8: Develop compassion and empathy. Dr. Moranetz illustrated this advice with a story of her mother’s career as an honored World War II Army nurse who served two tours of duty in the Pacific before returning home to continue her professional career stateside.
  • #7: Serve others. “That’s what we do if you’re in public health, that’s what we are about,” Dr. Moranetz said. She encouraged working with populations most in need of public health students’ time and talents.
  • #6: Leave a legacy. In describing one of her proudest career achievements – a dramatic educational theater project she co-developed on AIDS/HIV prevention that has continued for 24 years – Dr. Moranetz encouraged students to create their own legacy, professionally and personally.
  • #5: Strive for equality and social justice. She challenged the audience to embrace diversity and advocate for gender equality.
  • # 4: Cultivate friendships. “Live, laugh, play,” Dr. Moranetz said. “I’m a loyal friend and my friends have been loyal to me; we’ve been through a lot together.” She shared stories of professional colleagues who have remained friends for decades.
  • #3: Stand by your faith and convictions. In advising students to “be honest and true,” Dr. Moranetz reflected on the example her father set in his military service and commitments to veterans and the community. Quoting a Native American Cherokee proverb, she said, “Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.”
  • #2: Live in the moment. “Keep a journal, reflect, make time to be grateful for what you have, don’t let worry and tension keep you from enjoying life,” she said. ”You might not know this, but I enjoyed learning to ballroom dance. I took lessons for 12 years and competed in professional-amateur competitions for seven years. What dancing taught me is how important it is to ‘follow’ – you don’t have to lead all the time. Life is a dance, enjoy it.”
  • #1: Get out of your head and into your heart. In closing, Dr. Moranetz shared a number of thoughts, including the famous Helen Keller quote, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.”

“It’s been said that great teachers inspire, and I hope, from the bottom of my heart, that I’ve been an inspiration to you, as you have been to me,” Dr. Moranetz said.

Dr. Moranetz has served as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, DrPH Program Director, PhD Program Director and Chair of the Department of Public Health Education in the School of Public Health. On mentoring her last doctoral students, she will retire from UNT Health Science Center this summer.


Posted Date: May 22, 2017


The prescription bottle said, “Take one tablet as needed,” so the patient did – repeatedly – going far beyond the recommended daily dosage.


Left to right, Dr. Wagner with State Senator Diana Arevalo and Chris Yanas, Director of Governmental Affairs, Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas

A health information pamphlet for teens titled “Adolescent Transitional Care Policy” became much clearer when given the new headline, “You’re Becoming an Adult!”

In another example, plain language, photos and illustrations were found to better communicate how to take and store strong oral chemotherapy medicines that depend on closely following the directions.

“Every day across the U.S., patients are confused by or misinterpret healthcare instructions, sometimes leading to very dangerous results,” said Teresa Wagner, DrPH, MS, CPH, RD/LD, health literacy advocate and Adjunct Assistant Professor with the UNT Health Science Center School of Public Health.

“With health forms and instructions written well above the average adult reading level, it’s no wonder most Americans find health information complicated and confusing,” she said.

Concurring with Dr. Wagner are findings from the Institute of Medicine, reporting that more than 90 million adults today have limited skills in reading and math, considered necessary tools for understanding and following basic health information.

Health literacy, simply defined, is being able to obtain, use, understand and navigate health information, instructions and resources.

For quite some time, Dr. Wagner has been working to increase health literacy awareness across Texas, speaking earlier this year at a Medicaid conference, providing trainings across the state, and most recently, speaking to legislators in Austin on behalf of a bill she championed to improve health literacy, access to care and patient outcomes.

“If passed, House Bill 3682 would be the first document to legally recognize the issue of health literacy in the state, and the long-term effect could improve the health of citizens and potentially save Texas millions of dollars in healthcare costs,” she said.

Sponsor of the bill is State Representative Diana Arevalo from San Antonio, with support from Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas and the Texas Dental Association.

“Low income families, the elderly and new immigrants are most likely to suffer from health literacy challenges,” Dr. Wagner said, “greatly impacting prevention and control of health conditions. Language and cultural differences can also change interpretation and translations, giving different meanings than what may be intended.”

“It’s important to find ways to bridge communication gaps among the healthcare system, providers, patients, their families and caregivers,” she said.

A registered dietitian, Dr. Wagner works directly with patients and consults with health providers to empower individuals to take an active role in their personal wellness plan. Health literacy, she says, is key in this process.

“When the doctor’s advice is for a patient to ‘eat healthier,’ what does that mean? Patients need a good understanding of how to shop for and prepare healthy foods, and how to make the best choices, as well as how to talk with doctors, nurses and others about their conditions, questions and concerns,” she said. “Those providers can then refer inter-professionally, so that experts in each area can address patient needs in a health literate manner.”

“I have seen so many patients unsure of how to be proactive in their own care by simply asking questions, people who have stopped taking their medicines because they didn’t feel comfortable talking to the pharmacist, or who didn’t understand health or nutrition instructions but were afraid to ask.”

“Even making a doctor’s appointment can be a challenge when it comes to navigating websites and completing forms online,” she said.

Dr. Wagner was first drawn to health literacy while pursuing her DrPH at the UNTHSC School of Public Health, when she began working as a graduate assistant on a health literacy research project for the United Way of Tarrant County.

She then chose to complete her doctoral residency at the University of Texas Center for Health Communication and the Literacy Coalition of Central Texas (LCCT). She was subsequently hired as the LCCT’s Director of Health Literacy, leading to her work that continues in this area today.

This fall, part of her appointment will be with the UNTHSC Institute for Patient Safety, leading health literacy efforts. These efforts will address general health and wellness information, as well as emphasize health literacy as a factor in patient safety.

Posted Date: May 12, 2017

ORJI OKEREKEUNTHSC School of Public Health student Orji Okereke has been named as this year’s recipient of the 2017-18 American Industrial Hygiene Foundation (AIHF) Kyle B. Dotson Scholarship.

The scholarship program was established by the Dotson family in 2007, to give back to the profession and serve as a model for other professionals to contribute toward the future and viability of the industrial hygiene profession.

Mr. Dotson – who currently serves as an independent management consultant and expert in the areas of occupational safety, industrial hygiene and indoor environmental quality – is a Fellow of the American Industrial Hygiene Association and has served on the organization’s board of directors.

Okereke is pursuing the MPH in Environmental and Occupational Health.


Posted Date: May 9, 2017

ShlesmaUNTHSC School of Public Health student Shlesma Chhetri is no newcomer to making award-winning oral presentations, and this year she won her second Texas Public Health Association (TPHA) honor.

Chhetri recently came in first at the TPHA Annual Education Conference’s student oral presentation competition for her talk on “Getting on the same page for breast health knowledge and prevention.”

The presentation was based on results of a breast cancer screening day evaluation project sponsored by a Susan G. Komen Greater Fort Worth community grant, supporting efforts of the Tarrant County Cancer Disparities Coalition.

“Shlesma is an exceptionally great presenter and won this top TPHA award in 2015 as well,” said faculty mentor Emily Spence-Almaguer, PhD, MSW, who serves as SPH Associate Dean for Community Engagement and Health Equity and as Community Outreach Core Director for the Texas Center for Health Disparities.

“For her 2015 award, Shlesma presented on ‘Sex Trade: Survival Strategy Among Homeless Women,’ as explored in a study UNTHSC managed for the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition,” Dr. Spence-Almaguer said.

Chhetri, a public health PhD candidate, reported this year on ways that the Komen community grant for Greater Mount Tabor Christian Center in Fort Worth was able to evaluate the level of breast health awareness among Tarrant County women through data from screening day and community breast health educator trainings.

Primarily Hispanic screening participants in the 40-49 year age group with a high school or GED education level were able to evaluate their risk factors for breast cancer and understanding of symptoms, to help program researchers gain information on how reading levels correlate with knowledge, awareness and prevention efforts.

“While the study reflected a lack of knowledge regarding breast cancer risk and symptoms among participants, the brief training offered information that helped improve their awareness,” Chhetri said. “We also learned that this information should be presented at reading levels appropriate for known high-risk populations.”

Posted Date: May 5, 2017

Austin trip 2017
Nine SPH students, accompanied by faculty members Dr. Kris Lykens and Dr. Alisa Rich, spent their 2017 spring break visiting the State Capitol in Austin.

The trip was coordinated with students from the Austin College undergraduate public health program in Sherman, Texas, taught by Dr. Mathias Akuoka, a PhD graduate of the UNTHSC School of Public Health.

“Students from both our SPH and Austin College enjoyed the collaboration and would like to continue working together in future legislative sessions,” Dr. Lykens said.  “In fact, some of our students are Austin College alumni, so the two groups had a lot in common.”

One highlight of the trip was a welcome and public introduction of both classes to the March 13 House of Representatives full session.

The students also had an opportunity to observe the Senate Floor debate on Senate Bill 6 (SB 6) – Texas Privacy Act “Transgender Bathroom Bill or Potty Bill,” relating to Regulations and Policies for Using a Bathroom or Changing Facility.

The two classes also attended the State Affairs Committee Hearing on Senate Bill 31 (SB 31) on texting while driving.

“Personal testimony from citizens who have lost family members in texting-related accidents was presented, and the most compelling moment came when two children testified with their uncle about the loss of both of their parents and their brother’s permanent paralysis in a fatal accident from texting,” Dr. Lykens said.

Students met individually with staff of legislators whose bills they had selected, researched and followed, and they were granted access to a special Capitol conference room for daily debriefings with the professors, thanks to arrangements by Danny Jensen, UNTHSC Vice-President for Governmental Affairs

SPH students participating in this year’s trip were Megan Bhatti, Carolyn Bradley-Guidry, Kirsteen Edereka Great, Patrick Li, Gabrielle Logan, Michael McClure, Soha Mayurkumar Patel, Laura Phipps and Courtney Searles.

pictured at top: SPH students and Dr. Kris Lykens at the State Capitol with Texas Representative Larry Philips (Rep) from Sherman