University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health Celebrates National Public Health Week

NPHW Scavenger Hunt

Public Health Community Advisory – The University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health (UNMC-COPH) Student Association conducted activities on each day of National Public Health Week (NPHW), April 1-5, 2013, to celebrate the achievements and raise awareness of the field.

The college kicked off the week’s events with a This is Public Health Scavenger Hunt. Teams of three to four people that included students, faculty, and staff ventured across campus taking pictures of items that represented public health.  Extra points were given for photos that demonstrated the NPHW daily themes, as well as for getting people from outside the team to participate (after educating them about public health!).  The portfolios of photos were then posted to the Student Association blog and members of the campus were invited to vote for the collection that best represented public health in a creative and fun way.

On Tuesday, the Student Association offered healthy breakfast items to the rest of the University of Nebraska Medical Center, raising awareness about public health and recruiting participants for the activities during the rest of the week, which included educational, community, and social events.

Two educational grand rounds sessions were featured over lunch during the week.  In the first, Dr. Jim Beavers, Dr. Kathy Northrop, and Dr. MeLissa Butler of the Nebraska Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (NE-EHDI) Program in the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services highlighted the ROI of their program’s efforts in improving hearing outcomes among children in our state.  The second Grand Rounds featured the ROI of preparedness through a fun lens.  “Preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse or Other Events Slightly More Likely,” presented by Dr. Shawn Gibbs, associate dean of student affairs and associate professor of environmental and agricultural health, was given to a standing-room-only campus-wide audience and viewed across the state through online streaming offered by the Great Plains Public Health Training Center (GPPHTC).  Recordings of these grand rounds sessions are still available online from the GPPHTC at

Reaching out to the community was also important to the Student Association during this week.  On Tuesday, a group of COPH students visited Saratoga Elementary School during their afterschool program and talked to a K-6 audience about what public health is, why it’s important, and what kind of jobs people do in the field.  The students will be returning to the school in a week to provide hands-on activities for the children, including learning to make healthy, delicious snacks and do a few simple yoga poses.   On Thursday, in partnership with community partner ModeShift Omaha, participants screened Taken for a Ride, a documentary that discussed the history of public transportation and the growth of the car culture in the United States. After the viewing, a panel of representatives from the city’s Planning Department, the city’s Metro system and Activate Omaha talked to the audience about Omaha’s efforts to diversify transportation options to benefit the public’s health.

Students gathered on Wednesday for the annual NPHW student leadership workshop.  This year, the COPH director of career services, Brenda Nickol, MPH, worked with students on effective networking and provided helpful tips on both in-person and online networking using social media.  Afterwards, the Student Association welcomed students to practice their new skills at a social event with alumni, faculty, and staff.

Finally, on Friday, April 5, the Student Association closed out NPHW with the second annual PHamily PHeud game. Teams made up of students, faculty, and staff competed to predict the answers to a range of public health related questions, asked not only of those with public health expertise, but of the general public as well.  Competition was fierce and fun. Winners of both the PHeud and the Scavenger Hunt were provided with new, long-sleeved COPH t-shirts with the “Top Ten Ways You Know You’re in Public Health” listed on the back.  The week concluded on this high note and the college looks forward to next year’s NPHW and the chance once again to highlight and celebrate all we do!

This article was written by Claudine McCarthy, research assistant in the COPH Office of Public Health Practice.

Rural Health Education Network (RHEN) 20th Anniversary Proclamation

Rural Health Education Network (RHEN) 20th Anniversary Proclamation

On March 14, 2012, David Heineman, Governor of the State of Nebraska, signed the Rural Health Education Network (RHEN) 20th Anniversary Proclamation and recognized the week of June 3-9, 2012 as RHEN week in Nebraska. The proclamation outlines the important role that RHEN has played in addressing rural health professions shortages through innovative undergraduate and UNMC graduate programs that foster a pipeline of health professions students serving rural Nebraskans.



The Role of Public Health Training Centers in Public Health

Public Health in the National News – In October 2011, the College of Public Health (COPH) was awarded funding to launch the Great Plains Public Health Training Center (Great Plains PHTC). The purpose of the PHTC program nationally is to improve the nation’s public health system by strengthening the technical, scientific, managerial, and leadership competence of the current and future public health workforce. The program is funded through the Affordable Care Act Prevention and Public Health Fund, and is administered through the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Bureau of Health Professions via a cooperative agreement. Currently, there are 37 PHTCs across the country (

The Great Plains PHTC at the COPH is unique in its efforts to address the needs of not only the governmental public health workforce, but also tribal entities and public health care providers (such as Federally Qualified Health Centers) in the state.

Opportunities through the Great Plains PHTC include the following:

  • Field Placements for undergraduate and graduate level students in local and tribal health departments across the state of Nebraska
  • Collaborative Project Stipends for trio teams of faculty, students, and local health departments to address an unmet need of the community
  • Leadership Speaker Series to showcase leaders in the field for practice-centered grand rounds
  • Support and subsidy to the Great Plains Public Health Leadership Institute, providing a year-long leadership development experience to public health leaders in Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota
  • Online Learning Modules and additional Education and Training Events tailored to the workforce needs in Nebraska

After just one year, the Great Plains PHTC has collected stories of how these programs benefit public health in Nebraska. For example, field placements have had great impact on the students and the local health agencies. The competitive paid fellowship program places students in health departments for the summer (11 students were placed in rural and tribal health departments in summer 2012). One student placed in a rural health department was the first ever bilingual Spanish-English speaking staff member. As part of her activities, she planned a Hispanic Family Health Night. The purpose of the event was to uncover health concerns of the Latino community. Through the event, the health department learned that economic help, tornado preparedness, and basic prevention knowledge were unmet needs. After the field placement experience the student said, “My feelings about forwarding my education in public health are stronger than ever now. The time that I spent at the health department opened my eyes about how important it is to promote health, teach individuals how to prevent sickness, and how to protect themselves from possible hazards.” The student’s commitment to this work has led her to volunteer for the health department as a translator . . . even though it is a four-hour drive round trip.

For more information on the Great Plains PHTC, contact Brandon Grimm:, 402-559-5645.

This article was written by Brandon Grimm, PhD, director of the UNMC COPH Office of Public Health Practice, and Katie Brandert, MPH, CHES, workforce and leadership development manager in the COPH Office of Public Health Practice.

Online Education and the College of Public Health


Public Health in the National News – The College of Public Health announces the launch of new online programs at the University of Nebraska. These programs will address a growing workforce demand for more public health professionals. A master of science in emergency preparedness and professional certificates in public health and emergency preparedness can now be obtained fully online through the University of Nebraska’s Online Worldwide website. All are graduate-level programs offered by the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

The programs aim to strengthen the public health workforce in order to meet the health needs of the U.S. and global populations. The Association of Schools of Public Health estimates that 250,000 more public health workers will be needed by 2020. Compounding this challenge is the fact that 23% of the current U.S. public health workforce—almost 110,000 workers—are eligible to retire this year.

The certificate in public health includes 18 credit hours (six courses) focused on the core areas of health behavior, environmental health, biostatistics, epidemiology, administration, and global health. Students may be able to apply the coursework toward a master’s degree in public health.

The certificate in emergency preparedness is also an 18-credit hour program. The federal Department of Homeland Security’s core focus areas—prevent, protect, respond, and recover—form the structural basis for the program. The master of science in emergency preparedness, a 36-credit hour program, is designed to teach professionals how to plan for and respond to events such as natural and man-made disasters, terrorist attacks, or infectious disease threats.

The College of Public Health recognizes that working professionals have many commitments in their lives. While the academic rigor of our online courses is the same as our on-campus versions, the convenience and flexibility of online learning is appealing to many working professionals. “Learning online is very convenient. You can collaborate and communicate in groups, exchange files, discuss topics with the class, track your progress in the course, and access electronic resources. I particularly like the use of multimedia in my classes,” said Junmin Zhou, a student taking a core course online. Courses are divided into weekly modules where students access learning materials and complete assignments by specific dates. Everything that the student needs is located in one place and accessible through an Internet connection from anywhere in the world.

This article was written by Sergio Costa, PhD, director of distance learning in the UNMC COPH Office of the Dean. Adapted with permission from Online WorldWide, University of Nebraska.

Impact in Nebraska of the Supreme Court Decision on Health Law

Public Health in the National News – On June 28, 2012, the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, with the majority opinion that Congress has the authority to use the taxing power endowed by the Constitution to impose the individual mandate. Another key ruling from the Court was that a provision of the ACA to expand the Medicaid program for individuals from 100% of the federal poverty level to 133% of the federal poverty level is optional, rather than required of state governments. You can read the Supreme Court’s decision here.

The Supreme Court’s ruling clears the way for the law’s implementation (Timeline of the ACA implementation). States, like Nebraska, that have been waiting for a decision from the Supreme Court before acting on implementation of key pieces of the legislation will now need to hurry to meet federal deadlines. For example, states need to submit a “readiness review” for a state-run health insurance exchange by January 2013. States that fail to submit a readiness plan will either have a health insurance exchange run entirely by the federal government or in partnership with the state government. Governor Heineman recently stated that Nebraska should wait on further planning efforts on implementing health insurance exchanges.

A recent report profiling health insurance in Nebraska by the UNMC Center for Health Policy (Health Insurance Coverage in Nebraska) found that there are more than 217,000 uninsured Nebraskans. Several key provisions in the Affordable Care Act will help many uninsured Nebraskans find and be able to afford health insurance coverage, including establishment of health insurance exchanges, guaranteed issue of insurance regardless of pre-existing conditions, and allowing children to stay on their parent’s health insurance up to age 26, and expansion of Medicaid coverage.

Even though the law has been upheld, the outcome of the November elections could impact the implementation of the law. For example, Congress could pass legislation to repeal the law or attempt to defund it through the budget reconciliation process before major provisions take effect in 2014. The following are some selected benefits of the Affordable Care Act for Nebraska after two years of implementation. More details are available at

  • 18,000 young adults in Nebraska gained insurance coverage.
  • 359,000 Nebraskans with private health insurance gained preventive service coverage with no cost-sharing.
  • Nebraska has received $7.3 million in grants from the Prevention and Public Health Fund created by the Affordable Care Act.
  • Health centers in Nebraska have received $19.4 million to create new health center sites in medically underserved areas and expand preventive and primary health care services.

This article was written by Jim Stimpson, PhD, associate professor in the UNMC COPH Department of Health Services Research and Administration.

Certified in Public Health (CPH) Exam


Public Health in the National News – Graduates and students from schools and programs of public health accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) are eligible to apply for the Certified in Public Health (CPH) examination. This examination, developed by the National Board of Public Health Examiners (NBPHE) in 2008, assesses mastery of knowledge and skills relevant to contemporary public health. More than 3,500 people have registered to become CPH. Individuals are motivated to earn the CPH as proof of their willingness to stay ahead of new developments and their readiness as a member of the public health workforce.

The exam consists of 200 multiple choice questions covering the core domains of public health (biostatistics, epidemiology, environmental health, the social and behavioral sciences, and health policy and management). The exam also covers the cross-cutting domains of public health biology, leadership, communications, diversity and culture, professionalism, program planning, and systems thinking. The NBPHE collaborates with the National Board of Medical Examiners to train item writers from diverse public health disciplines and to administer the exam. The cost of the exam is $450 for students (completed or enrolled in 21 core course credit hours) and $550 for graduates.

CPH professionals commit to lifelong learning and ongoing currency in public health by maintaining their CPH status, which requires 50 hours of CPH continuing education to be reported every two years  The national pass rate in 2011 was 86%. The UNMC College of Public Health current self-reported pass rate is 100%. UNMC numbers are not yet high enough to be placed in the national database, but will be as the number of graduates increases.

The CPH is an invaluable tool for public health employers as it assesses an employee’s baseline knowledge of public health and assures the applicant will continue to be on the cutting edge through required continuing education. And the CPH is an essential asset to public health employers as it ensures employees’ readiness to respond to an ever-changing public health environment.

The exam is given once annually (open for three weeks), usually in February at Prometric sites across the United States and around the world. For complete information and registration, go to The site contains information about NBPHE, frequently asked questions, and other useful links.

This article was written by Alice Schumaker, PhD, associate dean for academic affairs in the UNMC COPH Office of the Dean. Some of the information in the article was derived from an NBPHE bulletin dated October 10, 2011.

Campus Champions of Change Challenge Honors EMPOWER Project

From left to right: At the White House: Ruti Margalit, MD; Christine Hauschel; Sarah Jones; and Tessa Commers.

Public Health in the National News – A delegation from UNMC’s EMPOWER project was among 15 student groups honored by President Barack Obama on March 15 at the White House.

EMPOWER was established in 2008 as a partnership with the Women’s Center for Advancement and the Service-Learning Academy of the UNMC College of Public Health (COPH). The program is run by an interprofessional student board.

The UNMC project was among the national finalists in the White House’s 2012 Campus Champions of Change Challenge, which highlighted US student leaders engaged in extraordinary projects.

“The visit solidified our commitment to continue and engage with our community and assist our students in engaging and taking a leadership role in projects that address some of the most pressing issues in our city,” said Ruti Margalit, MD, director of the Service-Learning Academy and an associate professor in the COPH. Christine Hauschel, a student in the COPH Master of Public Health Program, said that she “felt honored to be included as a part of such an ambitious, motivated and talented group and left with incredible insight and inspiration to move EMPOWER to the next level.” Tessa Commers, a third-year medical student at UNMC, said that being part of the Campus Champions of Change Challenge “gives me courage to pursue passions that may seem unconventional because I now know, somewhere, that others are also fighting a similar fight.” And Sara Jones, also a third-year medical student, said that the sentiments expressed at the White House event were “refreshing and challenging, and left me wondering how I can measure success beyond myself.”

EMPOWER works to address health disparities of women affected by domestic violence while exposing students from all health professions to the relevant issues. The project’s mission is to provide education and health-based screenings to empower women through the knowledge of their personal health. Victims of domestic violence have been shown to endure medical problems at a greater frequency than the general population, and have an increased incidence of depression. Female victims also have increased rates of sexually transmitted infections, pelvic inflammatory disease, menstrual irregularities, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicidal ideation, among others. The organization strives to address these needs by providing health education workshops, medical screenings, and women’s clinical services in an effort to promote awareness of and autonomy over healthcare issues.

The GroundBreaker thanks Kalani Simpson, UNMC Department of Public Relations, and Sue Nardie, UNMC COPH, for their contributions to this article.