Lorena Baccaglini, DDS, PhD

Lorena Baccaglini, DDS, PhD

Lorena Baccaglini, DDS, PhD

Faculty Highlight – Dr. Lorena Baccaglini received her PhD in epidemiology with a minor in biostatistics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She also trained in dentistry, prosthodontics, and clinical research and oral medicine at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). She joined the College of Public Health (COPH) faculty in May 2012 as an associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology.

Dr. Baccaglini is the Epidemiology Graduate Program chair for the doctoral program (PhD) in epidemiology. The department has four active instructional programs: the PhD and Master of Public Health in Epidemiology, the Professional Certificate in Infectious Disease Epidemiology, and the Master of Science in Emergency Preparedness.

Dr. Baccaglini has developed and enjoys teaching a new four-credit course in Epidemiology Methods, Level II (EPI 845/CPH 628). The course covers advanced epidemiologic design and SAS analysis applications, including meta-analyses, clinical trials, stratified/matched analyses, logistic regression, survival analysis, and complex sampling. Additionally, she has developed guest lectures on study design and statistical pitfalls, and genetic epidemiology. Dr. Baccaglini is the academic advisor, research mentor, and dissertation and capstone committee member/chair for eight students in four departments. She plans to develop more epidemiology methods courses by next spring.

Dr. Baccaglini’s research focuses on systemic links, causes, and treatments of head and neck diseases. She is the principal investigator for the UNMC Wound Healing Bank, which links over 300 samples to 1,000 clinical and laboratory variables stored in REDCap. She recently completed an NIH-funded study of growth factors in wound healing using NHANES data. She has submitted new grant proposals in collaboration with UNMC and external co-investigators focusing on sexually transmitted infections, HIV, and cancer. She is currently developing a new patient-centered research proposal with co-investigators from UNMC, Creighton, and Ameritas.

Dr. Baccaglini’s interests also include clinical research/clinical trials, evidence–based medicine, systematic reviews, epidemiologic methods, genetic epidemiology, wound healing, and injuries.

Dr. Baccaglini is the Chair of the Epidemiology Graduate Program Committee and she is an active member of the UNMC Graduate Council, the COPH Doctoral Committee, the Epidemiology Doctoral Exam Committee, the Delta Omega Development Committee, the UNMC Graduate Studies Sub-committee on Mentor Pool, and the UNMC Graduate Studies Task Force. In March, she will begin her appointment as Chair of the 2013-2014 Ethics in Dental Research Committee for the American Association for Dental Research.

Dr. Baccaglini is currently the associate editor for Oral Diseases, the review editor for the Journal of Dental, Oral and Craniofacial Epidemiology, the statistical Editorial Board member for the Journal of Dental Research, and an Editorial Board member for the Journal of Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology. Since May 2012, she has also served on two NIH grant review panels.

Lorena Baccaglini, DDS, PhD, is an associate professor in the UNMC COPH Department of Epidemiology.

Amy Houser

Amy Houser

Amy Houser

Student Highlight – Amy Houser is an MPH student in the health promotion track. Her hometown is Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Amy has a bachelor of arts degree in both biology and history and received her degrees in 2011 from Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa.

Amy was first drawn to public health after a completing unit on infectious diseases in high school biology. However, for most of high school and college, she planned to pursue a degree in medicine. This plan changed during her junior year of undergraduate study. She learned more about the field of public health and the diversity of areas in which she could focus, which ultimately led to her decision to pursue education in public health. After graduation in 2011, she participated in a year of service with AmeriCorps at the Siouxland District Health Department (SDHD) in Sioux City, Iowa. At the SDHD, Amy coordinated and developed childhood wellness initiatives such as the Live Healthy Iowa Kids Governor’s Challenge, Fall Fitness Day, and Go the Distance Day. As part of these initiatives, she taught health education lessons to preschoolers and elementary students. The main focus of these lessons was healthy foods and drinks and ideas for physical activity. In addition to her efforts in childhood wellness, she worked with her supervisor on several worksite wellness initiatives, such as the Nutritional Environment Measurement Survey- Vending (NEMS-V) and worksite wellness toolkits. The purpose of NEMS-V is to assess and increase the nutritional quality of food available in vending machines. As a result of their efforts last summer, Amy and her team were able to assess and successfully improve the nutritional quality of vending machines at several local businesses.

Amy’s experiences at SDHD were life changing. As a result of these experiences, she decided to pursue a master’s in public health in health promotion. Her career goal is to continue to promote wellness as a health coordinator for a school district or as a health planner at a state or local health department.

Amy says, “The College of Public Health at UNMC is one of the most welcoming organizations I have ever been a part of. It is very clear that the staff and faculty are dedicated to the success of the students and the advancement of public health. I have greatly enjoyed my time thus far in my degree program.”

Chandran Achutan, PhD: Assessing Exposure to Hazards at Work and in the Community



Spotlight on Research at COPH – Dr. Achutan’s research focuses primarily on exposure assessment and controls of chemical and physical hazards in the workplace and in the community. Dr. Achutan is currently evaluating an intervention strategy to get more farmers to wear hearing protection when working around loud noise. Farmers are exposed to hazardous levels of noise, mainly from farm equipment and from animals. Past research has identified barriers to wearing hearing protection (ear plugs and ear muffs) among farmers. The purpose of this intervention study is to prevent further hearing loss in farmers by increasing their access to hearing protection devices, by placing these devices near all major sources of noise on the farm.

Dr. Achutan is interested in exploring ways to combine teaching and research as well as service and research. Students in Dr. Achutan’s exposure assessment course have conducted studies looking at chemotherapy drug exposures among nurses, surgical staff’s exposure to surgical smoke, chemical exposures among janitorial staff, anesthetic gas exposures to dentists, and radon exposures in basement offices. Dr. Achutan is assisting a community partner in measuring and interpreting indoor air quality data in homes in low-income communities. Other service-research projects include occupational hazards to Hispanic workers, and looking at hearing loss and noise exposures among groundsmen.

Chandran Achutan, PhD, is an assistant professor in the UNMC COPH Department of Environmental, Agricultural, and Occupational Health.

The “Finding a Voice” Project

Source: Jeremiah Neal

Source: Jeremiah Neal

Public Health Community Advisory – “Finding a Voice” (FAV) is a project with homeless guests, recovering addicts, and a variety of health professions students learning together.

The head count of homeless guests for one night in January 2013 was 1,530 in the Omaha metropolitan area. The Siena/Francis House (SFH), the largest homeless shelter in the community, serving 450 daily, houses many of the metropolitan area’s homeless people. This unique shelter has an unconditional acceptance policy and also houses a residential addiction recovery program, the Miracles Treatment Program.

FAV was developed in 2008 as a partnership between SFH and the Service-Learning Academy (SLA) in the College of Public Health (COPH) at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC). This service-learning program brings together homeless guests, recovering addicts, and UNMC health profession students (from nursing, public health, and medicine) to form an open and safe community where all participants find their voice. Students interact with guests and addicts as equals in a weekly Creative Workshop that raises awareness about the complexity of homelessness, dispels stereotypes, and builds relationships. The FAV program also utilizes community-based participatory research principles to engage with the homeless community on a meaningful level. Former and current guests of the SFH are an integral part of the planning team and inform program development and implementation. The FAV philosophy is to acknowledge that all individuals’ perceptions and voices are important and should be shared and heard. The Thursday Creative Workshop, the Saturday Artist in Recovery program, and the Turtle project (Sundays, for children and mothers), are all FAV projects that provide that opportunity to homeless guests and students alike.

Through interviews conducted with the FAV program, guests revealed their top perceived health needs which were very similar to what providers at the shelter clinic identified: mental health, musculoskeletal pain, and addressing addictions. Reported barriers to utilization of health care services included lack of health insurance, mental illness/addictions, and availability of specialty care.

A student participant in the FAV project said “It has already shown me that everyone is human and that we all have a ‘voice’ that should be heard. When caring for patients, I need to be open to fully understanding my patients’ desires and be their advocate. Also, being human, I do find myself trying to assess, categorize, and stereotype (without intention). Overall, I have learned that you should view others and all situations through multiple lens or perspectives to limit false assumptions or interpretation.”

A homeless guest participant in the FAV project said “FAV gave me the strength to be honest with myself and others about my situation. It freed me from my strife and gave me my voice back. FAV is something that I will be eternally grateful for and affected by.”

Forming relationships with guests is critical to better understand homelessness, to assess specific health needs, and to develop appropriate interventions.

To learn more, check out this link: http://findingavoiceproject.org/index.html

This article was written by Ruth Margalit, MD, associate professor in the UNMC COPH Department of Health Promotion, Social and Behavioral Health, director of the UNMC COPH Service-Learning Academy, and director of the Finding a Voice project; Laura Vinson, MPH, coordinator in the UNMC COPH Service-Learning Academy; Shinobu Watanabe-Galloway, PhD, associate professor in the UNMC COPH Department of Epidemiology; and Jacqueline Hill, community health nurse practitioner in the UNMC COPH Center for Reducing Health Disparities.

Health: The Barometer of Climate Change


source: globalchange.gov

Public Health in the National News – Public health, fasten your seatbelts! Climate change is going to be a bumpy ride!

The earth is heating up at an unprecedented rate due to the atmospheric accumulation of waste gases from modern industry and agriculture. As the earth heats up, the lives of people everywhere are gradually and bumpily becoming more chaotic and less healthy.

Globally, urban heat waves are growing hotter, more frequent, and longer. Water for agriculture, drinking, and industry is becoming scarcer as key glaciers melt away and the atmosphere becomes more humid. Americans are learning from such storms as Sandy and the Joplin tornado that extreme weather events are increasingly injuring people, animals, livelihoods, and communities. More frequent droughts, dust storms, forest fires, and crop failures are beginning to dog the heels of public health aspirations and economic growth.

The World Health Organization has begun to monitor climate-related health problems. Most evident so far are air pollution issues—asthmas, allergies, COPD, etc. Heat will cause more heart disease and stroke as time goes by. Tropical and vector borne diseases—such as malaria, dengue fever, protozoa, encephalitis, and enteric viruses—are climbing in latitude and altitude. As the climate heats up, fresh movements to lead healthier lives—exercising outside, bicycling, and urban gardening—will be challenged by scorching summer days.

Health care will become harder to deliver—during Sandy, 53 health care institutions were evacuated. Rising food and fuel prices will challenge the ability of families to eat healthy diets, buy goods, commute to work, and keep their homes at comfortable and healthy temperatures. And, these health problems will be all the more severe for the poor, elders, children, and the disabled.

Public health professionals and planners are beginning to realize that if the United States is to maintain a healthy society, economic and health policies will need to adapt to rapid change. Health care agencies, schools, and government bodies are beginning to respond. The CDC is partnering with over a dozen states and cities in organizing heat emergency plans and cooling centers. Hospitals are beginning to secure their back-up generators and to prepare for surges and evacuations.

As decades pass, around 2050 or so, global temperatures are likely to blow past the two degree Centigrade Plimsoll Line that climate scientists have warned will prove catastrophic. In the last half of this century, barring an immediate global emergency response, conditions will worsen steeply. Ocean levels will rise; people will move northward out of overheated tropical zones; nations may go to war over scarce freshwater; and drought, extreme weather, and changing seasons will trigger major agriculture failures accompanied by widespread famine.

Scientists and engineers know of only one realistic solution to this problem: On average the world as a whole must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60 to 80%—by fossil fuel reductions, solar and wind energy, economic efficiency, and healthy lifestyles requiring little energy. The world must move quickly, since greenhouse gases are already determining the climate well into the future.

Public health, however, can help us all muster the resolve to act. Everyone cares about personal health, and even more so, about the health of children and grandchildren. The younger generations will bear the brunt of the problem more than adults and the old now do. Out of love for them, we may find the power to act with imagination and dispatch.

This article was written by Andrew Jameton, PhD, professor in the UNMC COPH Department of Health Promotion, Social and Behavioral Health.