Elizabeth Lyden, MS

Elizabeth Lyden, MS

Elizabeth Lyden, MS

Faculty Highlight – Ms. Elizabeth Lyden teaches Introduction to SAS Programming. This course introduces students to programming for statistical and epidemiologic analysis using the SAS Software System. It is an interactive course taught in the COPH computer lab that focuses on data management and data processing skills, as well as statistical analysis and graphical presentations, all of which are useful to public health professionals. Since 2007, Ms. Lyden has served on two-to-three student capstone committees each year, and in addition, provides SPSS and SAS consultation to students analyzing data for their capstone projects.


Ms. Lyden has been an assistant statistician for the Children’s Oncology Group since 2000 and works closely with Dr. Jim Anderson on the analysis of clinical trials related to pediatric Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS). She has co-authored 15 articles on RMS. Ms. Lyden is a member of the Center for Collaboration on Research Design and Analysis, through which she provides statistical collaboration to researchers at UNMC. Specifically, she provides consultation, data analysis, and manuscript review for physicians and researchers in infectious disease, orthopedics, neonatology, diabetes, and solid organ transplant. Her particular interest is analyzing data related to solid organ transplant. She frequently looks at predictors of graft and patient survival using time to event analysis.


Ms. Lyden is a member of the COPH Communication Task Force, a strategic planning subcommittee. She has served on the Carruth J. Wagner, MD, Scholarship in Public Health Award Committee. She was a participant in panel discussions of careers in mathematics at Dana College. She also has worked as an instructor of statistics to middle school teachers as part of a National Science Foundation grant.

Elizabeth Lyden, MS, is a statistical coordinator and instructor in the UNMC COPH Department of Biostatistics.

Jiali Zheng

Jiali Zheng

Jiali Zheng

Student Highlight — Jiali Zheng is an MPH student in the biostatistics concentration. She is from mainland China and is currently in her last semester. Jiali received a bachelor of science degree in nutrition science from Shanghai Jiaotong University School of Medicine, China. During her four-year undergraduate study in medical school, she was not only exposed to medical and nutritional knowledge, but also developed an interest in the area of public health, especially in biostatistics and epidemiology. At that time, she wanted to be actively involved in disease prevention and control. She embraced a noble goal: to reduce the burden of disease and the need for hospital care through preventive action in the world. Jiali wants to see a world where fewer people resort to expensive hospital care where and when it can be prevented.


Jiali decided to study biostatistics because statistical methods are integral to understanding what is useful, what works, where possibilities may exist, and more. We could never understand disease trends or the impact of risk factors without the rich tools we use in statistical analysis. In the second year of her MPH studies, Jiali learned and gained experience in many of her biostatistics courses. The cases and examples that were used are very much relevant today and are the kind of challenges that would emerge in the real world. She believes that her experience in this program has equipped her with the skills and knowledge that will make for a successful and gratifying career in biostatistics. She particularly applauds the use of data sets and examples in a global context, not relevant to only the United States.

Jiali has built long lasting relationships in the College of Public Health. She likes the faculty and her peers and appreciates the warm, friendly, and open environment in the college. Jiali likes the positive atmosphere and helpful attitude faculty have towards students. She received a lot of helpful suggestions and guidance from instructors. Jiali worked one semester as a research assistant and another semester as a teaching assistant. After she graduates, she plans to pursue a PhD degree in nutrition epidemiology, which is an area that will combine her undergraduate and graduate background and focus on what we consume everyday and the impact of those dietary decisions on health status.

Philip W. Smith, MD: Research on Hospital Environmental Cleanliness

Above, a study nurse obtains an environmental study sample.

Above, a study nurse obtains an environmental study sample.

Spotlight on Research at COPH – Dr. Smith’s major current research project relates to detection of hospital environmental cleanliness. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows that hospitalization is potentially hazardous, with approximately 1.7 million infections occurring in hospitalized patients in the United States annually. The environment in a hospital may look clean but harbor dangerous bacteria, such as MRSA, that may be transmitted to patients.

Looking for environmental contamination in the past has usually involved taking samples from surfaces and analyzing them in the microbiology laboratory, a process that takes several days. Dr. Smith’s research, in collaboration with Dr. Shawn Gibbs, Harlan Sayles, and Dr. Angela Hewlett (also of the College of Public Health), is evaluating a new rapid test for environmental contamination with a device developed by 3M. The device gives results within minutes in the room, allowing more immediate feedback to be given to environmental service personnel.

Dr. Smith’s group is comparing the new, rapid technique to the standard, labor-intensive method of sampling bacteria on hospital surfaces in a number of settings, including UNMC and outstate hospitals (Columbus Community Hospital and Regional West Medical Center in Scottsbluff, Nebraska). The research team is also working in the laboratory, with 10 different bacteria that cause hospital infections, and on a dozen different surfaces (e.g., steel, plastic, vinyl, carpet).

Another phase of the research project involves comparing different educational interventions with environmental services personnel to see whether environmental cleaning scores can be improved using the new 3M device. Providing feedback through cleaning scores is a powerful incentive to optimize cleaning. The study is also looking at other interventions, such as on-site demonstrations of the device, presentation of the cleaning scores on specific high-risk sites in the room, and other forms of positive feedback. In addition, the study is piloting a gaming device based on scores developed by Beth Beam and Stephen Smith of the UNMC College of Nursing.

The study has been very well received by environmental service personnel at The Nebraska Medical Center, and the research team is looking for additional applications of the rapid detection device.


Philip W. Smith, MD, is co-director of the Center for Preparedness Education, a joint endeavor between Creighton University Medical Center and The Nebraska Medical Center that resides in the UNMC COPH. Dr. Smith is a professor in the UNMC College of Medicine Department of Internal Medicine, in the Division of Infectious Diseases, and a professor in the UNMC COPH Department of Epidemiology.

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 http://phtc.unmc.edu/moodle/.

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.