Denise Britigan, MA, PhD, CHES

Denise Britigan, MA, PhD, CHES

Denise Britigan, MA, PhD, CHES

Faculty Highlight – Dr. Denise H. Britigan received her PhD in Health Education from the University of Cincinnati in Cincinnati, Ohio. She also holds an MA in Library and Information Science and a BS in Medical Technology. She was a member of the American Society of Clinical Pathologists for over 20 years, and has been a nationally certified health education specialist since 2008. Dr. Britigan also completed a two-year, inter-professional Certificate of Preparing Future Faculty program during her doctoral studies.  She joined the College of Public Health (COPH) faculty in July 2011.

Dr. Britigan and Lea Pounds, PhD(c), developed the Social Marketing and Health Communication concentration in the UNMC COPH Master of Public Health program. They teach Introduction to Social Marketing and Health Communication, Applied Social Marketing, and Advanced Health Communication. Dr. Britigan enjoys teaching and has taught the following courses in the Health Promotion concentration as well: Interventions in Health Promotion, and Public Health Leadership and Advocacy.

Additionally, Dr. Britigan has developed guest lectures and workshops on Health Literacy and Health Communication. She has been a repeat guest lecturer in the College of Medicine’s Physician Assistant Studies program and in the School of Allied Health’s Physical Therapy program. She has also delivered her interactive, informative sessions on health literacy at over a dozen various public forums in Omaha and across Nebraska.

Dr. Britigan has served as the academic advisor, research mentor, and dissertation or capstone committee member/chair for 10 students in four departments. She is a co-founder of the statewide partnership Health Literacy Nebraska, which began in 2011. Dr. Britigan serves as a representative of Nebraska to the DHHS Region VII Health Literacy initiative, which includes Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas.

Dr. Britigan’s interests include working with the Nebraska Association of Local Health Directors on a Health Resources and Services Administration Rural Outreach grant to study and improve the health literacy skills and health communication skills of rural health department personnel. She is also collaborating on various NIH-funded research projects that include health communication, and on a local study on hand-off communication between emergency department and admitting service personnel.

Dr. Britigan is a member of the American Public Health Association and the Society of Public Health Educators. She currently serves on the following UNMC committees: Education Development Initiative, Associate Member in the Eppley Cancer Prevention and Control Program, Faculty Senate Library Advisory Committee, Science Literacy Think Tank, Science Café Workgroup, and Search Committee for the new director of the McGoogan Library of Medicine.  Within the COPH, Dr. Britigan serves as a leader for Strategic Plan Goal 8: Communication Council, a member of the COPH Graduate Committee, a member of the Faculty Advisory Board for the Center for Reducing Health Disparities, and editor-in-chief of The GroundBreaker, the electronic newsletter for the COPH.

Outside of her professional duties, Denise is a member of International P.E.O. and UNMC’s Faculty Women’s Club. At a state and national level, Dr. Britigan serves as the American Association of University Women Nebraska Membership vice president, and as one of two delegates from Nebraska to Drexel University’s national initiative Vision 2020: Equality in Sight.

Denise H Britigan, MA, PhD, CHES, is an assistant professor in the UNMC COPH Department of Health Promotion, Social and Behavioral Health.

Patty Scholting, MPAS, PA-C

Patty Scholting, MPAS, PA-C

Patty Scholting, MPAS, PA-C

Student Highlight – Patty Scholting is a student in the UNMC College of Public Health (COPH) Master of Public Health program with a concentration in Community Oriented Primary Care (COPC).  She entered the MPH program on a part-time basis in the fall of 2008.  With her course work complete, she is now turning her attention toward developing her service-learning/capstone project. Patty expects to graduate in 2014.

Patty is currently on the faculty at UNMC in the Physician Assistant program. She is an assistant professor and academic coordinator in the School of Allied Health Professions.  She also practices as a PA in the field of internal medicine.  It is there that she became interested in public health and more specifically in COPC.  “Our current health care system focuses on acute or chronically ill patients and as a result healthy individuals are overlooked,” says Patty about the character of our current health care system. COPC identifies all members of a defined community, including ill and healthy individuals, in an effort to address health issues comprehensively. Patty believes that looking at health through the lens of population, and not just the individual, is critical to addressing the health-related challenges of today. Patty’s interests include addressing workforce issues in rural health by providing students and future PAs the tools they need to put COPC into action within the communities they serve.  The UNMC COPH has provided her with not only an expanded view of health care but also the means to teach her students the importance of public health in every field of medicine.

Outside the world of academia and medicine, Patty likes to spend much of her time outdoors, hiking, camping, gardening, and spending time with her family.

Valeriya Kettelhut

Valeriya Kettelhut

Valeriya Kettelhut

Alumni Highlight – Valeriya graduated from Omsk Medical University, Russia, in 1992, went through a surgical fellowship program, and then worked as a surgeon for five years. While working with patients who were workers at a nuclear plant, she encountered several relatively young patients with prostate cancer and testicular cancer. She realized the hospital where she practiced could offer a screening program for the city. She communicated with the hospital administration to purchase specialized ultrasound equipment and develop an agreement with a biochemical regional laboratory. She also worked with the media to create educational and promotional materials for the city residents. The screening programs, her first public health endeavor, were a pioneering project at that time in Russia.

In 2003, Valeriya immigrated to the United States, and in 2005 she matriculated to the Master of Public Health program at UNMC’s College of Public Health. She was the first recipient of the Robert D. Sparks Student Research award at COPH for her work evaluating the impact of a Nebraska law regulating the use of asthma medications in schools. Since her graduation in 2007, Valeriya has worked at The Nebraska Medical Center as clinical quality coordinator for the Solid Organ Transplant program.  In this role, Valeriya monitors and provides analysis of patient outcome data such as mortality, graft rejection, infectious complications, length of stay, and readmissions to nurses, physicians, and other stakeholders. She also monitors the transplant center’s compliance with federal regulations and works collaboratively on quality improvement projects. In 2010, she became certified in Medical Quality by the American Board of Medical Quality.

Currently, Valeriya is a doctoral student in the Biomedical Informatics program at UNMC and was recently elected as the president of the COPH Alumni Association.

Valeriya’s advice to current students:

  • Build a solid portfolio of activities and experience related to real-life projects.

  • Develop strong skills in statistical analyses and the use of statistical programs, and monitor market demand for analytics with Big Data in health care. This will make COPH graduates more competitive and successful as demand for analytics and informatics in health care is growing at a rapid pace.

Amr Soliman, MD, PhD: Multidisciplinary Cancer Epidemiology Research

Amr Soliman, MD, PhD

Amr Soliman, MD, PhD

Spotlight on Research at COPH – Dr. Soliman has developed a multidisciplinary cancer epidemiology research program in underserved and minority populations. Over the past 20 years, he has been collaborating with faculty in Middle Eastern countries and Africa and working with U.S. minority populations to develop a program in international cancer epidemiology and migration studies. This has led to a strong research infrastructure with several centers in Cyprus, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, and Malawi to investigate the epidemiology of colorectal, pancreatic, hematopoietic, and breast cancers. He also has conducted collaborative research with the minority-focused SEER registry in Detroit, the Michigan Cancer Consortium, the State Cancer Registry of Michigan, Michigan State University, and the Arab American Center for Social and Economic Services in Dearborn, Michigan. His research also includes access to cancer care and screening in these populations. Dr. Soliman’s previous experience as Co-PI of the NCI-R25 supported Cancer Education Program at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center from 1999 to 2003 and currently as the PI of the NCI-R25 E supported Cancer Epidemiology in Special Populations (CEESP) for University of Michigan and University of Nebraska public health students, provides him with the experience required to educate, train, and develop the careers of public health students.

Amr Soliman, MD, PhD, is chair and  professor of the UNMC COPH Department of Epidemiology.

Health Literacy in Nebraska and the Nation: What is in the works?

GB literacyPublic Health Community Advisory – October is designated as Health Literacy Month, and this year’s suggested theme is “Be a Health Literacy Hero.”… “It’s about taking action and finding ways to improve how we communicate health information. Health Literacy Heroes can be individuals, teams, or organizations. What they have in common is finding health literacy problems and then acting to solve them.” [1]  Heroes here in Nebraska include the members of Health Literacy Nebraska [2] (HLNE), a partnership led by Susan Bockrath, MPH, CHES.  An online survey tool was developed by HLNE to determine what health communication support and training will best help health care personnel in Nebraska. The survey tool has also been incorporated into a College of Public Health (COPH) student’s service learning/capstone experience project at the Omaha VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System, US Department of Veterans Affairs [3]. Two more COPH students have also incorporated validated health literacy instruments into their research projects with affiliate organizations such as Community Alliance [4] and the Consulate of Mexico in Omaha, NE [5].

According to the Mayo Clinic in Wisconsin [6], “a significant gap exists between the way health care issues are communicated and the ability of most people to understand them.”  Sound familiar? Across Nebraska, a rural outreach project awarded to the Nebraska Association of Local Health Directors (NALHD) [7] to improve health literacy in local health departments is in the second year of a three-year grant funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). A website, listserv, technical assistance at 19 health departments, and 5 regional Health Literate Writer’s Workshops encourage connection and collaboration between local health departments across the state.

Nebraska is at the forefront of emerging statewide efforts across the nation and has been selected by the Institute of Medicine’s Roundtable on Health Literacy as a commissioned case study for statewide initiatives. At the national level, health literacy efforts over the last decade have blossomed! The Institute of Medicine’s Roundtable on Health Literacy created “Ten Attributes of Health Literate Health Care Organizations” [8]; the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) created a Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit [9]; and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) created a Clear Communication Index [10], which is a new research-based tool for planning and assessing public health communication materials.

Check out these great resources during the month of October and celebrate improved health literacy efforts!

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


[9] ttp://

Herd Immunity?

U.S. and Mexico Vaccine Preventable Disease Outbreaks 2008-2013, Council on Foreign Relations. LEGEND: Red = measles, Brown = mumps, Green = Whooping Cough, Yellow = Other

U.S. and Mexico Vaccine Preventable Disease Outbreaks 2008-2013, Council on Foreign Relations. LEGEND: Red = measles, Brown = mumps, Green = Whooping Cough, Yellow = Other

Public Health in the National News – If you mention “herd immunity” to someone in the agricultural belt of the United States, your conversation will likely turn to livestock. For infectious disease experts, the term means something similar, but it is used in reference to large groups of humans rather than animals. “Herd immunity” and immunization have played a historic role in combating human disease and stabilizing human populations.

History gives us many examples of contagious diseases that decimated populations, for example the plague outbreak in the mid-1300s that came to be known as the “Black Death,” which killed an estimated 30%-60% of Europe’s total population. In the modern era, however, vaccines have helped reduce infectious disease pandemics and stabilize populations. Widespread immunization programs have led to what infectious disease experts refer to as “herd immunity,” meaning that an entire group of people is protected when a large percentage of group members are immune to a particular disease agent. Herd immunity applies to a disease if the following conditions are met:

1) The disease agent is restricted to a single host (i.e., humans)

2) Transmission is relatively direct from person to person

3) Solid immunity against the disease agent is obtained from vaccination or previous infection

The recent surge in outbreaks of vaccine-preventable disease highlights the complexity and challenges public health agencies face in helping communities achieve herd immunity. Since 2009, there have been over 90 vaccine-preventable outbreaks in the United States alone, accounting for 381 Measles cases, 160 Mumps cases, and over 44,000 cases of whooping cough [1,2]. Roughly 80% of outbreak-associated cases are unimmunized, indicating populations of unvaccinated individuals are a key element of these outbreaks [3].

Barriers to child vaccination include practical issues such as a lack of transportation or money to access vaccinations, and personal concerns such as parents with personal or religious beliefs that oppose vaccinations [4,5]. Emotional or psychological concerns, for example a now-disproven theory that vaccines cause autism, may also cause parents to decide against vaccinating their children. Additionally, a significant number of parents don’t understand the importance of vaccinating their children, are overwhelmed by complex immunization schedules, or find it difficult to make time to complete a full course of vaccinations [6,7].

It is important for care providers and public health practitioners to recognize that people interact with information through their experiences and social settings. Educating parents involves more than providing the facts about the importance of immunization to prevent their children from contracting these infectious diseases and to maintain herd immunity. We must also be ready and willing to address the fears and concerns parents have with vaccinations.

This article was written by John Lowe, PhD, assistant professor in the UNMC COPH Department of Environmental, Occupational, and Agricultural Health, and by KM Monirul Islam, MD, PhD, assistant professor in the UNMC COPH Department of Epidemiology.

[1] Council on Foreign Relations, (2013). Vaccine-Preventable Outbreaks
[2] CDC (2013). Measles – United States, January 1-August 24, 2013. (2013). MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep, 62(36), 741-743.
[3] CDC (2013). Notes from the field: measles outbreak among members of a religious community – Brooklyn, New York, March-June 2013. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep, 62(36), 752-753.
[4] Dorell, C., Yankey, D., Kennedy, A., & Stokley, S. (2013). Factors That Influence Parental Vaccination Decisions for Adolescents, 13 to 17 Years Old National Immunization Survey–Teen, 2010. Clinical pediatrics, 52(2), 162-170.
[5] Dubé, E., Laberge, C., Guay, M., Bramadat, P., Roy, R., & Bettinger, J. A. (2013). Vaccine hesitancy: An overview. Human vaccines & immunotherapeutics, 9(8), 0-1.
[6] Wick, J.  (2011). Removing Barriers to Childhood Immunization. Pharmacy Times. August.
[7] Leask J. (2011). Target the fence-sitters. Nature. 473:443-445.