Jiangtao Luo, PhD

Jiangtao Luo, PhD

Jiangtao Luo, PhD

Education Highlight – Jiangtao Luo, PhD, currently teaches the following courses:

  • BIOS 918 Biostatistical Linear Models – Theory and Applications

  • BIOS 835 / CPH 517 Design of Medical Health Studies

  • BIOS 818 / CPH 516 Biostatistical Methods II (Applied Linear Regression Models).

BIOS 835 / CPH 517 is offered in both online and on-campus versions. Dr. Luo has also taught BIOS 806/CPH 506 Biostatistics I in past years. Dr. Luo joined the department in 2010 and conducts research in both statistical genetics and clinical trials.

Dr. Luo’s teaching philosophy centers on facilitating the learning process for the student and adapting to their knowledge background and individual needs. He emphasizes the importance of mastering the fundamental concepts, ideas, and methods in statistics in order to reduce common mistakes in how they are applied. In his teaching, Dr. Luo consistently gives students a big picture first before delving into the statistical process. For many people, statistics is about mathematical proofs, fancy equations, and fantasy models, but Dr. Luo unfailingly persuades his students to “use common sense and pictures as often as possible” in statistics. He continually encourages his students to “never be intimidated by statistics, never lose your common sense, and always start from graphs.”

The courses that Dr. Luo teaches serve many important purposes for students. BIOS 918 is required for PhD students in biostatistics, and BIOS 818 / CPH 516 provides fundamental skills in data analysis widely used in public health professions and in industry. BIOS 835 / CPH 517 provides essential skills for those who plan careers in research and in the pharmaceutical industry.

Dr. Luo says “Higher education is the lighthouse in our civilization. As a keeper of the lighthouse, I use my knowledge to light the minds of my students. Therefore, teaching is much more than a simple repeating of knowledge. It involves preparation, interaction, follow-up, improvement, and sacrifice. Above all, I enjoy teaching biostatistics, and I am driven by a desire to continue the strong traditions of higher education in my own classes.”

Jiangtao Luo, PhD, is an assistant professor in the UNMC COPH Department of Biostatistics.

Jill Hughes

Jill Hughes

Jill Hughes

Student Highlight – Jill Hughes is an MPH student studying Environmental, Occupational and Agricultural Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) College of Public Health (COPH). Originally from Springview, a rural community in north central Nebraska, Jill chose to return to Nebraska upon completing her undergraduate degree at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, New Mexico, to further her education.

After studying and conducting research in forensic biology at the undergraduate level, Jill wanted to find a way to marry her skills from her forensic background to disease investigation. With recent advances in the field of forensic science, a newer area of forensic epidemiology has come to the forefront as a method of investigating weaponized toxins and diseases, poisonings, and bioterrorism. The environmental health curriculum and elective courses in emergency management through the COPH have provided Jill with a broad range of knowledge to prepare her as a member of an investigative team, and as a responder to multiple forms of health threats.

Hughes’ career and research interests involve working with, and constructing universal protocols for, multi-department response teams to biochemical incidents and investigations. Her first year at the COPH has allowed her the opportunity to work with one of these agencies, as a work study student with the Nebraska Department of Public Health Lab. She has gained knowledge in handling various types of samples, learning and understanding protocol, and departmental roles and responsibilities. In addition, she has gained great knowledge and experience in the field as a volunteer and board member of the Do juSTIce program, collecting STD/STI data from the Douglas County Department of Corrections and assisting with treatment of the inmates.

Jill’s favorite aspect of UNMC is the continued and varied volunteer efforts in the local community and worldwide. She feels that her volunteer work, paired with the resources the university offers and the overwhelming support from her instructors, career advisor, and personal academic advisor, will fully prepare her for a career in the public health field upon her graduation.

Douglas Perin, MPH

Douglas Perin, MPH

Douglas Perin, MPH

Alumni Highlight – Doug Perin graduated from the COPH with a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology in August 2013.

Hometown: Porto Alegre, Brazil

Current career position:  As of October 2013, I’m an ASPPH/CDC Public Health Fellow working with the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control at the CDC, in Atlanta, Georgia. I am involved in international projects analyzing cancer prevention practices and outcomes, especially focused in Brazil. I am currently planning a trip to meet with partners from various Brazilian governmental agencies.

What you value most about your time in our program: I value the international character of UNMC’s faculty and students. The opportunity to work in the Center for Global Health and Development helped me develop the skills I needed to effectively work in an international context. In addition, I was afforded the opportunity to work at the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France, as part of my Service Learning/Capstone project.

Advice for current students: Take advantage of the experience of our faculty and the opportunity to interact with people from other countries and cultures. This will help you develop a broader perspective of public health and hopefully create opportunities for hands-on experience and future employment.

Lina Lander, ScD: Assessing Perspectives on Health Information Exchange in Nebraska

source: dhhs.ne.gov

source: dhhs.ne.gov

Spotlight on Research at COPH – The Nebraska Health Information Initiative (NeHII) is Nebraska’s state-designated Health Information Exchange (HIE) and the statewide integrator of electronic health information. Participating providers can exchange health information to make more complete information available at the point of patient care. As of February 2014, more than 2.7 million patients, 1,388 physician providers, and 2,186 health care providers participate in NeHII. Dr. Lina Lander and colleagues have recently completed a comprehensive assessment of Nebraska health care providers’ and consumers’ perspectives on HIE.

What do health care providers think about HIE?

Dr. Lander and her colleagues surveyed 5,618 Nebraska physicians, physician assistants, and advanced practice registered nurses in 2013 and received 615 completed questionnaires (11% participation).

Providers who have used HIE reported that it improved patient care and facilitated receiving and sending information in the referral network. Respondents indicated that cost and loss of productivity were the major barriers to HIE adoption. HIE features important to those surveyed included accessing comprehensive lists of patients’ medications and allergies, and viewing lab results and clinical notes.

The survey findings led the research team to conclude that streamlining HIE access through integration with electronic medical records to minimize workflow interruption, and keeping costs reasonably low for providers, may increase participation, as would emphasizing more efficient access to laboratory values and medication information.

What do consumers think about HIE?

Consumer satisfaction is a crucial component of HIE utilization, as high satisfaction is expected to increase HIE utilization among providers and allow consumers to become full participants in their own health care management. The research team conducted 8 focus groups with a total of 67 participants in 7 towns and cities across Nebraska to identify consumer perspectives and concerns about HIE.

Participants expressed concern about privacy and security of medical information, decreases in quality of care, inconsistent provider participation, and potential cost. Participants gave positive feedback regarding accuracy and completeness of information, and improved communication, coordination, and access to information among health care providers.

Focus group findings revealed both significant perceived barriers and benefits to consumer adoption of HIE and related services. Improvements in patient care were expected due to easy physician access to consolidated information across providers as well as speed of sharing and availability of information in an emergency. In addition, participants were optimistic about patient empowerment in convenient access to and control of personal health data.


HIE gives providers quick access to patient information, allows providers to share patient information confidentially, and may be especially beneficial to patients seeking care in different locations. In emergency situations, immediate access to health information may eliminate the need to fax necessary documents. For public health professionals, HIE can become a platform to share vaccination and laboratory results. Once privacy and security guards are in place, quick and efficient access to health information can allow comparative effectiveness research to identify practices that will best serve Nebraska residents.


1. Morien M. Health information exchange important to public health? The GroundBreaker, Public Health in the National News. 2013;3(1). http://blog.unmc.edu/publichealth/2013/01/15/health-information-exchange-important-to-public-health/

2. http://www.connectnebraska.net/

Lina Lander, ScD, is an associate professor in the UNMC COPH Department of Epidemiology.

Wellness at Work

2013 Wellness Fair

2013 Wellness Fair

Public Health Community Advisory – In September of 2012, the College of Public Health (COPH) established the COPH Wellness Council (WC) in response to the college-wide strategic planning retreat. The WC consists of volunteer faculty, staff, and students who meet monthly to plan and promote wellness activities that are aligned with the COPH mission “to create an environment to promote optimal health and well-being.”

Wellness can be characterized as an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life. Based on these concepts, the WCl provides monthly presentations or events aimed at engaging faculty, staff, and students in making healthy lifestyle choices. In addition to providing wellness opportunities within the COPH, the WC also promotes and encourages COPH members to participate in University of Nebraska Medical Center campus-sponsored wellness events such as the Walking Works Corporate Challenge, Fitness Fridays, the Decathlon, etc.

Recently the WC held the second annual COPH Wellness Fair. Approximately 50 fairgoers visited more than a dozen booths to learn about wellness issues, including hearing health, emergency preparedness, nutrition, smoking cessation, lactation, fitness, herbal supplements, women’s health, the employee assistance program, and the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. In addition, chair massages, mini-tai chi classes, and blood pressure/blood glucose screenings were also offered. Based on feedback and evaluations, this is a favorite WC event among COPH members.

Other popular events have been Tai-Chi on the Green, March Madness Badminton Tournament, the Annual Chili and Soup Cook-Off, an Apple a Day, Fall Tailgate, and stress reduction for the holidays with alternative medicine and yoga/stress relief. Each event has met one or more of the WC strategic goals set forth in the 2012 strategic plan formulated by COPH members.  Success is measured by asking all attendees to complete an evaluation to determine if the events are meeting the expectations of COPH members and fulfilling the goals of the council. In the spring of 2014, the council will be sending out a college-wide survey to determine how the WC may best provide our members opportunities  to incorporate wellness while at work.

In addition to the benefits of having monthly wellness events, long-term, sustainable activities have resulted from the WC, such as the lunch-hour walking group and the CSA program designed to promote consumption of locally produced, farm-fresh produce.

The COPH WC believes that a healthy workforce is essential in creating a productive workforce. Having a work environment that reinforces a wellness strategy can keep employees motivated and engaged in the work environment. The WC believes that the COPH can best foster healthy populations and environments by providing opportunities for wellness education and activities as well as modeling wellness behaviors and attitudes within the college.

This article was written by Mary Morris, office associate I in the UNMC COPH Department of Biostatistics, and by Analisa McMillan, MSEd, Instructional Designer in the UNMC COPH.

Helping Create a Safe and Healthy Agricultural Sector

source: www.osha.gov

source: www.osha.gov

Public Health Practice – The burden of agricultural injuries and fatalities weighs heavily on rural communities and the families of those who have been injured or killed.  Agriculture is a dangerous occupation, accounting for one of the highest fatality rates in the United States, with 475 deaths reported in 2012, and an estimated 243 agricultural workers suffering a lost-work-time injury every day. Five percent of these injuries result in permanent impairment. To address these unacceptably high rates, the Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (CS-CASH) was established as one of nine Agricultural Safety and Health Centers in the United States that receive funding from the National Institutes of Safety and Health.  . The vision of the center is to assist in maintaining a vibrant agricultural sector in our region and the United States, where health and safety is highly valued and work-related injuries and illnesses are rare.

Located at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, College of Public Health, in Omaha, Nebraska, CS-CASH serves a seven-state region including North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, and Missouri. The center’s mission is to work with the agricultural community in the Central States and beyond, conducting research, intervention, education, and outreach activities, which aim to discover the mechanisms of injury and illness, and to develop, implement, and evaluate prevention strategies that measurably improve the health and safety of members of the agricultural community. Center investigators collaborate with the neighboring agricultural centers, based out of Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Texas.

Each center has unique projects and focus areas. CS-CASH focuses primarily on respiratory disease research, injury surveillance, hearing protection, mental health concerns, and educational needs of farmers, including non-traditional farmers, migrant farm workers, and farm family members. To address emerging issues in agricultural safety and health and to provide funding for novel research, CS-CASH awards pilot grants each year. These grants provide funding that lays the groundwork for development of innovative prevention, education, and research strategies. The center’s goal is to serve the farming community by discovering causes of injury and illness, and communicating information about prevention in ways that reach as many farmers as possible.  For more information on the specific core projects, please visit the CS-CASH website at: http://www.unmc.edu/publichealth/cscash/.

This article was written by Ellen G. Duysen, Coordinator in the UNMC COPH Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health.