John J. Lowe, PhD

John J. Lowe, PhD

John J. Lowe, PhD

Education Highlight – John J. Lowe, PhD, is an assistant professor in the UNMC COPH Department of Environmental, Agricultural and Occupational Health. His teaching focuses on environmental science and core public health topics, including the public health system, ecological framework for determinants of health, core functions of public health, public health ethics, and interventions and emergency preparedness. Dr. Lowe teaches

  • ENV 970 Doctoral Seminar in Environmental, Agricultural and Occupational Health

  • CPH 500 / HPRO 830 Foundations in Public Health

He assisted Dr. Sharon Medcalf and Dr. Philip Smith in developing core courses for the Master of Science in Emergency Preparedness. Dr. Lowe has been with the department since July 2013.

Dr. Lowe’s teaching philosophy is grounded in a desire to develop students through personal exchange that elicits student engagement and fosters academic growth. This student-centered approach to learning and educating is central to each of Dr. Lowe’s courses. “Public health as a discipline presents a number of potential focus areas that can lead to silos within the discipline. I strive to nurture learning environments that enable and promote students to personally connect beyond their primary discipline to develop their own understanding of public health as a whole.” To do this, he places a significant level of course content in the hands of students to synthesize through writing, presenting, and group discussion. He states this can be a “challenging method of teaching” as many students have specialized backgrounds and a great deal of passion for public health issues.

Dr. Lowe’s Foundations of Public Health course addresses the arduous task of introducing the breadth and complexity of what defines public health. He sees success in this course when students express a newfound understanding of the public health system that will enable them to explain with ease just what public health is. Dr. Lowe highly values the ability of students to navigate complex issues in an academic manner through writing and presenting. As many predominant public health issues are politically charged, Dr. Lowe appreciates a student’s ability to articulate an informed position as a critical asset for their future endeavors. Dr. Lowe employs a variety of written and verbal assessments to help students hone the ability to craft informed public health opinions. Dr. Lowe says this approach also provides insight into how each student is processing the course material beyond what can be achieved through didactic lectures, exams, and quizzes. To accomplish this, he teaches students to understand the core functions of the public health system and to recognize the value of an interdisciplinary ecological approach to addressing health issues. He then provides the students with opportunities to apply these concepts to address pressing public health issues. Dr. Lowe’s aspiration is to provide students with an understanding of public health that equals their passion to pursue a career in public health.

Bernadette McCrory, PhD

Bernadette McCrory, PhD

Bernadette McCrory, PhD

Student Highlight – Dr. Bernadette McCrory is an MPH student in the Department of Biostatistics at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) College of Public Health. Bernie is originally from Denver, Colorado. She completed her MS and PhD in engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and her BS at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. Currently she is a research scientist within the Movement and Neurosciences Center at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital, a research assistant professor within the Mechanical & Materials Engineering Department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and a public health officer within the Nebraska Army National Guard. She is also adjunct faculty at Concordia University and Nebraska Methodist College. Her work focuses on improving health care quality and safety by assessing and developing intuitive medical equipment, instrumentation, and systems. Her current research focuses on conducting biomechanical, physiological, and neurocognitive research to protect the health and safety of health care workers and to promote the independence and quality of life of persons with and without disabilities. She teaches courses concentrating on health care human factors and ergonomics, biostatistics, and military preventive medicine.

Bernie began her public health career as an Army medical officer. Her duties were to ensure that her fellow soldiers and the detainees they provided medical care for were as healthy as possible. She learned much about public health from her army experience, which drove her to pursue the academic training at UNMC. Now as a researcher, Bernie is practicing public health in different ways. Currently, she is developing technologies that will reduce the stress and strain that health care providers must endure while caring (lifting, moving, assisting) for their patients. Protecting the health and safety of caregivers will optimize their work quality life and productivity, leading to safer and higher quality patient care. The courses at UNMC have broadened her perspective on public health and its influences in almost all facets of everyday life. The theoretical underpinnings of the core courses in particular helped with these aspects. Within biostatistics, her professors have helped hone her technical skills already established through her doctoral work, but more importantly have created opportunities to work with real data on real projects. Dr. Jane Meza and Bernie are collaborating on a research training grant from the Heartland Center for Occupational Health and Safety at the University of Iowa from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. They are surveying physical therapists and physical therapy assistants currently practicing at rehabilitation centers in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska to determine the prevalence and severity of work-related musculoskeletal disorders, and the associations between work-related musculoskeletal disorders and specific exposure risk factors such as usage of patient-handling equipment. Along with their other collaborators, Dr. Judy Burnfield and Dr. Amy Darragh, they hope to make a tangible impact on the health and safety of clinicians working in physical therapy.

Bettye Apenteng, PhD

Bettye Apenteng, PhD

Bettye Apenteng, PhD

Alumni Highlight – Bettye Apenteng graduated from the COPH with a PhD in Health Services Research, Administration, and Policy in 2013.

Hometown: Accra, Ghana

Current career position: Assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management, Jiann-Pinn Hsu College of Public Health, Georgia Southern University. I really enjoy teaching and I am particularly impressed by the extensive amount of practical public health and health care management experience my students bring. This makes for exceptionally interactive and interesting class sessions.

What you value most about your time in our program: I value the hands-on training in research that I obtained from the HSRA program at the COPH. I am also particularly grateful for the mentorship I obtained from my mentor and other faculty members. I have made lifelong friends at the college and I am grateful for that.

Advice for current students: Enjoy your time in school because it doesn’t get any easier in the “real world”.

Community-Driven Solutions to Public Health Problems

GB LeaPSpotlight on Research at COPH – Both social marketing and community-based participatory research demonstrate the importance of understanding the perspective of people impacted by a given issue. However, each stops short of fully engaging people in the entire process of researching, developing, implementing, and evaluating solutions to those problems. Leveraging points of convergence between those two proven approaches has led a proposed integrated approach to developing sustainable interventions. The integrated approach is currently being tested in a project with farm women to address farm injuries. The Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health provided funding for the pilot project.

The points of convergence between those two approaches results in five constructs:

1.     Explicit inclusion of all participants’ knowledge. People living with a given situation have a practical understanding gained from their personal experience with that situation. Researchers have an empirical understanding gained from their own and others research. By accepting community members as equal partners and incorporating their life experience into efforts to address issues, we tap into an underutilized resource.

2.     Co-creation through reciprocal transfer of knowledge. As people with varying perspectives of an issue engage in constructive dialogue, a natural outcome is shared understanding that forms the basis for decision making. This reciprocal transfer of knowledge enriches the community by increasing understanding of the origins and consequences of public health issues. The work of the researchers is enhanced through exposure to new ways of thinking about the issues and the opening of new avenues for exploration.

3.     Long-term commitment to the process. Respectful, trusting relationships underlie the first two constructs. Without those foundational relationships, true inclusion and knowledge transfer cannot occur. The process of building relationships and developing sustainable solutions requires a commitment from individuals and organizations to work through the cyclical and iterative process of consensus building and decision making.

4.     Sustainability through shared ownership of the process and outcomes. Because all participants involved in developing the solutions have a voice in decision making throughout the process, both as individuals and as organization or community representatives, they can hold a sense of ownership in the outcomes. By owning the results, community members become invested in developing solutions that are relevant to them. The sense of ownership developed by community members and researchers contributes to a commitment to keep the solutions going even to the point of adapting the work if circumstances change.

5.     Continuous improvement. Reciprocal transfer of knowledge and long-term commitment lead to opportunities for insights both personally and professionally. The natural outcome of these insights is continuous evaluation of the process of decision making and the results of those decisions. Thus continuous improvement becomes both a function of the group interactions as well as conscious attention to the process of decision making and the development and implementation of solutions. Monitoring and evaluation also enhance abilities to adapt both the process of identifying and implementing solutions and the solutions themselves to changing environments.

This article was written by Lea Pounds, PhD(c), MBA, an instructor in the UNMC COPH Department of Health Promotion, Social and Behavioral Health.

Mental Health First Aid-USA … for mental health literacy!



Public Health Community Advisory – Just as CPR helps you assist an individual having a heart attack—even if you have no clinical training— the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) course helps you assist someone experiencing a mental health-related crisis. In the MHFA course, you learn risk factors and warning signs for mental health and addiction concerns, strategies for how to help someone in both crisis and non-crisis situations, and where to turn for help. MHFA is an in-person training that teaches you how to help persons developing a mental illness or in a crisis. It is an eight-hour course that teaches you how to help someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. The training helps you identify, understand, and respond to signs of addictions and mental illnesses. The certificate is good for three years.

As an active and passionate advocate of human rights, Antonia Correa, an outreach project specialist in the UNMC COPH Center for Reducing Health Disparities, looks for “the elimination of health disparities, through fair and equal health services, including mental health care.” Antonia’s understanding of Hispanic cultural beliefs, norms, and values, and the lack/disparity of services in the area of mental health, has played a major role in her commitment to educating the Hispanic population of Omaha on this topic. Antonia says that

…“the MHFA Instructor Training gave me the opportunity to strengthen the knowledge and skills I had to assist people dealing with mental illnesses. My desire has been to provide culturally sensitive information about mental health; how to deal with family, friends, and acquaintances affected by mental illness; and how to remove the widespread stigma that keeps those with mental illness in the shadows. I know I can assist with developing advocates to do that. That’s why I became a trainer of MHFA: to develop a community resource bank with innate leaders who want to support their family, friends, neighbors, and community during mental health crisis situations. The MHFA program knows the critical shortages of bilingual and culturally competent mental health providers, and has made available the tools to develop the skills of community members necessary to become MHFA program assistants.”

4 Reasons to Become a Mental Health First Aider

  1. Be prepared: When a mental health crisis happens, know what to do.
  2. You can help: People with mental illnesses often suffer alone.
  3. Mental illnesses are common: 1 in 5 adults in any given year.
  4. You care: Be there for a friend, family member, or colleague.

What You Learn

Participants in an MHFA course discuss signs and symptoms. The course trains participants to help people who may be experiencing a mental health problem or crisis. You learn:

  • Risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems.
  • Information on depression, anxiety, trauma, psychosis, and addiction disorders.
  • A 5-step action plan to help someone developing a mental health problem or in crisis.
  • Where to turn for help — professional, peer, and self-help resources.

Topics Covered

Before you can know how to help, you need to know when to help. We call this mental health literacy—or a basic understanding of what different mental illnesses and addictions are, how they can affect a person’s daily life, and what helps individuals experiencing these challenges get well.

You learn about:

  • Depression and mood disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Trauma Psychosis
  • Substance Use disorders

MHFA teaches about recovery and resiliency—the belief that individuals experiencing these challenges can and do get better, and use their strengths to stay well.

The Mental Health First Aid Action Plan: A-L-G-E-E

Assess for risk of suicide or harm
Listen non-judgmentally
Give reassurance and Information
Encourage appropriate professional help
Encourage self-help and other support strategies

Interventions Learned

When you take a course, you learn how to apply the MHFA action plan (A-L-G-E-E ) in a variety of situations, including when someone is experiencing:

•Panic attacks
•Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
•Non-suicidal self-injury
•Acute psychosis (e.g., hallucinations or delusions)
•Overdose or withdrawal from alcohol or drug use
•Reaction to a traumatic event

This article was written by Antonia Correa, MA, outreach project specialist in the UNMC COPH Center for Reducing Health Disparities, and by Denise Britigan, MA, PhD, CHES, assistant professor in the UNMC COPH Department of Health Promotion, Social and Behavioral Health. Parts of this article are used, with permission, from the MFHA website.

Center for Collaboration on Research Design and Analysis (CCORDA)

Lynette Smith at the 2013 Core Facility Day

Lynette Smith at the 2013 Core Facility Day

Public Health Practice – The Center for Collaboration on Research Design and Analysis (CCORDA) seeks to advance clinical, basic, and translational research and public health research at UNMC and in the community and region.

CCORDA is available to provide expertise in the quantitative sciences, including biostatistics, epidemiology, and health services research, and to coordinate the collaborative design, planning, conduct, analysis and interpretation of laboratory, clinical, and public health research studies. In addition, the center will provide educational training opportunities for quantitative sciences graduate students and educational opportunities for public health, clinical, and translational investigators.

Example projects include the following:

One recent project involved assessing health literacy in Spanish-speaking Hispanic adults who accessed health care services in rural (n = 199) and urban (n = 202) community health clinics in Nebraska. Survey data was collected that included a health literacy instrument, information about how these populations obtained health information for disease prevention, and questions related to perceived discrimination and overall health. Data analysis consisted of comparing the survey responses from the two settings. Project investigators included Dr. Patrik Johansson, Dr. Denise Britigan, Dr. Armando DeAlba, Elizabeth Lyden, and Melissa Leon.

Robin High is working with Dr. Katherine Jones in the School of Allied Health with CAPTURE–Collaboration And Proactive Teamwork Used to REduce–Falls. The staff associated with this project is partnering with 19 Nebraska hospitals to develop a customized action plan to improve the structure and process of fall risk reduction. This work is supported by a grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

This article was written by Lynette Smith, MS, statistical coordinator in the UNMC COPH Department of Biostatistics and associate director of CCORDA.