Douglas Perin

Douglas Perin

Student Highlight – Douglas Marcel Puricelli Perin (Doug) grew up in the metropolis of Porto Alegre, Brazil. While obtaining a law degree from one of Brazil’s most prestigious universities, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), he worked for a non-governmental organization helping poor and underprivileged communities regularize their housing conditions. His professional experience with social work would prove beneficial later in his life. After graduating from college, his passion for culture, history, and nature prompted him to travel extensively throughout Latin America. For a brief period, he worked as a diving instructor in Honduras, educating and interacting with people from all over the world.

Eventually, Doug achieved a diving instructor position in Dublin, Ireland. While living within the EU, Doug traveled to many countries, including North Africa. Coming into contact with so many people of such various cultures gave him a global perspective. It also deepened his appreciation for social work, especially since he had witnessed staggering poverty firsthand. Since his ancestors are Italian, he finally transferred to Florence, Italy, where he became a European citizen and met his lovely wife. He began working for one of the top tour companies in Tuscany as an environmental hiking guide in beautiful Cinque Terre. Although his job in Italy was pleasurable and profitable, he wanted to advance social causes and to devote his time to helping others.

Doug learned about public health through a serendipitous conversation. Realizing that his previous work and his interest in addressing societal and public problems aligned with the field of public health, Doug applied to the masters in public health program at UNMC. He is currently in the epidemiology concentration and working as a graduate assistant in the Center for Global Health and Development. He has an interest in public health informatics and environmental issues, mainly long-term sustainability of food production He has co-authored several papers with Drs. Ashish Joshi and Terry Huang. What Doug likes most about the COPH is the versatility of the academic disciplines. His future career goal is to establish programs in developing nations that will teach communities to be self-sustainable and that can free them from dependence on outside forces.

Eleanor Rogan, PhD, Research on How Estrogens Start the Multi-step Process Leading to Cancer


Spotlight on Research at COPH – The primary questions investigated in Dr. Rogan’s laboratory are “How do estrogens start the multi-step process leading to cancer, and how could this be prevented?” Most biomedical scientists have studied estrogens in terms of their causing cancer through hormone receptor-mediated events. Instead, Dr. Rogan’s laboratory considers estrogens to be chemicals that can start the process leading to cancer by acting similarly to other chemicals we encounter in the environment—in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat.

Everybody has estrogens in their body, although women have higher levels than do men. These estrogens are routinely metabolized, and sometimes this process can lead to forms that react with DNA, damaging it and generating cancer-causing mutations. If a person’s estrogen metabolism is balanced, few of these reactive metabolites are formed and the level of DNA damage is low. If a person’s estrogen metabolism is unbalanced, because of genetic, lifestyle, or environmental factors, more of the reactive metabolites can be present and react with DNA to form so-called “estrogen-DNA adducts,” which can generate cancer-causing mutations. These adducts are formed in various tissues in the body, diffuse out into the bloodstream, and are eventually excreted in urine.

In one of the most important areas of investigation in Dr. Rogan’s laboratory, researchers analyze the levels of 38 estrogen metabolites, estrogen conjugates, and estrogen-DNA adducts in urine samples from various populations to determine whether participants’ estrogen metabolism is unbalanced toward DNA-damaging reactive metabolites. Dr. Rogan’s research team has analyzed women at normal risk of breast cancer, high risk of breast cancer, or already diagnosed with the disease. In all of the studies they have conducted in three different populations, the women at high risk of breast cancer, as well as the women diagnosed with breast cancer, had statistically significantly higher amounts of estrogen-DNA adducts than the women at normal risk for breast cancer. These results provide evidence that the estrogen-induced DNA damage is a causative factor for breast cancer. They also suggest that the adducts could be an early biomarker for risk of developing breast cancer. Current studies in Dr. Rogan’s laboratory now focus on preventing breast cancer by rebalancing estrogen metabolism and, thus, inhibiting formation of the estrogen-DNA adducts.

Eleanor Rogan, PhD, is chair of, and a professor in, the UNMC COPH Department of Environmental, Agricultural, and Occupational Health, and a professor in the Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer and Allied Diseases University of Nebraska Medical Center.

The College of Public Health Takes Part in Husker Harvest Days

Husker Harvest Days

Public Health Community Advisory – This year’s hot, dry, drought conditions have produced a triple threat to the safety, security, and health of the agriculture community, with an increase in fire danger, significantly reduced yield in crops, and dangerous levels of aflatoxin in the corn crop. The gritty combination of dry top soil and gusty winds greeted this year’s participants of Husker Harvest Days (HHD). Taking place in the middle of a dry corn field just west of Grand Island on September 11-13, HHD prides itself as being one of the largest farm shows in the United States. As farm and ranch families were blown into the hospitality tent, they were greeted by representatives of UNMC’s College of Public Health and the Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (CS-CASH). For the 19th year, Dr. Susanna Von Essen and her dedicated team of UNMC students, UNMC volunteers, and community volunteers have measured lung function and provided N95 respirators to participants, many of whom come back year after year for this personalized care. This year Dr. Von Essen and her team performed 230 lung function tests, providing a gauge of respiratory health to each person who was tested. Just a few steps away from the respiratory testing booth, visitors found a booth manned by CS-CASH representatives and members of the Center for Reducing Health Disparities. Those stopping by this booth received pertinent and timely information regarding the health and safety dangers created by this year’s drought conditions.

Aflatoxins are potent toxins produced by molds. These toxins are found in grain dust, particularly during drought conditions. Because of the potential health risk to humans, the use of the correct respiratory protection with the correct fit was discussed and demonstrated by the CS-CASH team, using a display of National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health-approved respirators. Bags designed to properly store respirators and flyers outlining the dangers of grain dust were distributed to over 800 visitors. In addition to providing outreach education and materials to the agricultural community, the CS-CASH team interviewed more than 100 farmers as part of a funded project designed to determine the needs for safety and health information in different demographic groups of farmers. As the HHD event visitors left the hospitality tent, they could breathe easier, armed with the knowledge of how well their lungs were functioning and understanding the skills and equipment needed to properly protect them against agricultural hazards in the future.

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

Online Education and the College of Public Health


Public Health in the National News – The College of Public Health announces the launch of new online programs at the University of Nebraska. These programs will address a growing workforce demand for more public health professionals. A master of science in emergency preparedness and professional certificates in public health and emergency preparedness can now be obtained fully online through the University of Nebraska’s Online Worldwide website. All are graduate-level programs offered by the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

The programs aim to strengthen the public health workforce in order to meet the health needs of the U.S. and global populations. The Association of Schools of Public Health estimates that 250,000 more public health workers will be needed by 2020. Compounding this challenge is the fact that 23% of the current U.S. public health workforce—almost 110,000 workers—are eligible to retire this year.

The certificate in public health includes 18 credit hours (six courses) focused on the core areas of health behavior, environmental health, biostatistics, epidemiology, administration, and global health. Students may be able to apply the coursework toward a master’s degree in public health.

The certificate in emergency preparedness is also an 18-credit hour program. The federal Department of Homeland Security’s core focus areas—prevent, protect, respond, and recover—form the structural basis for the program. The master of science in emergency preparedness, a 36-credit hour program, is designed to teach professionals how to plan for and respond to events such as natural and man-made disasters, terrorist attacks, or infectious disease threats.

The College of Public Health recognizes that working professionals have many commitments in their lives. While the academic rigor of our online courses is the same as our on-campus versions, the convenience and flexibility of online learning is appealing to many working professionals. “Learning online is very convenient. You can collaborate and communicate in groups, exchange files, discuss topics with the class, track your progress in the course, and access electronic resources. I particularly like the use of multimedia in my classes,” said Junmin Zhou, a student taking a core course online. Courses are divided into weekly modules where students access learning materials and complete assignments by specific dates. Everything that the student needs is located in one place and accessible through an Internet connection from anywhere in the world.

This article was written by Sergio Costa, PhD, director of distance learning in the UNMC COPH Office of the Dean. Adapted with permission from Online WorldWide, University of Nebraska.

October 3, 2012 – “The Health Burden of Coal.”

College of Public Health Grand Rounds: “The Health Burden of Coal” presented by Alan H. Lockwood, MD, Emeritus Professor of Neurology, University at Buffalo. Dr. Lockwood will present an overview of the role of coal’s role in global warming and its health effects, familiarity with major epidemiological studies linking pollutants with disease, and the main types and sources of air pollution.


September 19, 2012 – “Health Implications of Ambient and Engineered Nanoparticles.”

Kent E. Pinkerton, PhD, Professor and Director, Center for Health and the Environment, University of California, Davis.

College of Public Health Grand Rounds: “Health Implications of Ambient and Engineered Nanoparticles” presented by Kent E. Pinkerton, PhD, Professor and Director, Center for Health and the Environment, University of California, Davis.  Dr. Pinkerton will present guidelines in nanoparticle risk and assessment, impact of nanoparticle size, morphology and chemical composition of nanoparticles on biological uptake, fate and response, and time-dependent effects of exposure to inhaled nanoparticles.


Terry T-K Huang, PhD, MPH, CPH, Research on Childhood Obesity


Spotlight on Research at COPH – Although much attention has been given to the issue of childhood obesity in recent years, with national campaigns such as Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move, few resources have been channeled to the Latino community, the largest and fasting growing minority group in the United States. In 2011, a team of researchers led by Dr. Terry T-K Huang launched a project to address childhood obesity in the South Omaha Latino community. The project aims to engage and assist youth to become leaders in their community who promote positive cultural and social attitudes about healthy eating and active living and simultaneously advocate for environmental changes that make those lifestyles easier.

The project began in the summer of 2011 with the training of a cohort of 13 Latino South Omaha High School students. This group of students created the SaludableOmaha brand and logo and built a foundation that will allow the initiative to grow and spread through the community. With the research team’s assistance, the youth developed promotional and social marketing materials targeting their peers, their families, and community leaders ( The students also designed and painted a mural in a community location and organized a dinner to discuss the SaludableOmaha project goals with community leaders and parents.

SaludableOmaha has grown with the support of internal and external partners. Support from the principal of Omaha South High School led to youth advocacy training being integrated into the school’s curriculum. A new group of students joined the effort, received training, and began collaborating with Live Well Omaha Kids’ Youth Advisory Council to advocate for changes to school policy and environment. The youth proposed a pilot initiative to change how foods were labeled and displayed in the Omaha South High School cafeteria in order to make healthy choices easier and more appealing. The students helped implement and evaluate this initiative with the buy-in and support of the cafeteria staff, and found evidence of positive changes in student healthy eating attitudes.

SaluableOmaha has done much work to set the stage for successful community-based and sustainable change. The youth-led movement has begun to show progress and potential impact at individual, community, and environmental levels. The research team will continue its work with students, helping them to expand strategies beyond the school environment in order to engage families, businesses, and community institutions in similar changes. The continued development, implementation, and evaluation of SaludableOmaha will provide important information to guide the future of obesity prevention.

Terry T-K Huang, PhD, MPH, CPH, is chair of, and a professor in, the UNMC COPH Department of Health Promotion, Social and Behavioral Health.