UNMC College of Public Health achieves national accreditation

Also receives $7.6 million to establish two centers to improve health of rural Nebraskans.

The University of Nebraska Medical Center’s newest college – the College of Public Health – has been granted accreditation by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) and now is a full member of the Association of Schools of Public Health.    

The accreditation, announced today by UNMC Chancellor Harold M. Maurer, M.D., comes just five months after the college moved into its new $15 million building that was named for Dr. Maurer and his wife, Beverly. In addition, the college also learned that it has received two national grants totaling $7.6 million to fund two new regional centers that will improve the health of rural Nebraskans. 

“This is a red letter day for UNMC,” Dr. Maurer said. “The College of Public Health impacts the health and wellness of the entire state. Now, with accreditation, the final piece of the puzzle is in place and the college can soar to even greater heights.”

The college becomes one of only 47 accredited schools and colleges of public health in the United States. Only 27 of these schools are affiliated with academic medical centers. The nearest ones are in Iowa City, Iowa, and Denver.  

Formed in 2007, the college submitted its accreditation application in September 2009. Within the past two years, the college has named a new dean, earned full accreditation status and this year alone, faculty members have brought in $8 million in research funding.

For CEPH accreditation, excellence in education is tied to proficiency in practice and research. Public health schools and programs prepare practitioners, researchers and teachers who carry out broad public health functions in local, state, national and international settings. 

“The accreditation process requires commitment from administrators, faculty, staff, students and other constituents,” said Laura Rasar King, executive director of CEPH. “The Council recognizes the efforts of the University of Nebraska Medical Center to make ongoing improvements to ensure that students receive a high-quality education that advances them toward their career goals.”

Ayman El-Mohandes, M.B.B.Ch., M.D., M.P.H., dean of the College of Public Health, said the college received accreditation within the minimum turnaround time of two years.

 “This is an incredible accomplishment that the entire medical center should take pride in. It was a total team effort that required a massive amount of work. This accreditation is concrete evidence of the strong support that the college has received from the medical center, the University of Nebraska, the state and the community at large,” he said. 

The number of faculty has grown from 36 in 2009 to 54 in 2011. Enrollment also is up from 98 to 150 in the same time period.

 For public health students, accreditation means:

  • The college’s educational programs have been found to be equal to all the other accredited schools of public health;
  • They have advanced degree opportunities in all the various disciplines of public health;
  • Credits between institutions can be easily transferred;
  • It qualifies them for student financial assistance; and
  • Eligibility for higher-level jobs, internships and fellowships. 

Dr. El-Mohandes also said that reaching accreditation will make the college eligible for additional research funding available only to accredited schools and colleges. The goal, he said, is to secure $12 million in annual research funding within two years.

The two newly funded centers – the Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health Center and the Great Plains Public Health Training Center – each have a strong rural component.  

“These new centers will allow us to reach out to rural Nebraskans, develop better health and safety interventions and address the major public health workforce needs throughout the state,” Dr. El-Mohandes said.

The Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health is one of nine national centers funded by a five-year, $5 million grant from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Covering seven states in the Midwest, the new center serves not only Nebraska, but nearly one quarter of American farmers, said Risto Rautiainen, Ph.D., associate professor of environmental, agricultural and occupational health, and administrator of the grant.

The key projects for the center will include research on asthma, agricultural injury surveillance and health and safety education of farmers, Dr. Rautiainen said. 

During the past 10 years, agriculture has outpaced mining as the most hazardous industry in the nation, based on occupational fatality rates. Farm machinery, animals and falls are the top three causes of death on the farm.

The Great Plains Public Health Training Center at UNMC, one of just 37 such centers in the U.S., is funded by a four-year, $2.6 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration. It is under the direction of Magda Peck, Sc.D., associate dean for community engagement and public health practice. 

By 2020, the Association of Schools of Public Health has reported that the United States will face a shortage of 250,000 public health workers. In addition, approximately 110,000 workers, nearly 25 percent of the current workforce, will be eligible to retire by 2012. The responsibility of schools of public health today to train new public health practitioners is crucial.

Since 2002, the number of health departments has grown significantly in Nebraska. The need for expanded training of this workforce has also grown significantly. The UNMC College of Public Health is responding to that need, Dr. Peck said.

UNMC’s new center will assess public health workforce needs throughout the state, fund collaborative projects, place students in the field and expand continuing professional education opportunities.

Rural areas face significant challenges in public health, Dr. El-Mohandes said. 

“People who live in greater Nebraska are often isolated from comprehensive health care and prevention services,” he said. “For these populations to thrive, it is absolutely critical that communities can turn to top notch public health professionals who meet their needs.”

Four public health projects receive dean’s grants

by Elizabeth Kumru, UNMC public relations

Four public health projects received start-up money from the Mutual Fund, a new program created in the UNMC College of Public Health with funding from Dean Ayman El-Mohandes, M.B.B.Ch., M.D., M.P.H.

The $10,000, one-year grants are designed to stimulate collaboration between College of Public Health faculty and community partners to address existing and emerging public health concerns.

“These start-up funds encourage meaningful and mutually beneficial initiatives to advance community health and well-being through trustworthy relationships between academia and the community. By leveraging these limited resources, people from Omaha and around the world will receive the greatest impact,” Dr. El-Mohandes said.

Magda Peck, Sc.D., associate dean for community engagement and public health practice, College of Public Health, is administering the grants.

“The four projects selected by the dean, following a review process, reflect a diverse portfolio of joint campus-community initiatives. We hope the relationships forged through Mutual Fund projects will become a foundation for future collaborations to find solutions to pressing health concerns,” Dr. Peck said.

The four projects are:

  • SWAG:  Students with Aspirations and Goals

Renaisa Anthony, M.D., and Melissa Tibbits, Ph.D., UNMC, and Marya Shegog, Ph.D., of Hampton University, Va.

A community based approach will be used to identify and address the most important public health issues at Hampton University. The project is a collaboration between UNMC, Hampton University (a historically black college/university) and the Nebraska-Virginia Alliance.

  • Building a Healthy Community for Active Aging

Joseph Siu, Ph.D., UNMC, and Carolina Padilla, director of the Intercultural Community Senior Center in Omaha.

A unique hybrid of Tai Chi that combines traditional movement with muscle strengthening exercises will be developed in the Intercultural Senior Center in South Omaha for Hispanic seniors. Called HyChi, researchers will measure how the exercise improves function among Hispanic seniors.

  • Metro Area Homeless Data System Enhancement

Shinobu Watanabe-Galloway, Ph.D., UNMC, and Erin Porterfield, executive director of the Metro Area Continuum of Care for the Homeless (MACCH).

To combat the long-standing and complex problem of homelessness, this study will investigate ways to use community resources more effectively. In collaboration with the more than 100 members of MACCH, UNMC will evaluate the system, study ways to implement data sharing and examine how to integrate other participating agencies and organizations, such as Veterans Affairs and the criminal justice system.

  • Building Research Capacity on the Rez

Shireen Rajaram, Ph.D., UNMC, and Carolyn Fiscus of the Little Priest Tribal College.

A three-credit hour course, Indigenous Research Methods, will be developed to train   American Indian students in research methods. The course also will expand health career options for tribal college students and increase the diversity of the health related workforce.

For more information, please contact Dr. Magda Peck, Associate Dean for Community Engagement and Public Health Practice in the College of Public Health at (402)559-5266 or mpeck@unmc.edu.

Public Health and Medical Disaster Response in Action: The Joplin story.

UNMC’s College of Public Health begins National Preparedness Month by launching a marketing campaign for a national conference entitled: Public Health and Medical Disaster Response in Action: The Joplin story. The conference will bring together representatives from the Joplin, MO community’s response agencies and organizations as well as the hospitals that were directly affected by the disaster, to tell their stories of how they responded to this catastrophic tornado and share their lessons learned.

More information can be found at http://www.preped.org/Training/2011-JoplinConf.html

This conference showcases the many programs offered by the College of Public Health’s Center for Biopreparedness, Biosecurity and Emerging Infectious Diseases. The Center has been operational since 2002 and The Center’s mission is to enhance preparedness skills and knowledge of professionals in the field, in the areas of medical preparedness, first responder preparedness, public health preparedness, and business/industry preparedness through affordable, needs-based training; customized organizational assistance; and comprehensive resources.
National Preparedness Month also marks the launch of the College of Public Health’s post-baccalaureate Certificate in Emergency Preparedness. This program requires 18 credits to complete and the Center’s ten year repertoire of educational programs will serve as the basis for the design, development and delivery of emergency preparedness-related curricula. The Federal Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) core focus areas will form the structural basis for all course development and are as follows: Prevent, Protect, Respond and Recover.

For more information on this program visit our website at: http://www.unmc.edu/publichealth/CertificateProgram.htm

Names of UNMC’s ‘dynamic duo’ to adorn public health center

Hal and Bev. Bev and Hal. An inseparable pair. A dynamic duo.

And now, UNMC’s top ambassadors will be linked to UNMC in perpetuity — together, appropriately — as their names adorn the building that will house the UNMC College of Public Health.


UNMC Chancellor Harold M. Maurer, M.D., and his wife, Beverly, are the namesakes of the new College of Public Health building, which officially opens today.

Unprecedented growth

Few could have envisioned what has happened under Dr. Maurer’s leadership.

Since he was named chancellor in 1998:

  • Campus research funding has skyrocketed;
  • UNMC climbed to seventh nationally for its primary care initiatives; and
  • UNMC community outreach efforts received the highest honor of its kind from the American Association of Medical Colleges.

Perhaps most notable are the buildings that have been constructed, largely funded by philanthropists who bought into Dr. Maurer’s vision.

A true team

To that end, the Maurers are truly a team. Beverly has long been UNMC’s biggest advocate and Omaha’s movers and shakers know this couple from Brooklyn is passionate about setting UNMC on a trajectory to be a top academic health science center.

“Nebraskans are very responsive if you do good things for the state, and that’s what we’re doing at UNMC,” Dr. Maurer said.

A public example

An example of this, the Maurers say, is the new public health center.

In 2006, UNMC decided to start a public health college. A year later it opened. Four years after that — thanks to support from Ruth and Bill Scott and other philanthropists — the Maurer Center opens.

A comfortable dynamic

The Maurers continue to push UNMC higher. Their calendar is full of events where they mingle with friends and introduce others to UNMC’s vitality.

Dr. Maurer on public health In regards to the new center and public health’s role on campus, Dr. Maurer said, “Public health will be a growing part of the curriculum in all of our other colleges, as obesity, nutrition, wellness, and disease prevention and promotion become a bigger focus in health care.”

“I enjoy the relationships both with people at UNMC … and with those in the community who have become close friends,” Beverly Maurer said. “These are people who come to me both with ideas and with any experiences they’ve had at UNMC, and I share and discuss their thoughts with Harold.”

Those thoughts are shared openly, without hesitation.

“I’ll say what I think to Beverly, and she says what she thinks to me,” Dr. Maurer said. “Sometimes we take each other’s advice, and there are times when we don’t, and that’s OK with both of us.”

Plenty left to do

Those conversations are certain to continue.

“We both have a lot of energy, and we have a group of close friends who are just as energetic as we are,” Dr. Maurer said. “We have a lot yet that we can accomplish at UNMC, so there’s no slowing down.”

by Bill O’Neill, UNMC public relations



Maurer Center opening set for 11 a.m., campus invited

Come celebrate the opening of the College of Public Health’s new home at the Harold M. and Beverly Maurer Center for Public Health today during an 11 a.m. ceremony.

An artist’s rendering of the Harold M. and Beverly Maurer Center for Public Health, which opens today.

Tours of the center, which is at 519 S. 40th Plaza Circle, will follow the ceremony.

The event will be broadcast live online.

A public open house featuring refreshments and tours of the new center will be held Saturday, June 11 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.