Page 1

Reaching Beyond the Horizon

Starting the Discussion:

End-of-life advice from bioethicist Peggy Battin, Ph.D.

Also inside:

Health Care Goes to School The Modern Identity Crisis Utilizing Technology to Support Caregiving

New Mexico State University

All About Discovery!

College of Health and Social Services

College Leadership Donna Wagner, Ph.D. Dean Teresa Keller, Ph.D. Interim Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Tina Hancock, Ph.D. Associate Dean and Director, School of Social Work Pamela Schultz, Ph.D. Associate Dean and Director, School of Nursing Enriquez Professor

Table of Contents Year in Review......................................................... 2 Smallwood Makes Big Contributions...................... 5 The Modern Identity Crisis..................................... 6 Utilizing Technology to Support Caregiving............ 8

Mark J. Kittleson, Ph.D. Academic Head, Department of Public Health Sciences

Health Care Goes to School.................................... 9

Jill McDonald, Ph.D. Director, Health Disparities Research Center Stan Fulton Chair

Shinas Shines for Those in Need............................ 10

Joseph Tomaka, Ph.D. Associate Dean for Research Director, Southwest Survey Research Center

Teen Pregnancy Decreases in New Mexico............ 11 Celebrating the History......................................... 12

Jennifer Cervantes Assistant Dean, Strategic Initiatives and Engagement

Alumni Happenings.............................................. 13

Aida Lopez Director of Finance

A Tribute to Nurses Past and Present..................... 17

Advisory Board Ann DeBooy Chief Nursing Officer Memorial Medical Center Dr. Paul Feil American Board of Sleep Medicine-Certified Physician Sleep Lab of Las Cruces Denton Holmes Consultant Sabrina Martin Chief Executive Officer Rehabilitation Hospital of Southern New Mexico Margaret McCowen Executive Director Behavioral Health Providers Association of New Mexico Claudia Saiz Chief Executive Officer Advanced Care Hospital of Southern New Mexico

A Beautiful Death: What Will You Choose?.......... 18 New and Old Directions for SoAHEC.................. 20 Alumna Supports Future Generations................... 21 Infectious Diseases Here and Now......................... 22 Public Health – Air Force Style............................. 23 Vital Assets............................................................ 24 Waging Peace........................................................ 26 Social Work: A Broad Perspective.......................... 27 Students Play a Vital Role..................................... 28

Carol Smallwood Vice President, Customer Care Service Center Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona Leslie C. Smith Federal Judge (Retired) Amer Taha Executive Director Sigma Health Care, Inc.

Ex Officio Members Mary Kay Papen President Pro Tempore of the Senate New Mexico Legislature

Mission Statement Dedicated to providing academic programs that address issues affecting the quality of life in a rapidly changing society, the College of Health and Social Services prepares our graduates with the knowledge they need to make an impact in our communities. Our programs focus on improving the lives of individuals,

Suzanne Quillen Vice President of Healthcare Innovation Ernest Health

families and communities with majors in nursing, public health sciences and

J. Paul Taylor Representative (Former) New Mexico Legislature

excellence in education, research and service.

Vitality is a publication of the College of Health and Social Services at New Mexico State University.

Vitality Publication Team: Courtney Lopez Nick Heeb Jennifer Cervantes Sarah Baker

social work. Our College offers much to all students as our commitment to this mission is rooted in the land-grant tradition of New Mexico State University–

Message from the Dean T

he College of Health and Social Services at NMSU is on the move. With the help and support of our advisory board, faculty, staff and students, CHSS has touched many lives this year. In this issue we cover topics from infectious diseases to teen pregnancy to student health, just a few of the everyday issues that our faculty studies and teaches. To give you a glimpse of who we are, we have highlighted a few outstanding individuals, including a board member, staff member, faculty member and an alumna.

This has been a year of change on a number of fronts; we said a fond farewell to Tilahun Adera who served as this college’s dean for five years; we restructured Southern Area Health Education Center, an important community resource that has been a mainstay of CHSS for many years, and we held our Dean’s Health Symposium on end-of-life issues. More than 400 gathered at the Las Cruces Convention Center where Dr. Peggy Battin, one of the “Mothers of Bioethics,” served as the keynote speaker for our May 1 event, entitled, “A Beautiful Death: What Will You Choose?” We love hearing from our friends so drop us a line.

Donna L. Wagner, Ph.D. Dean

Vitality (n.)

• a lively or energetic quality • capacity to live and develop



NMSU College of Health and Social Services



School of Nursing student Kari Angelucci relaxes in the Sleep Pod, the latest addition to the Restorative Therapy Room in the School of Nursing.

The Nursing Wall of Excellence committee members pose during a celebration of the completion of the wall.

Members of the Student Nurses Association are ready to give potential students flyers and candy during Aggie Welcome Week.

School of Nursing graduates sing the national anthem at the Fall 2014 Nursing Pinning Ceremony.

CHSS alumna and NMSU’s 2014 James F. Cole Memorial Award for Service recipient Carol Smallwood (center), poses with Amy Bigbee and President Garrey Carruthers at the 2014 Distinguished Alumni Dinner.

Gov. Susana Martinez signs legislation at the College of Health and Social Services. The bills are aimed at strengthening nursing education in New Mexico.

Community partners from Memorial Medical Center with former CHSS dean, Tilahun Adera, and his wife at the Sandra M. and Denton V. Holmes Endowed Nursing Scholarship dinner.

College of Health and Social Services’ Student Ambassadors, Sherly Jones and Rylie Hightower, serving as judges at Las Cruces High School’s HOSA Invitational.

Visiting mentor and CHSS alumna Carol Smallwood poses with the Student Ambassadors after giving a presentation on career trajectories and life after NMSU.



NMSU College of Health and Social Services



Public Health Sciences students prepare flags as part of the “Striving to be Tobacco-Free” initiative.

College of Health and Social Services staff, faculty and friends are ready to participate in the Cervantes Family 5K and 10K Walk and Fun Run.

Participants pose at the School of Nursing’s Second Annual Geriatric Interprofessional Clinical Immersion week.

Attendees listen to presenters at the Adolescent Mental Health Conference, “Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating for Action,” hosted by the NMSU School of Nursing and NMSU’s NAMI chapter in May 2015 at the Las Cruces Convention Center.

NMSU officials at the ribbon-cutting ceremony to launch the BSN program at NMSU Alamogordo.

School of Nursing students assist with the Community Influenza Immunization Day on October 25, 2014.

Public Health Sciences graduates pose for a photo at the 2015 Department of Public Health Sciences graduation ceremony.

School of Nursing students pose for a photo after receiving their white coats.

Jennifer Greene, her husband, Derris, and daughter, Abigail, celebrate at the Fall 2014 Nursing Pinning Ceremony.

Continued on next page Vitality


NMSU College of Health and Social Services


YEAR IN REVIEW Continued from page 3

Donna Wagner, Dean, poses with School of Social Work student Jerry Romero and faculty member Maria Gurrola at the College of Health and Social Services’ Annual Scholarship Reception.

Retired federal judge and College of Health and Social Services Advisory Board member Leslie Smith (left), receives the 2014 New Mexico Friend of Nursing Award. School of Nursing Faculty member Ruth Burkhart accepted the award in Albuquerque on his behalf.

School of Social Work students, Fabian Bañuelos and Cassandra Cowman, attend the Social Work Alumni Reception that took place in conjunction with the NASW-NM Conference in Albuquerque.

Assistant professor John Scarbrough presents white coats to students at the School of Nursing’s first White Coat Ceremony in fall 2014.

College of Health and Social Services Student Ambassador, Gabriella Reinhardt, poses on the Student Ambassadors’ 2014 Homecoming float.

NMSU College of Health and Social Services


Denton Holmes, a CHSS board member and donor, speaks at the Sandra M. and Denton V. Holmes Endowed Nursing Scholarship dinner.

College of Health and Social Services’ Student Ambassadors, from left, Sengdhuan Defibaugh-Chavez, Conrado Bobadilla, and Gabriella Reinhardt, prepare to tag the building as part of the College’s First Annual “Thank A Giver” (T.A.G.) Week.

Allison Gilbert receives her hood from Public Health Sciences faculty at the 2015 Department of Public Health Sciences graduation ceremony.


College of Health and Social Services’ Student Ambassadors participate in the Aggie Experience Program.




Smallwood Makes Big Contributions Christopher Ledingham is honored as the 2014 CHSS Distinguished Alumnus.

Sharing Knowledge Across Borders


hristopher Ledingham, Ph.D., was honored as the 2014 College of Health and Social Services (CHSS) Distinguished Alumnus. His success has made him a role model for NMSU graduates. Christopher graduated from NMSU with a bachelor’s degree in community health education in 2001 and a master’s degree in public health in 2004. He continued his education at Texas A&M University, receiving his doctorate in health education in 2006. He currently serves as Associate Dean for Community Engagement and Online Learning at University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in the Department of Health and Human Performance. Since graduating from NMSU, Christopher has remained active in the CHSS. His contributions include speaking in classes and mentoring NMSU’s public health students. He has also invested in the continued success of the Department of Public Health Sciences by working alongside students at national conferences.




t the 2014 Alumni that every award winner that Association Distinnight mentioned either NMSU guished Alumni Dinner faculty or staff that made a posiand Awards Presentation, Carol tive impact on their life. That Smallis incredible, isn’t it? The award wood was winners’ stories truly touched recognized me. The loyalty and love for for her conNMSU was evident. I was so tributions proud to honor Dr. Savage and to commurepresent CHSS. It was just a nity health, magical evening.” and she was Carol has spent the majority honored as of her career serving lower-inthe 2014 recipient of NMSU’s come populations, starting with James F. Cole Award. her first job in the mailroom of a Carol, a 1983 community Medicaid Managed Care organihealth graduate of NMSU, emzation in Phoenix. Currently, she bodies giving through money, is a vice president at Blue Cross time and talent. She has been and Blue Shield of Arizona. on the College of Health and For her contributions, Carol Social Services Advisory Board was named a CHSS (then the for eight years. She created the College of Human and ComDr. John B. Savage Endowed munity Services) Outstanding Scholarship in memory of her Centennial Alumna in 1987 faculty mentor at NMSU, and and the Distinguished Alumna she started the Smallwood in 1988. Current Use Emergency Fund, which is used to aid students in the Department of Public Health Sciences who demonstrate emergency financial need. She also mentors public health students. When asked why the Cole Award was so meanCarol Smallwood, a community health graduate and ingful, she said: “What 2014 recipient of NMSU’s James F. Cole Award, disreally stood out for me was plays her Aggie pride on the license plate of her car.



NMSU College of Health and Social Services


The Modern

Identity Crisis


uch of our lives are defined by our efforts to embody the ideal image and to achieve the identity we dream of. Today, I am writing to tell you that you are enough. Right now, in this moment, without changing a thing, you are enough. Unfortunately, that is not the usual message transmitted. We often think we are unworthy because the world around us tells


NMSU College of Health and Social Services



us we are not quite good enough. We need to use more products and take up less space. The media tell us we are one more purchase from perfection. And we eat it up. But perhaps this seemingly insatiable hunger can be satisfied by changing the object of its attention. When in your life have you felt most whole, or completely yourself? Is it when you are surrounded by those you care


We often think we are unworthy because the world around us tells us we are not quite good enough.

about? Or is it when you are surrounded by those who care about you, and accept you unconditionally? Maybe this is the identity we are searching for, the one that already exists but fails to be acknowledged. In many cases, we are judged by the titles on our tags and not the content of our hearts. When in our society are we defined by our character or by our treatment of oth-



ers? When are we encouraged to stand up for each other rather than tear each other down? Of all the images we see every day, how many of them are we proud of? Our pop-icon role models are as scantily-clad or reprocessed as the people in advertisements, reminding us that we haven’t quite made it. Few of those in the public’s eye are brave enough to choose sides or name names when it comes to what is right and what is wrong. So much of what we do, what we say, and how we look is dictated by the fear of how others will perceive us. You are more than what you think others think you are. You are the result of the precise synchronization of about 37 trillion living cells. You are the inconceivable culmination of the legacy of life before you with a touch of all your own unique experiences. You are a symphony of perfectly coordinated chaos. You are more than anyone on Target’s marketing team could possibly imagine during an entire career of trying to convince you that you

are missing something. Today I challenge you to notice when your voice, disguised as someone else’s, chimes into your thoughts to say something negative or self-critical. I challenge you to notice when you are not in touch with the core of who you are. I challenge you to choose consciousness of self over being self-conscious. I challenge you to recognize the worth of every person beyond what they present on the surface. A young woman is more than how she looks in a dress. A homeless man is more than the tired shoes on his feet. A wealthy executive is more than his success. And you are enough.

By Elizabeth Bennett ’18 MSW/MPH


NMSU College of Health and Social Services


Did you know? we had two ballerinas in the Dean’s office? Courtney Lopez,

Sarah Baker, Academic Program



Who would have thought

Coordinator, performed locally with the Las Cruces Chamber

Community and Alumni Relations

Ballet for 15 years, and also

Coordinator, got her claim

studied with the

to fame at 7 performing

San Francisco Ballet

in the Moscow Ballet’s

Academy and the

Great Russian Nutcracker.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School.

Utilizing Technology to Support Caregiving


f all the hardships endured by those afflicted with cystic fibrosis, a lethal genetic disease primarily affecting the lungs and digestive system, one of the most distressing is the burden of suffering alone. Cross infection is a serious concern for those with cystic fibrosis; therefore, patients cannot safely be in close proximity of others with the disease or people who are sick. Cystic fibrosis is an extremely isolating disease. Adolescence is hard enough for normal developing children, but for

children with a chronic, degenerative illness, it is especially difficult. In 2009 a colleague and I started an online support group, Cyber CF, which targets adolescents in New Mexico. Members of the group live all over the state, but through video technology are able to communicate in real time. For some of these kids, this is the first time they’ve ever seen another person with CF. This group also allows the patients to talk through the difficult issues that can come up with this disease. When there is a death in the CF community, the Cyber CF group makes it possible for the participants to THANKS TO talk together about this ADVANCEMENTS challenging experience. in understanding and technology, Cyber CF is currently people with CF regularly the only program of live into their 20s-30s, its kind in the United with some reaching their States, and word has 40s-50s. gotten out. I have trav-

30,000: Estimated number of Americans with cystic fibrosis. eled to half a dozen conferences to talk about this model of therapy. There are so many possible applications for working with patients in this way. For example, this method could be used with patients who have chronic immunosuppressed diseases. This is a very exciting time in health care because technology is allowing us to support patients in new and innovative ways.

By Nanette Concotelli-Fisk ’08 Clinical Social Worker


NMSU College of Health and Social Services



Health Care Goes to School


he School of Nursing is a vital component of schoolbased health centers (SBHC), a novel approach to health care for the young. The program places social workers and nurse practitioners directly in high schools to provide students easy access to primary, mental and reproductive health care. Currently the program, overseen by the Community Foundation of Southern New Mexico, operates at Las Cruces, Oñate, Chaparral, and Gadsden high schools. The program was born in January 1999, after College of Health and Social Services facutly member Linda Summers, Ph.D., and Dr. Stefan Schaefer received a grant from Las Cruces Public Schools to open the first SBHC at Las Cruces High School. Funds were tight, but with the support of Memorial Medical Center, and help from its residency program the clinic was a success. Because of these health centers, students have a convenient and confidential place where they can address their issues. Mental health is an area of great need, whether or not the

students realize it. “We believe all students, by definition, are at risk,” Summers said. “We assess all students equally.” A unique aspect of SBHCs is the inclusion of a “telehealth” unit at each clinic. Using digital information and communication technologies, providers at one site can perform a health assessment or mental health visit to patients at another high school. These telehealth units are equipped with special stethoscopes, otoscopes, and ophthalmoscopes that transmit data to the other sites. The technology has made providing care for the students, teachers, and staff at the high schools very accessible and almost immediate. In addition to providing care, SBHCs offer additional locations for the School of Nursing’s Doctor of Nursing Practice students to attend clinical assignments. The NMSU students shadowing the providers gain valuable experience, as they deliver an important service to this unique group of patients: adolescents.


By Stephanie Lynch, Ph.D. ’06 NMSU School of Nursing

Lucas Ramos, 1, plays ball with his mother Sarah Bravo, 18, while in day care at Las Cruces High School.



NMSU College of Health and Social Services



inancial hardships and unforeseen emergencies are not uncommon in students’ lives, and sometimes may cause obstacles in one’s college career path. Longtime friend of the college, Betty Jean Shinas, is sympathetic to these cases. That’s why she has created the Shinas Emergency Fund, encouraging NMSU’s social work students to stay in school even when facing challenging times. Betty Jean earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from NMSU’s School of Social Work (SSW) in the early 90s and later earned the distinguished alumni award for the College of Health and Social Services in 2010. She has been a loyal supporter of the school ever

since, setting up two endowed scholarships to support students in the school. “The Shinas Emergency Fund will enable the SSW to assist undergraduate and graduate social work students with unexpected financial hardships that may threaten completion of their social work degree,” says Tina Hancock, Ph.D., SSW director. “Our faculty and staff are being Jean Shinas, Rebecca Shinas-Rehberg and Thomas James encouraged to help us grow this Betty Shinas, Jr. pose at the Fourth Annual School of Social Work Alumni important funding resource that Awards Reception. Betty Jean created the Shinas Emergency Fund, which helps NMSU social work students facing financial hardships continue their education. is student oriented.” Betty Jean always has exemplified compassion and care and give from your heart and you can caring. Her life philosophy is, show you make a difference.


Shinas Shines for Those in Need

The Spirit of Achievement and Compassion


chool of Nursing friends Leslie and Judy Smith have created the Louisa Hawkins Canby Prize. The cash prize of $3,000-$5,000 is awarded in the spring to a senior nursing student who has an outstanding academic record, at least a 3.5 GPA, and best embodies the charity and compassion of Civil War nurse Louisa Hawkins Canby. This is the first prize of its kind in the School of Nursing and the College of Health and Social Services. The prize’s creator, Leslie Smith, said similar prizes in other fields inspired him. “… It seemed that a number of schools or curricula had prizes for exceptional graduates or students, like engineering, chemistry, so it only seemed right that there be one for the people entering the nursing profession ... the people caring for the Canby very sick,” Smith said. “So I looked for a person who embodied the ideals of nursing: selflessness, charity, hard work, and adversity without asking for any glory or recognition in return. I discovered Mrs. Canby, who stood for all of those things through

her actions – and carried them out here in New Mexico.” Canby, a nurse and the wife of a Union general in the Civil War, became known as the “Angel of Santa Fe.” As the Confederate army marched north into Albuquerque and Santa Fe after the battle of Valverde in central New Mexico, Union soldiers abandoned those cities. Mrs. Canby and a few of the officers’ wives refused to leave, choosing instead to treat the injured enemy soldiers. Most of the advancing Southerners were sick and wounded, desperately needing care. Through her compassion and daring effort, those men received treatment. Canby’s selfless efforts and those of her nurse recruits saved many lives even though they were her enemies. When her methods were questioned by Union sympathizers, Mrs. Canby replied, “Whether friend or foe, the wounded must be cared for. They are the sons of some dear mother.” To those men she was the “Angel of Santa Fe.” Thus, the attributes that the prize seeks to reward are academic achievement, compassion and selflessness in the face of adversity. COURTESY PHOTO


NMSU College of Health and Social Services




Not only is Alyce

Kolenovsky a top-notch advisor in the School of


Did you know? Cheryl Lombardi, college assistant professor in the School of Nursing, now spends her time teaching future nurses, but did you know she used to spend

Nursing, she was a United

her time shaking pom-poms? In 1989, Lombardi

States Marine from 1976-

tried out for the Dallas Cowboys’ cheerleading

1980, regularly qualifying

team. Out of more than 400 contestants, Lombardi

for the “sniper” category.

made the Top 40. Luckily for us, Lombardi’s love for nursing tugged at her heartstrings and she decided to pursue an academic degree in nursing instead.


Teen Pregnancy Decreases in New Mexico


ew Mexico holds the nation’s highest rate of teen pregnancy at 47.5 pregnancies per 1,000 female teenagers, according to the latest Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention data. However, this statistic alone masks another trend – over the past several years, CDC data show, the rates in the state have steadily declined. This is quite encouraging. By better understanding the issue, public health professionals devised a mentorship strategy to decrease the numbers of teen pregnancy. This strategy has shown its merit as the state has had a 16 percent drop in teen pregnancies – from 63.9 percent in 2007 to 47.5 percent in 2012. The College of Health and Social Services has been working on a campaign to address this issue. The Department of Public Health Sciences is in the third year of a research program – funded by a grant from the New Mexico Department of Health – that focuses on teen pregnancy reduction. The Success with Adolescent Goals

New Mexico holds the nation’s highest rate of teen pregnancy: 47.5 pregnancies per 1,000 female teenagers

(SWAG) program provides outreach to teenagers, ages 12-16, in seven New Mexico counties. Community leaders and parents provide mentorship to teens as they engage in nearly 30 hours of service-learning projects. These classroom projects allow young people to solve real-life problems while learning about relevant social issues, the importance of community service, and the benefits of educational success. SWAG incorporates


a medically accurate sexuality curriculum that encourages risk avoidance and provides training in goal-setting, decision-making, and refusal skills.

By Susan Cardenas, Ph.D. ’90 ’95 NMSU Department of Public Health Sciences


NMSU College of Health and Social Services


CHSS student ambassadors show off the Nursing Wall of Excellence. The wall, shown under construction (top right) came together through the efforts of many. The wall was unveiled in a ceremony in October 2014 (bottom right).

Celebrating the History


f our walls could talk, they would tell stories of celebrations, challenges, transformations and milestones over the years. Since the fall of 2014, one wall has conveyed that history. Thanks to the generosity and imagination of a few, you can walk into the School of Nursing, on the first floor of the Health and Social Services building, and experience the past through the Nursing Wall of Excellence. The wall celebrates the many accomplishments of School of Nursing administrators, faculty, staff, alumni and students over the span of 35 years. Although this initiative was intriguing from day one, the Nursing Wall of Excellence might still only be an idea without the generosity of longtime supporter and community partner, Memorial Medical Center. The hospital shared our vision and wanted to honor the legacy of Aggie nurses. “It’s really the nurses that do an outstanding job taking care of patients,” said John Harris, CEO of Memorial Medical Center. Memorial Medical Center wasn’t the only partnership formed in creating the Nursing Wall of Excellence. The College of Health and Social Services and School of Nursing partnered with the NMSU Art Department to see this project to fruition. Gatis Cirulis, an NMSU graphic design professor, not only designed the 3-D wall, but also constructed and installed it.

The wall features photos dating back to the 1970s and highlights important events that shaped the nursing program. An audio-visual component displays looping video of interviews of retired faculty, current faculty, and alumni. The success of this initiative has been carried on the shoulders of many, including those on the planning committee who worked together to recall historical milestones, collect artifacts, and assist with the final design. The committee was composed of retired and current faculty, alumni and College of Health and Social Services staff. The permanent structure not only preserves the School of Nursing’s vibrant history, but it tells the many stories that honor the contributions that nurses have made to our community. The wall also serves as an inspiration to our current students. Jessie Velasco, a second-semester nursing student said “As an NMSU nursing student, I have found the Nursing Wall of Excellence to be a meaningful addition to the School of Nursing because it preserves the history of our nursing program and encourages future nurses to make an impact.” Honoring nurses did not stop here. This project led to the creation of the Smith Family Nursing Legacy Wall.

See page 17 for more on the Legacy Wall.



NMSU College of Health and Social Services



Alumni Happenings Brandy Samaniego, MSW ‘07 In the fall of 2014, Brandy celebrated the one-year anniversary of Besito, the mental health agency she started in October 2013. She has been in the social work field for more than 10 years, but was only able to focus on mental health and therapy after obtaining her Master of Social Work degree from NMSU in 2007. Besito has grown to the point of accepting most major insurances and contracting another therapist. The agency is doing great work in the areas of therapy, families, parenting, co-parenting and substance abuse. Besito serves Valencia County with offices in Los Lunas and Belen. To learn more about Besito, visit Ann Emery, BSW ‘83 After graduating from NMSU in 1983, Ann went on to obtain a Master of Social Work from New Mexico Highlands University in 1984. Upon graduation, she began working at William Beaumont Army Medical Center at Ft. Bliss, Texas where she was on a team serving AIDS patients. She assisted the team in educating medical personnel about the disease, facilitated treatment, and provided group and individual counseling to those patients as well as other military personnel. Grief counseling was also provided to military families in other areas. Ann served as a consultant in all areas of the hospital, including the Family Advocacy Committee and the Newborn Intensive Care Unit. Betty Jean Shinas, BSW ’91, MSW ’92 Betty Jean is the current NMSU Alumni chapter president for the School of Social Work and serves as a member of the NMSU Alumni Association International Board of

Hollie Riggin, ADN ‘94 Hollie married Terry Riggin on July 25, 1995. Together, they have two daughters, ages 8 and 14. Carmen Putman, ADN ‘93 Carmen graduated with a nurse practitioner license in July 2013. She currently works in a small rural hospital in Friona, Texas.

Betty Jean Shinas (center) with daughters, Victoria de Almeida (left) and Rebecca Shinas-Rehberg, at the Contemporary Hispanic Market Art Show in Santa Fe in July 2014. Victoria won “Best of Painting, 2014” and Rebecca won “Best of Show, 2014.”

Putman (right)

Directors. She retired from the state of New Mexico after working for Children’s Medical Services for 15 years. She is currently a social worker for Santa Fe Public Schools.

Alma Armendariz, MSW ‘07 Alma is married to Gabriel Armendariz and celebrated their 17th anniversary in 2014. Alma has two children and eight grandchildren ranging in age from 1-15. In March 2014, she was promoted as the conservatorship program director at the Department of Family and Protective Services, Child Protective Services. In addition, obtaining a MSW has given Alma the opportunity to teach human service classes at the University of Phoenix, Santa Teresa Learning Center. She has been teaching for six years.

Jennifer Oesterling, MSW ‘01 After graduating from NMSU in 2001, Jennifer had her daughter, Evelyn in 2004 and got married to John Myers in 2013. She has worked as a medical social worker for Heartland Hospice for the last nine years. She was the co-chair of the Albuquerque Metro Unit of the NASW from 2005-2012.

Alma Armendariz pictured with Campus College Chair, College of Social Sciences, Rebecca Robles (left), and University of Phoenix faculty member, best friend, and fellow Aggie, Roberto Vara (right).

Jennifer Oesterling and family.




NMSU College of Health and Social Services


Sandra Rotruck, BSW ‘83 Sandra is the president of the board of directors for the Domestic Violence Resource Center in Albuquerque, which provides free help to victims of domestic violence and their minor children. She has a statewide family law practice with Sutin, Thayer & Browne, APC.

Alyssa Andreis, BCH ‘14 Alyssa traveled to Costa Rica and Panama for 16 days in late December of 2014. She learned to surf, met some incredible people, and is already planning another trip back.

Erika Poncho, Bachelor of Human and Community Services ‘10 Erika graduated in May 2010, and by October 2010 she began her career with Laguna Social Services as a social services specialist. As a Laguna Tribal Member, she felt fortunate to work in the community she grew up in. Since November 2014, Erika has been employed by CYFD-Protective Services as a placement worker in Albuquerque. She has a 16-year-old son who attends Del Norte High School. She is excited to begin a new chapter in her life with CYFD and will forever be grateful for her experience at NMSU. Erika is proud to be an Aggie alumna!

Alyssa Andreis during her trip.

Dillon Trujillo, BCH ‘14 Dillon is a research assistant for the National HIV Behavioral Surveillance (NHBS) Project through the San Francisco Department of Public Health, funded by the CDC. The NHBS Project has been conducting behavioral surveillance and formative research in San Francisco and 19 other communities at high risk for HIV infection since 2003. Dillon’s duties entail being a clinical counselor and data analyst/manager. He goes out into the communities and recruits participants to be a part of the study – a 30-minute interview – and conducts a HIV test/counseling session. The purpose of the interviews is to get a snapshot of what people are doing and how they are behaving so Dillon’s team can better develop and direct health/HIV programs to these populations.

Terri Fortner, MSN ‘09 Terri worked on proclamations for the 2014 National Nurse Practitioner Week. She was elected the New Mexico Board of Nursing Chair for another term and will complete eight years on the board in July 2015.

Provided by Terri Fortner.


NMSU College of Health and Social Services





Linda Summers, MPH ‘08 In October of 2010, a friend of Linda’s asked her if she would be the swimmer on a sprint triathlon team. She was initially hesitant because she had never participated in any type of athletic event (she was on the debate team in high school). But she finally agreed, and because they were the only team competing, she and her teammates received the first-place team medal. Two weeks later, Linda fractured her ankle. She continued to swim in an effort to rehabilitate her ankle. During this time, Linda also decided she would compete in a sprint triathlon on her own, just as soon as she learned to ride a bike and could run more than half a block. In August 2011, she completed her first sprint triathSummers (top right, at bottom) has competed lon on in 65 races. her own in Socorro. Despite being dead last, Linda decided that by the time she turned 60, she would complete 60 athletic events. Her goal became




“60 by 60.” In January 2014, accompanied by friends and family she completed the Biggest Loser half marathon in Las Cruces, it was her 60th race. On January 31, 2015, she turned 60. She has completed 65 races to date, including six half-marathons. She said, “Clearly, you are never too old to set goals.” Conni DeBlieck, ADN ’94, BSN ’03, MSN ’07 Conni was selected to participate in the 5th annual 60-day Health Kwest contest sponsored by Genghis Grill. One applicant was selected to represent each of the 100plus Genghis Grill location nationwide. As a contestant, Conni got to enjoy one free healthy meal at Genghis Grill every day for 60 days and tracked her progress on DeBlieck social media. The competition began on February 9, 2015 and ended on April 10, 2015. For Conni, this challenge was not only about eating sensibly, exercising, and connecting with new folks on a similar journey to a healthier life, but it was about making a lifestyle change and shifting her normal health-related behaviors. The contest was certainly a challenge for Conni’s self-esteem, but despite this challenge the natural introvert stepped outside of her comfort zone. Special thank you to Conni’s friends for their support in her lifestyle Kwest! Shirley Marin, BSW ’98, MSW ‘05 Shirley Marin and her classmates haven’t let time break the bond they formed as undergraduate students in the Bachelor of Social Work program. The “Aggie Gang,” as Shirley likes to call the group, consists of fellow Aggies and friends: Laura Reeves, Charlene Tafoya, Joan Castillo and Patricia Lopez. Little did they know when they packed up their bags after graduating in May 1998, they would be as close as ever nearly

Maggie McCowen, BA Social Welfare ‘71 Maggie was named Executive Director of the Behavioral Health Providers Association of New Mexico in December 2014. McCowen

The “Aggie Gang” pictured from left to right: Castillo, Marin, Lopez, Reeves and Tafoya.

Marti Trevizo, ADN ‘88 After graduating from NMSU, Marti continued her education and has since achieved a master’s degree in nursing from Western Governors University. Marti recently became the Trevizo executive director for Ambercare Hospice in Las Cruces.

20 years later. The entire “Aggie Gang” lives in Albuquerque. Shirley is an intake and eligibility worker for the DD Waiver at the Department of Health (DOH). Patricia (Patty) also works for the DOH. Joan works for the state of New Mexico as a PO officer, and Charlene and Laura work for Molina Healthcare. The “Aggie Gang” continues to support their alma mater by attending sporting events when the Aggies are in Albuquerque, and they always make sure to wear their Aggie gear to support their team. Although this group of individuals is the original “Aggie Gang,” Shirley continues to invite other Aggies from the Class of 1998 to join in on the festivities. This tight-knit group also stays connected with monthly gatherings, celebrating each other’s birthdays, and attending weddings and various other events together. Shirley said, “We love being Aggies and always will! Thank you NMSU for a wonderful career and amazing, loving forever friends.” Joy Mynatt, BSN ‘98 Joy welcomed her precious baby boy, Anchor James Mynatt, into the world on February 27, 2015.

Victoria Cain, MSW ‘12 Victoria is currently enjoying working as a Palliative/Hospice Social Worker at Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque. Home and family life are good!


Katie Armstrong, BSN ‘14 Katie recently commissioned onto the U.S. Air Force as a Second Lieutenant. She is excited to serve as a nurse in the U.S. Air Force!


Andrew Vernon, MPH ‘12 Andrew is currently in Belize, finishing up a five-year initiative, which seeks to “improve the health and nutrition of children residing in the Toledo district.” Andrew shared that Toledo has been identified by the World

Mynatt with baby boy Anchor James.



NMSU College of Health and Social Services


Alumni Happenings Continued

Donald Williams-Gutierrez, MPH ‘12 Donald obtained a fellowship with the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) in March 2013 as a full-time participant as a health educator for the Army Wellness Center (AWC) program at Fort Bliss in El Paso. This is a program under the U.S. Army Public Health Command. For this fellowship, Donald was required to obtain his personal training certification, through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), which he acquired in October 2013. As a health educator at the Fort Bliss AWC, their mission is primary and primordial prevention of cardiovascular disease for active-duty soldiers, their families, retirees, and Department of the Army civilians by promoting enhanced and sustained healthy lifestyles through a variety of different tests, education and coaching. Everything the AWC offers is evidence-based. Donald and his team perform metabolic testing, physical fitness testing, body compo-



sition analysis, biofeedback, general-wellness education classes, unit-level assessments and health coaching sessions to help clients become motivated to change. He is currently still a participant and was renewed for his third year in March 2015. In addition to the work Donald does as a Health Educator for the AWC, in January 2014 he became a part-time instructor at New Mexico State University’s Doña Ana Community College, teaching personal

health and wellness. Donald believes being a health educator has helped him as an instructor and being an instructor has helped him as a health educator; they complement each other. Additionally, Donald is working on a Fitness Nutrition Specialist certification through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). Donald is extremely excited that through his work he is able to be at the forefront of the changing health care system in today’s society.

Greetings Alumni!

A Message from the CHSS Community and Alumni Relations Coordinator


y name is Courtney Lopez and I am the community and alumni relations coordinator for the College of Health and Social Services (CHSS). I am excited to be in my second year with the college as we continue to expand and strengthen our alumni outreach and engagement efforts. I am here to reconnect with you and learn more about your time as a student and your life after NMSU! We’re so grateful to our generous alumni that give back to the college through their time and talent. Not only do our own CHSS alumni give back to this college, but alumni from other colleges at NMSU support our programs as well, which is so helpful given that health is central to all of our lives. Take for example, the Courtney Family, which is comprised of five Aggies, is proud to support health-related programs even

though not one individual in their family has a degree from the CHSS. As for their reasoning, Rebecca Courtney shared, “because we know a healthy community is vital to everyone.” The CHSS greatly appreciates the generosity and support of all NMSU alumni! Individuals featured in the “Alumni Happenings” section have graciously provided us with updates and we hope you will do the same for next year’s 2016 edition of Vitality. For those of you who are interested in attending future alumni events, volunteering, or mentoring current CHSS students, please contact me at or 575-646-5061. I look forward to hearing from you! Lopez


Bank, WHO/PAHO & UNICEF as being one of the poorest regions in Belize, having the highest rates of chronic malnutrition (stunting). The Japanese funded, World Bank-monitored grant is being implemented by the country’s Ministry of Health but also partners with local NGO’s and communities for the successful implementation of the program.

A Tribute to Nurses Past and Present


The Smith Family Nursing Legacy Wall.

ill. Whether the nurse is a family member, friend, or a professional that provided care in one’s time of need, nurses hold a special place in the hearts of many because of

their selflessness and compassion. What better way to honor a nurse than to join other NMSU staff, faculty, administrators, alumni and friends of the College to create a customized plaque for that special someone that will be displayed on the first floor of the Health and Social Services building for years to come. The Smith Family Nursing Legacy Wall was started by a group of pioneers, the Nightingale Circle members, in February 2015. These individuals were first on board to honor a special nurse with a beautifully inscribed Baltic birch plaque. The plaques include the name of the nurse being honored, a short quote and a photo. In addition, a booklet will be created that includes longer narratives for those featured



he Nursing Wall of Excellence has served as an inspiration in a number of ways, most recently sparking the idea to create a nursing legacy wall where nurses past and present can be honored for their dedication to the profession, love for others and commitment to caring for the

Custom plaques, like the one above, honor selfless and compassionate nurses. Together, the plaques make up the Smith Family Nursing Legacy Wall.

on the wall so individuals can learn more about each nurse’s legacy in greater detail. Plaques with a photo are $1,000 and those without are $500. All proceeds support a nursing student travel fund. For more information, contact Jennifer Cervantes at 575-646-5985 or by email jcervant@nmsu. edu. Please note space is limited.


he General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC) Progress Club of Las Cruces has achieved a remarkable milestone: This determined organization has entered its 100th year of community service. The club, incorporated into GFWC on April 24, 1915, has its fingerprints all over Las Cruces and the nation. During World War II, for instance, members raised money to buy war bonds, volunteered at USO facilities, and helped purchase a bomber for the U.S. Army. In commemoration of the attack on 9/11, the club designed and brought to Las Cruces the “5,000 Flowers Project,” a national exhibit created in memory of those who lost their lives that tragic day.

Today, members help children learn reading skills, support the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park, provide baby supplies for the Christ Child Circle, work with La Casa to aid sufferers of domestic violence, help fund Heifer International and more. Additionally, their support extends to aid nursing students in the College of Health and Social Services, with the Betty Arndt Endowed Scholarship. The CHSS congratulates this stellar women’s club on an outstanding achievement. For a club to last 100 years is truly remarkable. For the industrious women of the GFWC Progress Club, it is just another day.


A Century of Progress

From left to right: Betty Arndt, Mayor Ken Miyagishima and Valerie Redington, president of GFWC Progress Club of Las Cruces.



NMSU College of Health and Social Services


What Will You Choose? COURTESY PHOTO

Interview with Margaret (Peggy) Battin, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Adjunct Professor Internal Medicine, Division of Medical Ethics at the University of Utah. Dr. Battin has been named as one of the “Mothers of Bioethics.”


Battin he College of Health and Social Services held its second annual Dean’s Health Symposium, a complimentary one-day seminar, in May 2015. The symposium, entitled “A Beautiful Death: What Will You Choose?” focused on end of life. The conference topic was selected for significance and timeliness; it had two options available for attendees – consumers and family caregivers, or clinicians. The symposium included workshops on legal issues, advance-care planning, New Mexico regulations affecting end-of-life care, pharmacological issues at the end of life and writing an obituary. The event drew more than 400 attendees, many of whom were Las Cruces community members. Margaret (Peggy) Battin, Ph.D., served as the keynote speaker for the conference and as a leader in her field sat down with us to delve more deeply into this important topic.

Q: A:

What is a bioethicist and what is the role of a bioethicist in health care matters?

states or parts of states now recognize aid in dying legally – Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Montana and one county in New Mexico – and there are legislative initiatives or other activity in a dozen more.

Q: A:

Why is it important for us to discuss our preferences for the end of life?

Q: A:

Why are there several different types of advanced care documents and which do you believe is the best?

Discussing our preferences about something in the future not only provides information for others about what we might want, but encourages us to be active in formulating our own wishes about how to guide the course of our lives to the type of conclusions that are most acceptable for ourselves. Advance thinking, discussion and planning all can contribute to end-of-life scenarios that are more in keeping with our own values and preferences than the default trajectories, so to speak, of dying. We don’t all want to die in the same way … nor should we. Individual preferences about how we die should be respected as much as possible.

Advanced directive documents include the original “living will” that allows people to stipulate what they do or don’t want done for them after they become incompetent, e.g., I do want assistance in eating by means of spoon feeding but not tube feeding, or I will accept antibiotics but not ventilator support. That “smorgasbord menu” is now seen to be less flexible than decisions made by an appointed surrogate who can take account of the specific circumstances at the time decisions need to be made. The durable power of attorney directive generally takes precedence over the “living will,” but the requests on the living will form, if there is one, can give the surrogate some idea of the patient’s prior preferences. Advanced care forms are not always followed. People might change their minds — what seemed as though it would be intolerable turns out to be, when experienced, tolerable. And there are philosophic questions:

A bioethicist is an academic or a professional who works in a field like philosophy, law or medicine, looking at moral/ethical issues in medicine and behavioral or biomedical research. The role of the bioethicist has expanded from the early days of focusing on a “bedside view” to a very broad values-based inquiry about many areas of human biological life. A bioethicist asks questions about what is ethically acceptable. For example, is it ethical to engage in artificial reproductive technologies that result in a child having three genetic parents: one from sperm, one from nucleus of the egg and one from mitochondrial DNA? There are rarely firm answers because we deal from a wide range of perspectives, including outcomes-oriented, utilitarian and principle-based deontological ways of seeing moral issues. A bioethicist examines all perspectives to discover the overlap of each. For example, to the question: Is aid in dying for people who are terminally ill ethically permissible? The bioethicist would consider issues about autonomy, suffering, intention in ending life, physician integrity, and the risks of abuse; these are all part of the complexity of the question. Our society seems to be moving in the direction of an answer that is yes. Five Hundreds gathered in May for the 2015 Dean’s Health Symposium. Workshops featured diverse issues surrounding death and dying.


NMSU College of Health and Social Services




A Beautiful Death:

Q: A:

How important is it for health professionals to feel comfortable with the discussion of end of life with their patients?

It is crucially important that all health professionals are comfortable with a discussion with patients around end-of-life issues. Every patient, every person will eventually die; to pretend that physicians are only healers is to overlook the other essential component of their role — that is to help a patient in whatever way seems appropriate to the patient to have the kind of death that is consistent with the patient’s values. Physicians will, of course, also be working to relieve or cure the patient’s illness. Healing is the essential role for every physician. However, when it is no longer possible for the patient to be healed, the appropriate role of the physician, I believe, is to become your ally, your helpmate, your friend in how the dying goes.

Q: A:

At what age do you think people should begin to talk about end-of-life preferences?

There is no fixed age at which one becomes capable of talking about death. Young people, even children, have curiosity about death, particularly as a result of witnessing a death in their family. Adolescents and young adults, it is sometimes claimed, have a sense of “invulnerability.” As we age and see death around us, we become more sensitive to these issues. Issues about dying and about how to die become much larger as we see those we love and have been associated with die. It is a person’s last activity and one for which a person might want to prepare – practically, emotionally, financially and spiritually.

Q: A:

You chose to tell your own very personal story related to your life partner. What were some of the reasons you chose to tell this story?

The central reason was that my husband, Brooke Hopkins, who, after the accident that resulted in his becoming quadriplegic, thought and hoped that his story and the sense of his suffering might help others. He wanted his story to be available to others. He made it possible for the story to be told — what we experienced, learned, endured. And also (what we) were able to celebrate — a new, deeper kind of intimacy with each other, much closer relations with friends and family, and a curious sense of purpose even in the face of death. I had been working on end-of-life issues my whole academic career, and had been writing fiction and philosophical work on this topic even before there was a “field” of bioethics. My husband and I had explored these issues for many years together even before his devastating accident, so there was both irony in and a sense of preparation for facing this new, enormously difficult situation. COURTESY PHOTO


Attendees were invited to ask questions and deepen the conversation on end-oflife issues during the panel discussion that took place at the 2015 Dean’s Health Symposium.

If the person was fully competent when their decisions were made, are those choices still appropriate after the person develops dementia, or should the now-current wishes of the person be followed? Appointing a surrogate can be an effective way of ensuring that one’s wishes are followed, but it must be supplemented with extended conversations with the person appointed. A surrogate can legally make all health care decisions for you that you could make if you were still competent, and so needs to have a full understanding of your wishes. You put your life in their hands.

Kathy Olson, RN, CHPN®, discusses hospice care in her breakout session, “There’s No Place Like Home, and Hospice CAREs!” Olson’s workshop was one of 20 held during the symposium on May 1, 2015.

Q: A:

Why are we afraid of talking about death?

There hasn’t been much social encouragement to talk about death. Our cultural diet has been formed with comparatively unrealistic pictures of death; however, a social shift is occurring. The realities of death and our own mortality are coming to the forefront. As discussion of these issues becomes more widespread it should help us become less afraid of talking about them.

Special thank you to our 2015 Dean’s Health Symposium Platinum Sponsors!



NMSU College of Health and Social Services



he Southern Area Health Education Center (SoAHEC) is expanding the breadth of its mission in order to serve as a culturally competent regional resource for the promotion of health equity in southern New Mexico. Because of these changes, SoAHEC and the College of Health and Social Services promise to play a more prominent role in the communities of the region. Four new goals reflect SoAHEC’s commitment. The first is to provide leadership and support for community-

based participatory research by linking education opportunities for local health underserved communities with NMSU professionals. It will also provide health faculty and staff. Second, the center will promotion and educational services that forge partnerships with local health and reduce the impact of chronic disease, social service agencies in order to address health concerns more effectively. The third goal is enhanced response to funding opportunities. Finally, the center will develop and implement scientifically-based evaluation protocols for health promotion proThe SoAHEC staff works to increase diversity in the healthcare field by providgrams. Such protocols ing education and supporting training. will lead to improvements in decision-making, program promote safe and healthy home envidelivery, and documentation. ronments, and enhance the psychoSoAHEC will maintain its traditional logical well-being of the residents of mission of improving the diversity of southern New Mexico. the health profession’s workforce by A new team of dedicated SoAHEC providing health career education to employees will lead the charge with prounder-represented students, supporting gram manager Angelee “Gigi” Shamaley the training of medical residents in rural at the helm. settings, and facilitating continuing

Thanks and well wishes to Bea Favela. The college expresses its gratitude to Bea for her many years of service to the SoAHEC, CHSS, and NMSU. Her tireless efforts on behalf of the residents of southern New Mexico have made the region a better place for all.


Many people dream of not only writing a novel, but getting one published. College of Health and Social Services Assistant Dean,

Jennifer Cervantes, wrote her first children’s novel, “Tortilla Sun” in 2010; the novel is in its third printing, and came out in paperback in 2014. It has received numerous honors, including the 2011 New Mexico Book Award!


NMSU College of Health and Social Services




NEW and Old Directions for SoAHEC

Alumna Supports Future Generations COURTESY PHOTO


nna Yourstone graduated in 2011 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. In an effort to ensure that future generations of Aggie nurses have comparable academic experiences, Anna and her parents, Joel and Evelin Wheeler, decided to donate funds to create a professional seminar designed specifically for seventh- and eighth-semester nursing students. Anna’s decision to pay it forward has already had a significant impact on our nursing students preparing to enter the workforce. At the Wheeler Student Development Conference, nursing students have had the opportunity to glean insight from representatives working at area health care organizations such as Ben Archer Health Center, Del Sol, El Paso VA Health Care System, Memorial Medical Center, Molina Healthcare, MountainView Regional Medical Center and the Rehabilitation Hospital of Southern New Mexico. Every year during the conference representatives from these respected institutions lead a panel discussion regarding what employers want, and provide professional advice to students as they look to begin careers in the health care industry. Providing this type of professional development and networking opportunity for

School of Nursing students participating in the second annual Wheeler Student Development Conference.

nursing students is crucial in ensuring they are well-equipped for the professional lives ahead of them. Special thank you to Anna and her parents, Evelin and Joel, for their continued support and investment in the success of our nursing students!

BSN Launch Extends School of Nursing’s Reach


n fall 2014, the School of Nursing and New Mexico State University in Las Cruces entered into a new partnership with NMSU Alamogordo to offer students the opportunity to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing without leaving their community. Thanks to the use of interactive television, School of Nursing faculty members are able to broadcast the curriculum to 16 Alamogordo students. This innovative approach provides a steady source of graduates ready for licensure as registered nurses for the Alamogordo health care community, addressing the shortage of such nurses in this largely rural area.

An additional benefit for these students is that the NMSU School of Nursing is an active participant in the New Mexico Nursing Education Consortium (NMNEC) curriculum plan, a stateof-the-art nursing curriculum that is concept-based and leveled for progressive learning at increasingly complex levels of nursing preparation. Should a student need to transfer to another community in the state, the student could request a transfer to the local NMNEC partner nursing school without losing credit for nursing courses completed. This increases student mobility across the system, addressing one of the barriers to accessible nursing education — one factor in the


nursing shortage. The NMNEC statewide system of nursing education not only increases student mobility, it provides for the preparation of more highly educated RNs for communities across New Mexico. The Institute of Medicine has called for an 80 percent increase in nurses with nursing bachelor’s degrees by 2020 to meet demand, and NMSU’s School of Nursing is doing its part.

By Teresa Keller, Ph.D. Interim Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and School of Nursing Associate Director


NMSU College of Health and Social Services


Infectious Diseases




xcept when a newsworthy outbreak occurs, the public generally assumes we have “beaten” most major killer diseases with vaccines and antibiotics. This belief is, unfortunately, largely untrue. Viruses do not respond to antibiotics and remain a threat. Ebola, for example, has no specific treatment or vaccine available and kills half its victims. Even polio – principally considered a thing of the past and endemic only in Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan – could reemerge. A new “polio-like” enterovirus, called acute flaccid myelitis, has paralyzed at least 107 children in the U.S. since August 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most recently, an outbreak of measles originating in a California theme park directly led to more than 100 cases in the U.S.; most people affected were unvaccinated. Last year, America experienced a record 668 measles cases, the highest number recorded since 2000, when the disease was considered eliminated. This highly contagious viral disease, which killed some 2.6 million each year before widespread vaccination,

Viral diseases remain a threat to public health despite medical advances over the years. The Ebola virus, first photographed in 1976 as shown above, has no vaccine and kills about half its victims across the world, according to the World Health Organization.

remains one of the leading causes of death among children globally. Though measles has no specific treatment, it can be prevented easily by ensuring eligible adults and children 12 and older are vaccinated. The vaccine has not been shown to be associated with autism – that association is a falsehood, originating in 1998 from an unethical and inaccurate report (subse-

For more information, visit the following websites:


NMSU College of Health and Social Services



quently rescinded). Unvaccinated adults can still receive vaccinations. Because of public health professionals, outbreaks such as these are carefully monitored and strategies to limit their spread are implemented. Without public health professionals, widespread outbreaks would be more common, putting the general public at greater risk.

By Susan L. Wilson, Ph.D. NMSU Department of Public Health Sciences

Public Health – Air Force Style medical clinic in Nicaragua. My second deployment was an entirely different experience. In direct support of Operation Enduring Freedom, I was in the United Arab Emirates to focus on force protection and the health promotion of U.S. service members. I was directly responsible for the daily tracking and mitigation of disease and injury, bridging emergency management capabilities, and food and water protection. The bottom line is that prevention is essential and requires constant vigilance. Protecting the health of our military often requires imagination, ingenuity, perseverance, passion, and sometimes a little “Air Power.” COURTESY PHOTO


he Air Force’s mission is to fly, Operation Continuing Promise. I was fight, and win in air, space, a member of a joint forces preventive and cyberspace. The role that medicine team dedicated to promoting public health plays in accomplishing this health in Central America, South Amermission must not be understated. The ica and the Caribbean. Projects I worked strength of a military force is equal on included connecting a school with a only to its disease and injury prevention efforts. Air Force Public Health protects the health and safety of our service members and their families largely through disease prevention, health promotion and emergency preparedness. Accomplishing this mission requires a multi-faceted approach specifically tailored to each Air Force base, deployment location and deployment tasking, taking into Maj. Tracy Brannock poses with young students abroad. account the current environmental, communicable and vector-borne threats municipal water and sewage system in of a particular area. Peru, coordinating and training emergenI was fortunate to employ my public cy responders for disaster preparedness health training on two separate deployin Costa Rica, developing safe drinking ments. The first was aboard the USNS water in elementary schools in Ecuador Comfort, a hospital ship, in support of and Guatemala, and maintaining a small

By Maj. Tracy Brannock ’00 ’03 Air Force Global Strike Command Public Health Officer


Did you know? Ave Mari! Mari Langford, College of Health and Social Services Executive Assistant to the Dean, was originally studying to be a nun while living in Florida. Mari was a member of her convent for five years.



NMSU College of Health and Social Services


Vital Assets Faculty Member Shares Passion for Public Health Jill McDonald



assion is defined as a powerful or compelling NMSU and in the community that focus on reducemotion. For Jill McDonald, this powerful, ing health disparities. SWIHDR is developing compelling emotion stems from her research interdisciplinary faculty research teams, of disparities in health. Because of her passion establishing new community partnerin this area, McDonald has become a ships and finding ways to involve wonderful resource, not only to students more students in health disparities of NMSU, but also for organizations in research. Day-to-day interactions and the region. collaborative strategizing are required As an epidemiologist, most of her to be successful. research focuses on the patterns of health Love of epidemiology has allowed disparities in the region. Of her greatMcDonald to connect students with est interests, reproductive health and job opportunities in the region. Many chronic disease disparities in America’s NMSU and CHSS students go on Hispanic population and in the fill key positions around the area, Mexico border region are at the top of working in hospitals and clinics, pubher list. lic health agencies and other healthPassion for her area of research has related organizations. Whichever McDonald stepping outside her role as a direction a student takes, the ability to professor at NMSU. McDonald directs understand and translate health data the Southwest Institute for Health is critical to advancing public health. Disparities Research (SWIHDR). As Because of McDonald, these students NMSU professor and Stan Fulton Chair Jill McDonald, left, director, she initiates and coordinates accepts a Founders Day Award from President Garrey Carare given the education to succeed in during the inaugural NMSU Founders Day picnic on efforts to build research infrastructures at ruthers this field. campus. Carruthers appeared dressed up as Hiram Hadley.

Dual-degree Paves Path for Success Nikkie Ellis



NMSU College of Health and Social Services


degree from NMSU can open many doors and offer unique opportunities for an individual. Dual degrees, however, can lead to even more opportunities. CHSS alumna Nikkie Ellis learned this firsthand when she completed the social work-public health dual-master’s program. Ellis graduated from the NMSU Albuquerque Center in 2012 with an MSW and in 2013 with an MPH. Being a social worker who can work at both the macro and micro levels of practice makes someone like Ellis a true asset to a health care organization.


Ellis believes that when a practitioner is able to see a client and the system the client operates in, they produce advantageous outcomes. Ellis possesses this Ellis ability because of her education through the MSW/ MPH program offered by the College of Health and Social Services. As a neonatal intensive care social worker at Presbyterian, Ellis’ primary


duty is to assist families in accessing community resources and education for their new baby. Ellis is also in charge of establishing psychosocial needs for families. In addition, she works on support group bedside therapeutic sessions for crisis management and discharge planning. Ellis performs a wide variety of additional duties at Presbyterian, allowing her to experience something new every day. Ellis believes her schooling gave her the tools to be versatile and remain in control, despite the unpredictable situations that may arise.

A Natural Leader Sabrina Martin



ommunication, confidence and mum potential,” she said. “This allows merce Board of cooperation are key characteristhem to return to what is important to Directors. tics of great leaders. CHSS Adthem in the community, whether it be Martin cannot visory Board member Sabrina Martin has work, home or family.” deny her passion these skills in excess, helping her succeed Martin provides leadership in and out for community as a leader at the Rehabilitation Hospiof the workplace, particularly when it involvement and tal of Southern New Mexico. Martin’s comes to community service. She assists the work she does leadership abilities helped her rise quickly in promoting health care advancements outside of the there; she joined the RHSNM as a staff and partnerships through her active facility to keep the Martin physical therapist when it first opened in participation on the College of Health hospital connected 2004 and grew through several different and Social Services Advisory Board and to the communities leadership roles, all of which led to her Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Comof southern New Mexico. current position, as chief executive officer. As a hospital administrator, Martin’s main responsibility is to ensure that safe and Unexpected Moments Can Change Lives quality care is delivered to Alyce Kolenovsky all patients. Martin, along with senior leaders, makes ometimes life throws a curve ball which rotations during their first semester. Kolenovsky’s leadership rounds to assigned changes your trajectory. This is what dedication and commitment to students is patients. It gives the team happened to Alyce Kolenovsky in 2003 evident. Her life experiences are valuable to the a regular opportunity to enafter a collision with another vehicle sent her students she advises, as she understands firsthand sure each patient’s individual and her husband into a 30-foot ravine. The how quickly life can change. needs are met. accident made Kolenovsky rethink her life, and As an ex-Marine and a non-traditional The highlight of Martin’s soon thereafter, she and her husband moved to student, Kolenovsky understands the challenges day is called “Priority One,” Las Cruces to pursue their dreams of obtaining students face. As part of her advising duties, which occurs as patients higher education degrees. After obtaining a Kolenovsky meets with students who have miliare discharged from the degree in Individualized Studies in the fall of tary ties or other specific needs. facility. Staff members form 2011, Kolenovsky landed a job as two lines in the lobby to an academic advisor for the NMSU clap and cheer as a patient School of Nursing. makes their journey home. Nursing school is demanding and This is a way to congratulate undoubtedly challenging. Kolenovsky the patients for their hard is often called upon in her role to help work, and to celebrate their students avoid curve balls that may “graduation.” In these mothrow them off track. This is where ments, Martin is reminded she shines and goes above and beyond. of why she chose to pursue When students arrive for new-student a career in the health care registration, Kolenovsky becomes their industry and the love she has guide, often giving presentations before for her profession. registering each student. Alyce Kolenovsky, whose life changed course after a serious car crash, talks to a student in her office. “Community service is Kolenovsky’s duties extend far doing our part in keeping beyond advising. In addition to working with The unexpected moments in our lives tend the community healthy and students at the Las Cruces campus, Kolenovsky to have the greatest impact on us. In the case of allowing people who have frequently travels to NMSU’s satellite campuses, Alyce Kolenovsky, her unexpected moment led survived traumatic events or working with nursing students and ensuring to a wonderful career in the NMSU School surgery to reach their maxithey have met all the requirements for clinical of Nursing.

Crash Course:



NMSU College of Health and Social Services






he Peace Corps has been an unbroken thread in the tapestry of Sue Forster-Cox’s life. “When I heard my cousin talk about his experiences in Iran as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” Forster-Cox said of the moment in seventhgrade when she decided to travel abroad. After earning her bachelor’s degree in health science, she joined the Peace Corps as a malaria eradication specialist in Colombia. During training, she met a fellow volunteer named Warren Cox and later married him. Upon her return to America, a returned Peace Corps volunteer from the University of Hawaii, called to discuss ForsterCox getting a master’s degree in public health. After submit-

Peace Corps volunteers pose in Colombia, where Sue Forster-Cox worked as a malaria eradication specialist.


Waging Peace ting an application, she was offered a full scholarship. “Hawaii is a real international melting pot,” Forster-Cox said. “There were many returned Peace Corps volunteers in the public health program.” Degree in hand, she moved with her Forster-Cox husband to Socorro, New Mexico and began a career working with Native Americans.There, she connected with returned Peace Corps volunteers in the area who had also been drawn by the issues of the Southwest. Fourteen years ago, after earning her Ph.D., she joined the College of Health and Social Services and is currently an associate professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences. In 2003, she helped establish the Peace Corps Fellows program housed in the College of Health and Social Services. Since that time 30 returned Peace Corps volunteers at NMSU have received graduate assistantships. The program was expanded in 2010 into the Master’s International Program, in which students split graduate work with a two-year Peace Corps service. Forster-Cox’s international experience has led to national recognition. In April 2014, President Barack Obama named her to the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission. “This truly is the culmination of my many years working in public health in rural and tribal communities,” she said. “I have an awareness of the needs and an appreciation of the cultural issues associated with helping the people.”

CHSS Alumna: Social Work Offers Diverse Opportunities


here is a plethora of career paths in non-traditional settings. Being a president, vice-president, or chief executive officer of an organization is entirely plausible. I am a licensed independent social worker who serves as the vice president of Medicaid operations and Centennial Care CEO for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico (BCBSNM). In my role I am a natural advocate, and I use my clinical, empowerment, and educational skills to provide the leadership and overall direction for the BCBSNM


NMSU College of Health and Social Services



Centennial Care Program – a health insurance program for low-income individuals. I use my clinical experience to help shape social or other policies that positively impact the people we serve. I’ve had a vibrant, diverse career that led to my current opportunity. By Sharon Huerta ’95 Vice President of Medicaid Operations and Centennial Care CEO, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico

CHSS Alumna: Commitment to Others Drives Careers


ocial work embodies one of my family’s basic values – a commitment to help others. Two principles guided my 40-year social work career: first, the conviction that society has a shared obligation for the welfare of its members, and second, that individuals are strongly affected by the social environment in which they live. Throughout my career, I have found many different professional roles that express these principles. I have worked for Child Protective

Services; as a hospital department manager, helping patients discharge to safe and supportive homes; as a state agency division director, setting statewide policy to ensure juvenile offenders receive mental health services; as the CEO of a health care organization; and as an association executive director, advocating for organized and effective behavioral health services in our state. I advise new social work graduates to work in settings with direct client contact to learn how social injustice

operates in our society, so they can help to reduce systemic limitations to opportunities for growth and development. My advice to new graduates: Be an agent of change – whether directly with individuals, families and organizations, or with larger systems in both nonprofit and for-profit settings. By Maggie McCowen ’71 Executive Director, Behavioral Health Providers Association of New Mexico

Social Work: A Broad Perspective


ome years ago, I received an email from a former social work student, Anna, who had just completed her first year of law school. Anna wanted to thank me for the communication skills she had acquired in one of my courses. She expressed appreciation that her social work education had placed her “heads and shoulders over her law school classmates” when interviewing and gathering detailed data from clients. Like Anna, social work graduates can build on the knowledge and skills acquired from their education to enter an amazing diversity of other professions. Along with strong communication and data collecting skills, social workers are trained to be advocates, policy analysts, and group leaders. These attributes equip social workers for careers in government. Did you know that New Mexico Rep. Doreen Gallegos earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from New Mexico State University? Problem solving skills, knowledge of diverse populations, an understanding

of human behavior, the ability to navigate human relationships, and knowledge of how to connect individuals and organizations to resources enable social

hosts. Sherry Gaba, for instance, works on the reality show “Celebrity Rehab.” Social workers who work as media consultants help writers and directors accurately depict human behavior, and may be called upon to assess the stability of cast members in a reality show production to ensure they can appear on the show. My favorite nontraditional social worker job was recently created by the San Francisco Public Library system, where social workers help homeless patrons connect to lifesaving resources such as housing, mental health care and medical services. The School of Social Work is proud of its curriculum, which prepares students for an array of work settings and we are proud of our students who are driven to succeed in a wide variety of career paths.

We are proud of our students who are driven to succeed in a wide variety of career paths. workers to work in a variety of nontraditional roles. Businesses, for example, employ social workers in their human resources departments to mediate disputes between coworkers and help employees address personal problems affecting their work. Social workers may work as media experts, media consultants, and even TV Vitality

By Tina Hancock, Ph.D. Associate Dean and Director of the School of Social Work |

NMSU College of Health and Social Services


Students Play a Vital Role CHSS Student Ambassadors

Members of the Student Ambassador Organization assemble for a photo. The Student Ambassadors are an elite group of students who serve as liaisons to the NMSU campus and Las Cruces community. They are considered the face, hands and feet of the college. The students involved in this program come from our health-related majors including nursing, public health sciences and social work. This program is designed to further develop participants’ abilities as leaders, mentors, philanthropists and public servants as they engage in the life of our college, campus, city and state.

Phi Alpha Kappa Omega Honor Society

Members of Phi Alpha Kappa Omega Honor Society gather for a photo. Phi Alpha Kappa Omega Honor Society provides a bond among social work students and promotes humanitarian goals and ideals. Phi Alpha Kappa Omega Honor Society fosters higher standards of training for social workers and invites into membership those who have attained excellence in scholarship.

National Alliance on Mental Illness

Members of the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) on-campus chapter at NMSU line up for a photo. NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization, dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. NAMI is active in the NMSU and Las Cruces communities, hosting free events designed to raise awareness of mental health issues and resources in this area.

Eta Sigma Gamma

Members of Eta Sigma Gamma pose for a photo. The mission of Eta Sigma Gamma is promotion of the health science discipline by elevating the standards, ideals, competence and ethics of professionally prepared men and women in health education.



NMSU College of Health and Social Services



Student Nurses Association

Student Council

Members of the Student Nurses Association (SNA) pose for a group photo. SNA empowers nursing students through philanthropy, scholarship, and community outreach to the Las Cruces area with support from the NMSU School of Nursing.

Members of the College of Health and Social Services Student Council strike a pose. The Student Council works to further the aims and goals of the college’s students by serving as a liaison between the students of the college and the dean for the mutual benefit of both.

Student Social Work Association

Others include: Graduate Student Social Work Association (Las Cruces Campus) Graduate Student Social Work Association (Albuquerque Center) Public Health Student Organization Sigma Theta Tau (Pi Omega NMSU Chapter) Voice Against Cancer Student Organization Members of the Student Social Work Association (SSWA) pose for a photo. SSWA promotes interaction among students, faculty, university administration, the community and social service agencies. Along with this focus, SSWA also provides academic, emotional and social support to fellow students and helps each student build a professional identity as a social worker.



NMSU College of Health and Social Services


College of Health and Social Services MSC 3446 New Mexico State University P.O. Box 30001 Las Cruces, NM 88003-8001

Discovery today for a healthy tomorrow AZ/6-15/22299

Vitality 2015  

NMSU College of Health and Social Services annual magazine