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Life hack

For more than 25 years, the Assistive Technology Unit has maximized individual independence through person-centered therapy, design and engineering



Message from the Dean

AHS MAGAZINE Summer 2017 EDITOR Erika Chavez Director of Marketing and Communications

Doing what it takes “True happiness comes from the joy of deeds well done, the zest of creating things new.” —Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author and aviator In this issue of AHS Magazine, we recognize alumni, students, faculty and staff who are “creating things new” that transform the lives of others—contributions as practical as a cup holder or as future-forward as an educational program. Let’s start with the two new bachelor’s degrees awarded at commencement May 4, one in rehabilitation sciences and the other in disability and human development. The programs, both with strong multidisciplinary focus, are among the first of their kind in the nation. When the first graduates walked across the stage to receive their diplomas, it marked the culmination of several years of work by AHS faculty and staff (p. 2). Alumna Rhonda Atallah was heading for a career as a physical therapist when she detoured into education. Atallah developed a program in health and physical education for female students at an Islamic academy in the Chicago suburbs. “I want the girls to understand that through athletics and physical education, they can do anything the guys can do,” she says (p. 11). In 1983, Phyllis Bowen came to UIC with an NIH grant and lots of energy. Over the next several decades, she built an internationally known research program in the Department of Human Nutrition (now the Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition). These days, Bowen is a professor emerita, but she isn’t done building. Her generous planned gift to AHS will help prepare the next generation of leaders in her field (p. 19). Finally, we marvel at the ingenuity of our Assistive Technology Unit, which serves clients with disabilities throughout Illinois. What the ATU designs, modifies or creates—including work stations, apps, cup holders and architectural remodeling plans—might seem ordinary. But to ATU clients, these everyday items are essential tools for independent living (p. 18). The creativity of the AHS community is inspiring. You embrace challenges as opportunities and are not afraid to roll-up your sleeves. We provide the tools and training; what you build continues to amaze us.

DESIGN Kimberly Hegarty UIC Creative and Digital Services CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Sonya Booth, Jacqueline Carey, Francisca Corona, Christy Levy, Kelsey Schagemann CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS UIC Creative and Digital Services ©2017 University of Illinois at Chicago. All rights reserved. Published by the Office of the Dean (MC 518), UIC College of Applied Health Sciences, 808 South Wood Street, 169 CMET, Chicago, Illinois 60612-7305. Telephone Fax E-mail Website

(312) 996-6695 (312) 413-0086

Views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editor, the college or university.

You might notice abbreviations throughout this issue. They correlate to academic units in the College of Applied Health Sciences. BHIS Department of Biomedical and Health Information Sciences BVIS Program in Biomedical Visualization DHD Department of Disability and Human Development DIS Programs in Disability Studies HI

Program in Health Informatics

HIM Program in Health Information Management KINES

Programs in Kinesiology

KN Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition

Bo Fernhall Dean, UIC College of Applied Health Sciences


Medical Laboratory Sciences


Programs in Nutrition

OT Department of Occupational Therapy PT

Department of Physical Therapy


Programs in Rehabilitation Sciences



FEATURES 11 Healthy habits  Alumna Rhonda Atallah helps adolescent Muslim girls find empowerment through health and exercise.


Life hack  or more than 25 years, the Assistive Technology Unit has maximized F individual independence through person-centered therapy, design and engineering.



Launching a legacy

 rofessor emerita gives back to the department she helped put on P the map. 



AHS celebrates Chicago’s children


KN welcomes new department head

9  Professor studies possible link between binge drinking and cardiovascular disease


AHS Connection: Highlights from alumni gatherings

On the cover: Garrett Jones tests a newly-adapted cup holder.



First in class Graduation day is always special, but this year’s commencement was a landmark occasion for AHS. The first bachelor’s degrees were awarded in two new undergraduate programs: rehabilitation sciences, and disability and human development. “It’s an honor to be the first graduate,” said Irad Flores, who received the first bachelor’s in disability and human development. “This new major was the perfect match,” said Luka Chemmachel, who received the first bachelor’s in rehabilitation sciences. Rehabilitation sciences, a new AHS program, began in 2015 and will have a total enrollment of about 200 students by fall 2017. The bachelor’s degree in disability and human development was added this semester to the department’s existing graduate and certificate programs. The program has a target enrollment of 25 students for its freshman class this fall.

The two undergraduate programs are among the first of their kind in the nation. Both have a strong multidisciplinary focus, drawing upon the college’s strengths, said Demetra John, associate dean for academic and student affairs and clinical associate professor of physical therapy. The program in rehabilitation science relates to human function in health, disease and disability in today’s social, political, physical and health care environments, John said. The degree in disability and human development focuses on the social, cultural, economic and political contexts of disability, said Aly Patsavas, DHD lecturer and alternate director of undergraduate studies. For Chemmachel and Flores, the new programs were a perfect fit. In fact, both had already taken, as electives, many of the classes required for their new degree. “I loved every single course,” said Chemmachel, who transferred into rehabilitation sciences from kinesiology.

With this major, I feel like I’m ahead of the game for grad school. I learned so much that relates to my goals.

“Disability studies intersects with so much in our lives: policy, public health, medicine, social services,” Flores said. After graduation, Flores plans a career in social services. He is especially interested in working on issues related to disability in the Mexican-American community.

Chemmachel grew up in Darien and graduated from Hinsdale South High School. This fall, he’ll begin studies in occupational therapy at Midwestern University. He’s considering a career in pediatrics or geriatric home health care. “With this major, I feel like I’m ahead of the game for grad school,” he said. “I learned so much that relates to my goals.” Flores, a Lane Tech graduate who lives in Gage Park, began his studies at UIC in biological sciences, planning to become a physical therapist. A course in disability and human development changed his direction. Luka Chemmachel 2


Irad Flores SUMMER 2017


Distant holiday, local impact

OT and RS students from left to right: Shikha Bansal, Amy Early, OT department head and professor Yolanda Suarez-Balcazar, Dalmina Arias, Korynna Pepin and Amalia Zeidman.

Sunshine and the warmth of joining together for a common cause made April 22 special for a research team in the Department of Occupational Therapy and its community partners. The occasion, which drew more than 1000 people, was the 21st Annual Día del Niño (Day of the Child) Health Walk and Family Festival held by the National Museum of Mexican Art and co-sponsored by UI Health. El Día del Niño is a national holiday in Mexico, a day when families celebrate their children.

The event was a natural fit for Healthy Families, an initiative led by OT professor and department head Yolanda Suarez-Balcazar to improve health and participation in the community for Latinos with disabilities and their families. The project works in partnership with El Valor, a social services agency in Pilsen. Faculty, students and families involved in the Healthy Families initiative started the day with a Zumba class before joining a two-mile health walk from the museum to the UIC Pavilion. On the walk, some of them carried signs relating to pedestrian hazards in Pilsen found by a Healthy Families walkability and participation study. People in the community walk every day to engage in their daily activities. Through the participatory research study, families identified walking as a safety concern.

Photo: Pilar Carmona

Activities at the UIC Pavilion included games, art and performances with the Chicago Fire and the White Sox Retro Runners, among others. Free health screenings and wellness information were offered by UI Health, with representatives from the colleges of Medicine, Pharmacy, Dentistry and Applied Health Sciences.

Rehabilitation sciences student Korynna Pepin leads a group of children in an exercise session.

For the students in occupational therapy and rehabilitation sciences who participated, it was a chance to interact with the community and promote healthy lifestyles. “All the things they learn in the classroom, they practice and see in action by engaging with the community,” Suarez-Balcazar said. “It was great to connect our participatory research project with civic engagement.”






Breaking barriers and bread Advising patients to modify their diet won’t help if they don’t have access to healthy food, and wouldn’t know how to prepare it if they did. “You can’t just tell somebody, ‘you need to eat better.’ You should be aware of the barriers they face and the community resources available for them,” said Kirsten Straughan, KN clinical assistant professor and director of the nutrition science program. UIC nutrition students and medical students got a first-hand look at these issues on a recent visit to the Greater Chicago Food Depository, which partners with 700 agencies to distribute about 70 million pounds of food in Cook County each year. The trip was part of an interdisciplinary “food as medicine” project started several years ago between the Coordinated Nutrition Program in the College of Applied Health Sciences and the Urban Medicine program in the College of Medicine. About 40 students, led by Straughan toured the food depository and learned about its outreach programs for children, older adults and veterans. They talked with participants in the Chicago Community Kitchens program, which trains unemployed and underemployed people for careers in food service (and prepared lunch for the UIC visitors).

Students in a Greater Chicago Food Depository kitchen, going over a menu using the DASH diet.

The students had a session in the kitchen to prepare a menu for the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, a researchbased diet for healthy weight loss and lower blood pressure, then broke into small groups for a case study. “It gave them a whole other level of understanding,” Straughan said of the day-long experience.

Small group discussions with nutrition and medical students and participants in the Chicago Community Kitchens program, which trains unemployed and underemployed individuals to work in food service. 4




Leading lady Expanded opportunities for research, teaching and collaboration drew Kelly Tappenden from an endowed professorship at the UrbanaChampaign campus to her Kelly Tappenden new position as head of the Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition at UIC. “The opportunity to lead this department—a group with so much potential—is so exciting,” says Tappenden, who officially started July 25. Tappenden was the Kraft Foods Human Nutrition Endowed Professor and professor of nutrition and GI physiology in the Division of Nutritional Sciences at UrbanaChampaign, where she has been a faculty member since 1997.

Previous leadership positions at UIUC include associate dean of the Graduate College and provost fellow in the Office of the Provost. Her research in parenteral and enteral nutrition concerns intestinal failure and the inability to digest and absorb nutrients. In children, this is usually related to malformations of the intestine. In adults, problems like Crohn’s disease and inflammatory bowel disease may lead to the removal of parts of the intestine. Patients with intestinal failure must be fed intravenously, which leads to serious health problems and diminished quality of life. “We are working to rehabilitate the intestine—making it grow bigger and able to digest and absorb more nutrients—so that patients don’t have to continue being fed intravenously and can transition back to a normal life,” explains Tappenden, also editorin-chief of the Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.

“It’s been a 20-year quest where we’ve made a lot of progress,” she says. In Chicago, she will expand her work through additional collaborations with researchers and clinicians at UIC, University of Chicago and other medical centers. Her role as an educator is important to Tappenden, whose teaching honors include the University of Illinois Distinguished Teacher-Scholar Award. “The College of Applied Health Sciences has such a robust undergraduate program,” she says. “I look forward to being part of an environment where teaching is so embraced.” Tappenden earned a bachelor’s and a Ph.D. in nutrition and metabolism at University of Alberta, Canada. She is a registered dietitian and a fellow of the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.


Student body-building KN clinical associate professor John Coumbe-Lilley knows what it’s like to be a student-athlete. He’s been involved in organized sports since he was 9 John Coumbe-Lilley years old and has competed at the pro level— including playing for the Scotland Rugby League Team and semipro soccer in the U.K. He’s coached national rugby teams in the U.S. and U.K., was a mental skills coach for the Women’s Rugby World Cup and a mental skills consultant to the U.S. curling team at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, among other

coaching positions. “I will bring those experiences to bear working with UIC student-athletes,” he said. “I’ve been through what they’ve been through.” As UIC’s new faculty athletic representative, Coumbe-Lilley ensures the academic integrity of intercollegiate athletics, increases visibility of UIC Flames athletics programs and enhances the student athlete experience. He will serve as a member of the Chancellor’s Athletic Advisory Committee and as liaison to the Student Athletic Advisory Committee. First on his list is to learn as much as possible about UIC’s broad athletics portfolio. UIC has 330 studentathletes and 20 sports teams, with two or three coaches leading most teams.

“I want to build relationships all over campus,” he said. He also wants to ensure that studentathletes have access to the resources they need to be successful. He plans to work closely with academic support services available to studentathletes in the Port Academic Center—the primary study center for UIC student-athletes—in the Physical Education Building. “I want to maximize the opportunities for the student-athletes to accomplish what they’re going to do in the classroom and in their sport,” he said. “I want to leave no stone unturned in identifying the necessary steps to ensure graduation and that every student is leaving with the skills necessary for the workforce and for graduate school.” SUMMER 2017





Photo: Jenny Fontaine

Better than gold

2017 Silver Circle Award winner Felecia Williams ’99 bs him spent nearly 15 years working in management and as a consultant to hospital systems and insurance providers before returning to AHS as BHIS clinical assistant professor. Williams teaches online and classroom-based courses in the HIM program. She described her teaching style as dynamic and based in real-world scenarios.

Williams also teaches HIM 451: “Health Information Management Theory and Practice,” for online students who already have an undergraduate degree and are pursuing new careers, professional education and degree opportunities.

“I use the classroom as a space to answer questions and discuss real-life situations,” Williams said. “I want my students to understand that data management in health care is not just about formulas, equations and spreadsheets—it’s about understanding the information and using it to tell a story.”

“My teaching methods and approaches change based on my students—they are here to learn and I am always looking for new ways to help them as best I can,” Williams said. “I want to provide students with the building blocks of a successful career in HIM and give back to the profession.”

Williams teaches three undergraduate courses on campus: HIM 317: “Principles of Health Information Management,” HIM 319: “Alternative Health Records” and HIM 367: “Systems Analysis.” In these courses, she meets students at the beginning of the program.

Since 1966, the Silver Circle Award has been presented to some of UIC’s best teachers. Winners, who are honored at their college commencements, receive $500 and their names join a long list of distinguished colleagues. But what makes the award especially meaningful is its selection committee: the graduating seniors.

“I love it when students come back after their first internship, or once they have started a job, and tell me 6

how they used what they learned in class,” Williams said. “Seeing that lightbulb go on in my students is the best part of teaching.”




Photo: Vibhu S. Rangavasan

Beam with PRIDE

Mirza speaks with community members, people with disabilities and refugees during a project community meeting.

When refugees enter the U.S., they often turn to social service organizations—such as refugee resettlement agencies, voluntary agencies and mutual aid associations—to connect with job opportunities. But refugees who have a disability are faced with a different scenario.

“We’re really trying to be comprehensive but also practical in terms of what could be the most useful tools for refugees to obtain employment or career paths,” Hasnain said. “The experience of the refugee is very different from somebody who is native-born, even though they may have parents who immigrated here.”

“If a refugee with a disability comes through the door, they connect them with Social Security income and leave it at that,” said OT assistant professor Mansha Mirza.

Participants will learn how to start their own businesses through entrepreneurship workshops led by faculty in the College of Business Administration and Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies.

A new initiative is working to change that scenario by helping refugees who have disabilities find employment opportunities in Illinois. Partners of Refugees in Illinois Disability Employment (PRIDE)—the first initiative of its kind across the nation—examines refugee status and disability status in the context of employment and career paths. Funded by a three-year grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research, the project will link refugees who have disabilities with job and entrepreneurship opportunities.

The project will provide start-up funds to qualified participants who want to start their own business, Mirza said. “We need to break through these stereotypes—the disability stereotype, the immigration stereotype and the refugee stereotype—and provide refugees with disabilities that same access to opportunities that refugees without disabilities are gaining,” Hasnain said.

The initiative will assist at least 50 refugees who have disabilities in the Chicago area, said Mirza, project coinvestigator. Participants will engage in educational activities and workshops to learn about their rights as people with disabilities, she explained. They will then be connected with community organizations that can help them find employment opportunities.

Photo: Vibhu S. Rangavasan

“We are excited to be partnering with refugees with disabilities and allies from a wide range of sectors who support the vision of this project, which is to support job-seeking refugees with disabilities,” said DHD and RS clinical assistant professor Rooshey Hasnain, principal investigator of PRIDE.

PRIDE staff include (from left) grad students Vineeta Ram and Kathryn Duke, and researchers Rooshey Hasnain and Mansha Mirza. SUMMER 2017





The people’s choice

Esther Ng ’17 ms bvis capped her final semester as a biomedical visualization student with a win at a national competition hosted annually by the National Science Foundation and Popular Science magazine. The Vizzies Challenge celebrates the use of visual media to communicate scientific data and research by recognizing the best photography, videos, illustrations, interactive apps, and posters and graphics produced by academic researchers or artists. Ng’s poster, “The Micropumping Mechanism of Hummingbirds’ Tongues,” was the People’s Choice award in the posters and graphics category. She was one of 10 individuals recognized this year. Her poster began as a class project. She worked with Chris Whelan,




adjunct assistant professor of biologic sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, to complete her awardwinning project. “We were asked to create a poster about anatomy or about a mechanism and, because I love birds, I talked to a bird expert about this project,” Ng said. Ng illustrated a hummingbird tongue, which had not been clearly illustrated by researchers or scientists previously. Ng entered the competition. A team of experts at NSF and Popular Science pared hundreds of submissions down to 50 finalists. From those 50, a panel of outside experts picked five Expert’s Choice

winners and Popular Science readers chose five People’s Choice winners. Ng, who is a graduate of UIC’s biochemistry program, said anyone with an interest in art and science should explore biomedical visualization as a potential career. “In veterinary school, my interests changed,” she said. “I enrolled in new art classes and when I found out about the biomedical visualization program, it felt right even though I had only ever viewed art as a hobby.”


Improving the odds Photo: Vibhu S. Rangavasan

Research has found that in patients diagnosed with early breast cancer, treatment reduced recurrence within a five-year timeframe by 40 percent and mortality by one-third. But minority populations report poorer outcomes after being diagnosed, and even after being treated for breast cancer. The students present their research at the UIC Research Forum in April.

KINES student Jackelyn Cantoral and her research partner, LAS student Karina Reyes, are shedding light on Latina breast cancer survivors’ adherence to anticancer medication. Their research focuses on Hispanic women diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. Their research subjects, who had already undergone active treatments such as chemotherapy, surgery or radiation, were prescribed an oral anti-cancer medication known as endocrine—or hormonal—therapy.

After screening study participants, the students asked women openended questions in separate hourlong interviews and transcribed their answers. The results were used to create questionnaires that were implemented in the second part of the study, which gathered quantitative information from more women about themes of nonadherence. The students found that Latina breast cancer survivors were unsure of the medication’s purpose and how it worked. “Negative side effects didn’t really encourage them to take the endocrine therapy, either,” said Cantoral.

There were many cultural factors, too. Faith and family motivated patients to follow through with medication regimens. Ineffective communication between doctors and patients, sometimes because of language barriers, presented n obstacle. The results are informing a larger pilot study that is using a mobile-based application as an interventional tool for breast cancer survivors. The app, called Mi Guía or My Guide, is linguistically and culturally tailored to serve Hispanic women completing active treatment for breast cancer by improving symptoms and quality of life. Research teams are about halfway done with the feasibility trial of the electronic tool. An improved version and larger test run will follow.


Binge study PT professor Shane Phillips and UIC College of Nursing professor Mariann Piano are conducting a study to determine whether binge drinking is related to cardiovascular disease in young Shane Phillips adults who are not predisposed to the condition. Phillips and Piano are coinvestigators on a two-year, $420,000 grant funded by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. One hundred and fifty young adults between the ages of 18 and 30 will be divided equally into three

categories: binge drinkers (defined as individuals consuming more than four to five drinks in a two-hour period), moderate alcohol users (for men, drinking no more than seven drinks in a week and not drinking daily, and for women, drinking no more than four drinks in the same time period) and abstainers (who rarely drink if at all). Participants will be further categorized into the three groups based on their answers to a questionnaire and whether they have a blood biomarker called phosphatidylethanol, or PEth. Previously discovered by Piano and Phillips, the biomarker was found to be significantly higher in binge drinkers compared to moderate alcohol consumers.

Participants will undergo an ultrasound examination, as well as provide tissue samples, so the researchers can accurately evaluate their blood pressure in the aorta. Participants will also perform several exercises to provide clues as to how exertion may lead to higher than normal blood pressure. This, Phillips said, could be an early indicator that binge drinkers may be susceptible to cardiovascular disease. The new federal grant to fund the study follows previous studies conducted by Phillips and Piano, where they observed physically active binge drinkers whose blood pressure and cholesterol were normal yet they had changes to their blood vessels and cells within their cardiovascular system. SUMMER 2017





Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

Fast results Alternate-day fasting diets are just as effective as diets that restrict calories every day, say UIC researchers led by KN associate professor Krista Varady. The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, followed 100 obese adults for a year. Participants were assigned to one of three diet groups: alternate-day fasting, everyday calorie restriction or a control group. Those in the alternate-day fasting group consumed only about 500 calories every other day. On the off-days, or “feast” days, participants ate whatever they wanted. The everyday restriction group reduced its daily calorie intake by about 25 percent, to about 1,500 calories each day.

“Obesity is a complex disease with many causes and many serious consequences,” said Varady. “The results of this study illustrate that alternate-day fasting is an effective option for achieving and sustaining weight loss, especially for men and women who have tried but failed to lose weight by daily calorie restriction.”

Results showed no significant difference in weight loss between alternate-day fasting (6 percent) and everyday calorie restriction (5.3 percent). Both groups saw effective weight loss when compared to the control group.

The new study is the largest and longest study of alternate-day fasting to date.

Principal investigator Varady says that the findings reinforce alternate-day fasting as a strategy for weight loss.

“When it comes to weight loss, people need to find what works for them,” said Varady, who is author of the book, “The Every Other Day Diet,” published by Hachette. “Alternate-day fasting is another tool in our arsenal.”


Early intervention UIC researchers are studying the role of mobile and wireless technologies in helping people manage chronic illness more effectively (mHealth).

Spyros Kitsiou

Despite the growing interest in this area of biomedical and health information sciences, high-quality research in the field is lagging behind the rapidly advancing technologies, according to a study led by UIC researchers.

“We wanted to critically appraise and consolidate evidence from multiple systematic reviews and trials to inform policy makers, practitioners and researchers,” said BHIS assistant professor Spyros Kitsiou. Researchers pooled together nearly 15 years of mHealth academic and clinical studies to evaluate the effectiveness of using mobile technologies for managing patients with diabetes. Nearly 70 studies, 10



both systematic reviews and clinical trials, were included in the evaluation. Results showed that mHealth interventions can help diabetic patients self-manage their conditions and control their glucose levels. On average, levels improved by 0.8 percent for patients with Type 2 diabetes and 0.3 percent for patients with Type 1 diabetes. Results showed that the quality of research-based evidence is moderate to low. Researchers say that this makes widespread adoption of mHealth interventions difficult for health care influencers to support. “By reviewing published studies on mHealth interventions, we found a number of research gaps that need to be addressed in future trials,” said Kitsiou, corresponding author on the study. The study also highlighted a need for more clinical trials to assess the efficacy of commercially available mHealth apps for selfmanagement of diabetes.

Healthy habits

Alumna Rhonda Atallah helps adolescent Muslim girls find empowerment through health and exercise

Rhonda Atallah ’15 bs kines was on the softball, volleyball, basketball and track teams at Stagg High School in Palos Hills, Ill., but she didn’t think much about the mechanics of her body until she suffered a season-ending injury. “Thanks to physical therapy, I was exposed to how the muscles work and how they can heal themselves,” she recalls. “I found it fascinating that I was able to put my toe back on the floor after a week, and another week after that, I could put my heel down.” Atallah started researching anatomy and physiology in her free time.

Before long, she decided that she wanted to pursue a career in physical therapy. Today, that remains Atallah’s goal, but she has taken a fruitful detour on her journey. She became an educator and coach, teaching science, health and physical education to girls at two Islamic schools. After graduating from UIC, Atallah accepted a teaching position at Aqsa School, an all-girls Islamic academy in Bridgeview, Ill. Atallah taught physical education to sixththrough twelfth-grade students, as well as anatomy and physiology to

tenth-, eleventh- and twelfth-grade students, during the 2015-16 school year. She also coached volleyball and basketball. Having been a successful student at UIC, Atallah assumed she wouldn’t have too much difficulty transitioning to the front of the classroom. So she was surprised to discover the learning curve was a bit steep. “At first, I didn’t really understand that learning the material is different from teaching the material,” she explains. “When you’re teaching the material, you have to get through to many SUMMER 2017



different minds, not all of whom process information in the same way.” But each time a student posed a question or expressed confusion, Atallah found herself gleaning something new from the subject. “They made me rethink things, which was amazing, because I was able to learn anatomy again from a whole new point of view,” she says. The reality was that Atallah’s students hadn’t previously been exposed to such a detailed course in anatomy and physiology. They were accustomed to reading a textbook and answering a few questions at the end of each chapter. In contrast, Atallah modeled her classroom instruction on her UIC courses. In particular, she focused on the applied health angle. Luckily, Atallah’s students were very curious and eager to learn. Of course, they were also teenage girls, which meant certain topics led to giggles. Atallah remembers adopting a sympathetic but stern tone during the units on female and male reproductive health: “I told them, ‘Listen, if you want to learn about it, let’s learn about it. Let’s make this a serious class.’” Weight loss was another popular topic of conversation. Atallah addressed this in her physical education classes by providing healthy, evidence-based guidance.




She introduced different types of exercise programs depending on the student’s end goal, whether it was improved endurance, increased muscle mass or something else altogether.

after observing her coach at a few volleyball games. During the 201617 school year, Atallah taught ninth grade health, as well as physical education for sixth-through twelfthgraders, at IFS.

“Once we broke it down into individual categories of achievement, the students were able to see the connections between the activities and their bodies,” Atallah says. “No matter your age, you need to understand your body.”

IFS is a coed school, but Atallah only teaches female students. This gender separation extends to the volleyball games Atallah coaches. No male students are allowed, and all of the referees are women. Atallah explains that this religionbased mandate creates a more comfortable environment for the student athletes, who don’t have to worry if their uniforms are riding up while getting physical on the court.

“In Islam, we believe that men and women are equal,” she says. “I want the girls to understand that through athletics and physical education, they can do anything the guys can do.” Atallah often had to improvise. Instead of a gym, the Aqsa School had a multipurpose room with a low ceiling. While it wasn’t a great space for organized sports, it could be used for circuit training, which Atallah had learned how to do in her UIC courses. Atallah’s students became well acquainted with planks, jump squats, flutter kicks and sprints. Her skill with the students didn’t go unnoticed. The athletic director at the Islamic Foundation School (IFS) in Villa Park, Ill., recruited Atallah

Atallah notes that the modesty requirements followed by many Islamic women are not a reflection of oppression or inequity. Consequently, Atallah makes sure to expose her students to the weight room. “I want them to handle dumbbells; I want them to know what it’s like to sit on the bench press,” she explains. “When they get out in the real world and go to a gym, I hope they’re empowered, even if the majority of the gym population is male.” Atallah knows that Islam is often misunderstood in the general population. Rather than lament this fact, she prefers to take action. When she worked as an

Some subjects that are taboo at home are fair game in the classroom. Atallah has never had any pushback from parents about teaching reproductive health. In fact, she shares her syllabus with parents at the beginning of the school year so there aren’t any surprises. “The parents are actually relying on me to teach this material,” Atallah explains. “Culturally, it’s not a topic you usually talk to your parents about.” “No matter what, I hope to keep giving back to the community, working not only with the small cultures that I’m connected to, but also with other cultures that might need help and assistance with these types of topics.”

undergraduate teaching assistant at UIC, there was a group of female Muslim students who were unable to enter the water during the swimming unit because it was a coed class. If they went in, their clothing would cling to their bodies in a way that wasn’t religiously appropriate. When Atallah saw what was happening, she volunteered to teach the students during a special 6 a.m. class. “They took off their head scarves and wore whatever they wanted to, and they were just really excited to be there,” Atallah remembers. She told them, “There’s always a way to stick with your religious beliefs and still make them work in the 21st century.”

says. “We are required to wash our bodies five times a day, each time we pray.” For teenage girls, this ritual can take on new meaning. “They’re going through a lot with their bodies, and new odors are coming out,” Atallah says. “I help them understand why that’s happening and how taking care of your body can be both an issue of hygiene and a religious act.”

Nutrition, on the other hand, is an area where Atallah hopes her students can make strides at home. Many of her students bring delicious homemade meals for lunch, but they aren’t always balanced. They tend to be heavy on carbohydrates and lacking in protein. She’s already looking ahead to these young women’s futures, thinking about the days when they’ll be cooking for themselves in college and beyond.

That philosophy provides a useful foundation for Atallah’s curriculum. She’s found ways to connect her students’ religious beliefs to what she’s teaching in the classroom. For example, Atallah draws on Islam’s emphasis on cleanliness when she’s helping her students understand changes in their developing bodies. “Cleanliness has been instilled in us since we were kids,” Atallah

“I draw on my UIC courses, where we learned the important roles that health, exercise and nutrition play in preventing many diseases. ” SUMMER 2017



THE AHS SCHOLARSHIP FUND The AHS Scholarship Fund distributes financial awards to outstanding student leaders in AHS who are high academic achievers, who have financial need, and who demonstrate a commitment to volunteerism within the UIC community and greater Chicago area. Please join faculty, staff and fellow alumni in supporting our students’ achievement. Give online at or contact Keenan Cutsforth at 312-996-1339 or




For more than 25 years, the Assistive Technology Unit has maximized individual independence through person-centered therapy, design and engineering

cup holder. A cellphone mount. A tray just right for a laptop. To Nicholas Guarino, 20, these are more than handy little devices. They’re keys to a future that includes college, his own place and a career as a writer. That’s why, in a room at the Illinois Center for Rehabilitation and Education-Roosevelt near campus, two Assistive Technology Unit (ATU) staff members hunker down by Guarino’s wheelchair. Guarino has limited use of his right hand, so it’s important to have everything he needs in a convenient place. Jim Graham, ATU equipment specialist, and Kathy Hooyenga, ATU occupational therapist, adjust the angle of the cup holder and fiddle with the placement of the phone mount. Guarino reaches for his water bottle,

takes a sip, puts it back. He opens his cellphone case, texts a message, closes the phone. He opens and closes the laptop. “Woo hoo!” he says with a big smile. “This is cool.” Success! But wait—what about the stick Guarino needs to press elevator buttons? The three of them try different options. Later, in the ATU workshop, Graham will design and create an ingenious but simple solution on a 3-D printer. “Jim is phenomenal,” Guarino says.

Goal: independent living For 26 years, the Assistive Technology Unit in the Department of Disability and Human Development has helped thousands of people with disability maximize their independence. The ATU also increases awareness of

assistive technology by educating teachers, therapists, UIC students and others. “Disability issues are social issues, manifested in the built environment,” says Glenn Hedman, ATU director and clinical associate professor of disability and human development. The ATU’s staff consists of 20 full- and part-time staff including engineers, architects (including three graduate students), occupational therapists, physical therapists and speech-language pathologists. They adapt, adjust or create devices and tools—from cup holders or software apps to contractor-ready drawings for making a home accessible. Several ATU devices have been licensed for commercial production. “That’s what’s so strong about our clinic. We have the ability to customize what the individual needs,” says SUMMER 2017



Hooyenga, clinical assistant professor of disability and human development, who has a master’s degree in rehabilitation technology.

with a rehabilitation engineer to devise a system of visual guides in the home to keep track of schedules and chores.

The ATU is the largest mobile assistive technology clinic in the nation, serving clients in 13 counties in Northeast Illinois.

• A  n occupational therapist, engineer and equipment specialist create an adaptation for crib safety latches so that mothers in wheelchairs can reach their babies, while keeping the little ones secure.

With nine mobile vans, “we can go where the client is,” says Hedman, who has a bachelor’s in bioengineering and a master’s in civil engineering from UIC. ATU staff travels to homes, schools, work sites and day programs, teaming up in different combinations depending on the case: • A  physical therapist and a rehabilitation engineer modify a client’s wheelchair. The physical therapist determines optimal positioning for the client in the wheelchair, while the engineer works on wheel placement or a specialized power controller. • F  or a client on the autism spectrum, a speech-language pathologist works

• A  n equipment specialist and occupational therapist devise a mouth stick holder for an employee at a suburban park district who enters class registrations into the computer by tapping his keyboard with the mouth stick. • A  n occupational therapist, physical therapist, rehabilitation engineer and equipment specialist provide a combination of devices and strategies to help a mailroom clerk achieve the required productivity for his job.

can create a holder the exact size of the client’s water bottle. If they upgrade to a different phone, with the software we just go in and adjust the dimensions and print a new one.” The people who work in the ATU like problem-solving. They also like the direct feedback from clients. “It gives me a lot of satisfaction, seeing how assistive technology helps people,” says Sathya Subramanian, an ATU computer specialist who earned a master’s in bioengineering at UIC. “The work we do can have a real and positive impact on someone’s life,” says Ron Schon, ATU architect and retired associate director of the UIC Office of Capital Programs.


In the ATU workshop in the Disability, Health and Social Policy Building at 1640 W. Roosevelt Road, there are computers, table saws, welding equipment and—most useful of all— several 3D printers.

Cup holders and phone mounts are the most frequently requested items when ATU staff make their twice-monthly visits to the nearby Illinois Center for Rehabilitation and EducationRoosevelt, a residential center and school for young people learning the skills to live independently. “Being able to get your own beverage is very important,” Hooyenga says.

Before the advent of 3D printing, when a client needed a device like a cup holder or phone mount, “we would try to find something on the market, but it would be ‘close but not quite,’” Graham says. “Now we

Students at the center want easy access to their cellphones, says Becki Heimerle, a speech pathologist at the center. Like most young people, they are obsessed with texting and social media, whether they do their texting

Jim Graham and Kathy Hooyenga modify the tray, phone mount and cup holder on Nicholas Guriano’s wheelchair.




using fingers, a mouth stick or eye tracking. Subramanian sets them up with Google Maps so they can navigate campus when they head to college, and financial apps so they can pay their bills—“tools for independence,” he says. Several years ago, the ATU and the center obtained a grant from the Illinois Department of Human Services to set up four accessible computer lab-classrooms. The Art Technology Lab is a favorite. Students design posters, T-shirts, flyers—even yearbooks and a cookbook—using assistive technology like eye gaze, head mounts and joysticks to control the software. “We wanted to develop a truly accessible lab where kids could experience art,” Heimerle says. The ATU is working with Access Living, a disability advocacy nonprofit, to assist Cook County residents affected by the Colbert Consent Decree. The 2011 court ruling requires the State of Illinois to help adults with disabilities, who qualify under the conditions of the decree, to move out of nursing homes and into independent living. For example, ATU physical therapists and engineers help Colbert Decree clients with equipment for mobility. Staff architects draw up plans to

Patricia Politano demonstrates the use of a communication book for partner-assisted scanning to graduate students Angelica Martinez and Julie Vryhof.

make the new home accessible, then oversee the remodeling. Occupational therapists provide low-tech assistive technology to assist with meal preparation and other household tasks. Speech-language pathologist Patricia Politano, clinical associate professor of disability and human development, designed visual aids to help caseworkers communicate with Colbert Decree clients who have impaired speech. Politano, who has a Ph.D. in disability studies from UIC, also advises Illinois schools on technology for augmented communication. She led two studies for the Coleman Foundation to

determine which software apps people with communication impairment prefer, and how they use them. “There’s been great progress with new technologies that have built-in accessibility features,” Politano says. The ATU and the UIC School of Public Health recently completed a study for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in partnership with Ohio State University, that evaluated emergency evacuation devices for people with disabilities. In another project, Hooyenga is working with Drew Browning, emeritus faculty in art and design and engineering, teaching a class on




For example, insurers will cover “dedicated” computer and tablet-based devices that have communication apps with no access to the internet or other functions. But iPads, which cost significantly less, are not considered “durable medical equipment,” so insurers won’t pay for them. The state’s dire budget situation has also impacted the ATU. Cuts in funding from the Illinois Department of Human Services means some services are no longer covered.

Photo: Kathy Hooyenga

“The technology is out there. The research is out there,” Hedman says. “The question is, how to fit developing technologies into systems such that third-party payers will cover them.” In the meantime, the ATU continues its mission to overcome challenges, big and small.

Jim Graham uses a 3-D printer to manufacture custom-designed equipment.

designing adaptive controllers for games and other online use.

“The more people we can train, the more students can benefit from assistive technology,” she adds.


The project will fund training for more than 50 educators in a 16-month program that includes courses in special education and in disability studies. The first group of nine, selected from 60 applicants, started classes in January. Application deadline for the 2018 session is Oct. 1.

A new federally funded, five-year program in collaboration with the College of Education will train Illinois elementary, middle and high school teachers as leaders in assistive technology implementation, assessment and policy. “There aren’t enough experts. We want to get away from the expert model and have more leaders throughout the state,” says Politano, co-principal investigator of Project ATLiS (Assistive Technology in Special Education) with Daniel Maggin, assistant professor of special education.




Moving forward Technology continues to advance, bringing new tools that increase independence for people with disability. Interest in tackling the challenges of disability is growing in the do-it-yourself “maker community” and among students in fields like engineering and architecture. There’s a problem, though: who pays for this new technology?

Photo: Lori Peculis

The Assistive Technology Unit offers undergraduate and graduate-level courses and a certificate program in assistive technology.

“What we do makes such a difference for people,” Hooyenga says. “It’s the best part of the job.”

Occupational therapist Kathy Waldera instructs a visually impaired patient who recently moved into an assisted living community from a nursing home to feel the two ends of a modified bath sponge.

Launching a legacy Professor emerita gives back to the department she helped put on the map hyllis Bowen, professor emerita in the Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition, sees obstacles and success as two sides of the same coin. Her greatest career challenge was building the department, formerly the Department of Human Nutrition, from scratch. But ask Bowen to name her favorite story of success and the answer is the same: “Building the department from nothing!” It’s clear from Bowen’s long and impressive career that she’s not the least bit scared of blazing trails or getting down to the tough business of hard work. As a child growing up in Philadelphia, she spent many hours outside, inventing meals that could be cooked over a campfire or Bunsen burner. By the time she was 11 years old, she was preparing every meal for her family of four while her parents worked. Despite this early propensity for cooking, nutrition was the furthest thing from Bowen’s mind. She wanted to become

a doctor, and she pursued this plan at Graceland College in Lamoni, Iowa. It wasn’t uncommon for Bowen to be one of only a handful of young women in a classroom full of men. Unfortunately, gender stereotypes were alive and well in 1958, as Bowen soon learned. People frequently stated that her chosen career would ruin her. Bowen brushed off their judgment and followed her own heart. That meant plenty of socializing and a busy dating schedule on top of classes and studying. But after two years at Graceland, Bowen started to question her path. For one thing, she was earning Bs in her courses, which made the possibility of medical school less likely. “Guys could get into medical school with Cs, but girls had to go above and beyond,” Bowen says. “That was very discouraging.” Secondly, she was having doubts about squashing the bubbly, voluble side of her personality.

“At that time, you either had a career as a spinster doctor or you had a family—you couldn’t have both,” Bowen explains. “I thought to myself, ‘Do I really want to do this?’” The answer, ultimately, was no. Bowen regrouped, transferred to Iowa State and enrolled in the home economics program. It might sound like a huge transition to shift into home ec from pre-med, but it really wasn’t. There were plenty of food science courses, and Bowen took all of them. She ended up meeting her future husband at Iowa State, and they both pursued Ph.D.s at Cornell University; he in physics and she in nutrition. “I found that I could have a family and still have the intellectual life that I wanted,” Bowen says. “Even when I was pre-med, I was always more interested in the research side of things.”

Ladies who launch In 1983, Bowen landed at UIC, and she stayed there for the rest of her career. It SUMMER 2017



of other projects besides the feeding study. In particular, she helped launch the carotenoids field, which focuses on red-, orange- and yellow-colored pigments produced by plants, algae and some bacteria and fungi. Among other contributions, Bowen helped establish an international society in experimental biology for carotenoids. “In addition to putting out papers, writing grants and teaching classes, I was also responsible for developing organizations and conferences to help other people join in investigating carotenoid compounds like beta carotene, lycopene, lutein and so on,” Bowen says. “One of our first monographs was about the measurement of carotenoids because it was all over the place.”

Phyllis and Samuel Bowen

was the perfect fit for a young go-getter with energy and ideas to spare. When she arrived, armed with a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Department of Human Nutrition was in its infancy. There wasn’t even a laboratory at first. Luckily, the department head, Dr. Savitri Kamath, who Bowen calls her “partner in crime,” located two basement rooms that Bowen could make her own. Bowen remembers interviewing secretary candidates who declined the position because the space was so dingy and, in their view, scary.

Indeed, Bowen’s lab became a reference lab for the standardization of carotenoid measurement. The Functional Foods for Health for Research was another highlight. Bowen served as co-director and co-founder of the organization, which connected researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with researchers at UIC. The cross-collaboration meant both

universities could have a bigger impact. Industrial affiliates, such as Monsanto and ingredient companies, came on board as supporters, while annual conferences gave students opportunities to promote their research and network. As the department began to make a name for itself, in no small part thanks to Bowen’s efforts, the caliber of the faculty and student body rose accordingly. Bowen helped fight for the establishment of a master’s in science in nutrition degree, arguing that the master’s in applied nutrition degree didn’t accurately reflect the intensive biochemistry components of the program. The addition of the M.S. degree, as well as the Ph.D. in nutrition championed by Dr. Bob Reynolds, elevated the department’s stature further. “They were game changers,” Bowen asserts. Despite her very full plate, Bowen agreed to help launch the Urban Allied Health Academy, now the Health and Diversity Academy. She served as associate dean of the academy, which prepared students from across the college to serve in diverse communities.

A few years later, the department found a new space in a former tuberculosis hospital building now known as the Applied Health Sciences Building. “There were still beds in the rooms,” Bowen recalls. “The kitchen still had the old fry vats with oil in them.” But the team rolled up their sleeves and got to work. Bowen and two other faculty members wrote an NIH grant proposal for an ambitious four-year study on cholesterol. “We said we would feed pre-menopausal women in our feeding laboratory—which we did not have,” Bowen says with a laugh. When the grant came through, they asked the university to finally clear out the hospital space, kitchen oil and all. Bowen was staying busy with plenty 20



Bowen tends to her vegetable rooftop garden above her garage at her home in Oak Park.

Pages of Bowen’s scrapbook display photos of the cholesterol study’s researchers, participants and feeding laboratory.

“So many of our students came from so many different backgrounds, and there was this issue of integrating them into understanding different cultures, especially since most of the students were going to end up working in multicultural Chicago,” Bowen explains. Bowen developed programming on urban health issues, created brochures and led a book club, where she saw students from different disciplines make important connections. “You can get so focused on your single subject area that you forget that you’re dealing with a whole individual, a human being,” Bowen says. “The book club was a rich experience for our students in that way.”

Grateful gifting Students were always at the center of Bowen’s UIC experience. She often reflects on how wonderful each student was and how delightful it was to mentor these talented scholars. At one point, a graduate and former student approached her after a speech to let her know that it was because of Bowen that she pursued a Ph.D. But Bowen also remembers the students who struggled. For the past several years,

she has been tutoring a high school student from the Austin neighborhood of Chicago. The young woman is bright, but her family can’t afford to send her to college. Bowen and her husband are helping their own grandchildren through college, but they know not everyone has that kind of family support. Consequently, Bowen decided to make a generous planned gift to UIC. “Every little bit helps,” she affirms. “I love this department, and I believe in this department.” Bowen hopes her gift will inspire others to make a gift to the college, so the overall impact is even larger. She hopes to alleviate the burden of debt and loans that so many students take on in order to pursue higher education. “I would ask you to think about friends who struggled financially—I know we all had friends or colleagues like that,” she shares. “Think about the young adults who are struggling like that today.” It’s not just about financial need, Bowen says. It’s also about preparing the next generation of leaders in these important fields.

“Students leave the Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition with a strong education, really prepared to go out and serve,” Bowen says. “We’ve been committed to that over the years, and we are still committed.” Bowen’s gift will undoubtedly lengthen the already long list of students she has influenced during her career. This legacy is not one that can be measured in any simple way, but a hint of its lasting impact can be gleaned from Bowen’s gumption and generosity, from her meaningful contributions to research, from her dedication to the Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition, and from the many lives she touched along the way.

To make your own planned gift and join the Legacy Society at AHS, visit





AHS Connection The first half of 2017 brought opportunities for alumni to celebrate and connect.



February 20 Orlando Health informatics alumni and friends gathered on a sunny afternoon for an outdoor reception after spending the day at the 2017 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society Annual Conference & Exhibition. They discussed the current state of the academic program and their respective professional fields.

AHS Alumni Meet-Up at GLATA 2017

March 9 Wheeling

Nearly two dozen athletic training alumni from all over the Midwest met for an evening of fellowship during the Great Lakes Athletic Trainers Association 49th Annual Meeting and Symposium. The meet-up was organized by UIC’s former head athletic trainer Carol Humble ’82 bs, ’89 ms (right) and co-sponsored by UIC Athletics.

3rd Annual Scholarship of Practice Day

March 10 Chicago The UIC Department of Occupational Therapy hosted its 3rd Annual Scholarship of Practice Day. Over 162 faculty, scholars, students, practitioners and community partners attended a full day of scholarly activities that included a keynote delivered by Margo B. Holm (whose participation was made possible by the Wade/Reichenbach Clinical Competency Education Fund), roundtable discussions, concurrent research sessions, and a student research poster wine and cheese reception.




8th Annual AHS Alumni Chat April 5 Chicago In its eighth year, the AHS Alumni Chat brought to campus alumni to connect with undergraduate students. They shared insights about their educational and professional trajectories, and trends in healthcare. The nine participating alumni, who were recruited for the event by the AHS Alumni Board, also provided academic and career advice to the students.

Alumni participants included (from left to right) Stuart Cherk-mun Hui ’98 BS AT, Melissa Lawrence ’13 BS KINES, Joseph Ortigara ’82 BS PT, Yvonne Mlynarczyk ’82 BS PT and Deb Hardtke ’74 BS PT.

AHS GRADUATES: Welcome to the UIC AHS Alumni Community

April 27 Chicago The newest members of the AHS alumni community celebrated their accomplishments and new status as alumni. The recent and soon-to-be graduates toasted with fellow graduates and alumni to mark the occasion. Jill Antonini Sykes ’16 ms ot (above left) delivered welcome remarks on behalf of the AHS Alumni Board. Eric Meredith ‘15 ms nut (above right) was among those who came to welcome the new alumni. SUMMER 2017




North Shore Alumni Event

April 28 Highland Park UIC alumni attended a networking reception at the Highland Park Country Club on Chicago’s North Shore. Chancellor Michael Amiridis provided a campus update and university faculty presented interdisciplinary research. AHS alumni at the event included Nancy Hollander ’74 bs pt (center photo/right) and Barbara Blond ’77 bs mls (right photo/left).

DHD Student Awards Reception

May 9 Chicago DHD students received scholarships and awards at an on-campus reception that included family members of the donors who made the awards possible. Above left: Patrick Drazen, widower of donor Carlos Drazen ‘10 ms dhd; Yue Xu, who received the Carlos Drazen Memorial Scholarship; DHD professor and head Tamar Heller; and Cara Clarke, sister of Carlos Drazen. Above right: Patrick Drazen gives opening remarks.




AHS ALUMNI AWARDS PROGRAM William Frey ’71 bs ot 2016 Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award

Recognizing alumni with three awards: • AHS Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award • AHS Loyalty Award • AHS New Alum Award

Nominate yourself or a classmate for an alumni award today!

Find criteria, nomination forms and details of past recipients: SUMMER 2017 AHS MAGAZINE


AHS MAGAZINE University of Illinois at Chicago Office of the Dean (MC 518) College of Applied Health Sciences 808 South Wood Street, 169 CMET Chicago, Illinois 60612-7305 Address Service Requested

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AHS Magazine - Summer 2017  

The publication for alumni and friends of the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago

AHS Magazine - Summer 2017  

The publication for alumni and friends of the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago