Page 1



Mastering the art of healthcare communication Meet the researchers and designers who are transforming healthcare by making data clearer for providers




Message from the Dean

AHS MAGAZINE Winter 2018 EDITOR Erika Chavez Director of Marketing and Communications

Part of a larger team Advances in technology have brought innovative improvements in diagnosis and treatment—and a flood of data that can hinder, not improve, communication between clinicians. One fundamental truth, however, has not changed: the importance of teamwork. When health care professionals trained in different specialties join their knowledge and skills, the patient benefits. In this issue of AHS Magazine, we highlight the work of researchers who believe that technology, which threatens to overwhelm us with information, can also be used to strengthen communication for healthcare teams. Faculty in health informatics, biomedical visualization and occupational therapy lead this new direction in research, collaborating with colleagues in computer science, nursing, linguistics and medicine. The Department of Biomedical and Health Information Sciences is home to several such projects: • J oanna Abraham is developing tools to solve the communication breakdowns that occur in everyday hospital routines. • A  ndrew Boyd is collaborating with computer scientists who use natural language processing to convert data into common language. • B  iomedical artist Christine Young is working with Boyd and others in health informatics on an innovative approach to information overload: data visualization. In occupational therapy, Mary Khetani is developing apps for early intervention services that will help children and families, as well as their multidisciplinary care teams. Using technology to improve communication in health care has been a lifelong goal for Margret Amatayakul, a UIC alumna in health information management and business. Her gift to AHS, the largest received by the college, will strengthen education and research to help shape practice. As members of the community of the College of Applied Health Sciences, we are all part of a larger team, working to fix the world. You can partner with us by supporting IGNITE: The Campaign for UIC. Learn more at

Bo Fernhall Dean, UIC College of Applied Health Sciences

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 ©2018 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. AT

Athletic Training

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 MLS

Medical Laboratory Sciences


Programs in Nutrition

OT Department of Occupational Therapy PT

Department of Physical Therapy


Programs in Rehabilitation Sciences



FEATURES 11 Mastering the art of healthcare communication  Meet the researchers and designers who are transforming healthcare by making data clearer for providers


Funding the future Alumna Margret Amatayakul makes a transformational gift


19 Data-driven 

 esearcher Mary Khetani is developing new apps to improve the quality R of life for young children with developmental disabilities



AHS sets IGNITE campaign fundraising goal


Mark Grabiner receives lifetime achievement award

9  Study suggests that white men who exercise at high levels are at higher risk for heart disease


AHS Connection: Highlights from alumni gatherings

On the cover: Image design: Anthony Faiola Images: “HIV Invasion” by Christina Sidorowych and “Continuous Glucose Monitoring Visualization” by Christina Lorenzo.



Making the rounds where they made simple body motions to understand how important physical communication and proper movements are in the field. Alex Espinosa thought the sessions were informative. “I think I have a better understanding of the professions, and it was cool to see how you can help other people,” he said.

Photo: Jenny Fontaine

For Hana Ellis, interacting with people in the program was her favorite part. “They were giving us experiences, not just information,” she said.

Nearly 100 sophomores from Roberto Clemente Community Academy visited AHS Nov. 27 to learn about career opportunities in health-related fields. During the event, called the UIC/CPS Health Professions Collaborative, teams of 20 to 25 students rotated through sessions covering different AHS majors. The event aimed to pique students’ interest and provide information about health sciences jobs and career paths. “Often, in [high school] years, you think of medical professions as either a doctor or a nurse,” said Lindsey Strieter, PT clinical instructor. But majoring in a health science field can open doors for students to become nutritionists, physical and occupational therapists, registered dieticians, experts in managing patient health information and medical records, and more.

In other sessions, participants were encouraged to get involved on computers, in discussion groups and through games. Teams also spoke with a counselor about application and admission processes—a talk that Ashanti Dilworth found helpful. “I learned that I can go to a community college, come here and still have a chance to get a degree,” said Dilworth, who is now interested in physical therapy. AHS hopes that hosting the event will increase the number of minority students who apply to and enroll in their undergraduate and graduate programs. “It’s one of the initiatives that we’re passionate about,” said Strieter.

High schoolers talked with current undergraduates, learned about courses they could take as a UIC student and participated in hands-on activities with teaching staff. Some activities mimicked tasks that professionals in the field do on a daily basis. In the physical therapy session, students pinned muscles to a skeleton and participated in a telephone exercise, 2



Photo: Jenny Fontaine

“This is a great partnership to increase awareness of these professions,” she said.


Igniting the future UIC has launched a new fundraising campaign, IGNITE, to raise $750 million in support of teaching and research for the university. “The IGNITE campaign will join us together in rallying around our priorities and purpose, and raising the funds it will take to achieve our ambitious plans and become the model for public higher education in the 21st century,” said UIC Chancellor Michael Amiridis.

AHS has set an IGNITE fundraising goal of $15 million for initiatives to drive discovery, serve the Chicago region and beyond, and empower a new generation of students to lead in a changing world. Funds raised by the college’s IGNITE campaign will support: • s cholarships, fellowships and assistantships to make education accessible and affordable to a diverse student body

• innovative education, including an interactive simulation center that provides practical experience with patients and other members of the healthcare team • e  ndowed chairs and professorships to attract and retain top faculty • new and expanded programs for community outreach. AHS offers some of the nation’s best and most innovative programs in healthcare research and education, including top nationwide ratings for graduate programs in occupational therapy, physical therapy and kinesiology and nutrition. The college developed the first Ph.D. program of its kind in disabilities studies, the country’s first accredited online master’s degree for health informatics and the nation’s largest program in medical illustration. AHS faculty and students explore the intersection of health, disability, prevention and rehabilitation. Research focuses on areas such as health disparities, fall prevention, cardiovascular health, disability policy, health promotion and health systems.






Making moves Award in 2013, was one of three UIC alumni honored at a luncheon Sept. 28 in Student Center East. Ragalie-Carr is a board member and past chair of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation. She is a founder of Action for Healthy Kids, which partners with more than 75 agencies, organizations and corporations to fight childhood obesity by promoting healthy food, nutrition education and physical activity in schools. She is a board member and treasurer for the national organization. Jean Ragalie-Carr ’83 bs nut, president of the National Dairy Council and a leading advocate for child nutrition, fitness and health, received the 2017 UIC Alumni Achievement Award from the UIC Alumni Association.

She helped create and lead the NFL-affiliated school nutrition and exercise program Fuel Up to Play 60. She played a role in developing programs for former first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign against childhood obesity.

Ragalie-Carr, who received the AHS Distinguished Alumni Achievement

Ragalie-Carr is executive vice president of Dairy Management Inc.,

a producer-supported company that works to increase demand for dairy products and manages the National Dairy Council. She is involved in efforts to decrease food insecurity in the U.S. and the world, working in partnership with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the hunger relief organization Feeding America.

“I think about how pivotal UIC was to getting a quality education, internship experiences, and meeting amazing teachers and classmates who are still my friends today. That’s the kind of place UIC is.”


In record numbers Fall 2017 semester enrollment for AHS is the highest ever, continuing an upward trend over the last five years. Total campus enrollment also broke records at 30,539, the first time UIC has ever surpassed 30,000 students. The total freshmen class (4,064) exceeded 4,000 for the first time in UIC history. “This year’s record enrollment for AHS, and the steady increase over recent years, are clear evidence of our upward trajectory,” said AHS dean Bo Fernhall. “It demonstrates the excellence of our programs and the faculty, staff, students and alumni who work hard to make AHS great.” Total enrollment for the college is 2,011 students, an increase over last year’s 1,943. 4



This includes: 997 undergraduates (compared to 891 for fall 2016) 821 graduate students (864 in fall 2016) 193 professional students (188 in fall 2016).


High honor His tale began in Carbondale, where he was an undergraduate at Southern Illinois University and working as a bartender. Into the bar walked a young woman named Penny, looking for a job as a server. She got hired, they got married, and Grabiner abandoned his plans to move to California. Instead, he earned a master’s degree, then a Ph.D. in biomechanics, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Fast-forward several years: Grabiner was a staff scientist at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, collaborating with scientists and clinicians on research related to Olympiclevel athletic performance and orthopedic conditions. Then, in an elevator, he met Dennis Jahnigen, chair of geriatric medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. That initial conversation led to many more. “Over time, he sold me on the significance of the problems caused by falls in older adults,” Grabiner says. The result: a productive research partnership and a new direction for Grabiner’s career. “And the impact of the work we’ve done, the progress we’ve made, far exceeds anything I could have ever hoped to do in the world of elite sports,” Grabiner says.

For KN professor Mark Grabiner, receiving the Borelli Award from the American Society of Biomechanics “was the most awesome thing that has ever happened, or ever will happen, in my professional life.” Grabiner received the award—the society’s highest honor—at its annual conference Aug. 8-11. The award, which recognizes outstanding career accomplishment and exemplary research in biomechanics, is named for 17th century physicist, physiologist and mathematician Giovanni Alfonso Borelli, considered the father of biomechanics.

Falls are the sixth-leading cause of accidental death in older adults, and the related healthcare costs continue to escalate as our population ages. “Originally, I thought I’d solve this problem in five to seven years. I’m still working on it. It’s mind-boggling in terms of its complexity,” says Grabiner, who is also director of the college’s Clinical Biomechanics and Rehabilitation Laboratory, professor of bioengineering and UIC associate vice chancellor for research and research integrity officer.

The Borelli Award winner presents a lecture at the conference—talks that are often research-focused and technical. “But this was such a profound honor, I decided to take a different direction,” Grabiner says. “I thought I would talk to the next generation of scientists coming up.” Instead of presenting a data-intensive review of his three decades of research, which concerns the causes and prevention of falls in older adults, Grabiner gave the audience of more than 1,000 attendees a different message: Embrace randomness, because you never know where it will take you. Grabiner told a personal story about his life and career, including the fellow researchers, graduate students and postdocs he has worked with along the way. WINTER 2018





Counteracting sedentary lifestyles to counteract the negative effects of sitting, but just incorporating physical activity into one part of our day may not be enough to overcome the damage caused by prolonged sitting and an otherwise sedentary lifestyle.” The workday is a major contributor to sedentary behavior, with more than 20 percent of workers in the U.S. reporting more than 8 hours each day. Tactics that promote workstation activity have emerged in recent years, including standing desks, as well as dynamic pedal and treadmill workstations. Horswill and his colleagues compared the metabolic rate produced by three workstations: seated at a desk, seated at a desk equipped with a device that stimulates leg movement and standing at a desk. The device, which is commercially available, was a movable footrest, suspended from the underside of the desk, that enabled the feet to swing, twist or teeter. The researchers found that modest movement while seated elevated the metabolic rate 17 percent more than sitting and 7 percent more than standing, with no detrimental effects on cognitive function. The findings are published in WORK, a journal affiliated with the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists and endorsed by the International Ergonomics Association.

A new study suggests that continuous movement while sitting may increase metabolic rate more than standing at a desk. Craig Horswill, KN clinical associate professor, says the study adds to the growing body of evidence that suggests strategies for increasing non-exercise active thermogenesis—defined as spontaneous activity unrelated to a fitness routine—are needed to help overcome the detrimental effects of prolonged sitting. Sitting has been identified as a risk factor for early mortality, independent of the presence of a disease, such as cancer or diabetes. Up to 7 percent of deaths have been attributed to sitting. “Sitting is bad for our health, but it is a big part of daily life for many people,” said Horswill, an expert in exercise and metabolism. “Exercise is a good way




Horswill appeared on Chicago Tonight to discuss the study’s findings with host Phil Ponce. Watch the segment and read Horswill’s Q&A at


Role-playing by the rules

Tina Chase leads the discussion after role-playing exercises.

Fifty-six AHS students participated in a collaborative workshop to address the ethical dilemmas commonly faced by physical therapists. The workshop focused on the relationship between physical therapists (PTs) and physical therapy assistants (PTAs) in clinical practice. UIC PT students worked with 27 PTA students from Malcolm X College in the threehour workshop—the first between the two programs— that included lectures, discussions, and role-playing and report-outs. “The workshop gave a face to many of the discussions that we have had in the classroom,” said Tina Chase, director of clinical education and PT clinical assistant professor. This, she says, is important as students prepare for real-life, collaborative clinical settings. The scenarios they discussed included topics like patient-care management and proper delegation of tasks. During role-playing, students from both programs had the opportunity to play the role of PT, PTA, patient or observer. In one scenario, students worked through a conflict in the decision-making process in response to a patient request to change the routine.

“It was a situation that I have discussed previously, but have not yet encountered in a rotation,” said Ryan Holladay, a second year PT student at UIC. “It was helpful to experience this in a low-pressure environment and to work it out with other students who have a different perspective than I do.” Holladay played the role of a physical therapist in the scenario; David Castillo, also a second-year PT student, was an observer. Nove Pacalso, a PTA student at Malcolm X who played the role of PTA in the exercise, said the most challenging aspect was figuring out how to express himself. “The activity, for me, was not so difficult, but it was sometimes difficult to find the right words when communicating,” said Pacalso. Following the exercise, most students talked about their new understanding of the importance of using teamorientated language when speaking with colleagues and patients. During the discussion, Chase told students, “very subtle shifts in vocabulary can make a difference in reducing confusion and keeping patients satisfied.” “[The workshop] was awesome,” said Pacalso. “I really look forward to working with a PT.” Elizabeth Arena, director of the PTA program at Malcolm X, says that while it is common for PT and PTA students to talk about ethics in their separate classrooms, the workshop was unique because it brought the two training programs together. “This workshop helped students from both institutions work through topics that are intimidating,” Arena said.






Visualizing possibilities

“The Phenotypic Plasticity of Pristimantis mutabilis” by Esther Chun Chun Ng

The annual Image of Research competition provides UIC graduate and professional students the opportunity to present their research through a new medium, to a new audience. The competition, cosponsored by the Graduate College and the University Library, invites students to look at their work in a new light as they develop an image that encapsulates their research. A total of 128 still and moving image submissions were evaluated by a multidisciplinary judging panel based on originality, relationship to the student’s research and aesthetic appeal. “Since our program is so visually oriented, we are heartily encouraged by our professors and fellow students to apply to the Image of Research competition,” said Ashley Ulm ’17 ms bvis, a recent graduate of the program. Ulm was recognized for her movie animation illustrating new liver transplant research that 8



involves induced pluripotent stem cell technology. “While the decellularization procedure is not yet used in human transplant situations,” said Ulm, “it has the potential to change the way things are done, and to inspire new avenues of thinking that could lead to even more change and innovation in health care.” Ulm seeks to contribute to that change by making advances in organ donation accessible to a lay audience through visual storytelling. Esther Chun Chun Ng’s ’17 ms bvis award-winning image presented a subject that is probably more familiar to the public—frogs. A newly discovered Ecuadorian species of frog, the Pristimantis mutabilis, has the unique ability to alter its skin texture from tubercular to smooth as an adaptive mechanism to environmental conditions.

“I consider how to communicate the science of this frog to the general public using my visualization skills,” Ng said. In the creation of the image, Ng used three different elements of her research: the science, the art and the technique. “Seeing these images, viewers are inspired to learn more about the research and potentially get involved,” Ulm said. “This competition also connects researchers across departments and platforms and opens new communication and collaboration opportunities.”

Visit to view Ulm’s moving image.


White men shouldn’t jump? White men who exercise at high levels are 86 percent more likely than people who exercise at low levels to experience a buildup of plaque in the heart arteries by middle age, a new study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings suggests. Researchers at UIC, led by PT assistant professor Deepika Laddu, and at Kaiser Permanente, looked at the physical activity trajectories of 3,175 black and white participants in the multicenter, communitybased, longitudinal cohort CARDIA study, and assessed the presence of coronary artery calcification, or CAC, among participants. CAC is a clinical measure of the accumulation of calcium and plaque in the arteries of the heart. The presence and amount of CAC

is a significant warning sign to doctors that a patient may be at risk for developing heart disease and a signal to consider early preventive care. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S.

white men were at the highest risk— they were 86 percent more likely to have CAC. There was no higher risk of CAC for black participants who exercised at this level. While there was a similar trend for white women it was not statistically significant.

Researchers categorized participants into three distinct trajectory groups, based on physical activity patterns. “We expected to see that higher levels of physical activity over time would be associated with lower levels of CAC,” said Laddu, one of the study’s co-authors.

The study is unique in evaluating long-term exercise patterns from young adulthood into middle age.

Instead, Laddu and her colleagues found that participants in trajectory group three, those who exercised the most, were 27 percent more likely than those in trajectory group one to develop CAC by middle age. CAC was measured during the participants’ 25th year in the study using a CT scan of the chest. At year 25, participants were ages 43 to 55. When these findings were stratified by race and gender, they found that

“Because the study results show a significantly different level of risk between black and white participants based on long-term exercise trajectories, the data provides rationale for further investigation, especially by race, into the other biological mechanisms for CAC risk in people with very high levels of physical activity,” said Laddu. While the study suggests that white men who exercise at high levels may have a higher burden of CAC, “it does not suggest that anyone should stop exercising,” Laddu said.


Fund raisers For the third consecutive year, UIC physical therapy students have won honors in a national fundraising competition to benefit PT research. The UIC team received an Award of Merit for raising more than $6,000 in the 2016-2017 VCU-Marquette Challenge sponsored by the Foundation for Physical Therapy. In the two previous years, UIC students received Honorable Mention for raising more than $3,000. They earned the money through bake sales, social events, sales of UIC-themed clothing and other fundraisers.

UIC joined the competition in 201314, said Jennifer Dent ’16 dpt, one of the early organizers with classmates Jessica Wierdak ’15 dpt, Alyssa Andreasik ’16 dpt and Jennifer Zalon ’16 dpt. “We’re proud of them because they do this in their spare time, while they’re in a very rigorous program that requires a lot of study outside of class,” said Gay Girolami, director of professional education and PT clinical associate professor. “The fact that they want to raise money to enhance the physical therapy profession is wonderful.”

Taylor Trapp, Emily Snyder and Rachel Bradley (from left to right) with the Award of Merit from the Foundation for Physical Therapy.

Nearly 150 university programs participated in the 2017 competition, raising a total of about $341,000 for scholarships and grants that advance patient care. The challenge is the foundation’s largest annual student-driven fundraising effort.






Difference-maker Photo: Jenny Fontaine

“But I always knew I wanted to be more than just a ‘ghetto girl.’ I wanted a good life, family, friends, education, financial security. But most of all I wanted to make a difference.” George’s father has ambitions to be a lawyer, but his family could not afford to send him to school. But he wanted his kids to be educated, so he filled their home with books. “I guess what changed my perspective was that I grew with these books,” she said. “My dad would always ask what I had read and learned. I started to think differently—that I wanted to be different from the environment I was in.” Then, George’s family caught a lucky break. Her father played the lottery and won, and in 2013, he was able to bring George and her sister to the United States. After settling in Chicago, George began taking classes at Truman College, then transferred to UIC in fall 2016. Around the time George began her studies at UIC, her father moved to Texas, so she had to work as many as three jobs at once to pay for school, housing and other bills. Her work schedule has posed some challenges. She works full time on the overnight shift at Presence Saint Joseph Hospital in the Lakeview neighborhood as a patient care technician. It’s been tough working at night, then sometimes heading straight to class. “It was very hard, she said. “But it has prepared me for the challenges in the near future.”

“I wanted a good life. But most of all I wanted to make a difference.”

On Dec. 16, the AHS alumni community welcomed over 125 fall semester graduates as its newest members. Among them: Khadijat George ’17 bs rs. George grew up in a rough neighborhood in Mushin, Lagos, a part of Nigeria where violence is pervasive. “Anyone who has heard of Mushin knows how often riots happen there — street fights almost all the time,” said George. “They aren’t very good memories for me, but the problem was that my parents were poor and that was what they could afford.




George plans to work full time for the next year, then apply to graduate school. She recently married in Nigeria and her husband, Adenrele Oke, will join her in the U.S. next year. Together, they will decide whether to stay in Chicago or relocate for a graduate program. George aspires to become an occupational therapist and someday use her skills to help advance healthcare in her home country of Nigeria. “If someone has been shot and now feels like they are useless, maybe we can show them what they still can do,” she said. “And some people in Nigeria still hide their kids who have disabilities, which is horrible. I want to help make changes in how disability is perceived. The culture is different, so it’s not going to be an easy thing, but it has to start somewhere, with someone.”

Mastering the art of healthcare communication The ever-increasing complexity of electronic health records threatens to drown clinicians and patients in a sea of data. As more information is generated and collected, the potential for miscommunication and healthcare error increases. But if technology has created this problem, then a new generation of biomedical informaticians and visualization designers may help with the solution. That’s the focus of the innovative work of researchers in the Department of Biomedical and Health Information Sciences (BHIS)—who believe that the way to transform healthcare is through bridging trusted science and visual communication. BHIS is composed of 26 full-time and 65 adjunct faculty, all dedicated to the research and teaching mission of biomedical and health information science. Specific faculty research includes: health informatics, evidence-based decision-making, information/data visualization, health communication, patient safety, medication adherence, healthy lifestyle management, family-centered care and mobile health computing. BHIS faculty like Joanna Abraham, Andy Boyd and Christine Young are extremely passionate about solving many of the problems that exist in healthcare delivery and communication. They study and design health systems and information technologies that improve health outcomes. –Anthony Faiola BHIS department head

A universal tool of the trade In the hospital, communication breakdowns can be a matter of life or death. Every time there’s a “handoff”—when a patient is transferred from the emergency room to the intensive care

unit, for example, or the nurses on the 7-to-3 shift end their work day and others take over—critical life-sustaining information must be shared among healthcare team members. Research has shown that 35 percent of patient-related communication errors occur during these transitions in care, creating a serious threat to patient safety, says Joanna Abraham, assistant professor of biomedical and health information sciences. “There are so many care transition breakdowns related to ineffective communication and incomplete documentation practices,” she says.

Joanna Abraham

Abraham uses her background in computer science, information technology and human factors to identify and evaluate these crucial points of communication, then build and implement information and communication health technologies to make the process more efficient and accurate. UI Health is the living laboratory where she works with clinicians and students of interdisciplinary backgrounds.

Communication is not something you can study outside its environment,” Abraham says. “We must be in the hospital, closely observing nonverbal and verbal communications as they occur in the clinical workflow.”




Abraham, who began her research in this field at the University of Texas Health Science Center, has created tools at UIC to improve communication—and patient safety—during hospital discharge care transitions of pediatric patients, rounding, handoffs and medication ordering. Findings so far have shown improvements in efficiency and effectiveness of communication of care teams, with further research planned to design and evaluate the tools using clinical and patient outcomes. “We redesign as we move forward,” Abraham says. “There’s no one-time solution that will work for the next 10 years.” Rounding—when resident physicians and other members of the healthcare team go through the unit, discussing each patient’s condition at bedside—is another information transfer forum prone to communication errors. Abraham is working with chief health information officer Karl Kochendorfer and his informatics team to design and implement a rounding report tool integrated into the hospital’s electronic health records system. Of course, no tool will be effective if clinicians don’t know how to use it properly. “The challenge is not just in implementing tools, but training staff and students to use them in the right way,” she says. “There is a lot of emphasis on clinical training, but there’s minimal training in the software, which is equally important for patient safety and outcomes.”

by the Emergency Strategic Clinical Network. One of her ultimate goals? To develop a care continuity tool to improve team communication and coordination that could be used by clinicians in multiple disciplines—physicians, nurses, nutritionists, social workers and more. “A universal tool that supports shared situational awareness through effective communication and coordination of activities within and between disciplinary teams,” she says.

Transforming data into language Andrew Boyd wants everyone to be able to understand electronic health records, whether they are health professionals or patients. “Doctors, nurses, pharmacists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, kinesiologists, social workers, dentists—we all have different degrees and training. The data of healthcare we generate is complex, and it doesn’t always translate between fields,” says Boyd, assistant professor of biomedical and information sciences. “And patients don’t have to go to medical school or nursing school to learn about their disease and how they can improve their health,” he adds. Boyd, whose background includes an MD and postdoctoral training in biomedical informatics, has made it

Abraham’s current research focuses on three projects: •the causes of errors in medication orders, funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality • the use of standardized tools in handoffs between the emergency department and ICU, funded by the National Science Foundation •handoffs between paramedics and emergency department nurses, funded Andrew Boyd 12



his mission to make healthcare data understandable to practitioners and patients. He approaches this problem from many different angles, working with collaborators in fields that include biomedical visualization, health informatics, nursing, linguistics and computer science. A recent study with department colleagues Christine Young, Michael Dieter, Lawrence Pawola and Margret Amatayakul found that data visualization could be one important tool. Visualizations could be used to integrate and display data, reducing the time required to search and understand all the separate data points in an electronic health record, Boyd says. “Visual intelligence has the potential to change healthcare, as it has other industries,” he explains. “Imagine an electronic health record that uses visual models to present information, instead of a series of fields requiring a user to read, interpret and mentally map the data in just a few seconds.” There’s another barrier to clarity in electronic health records: members of the healthcare team use terms specific to their discipline that may not be clear to others, or have different meanings. Boyd led a project that analyzed eight years of patient discharge summaries written by physicians, extracting about 54,000 terms used to describe

healthcare concepts. The researchers compared these to the standardized nursing terminology for electronic health records recognized by the American Nursing Association.

Translating information into visual form

The result? Only about 21 percent of the identified nursing terms were also used by physicians.

If data is at the heart of health informatics, then art is the life pulse of biomedical visualization (BVIS)—a field that merges visual communication and creativity with a profound knowledge of organic forms, such as the human body. Yet, as these two fields evolve, AHS faculty and students are finding potential for new collaborations that could ultimately benefit clinicians and patients.

“Although they work together, they don’t speak the same language,” Boyd says. “When you work with a particular individual every day, you are able to figure out what they mean. But in a healthcare system, you’re not working with the same team members day in and day out. The differences in vocabulary become more important.” Boyd and computer science professor Barbara Di Eugenio think natural language processing could eliminate this failure to communicate. Natural language processing transforms data into language through computer algorithms—like, for example, weather forecasts or sports box scores. They want to study the use of natural language processing to convert the data in an electronic health record into a summary that’s understandable to the healthcare team and the patient. They’re already working on an individualized, self-care app for heart patients that uses natural language processing to summarize each patient’s electronic health records data, identify areas of concern and educate them on how to stay healthy. The collaboration also includes Sabita Acharya, Ph.D. student in computer science, and faculty members Carolyn Dickens, Pamela Martyn-Nemeth and Karen Dunn Lopez (nursing), Richard Cameron (linguistics) and Amer Ardati (medicine). The underlying question for all his research is, “How do we simplify health data in order to improve patient outcomes?” Boyd says. “More and more time is spent on documenting and reading electronic health records. We need to simplify and integrate data so that health providers can go back to treating patients, instead of looking at computer terminals.”

Christine Young

Electronic health records are in the millions and the data contained in them are complex, making it difficult for health practitioners to quickly synthesize the information they need. One result: increased possibilities for miscommunications that compromise patient safety. Finding ways to present large amounts of data in visual form—to be more quickly and completely understood—could be the answer, says Christine Young, clinical assistant professor in the biomedical visualization graduate program. ”Studies over the last two decades on how the brain processes information have found that we learn faster through visualization,” says Young, founding and creative partner of Young & McKenna in Evanston. “We’re mining multidisciplinary fields like neuroscience, education and cognitive psychology to come to conclusions on the ways in which we process visual information.” Since translating information into visual form is the foundation of biomedical visualization, a partnership with health informatics seems natural. Young is working with colleagues in biomedical and information sciences, including Andrew Boyd and Annette Valenta, not only in research but in preparing BVIS graduate students to work in this area.

We’re the only graduate program that teaches visual learning and visual thinking in a structured way,” Young says.

One of the challenges in using visualization to interpret data in electronic health records is working with a system that is basically “a word-based, boxchecking environment,” she explains. “It took me about a year to begin to understand informatics by immersing myself in that discipline,” Young adds. “I believe we can present the information contained in electronic health records in much more interactive, visual and multi-dimensional ways. “Deeper collaboration will allow us to explore how biomedical visualization impacts health informatics, and how health informatics impacts biomedical visualization.” WINTER 2018



$15 million – one spark at a time The UIC College of Applied Health Sciences (AHS) invites you to join IGNITE: The Campaign for UIC–a campaign that will drive discovery and serve the Chicago region and beyond, while empowering a new generation of students to lead in a changing world. AHS stands at a pivotal moment at which we must continue to innovate, educate and adapt to the fast pace and shifting needs of our society. We have bold plans that will increase our impact on the lives of students, faculty and the community in the next decade, and we seek bold partners to help us achieve our $15 million fundraising goal toward these endeavors. Make your donation at Contact Keenan Cutsforth at or 312-996-1339 for more information. 14






Funding the future

Alumna Margret Amatayakul makes a transformational gift

hile attending UIC as an undergraduate, Margret Amatayakul ’70 bs him, ’85 mba had a pivotal conversation with her advisor. “I wanted to get into the healthcare field because I wanted to help find a cure for leukemia, from which my cousin had passed away several years earlier,” Amatayakul recalls. “However, I was also working for a big accounting firm downtown, which 16



sparked my interest in business and computers.” These triple passions, her advisor concluded, made health information management an ideal major for Amatayakul. “She was right—it was absolutely the best path for me,” Amatayakul says. Amatayakul recently made the largest gift in the College of Applied Health Science’s history to support others on their own path toward success through two new funds. “It’s fulfilling to give to an

institution that can really make a difference in Chicago and the wider world,” Amatayakul says. As a former UIC professor and founding member of the AHS Advisory Council, Amatayakul is attuned to how institutions like UIC can contribute to interdisciplinary efforts in healthcare. “When you mix health information management with business or physical therapy with engineering, you share the burden of care,” she

says. “It gives us more tools to better help patients and the community, plus we grow as professionals.” Unfortunately, this collaborative approach isn’t happening in many healthcare systems across the country. Amatayakul noticed this 20 years ago when she launched Margret\A Consulting LLC, which provides health information and systems support to hospitals, clinics, delivery networks and health plans.

“Nobody communicates, even within the same health system,” she asserts. “We’ve got to figure out a way to break down the silos.” The Margret Amatayakul Endowed Fund for Interdisciplinary Initiatives is a step in the right direction. Amatayakul sees opportunities for colleges within UIC to work together in support of collaborative endeavors, such as research, capital projects, lectures and faculty recruitment.

“We could be doing things much better in healthcare if we just took the time to look at things differently,” Amatayakul says. After all, today’s students and faculty are the ones who will be instrumental in shaping tomorrow’s healthcare landscape. An innovative, interdisciplinary approach could elevate care in the Chicago community and beyond. Amatayakul’s gift will also ensure that students with the drive and




She hopes her gift will encourage other alumni to give back.

“I know not everyone can commit at the same level, but I would encourage fellow alumni to reflect upon the fact that if you are able to give, it’s probably because of the foundation you received at UIC,” she says. Amatayakul in the open area near the College of Medicine East Tower, “This space is nice and peaceful, and when I needed a little down time on campus I came here.”

desire to pursue an M.S. in health informatics or a Ph.D. in biomedical and health informatics will be able to do so. The Margret Amatayakul Health Information Sciences Endowed Scholarship Fund continues UIC’s commitment to making education accessible and affordable to a diverse student body. “I want to help students directly,” Amatayakul says. “People generally enter the healthcare profession because they’re seeking a fulfilling, rewarding and challenging career.” For Amatayakul, that means financially supporting students with big dreams. Amatayakul says her UIC professors encouraged her to look ahead at what else she could achieve. By setting high standards for herself, Amatayakul found she could push herself further than she thought possible. Those standards include an endless thirst for learning. In the constantly 18



evolving field of healthcare, a zest for education is key. “It’s about going beyond continuing education credits—to me, that’s maintenance, not advanced learning,” Amatayakul says. She strives to learn something new every day. Indeed, she says it’s imperative to do so. “I read healthcare news and subscribe to different publications, and it helps me appreciate the changing dynamics of this field,” she says. “To succeed in healthcare, you really need to have that lifelong learning.” When Amatayakul looks back on her own education, she can pinpoint specific moments when teachers, professors, mentors and supervisors recognized her strengths and weaknesses and were able to guide her appropriately. “I had people looking out for me,” she says. “In a general sense, that’s partly what motivated my gift.”

As alumni likely recall from their own time at UIC, students are challenged from their very first days on campus. They dive into hands-on experiences that prepare them to be leaders in their careers. They receive training that allows them to positively impact communities in Chicago and around the world. They undertake a rigorous curriculum that helps them become practitioners, researchers, scholars and educators as our changing world accelerates. Your generosity can help current and future students do all this—and then some. That’s what it came down to for Amatayakul. “AHS was a place where my gift could truly make a difference,” she says. “I hope it inspires others who want to make an impact, too.”

To make your own gift, visit

Datadriven Using the tools of online technology, researcher Mary Khetani is developing apps to improve the quality of life for young children with developmental disabilities. ary Khetani, assistant professor of occupational therapy, is developing apps for the parents and families of children receiving early intervention services, to give them a more direct role in reporting progress and setting goals for their child’s treatment. The larger goal is to transform what is now a paper-based, faceto-face, provider-driven process of assessment and evaluation into a system that offers electronic options to gather and use data from providers and families. “The idea is to improve how we systemize the information we collect from individual families to improve their child’s care, and

use that information collectively to build knowledge around the trajectories and participation outcomes of children across a variety of conditions and diagnoses—how they experience rehabilitation, and how their experience of rehabilitation relates to outcomes that matter to families over time,” said Khetani, director of the Children’s Participation in Environment Research Laboratory (CPERL) in the Department of Occupational Therapy.

the early intervention process, at every step, influences the child’s outcome in learning and community participation,” said Ashley Stoffel, clinical associate professor of occupational therapy,

Early intervention offers therapies and support services to children age three and under who have developmental delays or disabilities, and their families. “We know from the literature and from clinical experience that having families as part of

Mary Khetani




app called the Participation and Environment Measure (PEM).

“We’re developing tools that allow the family to be an equal partner in setting the goals and priorities of care.”

A parent reviews her child’s PEM report.

who collaborates with Khetani on research related to family engagement in early intervention. Accessibility laws require that parents and families must be equal partners in the multidisciplinary care team, Stoffel explained. But that’s not as easy as it sounds; Khetani knows this firsthand. She began her career as a pediatric occupational therapist at an early intervention program, where she interviewed parents, then wrote pages and pages of notes. But the information gathered by this time-consuming process was not systematically integrated into decisions about care, or used to look for trends in goals and outcomes for families served by the program. “The assessment tools we primarily relied on were designed for professionals, who are with the child for maybe an hour a week,” said Khetani. “But the parent is with the child most. The parent’s voice is so important to the care process, but we didn’t have feasible ways to systematically




capture that perspective to plan and monitor care.” Her “clinical irritation with the way functional outcomes were being documented” propelled Khetani to a Sc.D. in rehabilitation sciences at Boston University, a postdoctoral fellowship at Slone Epidemiology Center, an academic career at Colorado State University and finally to UIC. With continuous funding since 2012 from the National Institutes of Health and organizations such as the American Occupational Therapy Foundation, CPERL is partnering with parents and providers to develop apps that parents can use to record their child’s participation in activities at home and in the community. In her research, she works with collaborators in various disciplines at institutions including the Colorado School of Public Health, McGill University, McMaster University, University of Texas Medical Branch and Jonkoping University in Sweden. Khetani has been working with colleagues to develop and use an

The first part of the app, an online questionnaire with an automated and parent-friendly report feature, was tested in 2013 with about 400 families. The research team is moving into the second phase, evaluating how the online questionnaire could be used, with early intervention and early childhood agencies in Denver and Chicago. CPERL also worked with parents and providers to add a new feature to the app that provides care planning support for parents. “The feedback from parents has been positive,” Khetani said. “It helped me clarify and specify some of my priorities with regard to the things I’d like to work on with my kid,” one parent responded in a survey about the app. “It broke down all the parts to my child’s day,” another parent reported. “It helped me think about each part of the day and every activity he’s involved in. It is helpful when thinking about if there are any areas that need improvement.” Partnering with providers in this next phase is important to the research, Khetani said. “We’re learning so much about real-world implementation, about how to partner with providers to

figure out how the questionnaire works in practice, how it could integrate into provider workflow, and how to build research capacity in practice,” she said. Her research team talks with providers about the ways PEM can enhance care.

“We would never assume that technology can replace the therapeutic value of face-to-face encounters,” Khetani added. “But technology can be used to customize

A parent and provider review a report to plan care together.

care so that all encounters,

Greif, who works with children who have autism and sensory processing disorders, said the app could help demonstrate the effectiveness of care to both families and insurers.

face-to-face or online, are high quality.” Alexa Greif ’13 ms ot, an occupational therapist and director of feeding therapy at Blue Bird Day Therapeutic Preschool and Kindergarten in Chicago, is working with Khetani in testing the new part of the PEM app.

“This is an opportunity to communicate that the kind of therapy we’re providing does make a difference,” said Grief, who expects to complete her doctorate in May.

Khetani said her experience as a practicing occupational therapist influences her research. “It’s particularly rewarding because I began my career in early intervention,” she said. “To do research and bring it back to the same service context in which you began your career—it’s full circle.”

 ur work reflects a deep commitment O to understanding and improving environments so that children can take part in activities of daily life. This commitment is reflected in our lab logo. In this symbol, the child is represented by a pearl. This pearl is driven to participate in activities in their homes, schools and communities. Each of these three environments has multiple layers of influence on the child and impacts his or her engagement in activity. Hence, to “see the pearl” (C the PERL – CPERL), we need to know how environments impact what the child needs and wants to do. PEM is a promising tool to help address this need.”

To learn more about CPERL, visit





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


AHS Advisory Council meeting

June 22 Naperville Members of the AHS Advisory Council gathered on a sunny Thursday afternoon at the home of Dean Bo Fernhall to conduct official council business with the promise of a home-cooked meal. After the meeting, council members gathered around a beautiful spread, compliments of Dean Fernhall and his wife, KN associate professor Tracy Baynard. Among the many updates provided to the group by Dean Fernhall, there was the exciting news of Margret Amatayakul’s donation, which is the largest gift AHS has received to date.

AHS Advisory Council members (from left to right) Margret Amatayakul ’70 BS HIM, Sandye Lerner ’68 BS OT, Dean Bo Fernhall, Mike Doyle ’83 BS BVIS, Joanne Bradna ’81 MS MLS and Brian Gagne ’85 BS KINES, ’87 MS KINES.

Dean Bo Fernhall and former OT department head Winifred Scott ’57 BS OT.




BVIS dinner at AMI2017

July 26 Austin Nearly 40 alumni, students and friends attending the Association of Medical Illustrators (AMI) 72nd Annual Conference in Austin walked a few blocks from the conference center to network and reconnect with fellow AHS’ers over a delicious Tex-Mex meal. Every year, the Program in Biomedical Visualization organizes a dinner during AMI.

Albrecht Global Lecture on Disability Sept. 26-27 Chicago The Department of Disability and Human Development hosted the Inaugural Albrecht Global Lecture on Disability and celebrated the one-year anniversary of its undergraduate major in disability and human development. The two-day event included a discussion panel of leading disability studies scholars from around the world. The endowed lectureship was made possible by a donation from DHD professor emeritus Gary L. Albrecht. Journey to Disability Studies panelists (from left to right) DHD professor emeritus and Fellow of the Royal Belgian Academy of Arts and Sciences Gary L. Albrecht, University of Leuven professor Patrick Devlieger, DHD professor emeritus Glenn Fujiura and University of Sheffield professor Dan Goodley.

AHS Alumni Chat Oct. 5 Chicago Alumni from across the college shared stories about their educational and professional trajectories, as well as insights on current trends in their respective fields, with current AHS undergraduate students at the Ninth Annual Alumni Chat. Every year alumni meet with students to provide them with advice that aligns the students’ career aspirations with their current course of study.

Alumni Chat participants (from left to right) Maria Kokkinias ’16 BS KINES, Peggy Balboa ’09 BS NUT, Shayna Oshita ’09 MS NUT, Gail Huber ’76 BS PT, Laura Neiberg ’79 BS OT and Stuart Cherk-mun Hui ’98 BS AT.





AHS reception at AHIMA17 Oct. 9 Los Angeles The AHS presence at the 2017 American Health Information Management Association Conference and Exhibit was palpable. There were a number of alumni, faculty and students in attendance. Among those representing AHS were (from left to right) Joshua Rogers, Marina Kravtsova ’13 bs him, Shivali Dave ’12 bs him, BHIS clinical assistant professor Gideon Ramirez ’10 bs him, Sara Baig ’13 bs him, Karen Block ’78 bs mra, Payal Surati ’12 bs him, Margaret Skurka ’74 bs mra and Se-Mi Oh ’99 bs him.

5th International Institute on Kielhofner’s Model of Human Occupation

Oct. 14-15 Houston There was a strong contingent of OT alumni, students and faculty at this year’s MOHO Institute, which took place at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and was cosponsored by the Department of Occupational Therapy. During the two-day event, attendees from around the world discussed and shared their work as it related to the model. They earned up to nine continuing education credits for their participation.

HIM In-service

Oct. 20 Chicago The HIM Class of 2018 proudly presented this year’s HIM In-service: “Emerging Trends in Health Information Management.” The daylong continuing education event brought together professionals from throughout Chicago. Among the many alumni in attendance were (left, from left to right) Caren Perez ’16 bs him, Mika Ishikawa ’16 bs him, (center, from left to right) Kimberly Lane ’15 bs him, Robert Bodura ’15 bs him, Ivana Vuksanovic ’15 bs him, Nistha Tamrakar ’15 bs him, Jessica Mason ’15 bs him, Mujidat Adebay ’15 bs him, Annie Li ’15 bs him, (right, from left to right) Therese Jorwic ’79 bs mra, former AHS faculty member Rachelle Stewart and Latoya Norwood ’10 bs him. Each year, HIM graduating students lead the planning of an in-service. 24



IGNITE: The Campaign for UIC & UIC Alumni Association Launch Rally

Oct. 28 Chicago Hundreds of passionate students, alumni, friends, faculty and staff attended the official launch of the UIC Alumni Association and IGNITE: The Campaign for UIC. During the rally held in the UIC Pavilion, Chancellor Michael Amiridis announced the $750 million campaign goal of which $295,926,038 has already been raised during the silent phase (bottom row, left). AHS aims to raise $15 million as part of the campaign. Annie Li ’15 bs him (top row, left) addressed rally attendees to convey the potential impact of a reimagined UIC alumni experience. Among the many AHS’ers in attendance were Paige Parola ’15 bs nut and Iliana Amador ’16 bs kines (top row, right), as well as (middle row, left) bottom row: Barbara Blond ’77 bs mls, Joanne Bradna ’81 ms mls, Yvonne Mlynarczyk ’82 bs pt, Eric Meredith ’12 ms nut, top row: AHS assistant dean for advancement Keenan Cutsforth, AHS dean Bo Fernhall, PT professor emerita Suzann Campbell and James DeLapp. The evening concluded in true Chicago style with a blues performance by Grammynominated UIC alumnus Billy Branch (middle row, right) and an array of food from surrounding neighborhoods, all in a tent nestled under the beautiful skyline.




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

Nonprofit Org. U.S. Postage PAID Chicago, Illinois Permit No. 4860

The UIC College of Applied Health Sciences warmly invites you to attend


Connect with fellow health professionals Recognize outstanding alumni Learn from one of Chicago’s leading experts at the intersection of health and education

Thursday, April 5 Venue One, 221 N. Paulina St.

Special guest speaker KENNETH FOX

Chicago Public Schools Chief Health Officer

2018 AHS Alumni Award recipients TIM GROVER ’84 BS KINES, ’86 MS KINES

Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award


Loyalty Award

To register and for more details, visit

AHS Magazine - Winter 2018  
AHS Magazine - Winter 2018  

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