InSight Fall 2020

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THE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA COLLEGE OF PUBLIC HEALTH

INSIGHT

Contact Tracing Iowa students play a critical role in reducing the spread of COVID

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FROM THE DEAN

How would you sum up 2020 in one word? It’s a difficult question; even the lexicographers of the venerable Oxford English Dictionary had to bend their usual “Word of the Year” guidelines to find an answer. Instead of choosing just one winner that reflects “the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of that particular year,” the lexicographers selected dozens of words that capture the tumultuous and rapidly changing landscape of the past 12 months. The words of the year include “COVID-19,” “social distancing,” and “lockdown,” along with “systemic racism,” “BIPOC,” “mailin,” and “QAnon.” Public health terms such as “R number,” “community spread,” and “flattening the curve” also made their way into the spotlight. But as we know, a great deal of public health work takes place behind the scenes. This issue of InSight takes a closer look at the efforts of public health students who are working at the county level as COVID-19 contact tracers. Communicating by phone with people who test positive for the coronavirus, these student workers play an important role in curbing transmission of SARS-CoV-2, all while gaining practical career skills. Another vital but often unseen segment of the pandemic workforce is fatalities management workers—all of the occupations that tend to those who die from COVID-19. These “last responders” face just as many risks as frontline workers, yet often lack services to help them cope with stress and trauma. A new CPH partnership aims to give these workers a voice and the support they need. You’ll also learn about how the Native Center for Behavioral Health is supporting Native communities and behavioral health workers through the pandemic. Although it has been a difficult and overwhelming year (it’s no wonder new words like “infodemic” and “doomscrolling” entered our vocabulary), I’d like to offer a much more optimistic word to mark the start of 2021: “hope.” A number of alumni, faculty, and students recently shared where they’re finding hope in their areas of public health starting on page 6. Wishing you health and best wishes for the New Year,

Edith Parker

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Learning Lessons from Contact Tracing

College of Public Health students are gaining valuabe work skills as contact tracers.

InSight is published twice a year for alumni and friends of the University of Iowa College of Public Health. Director of Communications and External Relations Dan McMillan daniel-mcmillan@uiowa.edu Editor Debra Venzke Designer Leigh Bradford Marketing and Community Outreach Coordinator Mitch Overton Alumni and Constituent Relations Coordinator Tara McKee Webmaster Patrick Riepe Creative Media Specialist Katy Stites Correspondence, including requests to be added to or removed from the mailing list, should be directed to: Debra Venzke University of Iowa College of Public Health 145 N. Riverside Dr. 100 College of Public Health Bldg., Rm S173 Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2007 debra-venzke@uiowa.edu

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Public Health and Hope

As we head into 2021, faculty, students, and alumni share what gives them hope in their area of public health.

Shining a Light on Last Responders

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A new project provides a voice for the essential—but often overlooked— workers who care for the deceased.

Supporting Resilience and Healing During COVID

The Native Center for Behavioral Health is finding new ways to support Native communities and behavioral health professionals.

14 Q&A WITH MARK VANDER WEG

Meet the new head of the Department of Community and Behavioral Health.

16 COLLEGE WELCOMES NEW ASSOCIATE DEAN

Margaret (Maggie) Chorazy has been named associate dean for academic affairs in the UI College of Public Health. 18 HAPPENINGS

News and research findings. 24 CLASS NOTES

Alumni news and notes. 25 GALLERY

Alumna Carol Ayangbile makes a positive impact on hospital patients, their families, and care teams. 26 SPARK

The University of Iowa prohibits discrimination in employment, educational programs, and activities on the basis of race, creed, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, pregnancy, disability, genetic information, status as a U.S. veteran, service in the U.S. military, sexual orientation, gender identity, associational preferences, or any other classification that deprives the person of consideration as an individual. The university also affirms its commitment to providing equal opportunities and equal access to university facilities. For additional information on nondiscrimination policies, contact the Director, Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity, the University of Iowa, 202 Jessup Hall, Iowa City, IA, 52242-1316, 319-335-0705 (voice), 319-335-0697 (TDD), diversity@uiowa.edu. W43674/12-2020

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College of Public Health students are gaining valuable work skills as contract tracers.

LEARNING LESSONS FROM CONTACT TRACING STORY AND PHOTOS BY KATY STITES

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Story and photos by Katy Stites

Rebecca Nyangufi

Madison Snitker

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ommunity members who contract or are exposed to COVID-19 may find themselves talking on the phone with Rebecca Nyangufi, one of about 45 University of Iowa College of Public Health students who are working part-time as contact tracers at Johnson County Public Health in Iowa City. These students have the unique experience of helping the local public health department and wider community handle the coronavirus pandemic, all while gaining valuable skills. Nyangufi, a senior majoring in public health, says the experience has solidified her choice to pursue public health. “Before, it was really hard to explain to my friends and my family what public health was.” Now, she says, with public health professionals leading the battle against a pandemic that has upended daily life, people are beginning to understand the critical role public health professionals play, often behind the scenes, to prevent disease and promote health. She also has a new appreciation for local public health and how different public health professionals work together to manage the pandemic. “They do a lot to keep the community safe and keep everyone healthy,” she says.


"I would have never anticipated as a freshman, three years ago, that I would be doing public health work during a pandemic.” - Rebecca Nyangufi

Rebecca Nyangufi

Contact Tracing Lessons and Opportunities In leading the local coronavirus response, the Johnson County Public Health Department receives information from labs and doctors’ offices about positive cases in Johnson County. Contact tracers call the people who test positive and work to figure out who else they may have infected, and follow-up with those potential cases to encourage staying home, social distancing, and watching for symptoms. The tracers also enter detailed data on each case and communicate with employers to help prevent the potential spread of the disease in the workplace. Collected information is also revealing health disparities due to the pandemic—multiple analyses of available federal, state, and local data show that people of color are experiencing a disproportionate burden of COVID-19 cases and death. Callie Ferring, a senior majoring in public health and Spanish, has seen these inequities in her work as a contact tracer. In one case, she talked with a family of 10 consisting of three different generations living in a single household. “It just wasn’t possible for them to isolate from one another,” she says, “It definitely opened my eyes to disparities in Johnson County.”

Both Nyangufi and Ferring have an interest in working in global public health and had the opportunity to gain experience abroad before the pandemic hit, in South Africa and Costa Rica, respectively. While international job opportunities are in limbo, the students have seized the opportunity to work in frontline public health roles in their home state of Iowa. “It is very difficult to have a normal internship or job [right now],” Nyangufi says. “I’m not happy about the pandemic, but it has given us real things to learn from with what we’re experiencing. I would have never anticipated as a freshman, three years ago, that I would be doing public health work during a pandemic.”

Public Health Classes Spark Passion The student contact tracers are navigating all of this as both students and young professionals, using their body of knowledge from coursework and training and applying it to the current moment. All students majoring in public health at the University of Iowa learn about the spread of disease during their core courses, and many dive deep into studying pandemics in a class called “Finding Patient Zero,” taught by Matthew Nonnenmann, assistant professor of occupational

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and environmental health. Students also have the opportunity to learn about public health emergencies in the class “Public Health Emergency Preparedness,” a course created by adjunct instructors Laurie Walkner and Bonnie Rubin. “Finding Patient Zero is all about infectious diseases and how public health goes about finding the cause, treating it, and preventing it,” says Carly O’Connor, a second-year public health undergraduate student who is also working as a contact tracer. “We learned about different disease outbreaks, and it’s astounding to say we’re living in one now. They’ll probably teach about it in that class in the future.” O’Connor, a Bachelor of Science student, is drawn to the quantitative aspects of public health—think disease modeling, rates of infection, and infectious periods—that are key to understanding the pandemic. She isn’t sure if contact tracing will lead her to find her calling in public health, but she knew that it was an opportunity she didn’t want to pass up. “I’m only 19 years old, and I’m already working for a public health department in the real world in our community, and that is so cool to me,” she says. Sam Jarvis, community health manager for Johnson County Public Health, leads a team that supervises the contact tracers. He has also taught “Public Health Emergency Preparedness” at the College of Public Health. Jarvis says the students already have a desire to serve, the education, and diverse experiences that prepare them for the job. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to immerse students in local government public health, provide real-world experience, and support local public health’s mission of disease prevention. We’re hopeful that we’re instilling a strong desire to work at the local governmental public health level in the future,” he says. For Madison Snitker, a Master of Public Health student, that desire is there. With her graduation on the horizon, she wants to continue on her current path in a local public health setting with a job in health communications or emergency response. As an undergraduate public health student, she was largely influenced by the class “Public Health Emergency Preparedness,” which focuses on how public health responses are shaped in times of crisis. “It was my absolute favorite undergraduate class. We learned so much about disasters, whether that be natural disasters, outbreaks, or bioterrorism,” she says.

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Callie Ferring


“Being able to help [people] through tough feelings and experiences regarding COVID-19 has been a learning experience that I will take with me through the rest of my career.” - Madison Snitker Now that she has experience as a contact tracer, she feels more prepared for a job in local public health. “It has opened my eyes to the importance of county health work, whether that be here in Johnson County or a rural area like where I’m from in Allamakee County, and it’s helped me focus on where I want to end up being,” she said.

The Power of Communication Contact tracers need strong communication and interpersonal skills, including cultural sensitivity and interviewing skills that allow them to build and maintain trust with community members. Ferring recognizes the importance of her Spanish language skills in her public-facing role. While Johnson County Public Health uses an interpreter service, she says her knowledge helps minimize miscommunications. The students acknowledge that it can be difficult talking to people who may be misinformed about the virus, or struggling to handle the news that they could be sick.

Carly O’Connor

“You deal with different personalities every day, and some people are really outspoken. Some people feel like you are invading their privacy,” Nyangufi says. Her response is professional—she communicates that this is a way of helping prevent further spread in the community. Snitker emphasizes how much she has learned to communicate with people in difficult situations. “This is a very heightened time of fear and anxiety of just not nowing things,” she says. “Being able to communicate and help them through those tough feelings and experiences regarding COVID-19 has definitely been a learning experience that I will take with me through the rest of my career.” While the future of the pandemic may be unclear, one thing is apparent—these young public health professionals are ready to take the lessons from today into their future and continue to work towards a healthier community. Hear more from the student contact tracers at bit.ly/3oA14vc.

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Public Health and Hope

The past

The isolation and stress of the COVID-19 pandemic may have left us weary and worn, but not without optimism. As we head into 2021, we asked several faculty, students, and alumni what gives them hope in their area of public health. Here are some of the silver linings they’ve found among the year’s challenges.

I have spent

my career evaluating vaccine safety and effectiveness in partnership with the CDC, FDA, and industry. I am encouraged by the tremendous amount of innovation and energy being invested in developing safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, and I am hopeful that some of these products will be available starting in 2021. I understand people may think these vaccines are being rushed to market with insufficient testing and may be hesitant to be vaccinated. My colleagues and I are hard at work preparing research protocols to rigorously monitor COVID-19 vaccine safety after licensure. We will also be studying vaccine effectiveness in a cohort of health care personnel, first responders, and essential workers who will likely be early recipients of COVID-19 vaccines. I am hopeful that findings from these studies will support the COVID-19 vaccination program, reassure the public about safety and effectiveness, and increase vaccine acceptance so we can reach herd immunity and return to some semblance of pre-COVID life. Allison Naleway (97MS, 00PhD epidemiology), senior investigator and associate director, Center for Health Research, Kaiser Permanente Northwest, Portland, Oregon

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is a year in which many people have seen life-changing events, and COVID-19 has caused pains and even passing away of loved ones. As one of the largest vaccine manufacturers, Sanofi Pasteur is leveraging its expertise and resource in developing vaccine(s) for COVID-19, which is the top priority for the company. From research to development to manufacturing, everyone is doing what they can to contribute to this joint effort. It usually takes 10 to 15 years to develop a new vaccine, but we could potentially see a vaccine for COVID-19 in a much shortened time. We are taking action and are stretching to go beyond the level we have operated at up until now. We bring our best selves to work, though doing that remotely for most office-based employees, and are always inspired by our passion to improve the health of people across the world. We are hopeful that a vaccine, either from Sanofi Pasteur or another manufacturer, will be ready for the public sometime next year through the disciplined actions of all parties and the close collaborations between industry, government, and academia. Wenquan Wang (03PhD biostatistics), franchise head, Global Biostatistical Sciences, Global R&D, Sanofi Pasteur, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

year has brought a change in how we work and how we think about work. We now describe some jobs as essential; we need people in these jobs to keep us healthy, fed, and safe. We have also learned that other jobs have no boundaries. They can be done anywhere and at any time. Work and homelife are all mixed together, and cats, dogs, and kids are our new coworkers. There is a new appreciation for caregivers and teachers. We have learned about workplace hazards, and there has been a focus on developing new ways to control those hazards. We have also recognized that we need each other and that work is more than just a “job.” Work provides us with a community of people. These changes have made us all stop and think about how we work and the connection between work and health. Investing in worker health and well-being benefits everyone. Going forward, we have an opportunity to redesign the workplace. It is an opportunity to identify the best aspects of work—the connections with people, the opportunity to build and create, the ability to serve and care for people—and design the workplace to protect all workers and support these activities. Being forced to stop and think about how we work enables us to create an environment where people can thrive, and when people thrive, we all succeed. Diane Rohlman, professor and Endowed Chair in Rural Safety and Health, and director of the Healthier Workforce Center of the Midwest, UI College of Public Health

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As I look

COVID-19

at 2021, I am hopeful because I have seen some amazing changes related to feeding our kids. At the local, state, and national level, organizations and government agencies have very quickly pulled together to make sure that fewer children and adolescents are experiencing hunger. USDA programs like the school meals program and the summer feeding program have shown a great deal of flexibility to help local school districts safely feed many kids. Local food service staff continue to go the extra mile to provide their students with healthy food. All these efforts really speak to the power of everyone working together to achieve one goal—reducing food insecurity among kids. Natoshia Askelson, assistant professor of community and behavioral health, UI College of Public Health

has brought renewed importance to public health and the critical connection between the disciplines that are a part of our college. Administration, community health education, epidemiology, environmental health and safety… we have all come together to battle this virus and partnered in exceptional ways. I feel optimistic that our renewed partnerships will position our public and private delivery systems to better meet the broader health needs of the communities we are privileged to serve. COVID has taught us that we must listen to our communities more intentionally, partner with them more effectively, and adapt our systems more rapidly to improve health status. If we take these learnings with us past COVID, we will be much better positioned to impact the health status measures that have been intractable for decades. Sean O’Grady (93MA health management and policy), chief clinical operations officer, NorthShore University HealthSystem, Evanston, Illinois

Whether

it’s raising livestock, answering phone calls, taking orders, or using heavy machinery, there are health and safety risks involved with work. In the occupational health field, we strive to improve working conditions and ensure workers are kept out of harm’s way. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many occupational health professionals were challenged with a new and unexpected hazard within their workplace. However, as many workplaces begin to reopen and employees are returning to work, I am happy to see so many occupational health and safety procedures in place. As we head into 2021 and beyond, occupational health professionals will continue to protect workers from emerging and existing workplace hazards. I like to think that the work we do saves lives and there will always be a place for occupational health. Deirdre R. Green (14MS occupational and environmental health), health scientist, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Washington, DC 8 INSIGHT FALL 2020

I’m very glad

I chose to pursue my master’s degree in biostatistics at Iowa, and especially relieved that I’m studying in the College of Public Health. As a student, I feel safe at CPH— there are masks available, professors who want you to succeed, great people, and a dean who will make time for you. This is comforting, especially since I’m a woman of color in a school whose race is predominantly white. I’m not going to lie, it’s intimidating and stressful being one of the few people of color in my cohort—especially during a pandemic and an election year. But I recently co-hosted a virtual Hispanic Heritage Month event with the college’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee and LULAC Council 308, and the presence of CPH people was heartwarming. I was so happy to see professors of mine, our department head, and dean in the house! I felt like a little kid whose parent showed up to their spelling bee! There was an actual warm feeling in my chest; I think mainly because their interest and support was genuine. I’m glad I feel the support from people higher up. My next steps are to find more people that look like me, relate to my insecurities, point me in the direction of panaderias, tacos al pastor, soul food, and places that are full of color, culture, and community. So as we head into 2021, I feel hopeful that the UI takes steps towards diversity and inclusion, and that the CPH continues to show their support, because it means everything! Reyna Hernandez, MS student in biostatistics, UI College of Public Health


Shining a Light on Last Responders A new project provides a voice for the essential—but often overlooked—workers who care for the deceased. BY DEBRA VENZKE

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octors, nurses, and other frontline health care workers are deservedly hailed as heroes for their dedication and courage in treating patients with COVID-19. But behind the scenes, another set of professionals is addressing the toll of the pandemic in an equally important but unacknowledged way. These “last responders” are the workers who ensure that people who die from the novel coronavirus are laid to rest with dignity. A new collaborative project led by the Prevention Research Center (PRC) based in the UI College of Public Health aims to shine a light on the important contributions and extraordinary challenges of these professionals. “Fatalities management workers— funeral home practitioners, medical examiners, pathologists, crematory operators, morgue attendants, autopsy assistants, and others in these fields— have really become the invisible face of COVID-19. Their stories, struggles, dedication, work, and care have largely been ignored,” explains Rima Afifi, director of the PRC and professor of community and behavioral health. “We’re partnering with fatalities management workers to understand their stressors, coping mechanisms, and their well-being in relation to COVID-19.” The PRC is working with professional organizations and associations to conduct a national survey of last responders to better understand the consequences of the pandemic on their mental and physical health. “To our knowledge, this is the first national survey of its kind,” Afifi says. “We think it’s critically important to be able to develop effective responses that support them in their amazing work.” The research team is planning to follow up the survey with in-depth interviews. “This will enable us to 10 INSIGHT FALL 2020

truly understand the lived experiences of fatalities management workers during COVID-19 and to provide space for them to share their stories—what happened, what the challenges were, what made them despair or gave them hope,” Afifi says.

Caretakers and Crises The idea for the project originated with Peter Teahen, a funeral director and funeral home owner in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He reached out to the college with the concern that the role and welfare of fatalities management workers in the pandemic were being overlooked.

Teahen’s training and background includes 31 years in disaster services and mental health crisis management. In 1989, he served as one of the coordinators of mortuary affairs at the United Airlines Flight 232 crash site in Sioux City. Since then, he has served in leadership roles in more than 70 major disasters around the world, including the Oklahoma City bombing, 9/11 in New York, Hurricane Katrina, and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. He has served as a national spokesperson for the American Red Cross since 1999. Although Teahen sees many similarities between the pandemic and other


“When we look at the psychological impact of disasters on responders, we typically see that the height of the impact is usually seven years after the event.” crises, he notes that there are a number of unique challenges and stressors with COVID-19. “One of the more serious parts of this is the unknown,” Teahen says, referring to the still evolving understanding of the virus. “COVID doesn’t die with the patient. All the staff dealing with the deceased are just as susceptible to getting COVID as if they were in the hospital environment.” Just like first responders and frontline health care workers, last responders are willing to take risks to care for others in their professional role, Teahen says. “We also have to live with the nightmare that we’re going to bring COVID home to our families. There’s never been something of this global magnitude threatening and killing the caregivers.” In fact, Teahen tested positive for COVID-19 in the spring of 2020. “I believe it was because of one of the cases I dealt with. I’ve handled multiple COVID deaths,” he says. “I nagged my staff and my family about all the safety precautions. And regardless of how safe we were and what we did to be safe, I still became a COVID victim. And that’s what is frightening.”

Managing Grief and Mental Health Another stressor is how dramatically the pandemic has altered the grieving process. “We’re not able to do the things we normally do. In my role as funeral director, we’re used to having families gather together to celebrate the person’s life. We’ve had to tell people they can’t have a funeral. We’re trying to give comfort and care to a family that is

being torn apart from all their cultural and traditional values of caring for the dead, and that’s impactful.” The sheer number of deaths in some areas of the country has overwhelmed funeral homes and related services, causing workers exhaustion and distress. This level of intense stress has both short- and long-term impacts on mental health. “We know from experience of other disasters that dealing with increased anxiety, separation from families, and all the unknowns, it creates an increase in domestic abuse, substance abuse, and divorce rates,” Teahen says. “A lot of times people don’t know how to cope with that stress.” The mental health impact of a disaster doesn’t go away within weeks or months. “When we look at the psychological impact of disasters on responders, we typically see that the height of the impact is usually seven years after the event,” Teahen says. “I think that catches people off guard. When you ask, When is the peak of suicide following a catastrophic event?, a lot of people say six weeks, six months, maybe the one-year anniversary, where the number is truly closer to seven years.” Part of the reason for that lag is because at the beginning of a crisis, emotional support for responders is readily offered by friends, families, and organizations. But as time goes on, those supports and programs fade, leaving people to cope on their own. They may turn to alcohol or drugs to deal with the emotional impact of what they’ve experienced, Teahen says. “And it becomes a vicious cycle. As that goes on over time—as people get more isolated and services are reduced—they become more and more desperate,” he says.

Offering Support A number of barriers prevent last responders from reaching out for help, including the stigma around mental health. An even bigger barrier may be the very nature of their jobs. “Nobody wants to talk to a funeral director, nobody wants to talk about death and dying or the work of a coroner or medical examiner,” Teahen says. “It’s such a taboo subject, death and dying and the dead.” Teahen hopes that the survey and stories shared through the interviews will give these workers a voice, recognition, and support. “I hope that we can find some common threads through these different professional groups, find out what their stressors were and what got them through their darkest days,” he says. He envisions creating support programs “that last more than just six months and that are there when they need them in seven or ten years.” The study results “will allow us to develop interventions at the individual, organizational, community, and policy levels that support fatalities management workers in their work,” Afifi adds. “Of course, we can’t develop these interventions without the active involvement of the workers themselves because they understand their reality and what works best, so we plan on a community-engaged approach to the intervention development.” “By allowing us in on how they’re feeling, we’re going to make them a stronger professional, we’re going to bring a spotlight to the incredible work that they’ve done,” Teahen says. “This will shine a light on the heroic efforts of last responders and say that they’re as much to celebrate as those on the first line of response.”

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Supporting Resilience and Healing During COVID The Native Center for Behavioral Health is finding new ways to support Native communities and behavioral health professionals. BY DEBRA VENZKE

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ike all organizations, the Native Center for Behavioral Health (NCBH) had to rapidly rethink how to conduct its work in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The center, housed at the University of Iowa College of Public Health, develops programs to support the behavioral health workforce in Native American and Alaska Native communities across the country. The center’s projects include three technology transfer programs funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in the areas of addiction, mental health, and prevention, as well as tribal opioid response technical assistance, mental health technical assistance for K-12 schools, and a Tribal College and University Initiative. It also hosts a Leadership Academy for Native American and Alaska Native behavioral health professionals. Because much of the center’s work typically involves travel along with face-to-face meetings and trainings, the pandemic quickly had an impact on programming. Events were postponed or adapted to a virtual format, but there was still the bigger question of how best to meet the needs of their constituents for the duration of the crisis. “In the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, our team did not quite know how to support tribal and urban Indian providers in the most productive way, so we decided to ask our tribal colleagues what they needed through weekly listening sessions,” says Anne Helene Skinstad, director of the NCBH. Based on the topics suggested by participants, the center compiles resources and creates programs around the themes put forth as important and relevant for their work.

COVID and Trauma Tribal communities have been hit hard by the pandemic. The incidence of COVID-19 cases among American Indians (AI) and Alaska Natives (AN) 12 INSIGHT FALL 2020


is 3.5 times that among white populations, according to an August 2020 report from the CDC. Additionally, recent CDC studies have shown that “AI/AN are among the racial and ethnic minority groups at higher risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes. Persisting racial inequity and historical trauma have contributed to disparities in health and socioeconomic factors between AI/AN and white populations that have adversely affected tribal communities,” notes a CDC press release about the report. This summer, the NCBH hosted a webinar series on trauma, including sessions on “Building Resilience in Our Patients, Communities, and Ourselves in a Time of COVID-19: Lessons for Behavioral Health Providers;” “Historical Trauma: Definition, Impact, and Hope for Healing;” and “Trauma, Adverse Childhood Experiences, and Their Impacts on the Health and Well-being of Native American & Alaska Native People.” Another webinar series focused on “Native American Veterans: Healing the Returning Warrior,” ending with a presentation on Post-Traumatic-Stress Disorder (PTSD). The COVID-19 pandemic has activated PTSD issues in many Native community members, Skinstad says.

Compassion Fatigue Another result of the pandemic is secondary trauma and compassion fatigue because COVID-19 has brought up historical and inter-generational trauma, both in patients and in providers.

“These past months have been exhausting for behavioral health providers and prevention and treatment providers,” Skinstad says. “In addition, in tribal and urban Indian communities, providers are not insulated from experiencing the loss of family members and friends, nor from getting ill themselves. Such challenges take a toll on people and often leads to exhaustion and compassion fatigue.” The center offers numerous resources for understanding trauma, building resilience, and integrating Native American cultural practices and traditions into Western behavioral health methods. It also offers an annual Spirituality Round Table project to Native communities, in which this year’s panel discussed the ways in which Native culture is often misunderstood in Western mental health practice, which can lead to misdiagnosis. “A team of six professionals and spiritual leaders/traditional healers have discussed how mental illness has been understood from a traditional Native perspective and compared it to the current Western way of understanding mental illness,” Skinstad says. “We have had a steady number of participants with major contributions to this very important discussion.” The NCBH will continue to respond and adapt to the uncertain times, supporting behavioral health specialists so they can serve Native communities in a culturally appropriate manner. Learn more about the center at www.public-health.uiowa.edu/ ncbh/.

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Q &A Mark Vander Weg with

PHOTO BY KATY STITES

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ark Vander Weg began his appointment as head of the Department of Community and Behavioral Health (CBH) on July 1, 2020. He previously served as an associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, and he holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He is also a core investigator in the Center for Access & Delivery Research and Evaluation (CADRE) at the VA Health Care System in Iowa City. His research primarily focuses on promoting health behavior change, with an emphasis on the prevention and treatment of tobacco use and dependence. Additional research interests include rural health and cancer prevention and control. Vander Weg recently answered a few questions about his interest in public health, priorities for the department, and advice for potential students. 14 INSIGHT FALL 2020


Q

Your background is in clinical psychology and you’ve worked in a variety of medical settings. What drew you to public health? A: Since the beginning of my training in clinical psychology, my primary interests have focused on the association between behavior and health. My work primarily addresses designing, implementing, and evaluating strategies to modify behavior as a way to improve health, with a particular emphasis on tobacco use. My background in psychology and behavioral science helped me to understand how psychological and social factors impact health, as well as how to apply behavior change strategies from the field in an effort to modify risk factors for disease. Too often, however, I could see that the strategies we developed would reach a very limited proportion of the people that might benefit from them. It became increasingly apparent to me that we can have the biggest impact on issues such as tobacco use and other health behaviors through the use of public health-based approaches.

Q

What are your top priorities for your first year as department head? A: Helping faculty, students, and staff navigate the uncertainties and challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic has taken center stage. We have to figure out ways to continue to adapt our service, research, and teaching methods to the current realities while staying focused on our mission and commitment to the health and well-being of the community.

I will also be focusing on promoting the continued growth of the department. We have a fantastic group of dedicated and talented faculty doing tremendously important research and providing exceptional teaching and service. We are, however, relatively small in size. I am hoping to bring some additional talented people into the department to help us to both strengthen our current areas of emphasis (rural health; community engagement and participatory approaches; culturally-informed intervention strategies; social justice, health equities, and health disparities) while also allowing us to expand our areas of focus to other public health issues that matter most to Iowans and those who live in the other areas where we work.

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What is the unique perspective that community and behavioral health brings to the field of public health? A: As our name suggests, our department is fundamentally about improving the health and well-being of communities. Community and Behavioral Health is unique in the way that we go about partnering with the members of the community to achieve our shared goals. We actively engage with the community and make use of participatory-based research approaches to ensure that we are addressing the things that matter most to them. Although we have expertise in research methods, health behavior and education, and various intervention and implementation strategies, our

community partners are the experts in their own communities. They know best what their needs are, as well as the local strengths and available community resources that can be leveraged to help address them.

Q

What would you say to persuade a prospective undergraduate student to consider studying public health? A: I can sincerely say that there has never been a more important and exciting time to study public health. If you are looking for a career where you can positively influence the health and well-being of large numbers of people, then public health is a great option. So many of the critical issues that we are currently facing, including systemic racism, climate change, health disparities, mental health concerns, access to health care—and of course the COVID-19 pandemic—are fundamentally public health issues. Further, the field of public health has a great deal to offer in the way of developing and implementing effective solutions to these problems.

Q

What keeps you interested and inspired in your field of work? A: The passion and commitment of my colleagues and our students is truly inspiring. The field’s ability to come up with novel solutions for addressing big health and social problems is also very exciting.

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College Welcomes New Associate Dean for Academic Affairs

M

argaret (Maggie) Chorazy has been named associate dean for academic affairs in the University of Iowa College of Public Health. Her appointment began Nov. 1, 2020. Chorazy is a clinical associate professor of epidemiology and serves as the director of undergraduate programs for the college. Her research interests include infectious disease epidemiology and scholarship of teaching and learning in public health education. As associate dean for academic affairs, Chorazy is responsible for providing leadership and support in all areas related to student success. Her position will ensure implementation and sustained success of the college’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) goals across the various units and departments of the college. Chorazy will help lead the college in overall academic planning and assessment, accreditation, development and support, enrollment management, instructional and learning support, curriculum development, online learning, academic advising, and student support services. She succeeds Thomas Vaughn, who served as interim associate dean for academic affairs since 2018.

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“Maggie brings an exceptionally strong skill set to this important leadership position,” notes Edith Parker, dean of the College of Public Health. “Under her guidance, our college has created an innovative undergraduate curriculum built on diverse experiential learning opportunities for students, engaged teaching, and an emphasis on postgraduate placement. Her expertise and commitment to evidence-based instruction and learning and student success will guide continued development of our academic programming.” As founding director of the undergraduate public health programs, Chorazy was instrumental in the 2015 launch of the college’s first baccalaureate degrees. Since that time, the college’s undergraduate programs have experienced steady growth, with fall 2020 enrollment totaling 227 students in the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science tracks. Chorazy was a 2015 recipient of the College of Public Health’s Faculty Teaching Award as well as the Epidemiology Student Association’s Outstanding Faculty Award in 2013. She received the College of Public Health Outstanding Alumni Award in 2018.

“I look forward to working with our students, staff, faculty, and alumni along with our campus and community partners to support student success across all of our academic programs,” says Chorazy. “I am also excited to partner with the college’s DEI Committee, all members of our college, and across the broader university community as we implement the college’s DEI Strategic Plan.” Chorazy earned a Bachelor of Science in biology from Illinois Wesleyan University, a Master of Public Health in epidemiology of microbial diseases from Yale University, and a PhD in epidemiology from the University of Iowa. She is active in national public health organizations, including the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health and the American Public Health Association. She is also the college’s chapter president for the Delta Omega Honorary Society in Public Health.


MARISA FLORES Alvarado, Texas Master of Science Candidate in Biostatistics Activities and Honors: Biostatistics Student Organization Activities Coordinator; Iowa Summer Institute in Biostatistics Alumna; American Statistical Association; Math Alliance; Hispanic Scholarship Fund Scholar; McNair Scholars Program; Pi Mu Epsilon Honorary Mathematics Society Scholarship: College of Public Health Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Scholarship

GIVE A STUDENT ACCESS TO IOWA

Outstanding students like Marisa illustrate the optimism and determination that fuel public health during this challenging time. You can bring Iowa’s top-quality public health education within reach for other exceptional students by supporting scholarships in the College of Public Health. Learn more by contacting College of Public Health Director of Development Madelynn Krall at madelynn.krall@foriowa.org or 319-467-3645, or you can make a gift online.

Givetoiowa.org/2021PQ99 17 IIN NSIGHT FALL 2020 17 SIGHT FALL 2020


HAPPENINGS Injured Farmers Take Longer to Get Trauma Care A University of Iowa College of Public Health study shows that farmers who suffer an on-the-job injury take more time to arrive at a hospital that provides the specialized trauma care they need than workers in other industries. The study found that median time to care was one hour longer for farmers than other workers. It took farmers 2 hours and 46 minutes to arrive at a definitive trauma care center, compared to 1 hour 48 minutes for people who suffer rural, non-farm work injuries. However, that difference came in the first two hours after the injury was reported. For injuries that took longer than two hours to reach definitive trauma care, differences in farm and rural non-farm injuries had similar times to access care. Corinne Peek-Asa, professor of occupational and environmental health and study co-author, says the differences were primarily due to the time it takes to discover the injury and for medical personnel to reach the injured person. Once paramedics arrive, the time to provide care and begin transport was similar for all injuries. Peek-Asa says that extra time can often make a difference in a person’s recovery time, or even life or death. The study was published in the journal Injury Epidemiology. It was co-authored by James Torner, UI professor of epidemiology, and Amanda Swanton of Dartmouth College.

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Peek-Asa Elected to the National Academy of Medicine Corinne Peek-Asa, associate dean for research and professor of occupational and environmental health in the University of Iowa College of Public Health, has been elected to the National Academy of Medicine. Election to the academy is considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine and recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service. Peek-Asa is internationally renowned for her research in injury and violence prevention. Her work includes studies of global roadtraffic safety, interpersonal violence, workplace safety, traumatic brain injury, and adverse childhood experiences and trauma. Her research has inspired national legislation, and she helped develop injury and violence data collection systems in five countries. “Dr. Peek-Asa’s valuable contributions to the field of injury prevention have helped improve the health and safety of people all over the world,” says Edith Parker, dean of the College of Public Health. “We’re very proud of her accomplishments and this welldeserved recognition from the National Academy of Medicine.”


Sue Curry: Legacy of Leadership

Modeling the Spread of Health Care-Associated Infections More than two million patients each year contract hospital-borne infections such as C. difficile, E. coli, and now COVID-19. A multi-disciplinary group of University of Iowa researchers is studying how to protect hospital patients from these types of diseases. The project involves faculty, students, and staff from four UI colleges, including assistant professors Aaron Miller and Dan Sewell from the College of Public Health. The researchers comprise the UI Computational Epidemiology Research Group— commonly known as CompEpi—which recently received a $3.3 million grant from the CDC to continue tracking the spread of health care-associated infections, or HAIs. One of six centers in the CDC’s Modeling Infectious Diseases in the Healthcare Network, the UI group uses computational modeling and simulation to study HAI transmission in relation to hospital layout and hospital-based interventions. “The overarching theme of this project is to overcome existing barriers for modeling the spread of HAIs,” said Alberto Maria Segre, professor and chair of the Department of Computer Science and the Gerard P. Weeg Faculty Scholar in Informatics. “Simulations based on our models can be used to compare alternative interventions and provide effective and practical guidance for how to reduce the transmission of multidrug resistant organisms and other pathogens capable of causing HAIs.” In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the CompEpi group has also received two supplemental grants from the CDC. These grants, which total $850,000, will allow CompEpi to apply modeling techniques to COVID-19 transmission in health care facilities as part of a larger consortium of CDC-funded modeling centers.

Following more than a decade of transformational leadership, College of Public Health Dean Emerita Sue Curry this fall capped her distinguished career at the University of Iowa. Curry has been appointed professor emerita in health management and policy. “Sue’s outstanding leadership positioned our college to meet the urgent public health challenges before us today,” says Edith Parker, dean of the College of Public Health. “I’m delighted that she will maintain ties to our college through this faculty appointment, and I look forward to her continued national leadership as an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine and other affiliations.” During her tenure as CPH dean from 2008 to 2017, Curry oversaw several major milestones and elevated the college as a national leader in public health education, research, and community engagement. Notably, she nurtured a dramatic expansion of undergraduate educational offerings for UI students and the launch of the college’s thriving undergraduate public health degree programs—the first such baccalaureate programs in the Iowa Regents system. In addition, under her leadership, the college forged innovative partnerships with business and community leaders across Iowa, and brought prominent public health and other national leaders to campus through a visiting scholar program and residencies for business leaders and journalists. Curry stepped down as College of Public Health dean in 2017 to serve as University of Iowa interim executive vice president and provost, a position she held until 2019. She then served as a part-time administrative fellow in the Office of the President until 2020. She continues her national service as a member of the governing council of the National Academy of Medicine, a member of the governing board of the National Research Council, and a visiting scientist in the Office of Disease Prevention at the National Institutes of Health.

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HAPPENINGS

Marian Wright Edelman Selected as 2020 Hansen Award Recipient The College of Public Health selected Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president emerita of the Children’s Defense Fund, to receive the 2020 Richard and Barbara Hansen Leadership Award and Distinguished Lectureship. Wright Edelman, who has been an advocate for disadvantaged Americans for her entire professional life, delivered her lecture on “Closing the Cradle-to-Prison Pipeline: Why America Needs to Invest in Children.” A recording of her presentation is available at cph.uiowa.edu/hansen-award/. The Hansen Award, established in 2001 thanks to a generous gift from Richard and Barbara Hansen of Iowa City, honors persons who have demonstrated exemplary leadership in the public health field.

Iowa Researchers Receive $2.5M to Study Immunization-Related Issues A team of University of Iowa researchers has been awarded a five-year, $2.5 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to survey primary care providers and the general public every three to four months on various immunization-related issues. Co-investigators from the UI College of Public Health are Christine Petersen, professor of epidemiology and director of the UI’s Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases, and Natoshia Askelson, assistant professor of community and behavioral health. Aaron Scherer, associate professor of Internal Medicine in the UI Carver College of Medicine, is the principal investigator. The information obtained from the surveys will help researchers identify and address patient and health care provider barriers to a variety of immunization-related issues and could help inform future immunization-related recommendations and policies. The research team also includes Courtney Gidengil and Andrew Parker from the RAND Corp. and will receive survey and statistical support from the Iowa Social Science Research Center.

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Researchers Find Concerns Related to Medicaid Managed Care in Iowa A growing number of states are turning to managed care arrangements to provide care to senior and disabled Medicaid beneficiaries. Despite their complex care needs, very little is known about the experience of these individuals in managed care. A study from the UI College of Public Health published in Disability and Health Journal suggests that there are serious and persistent concerns related to access and quality of care under managed care for at least some participants in Iowa. Medicaid managed care (MMC) was introduced in Iowa in 2016. A team of researchers led by Kanika Arora, assistant professor of health management and policy, wanted to assess the experiences of senior and disabled beneficiaries and see if they changed over time as the program stabilized and took root in the state. The researchers conducted telephone survey interviews among 49 senior and disabled beneficiaries in 2017 and then again in 2019. According to Arora, not all beneficiaries completed both rounds of interviews, but among those who did participate in both waves, the frequency of concerns in all categories appeared to grow over time. The open-ended survey questions across both rounds revealed issues centered on seven distinct themes: system navigation, service approvals, provider relations, customer service, case management, perception of Iowa’s transition

to MMC, and oversight. Concerns with service approvals was the most frequently reported theme. Arora says the results of the study underscore the need for a comprehensive evaluation of the program, particularly with reference to beneficiaries with complex care needs. “The study really raises important questions relating to how managed care can support the goals of rebalancing—shift away from delivery of long-term care in institutions to home and community-based settings,” she says. “It’s important to consider how managed care can improve access to home and community-based services, how it can improve beneficiary experience and quality of life, all the while improving budget predictability and potentially better managing costs.” Brian Kaskie and Hannah Rochford of the Department of Health Management and Policy at the University of Iowa and Kelli Todd of the Iowa Chiropractic Society co-authored the study.

Gerr Presents 2020 Distinguished Faculty Lecture Fredric Gerr, professor emeritus of occupational and environmental health, presented the College of Public Health 2020 Distinguished Faculty Lecture in early December. His presentation, “Meat Packing Plant Workers: A Case Study of a Precarious Workforce,” provided an overview of historical and current occupational injury and illnesses, including COVID-19, among meat packing plant workers as a case study of systemic disenfranchisement of precarious workers.

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Expanding the Definition of Those Most at Risk for COVID-19 Seeking to enhance health equity and social justice, a commentary co-authored by University of Iowa College of Public Health researchers argues that the definition of people most at risk for COVID-19 illness and death should be expanded beyond biological factors to include social factors. Definitions for those most at risk for COVID-19 typically focus on biological factors such as age and pre-existing chronic health conditions, despite evidence of health disparities linked to social, economic, and political factors. Inequitable social conditions have been found to play a significant part in COVID-19 infections and outcomes, as they have with all other health outcomes, state the authors who include College of Public Health researchers Rima Afifi, Nicole Novak, and Paul Gilbert. The commentary was published in Preventive Medicine. COVID-19 prevention strategies, such as hand washing, physical distancing, sheltering-in-place, and self-isolation when sick, are most accessible to privileged individuals— those with secure housing, financial resources, social support, access to medical care, and white-collar professions

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that easily transition to remote work. Access to these resources is limited or unavailable to groups that are disadvantaged based on gender, race, ethnicity, social position, education, class, physical and cognitive ability, sexual orientation, and citizen status. The authors call for the collection of data on social factors as part of the analysis of COVID-19 morbidity and mortality, as well as including social factors in decision-making to identify risks and plan strategies for COVID-19 and all other health outcomes. Additionally, when a coronavirus vaccine becomes available, the authors advocate “that vaccines become rapidly accessible to those most at risk as a result of both biological and social vulnerabilities.” The co-authors include Bernadette Pauly, University of Victoria School of Nursing; Sawsan Abdulrahim, American University of Beirut; Sabina Faiz Rashid, BRAC University; Fernando Ortega, Universidad San Francisco de Quito; and Rashida A. Ferrand, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.


HAPPENINGS

Vakkalanka Awarded American College of Epidemiology’s Annual Student Paper Prize Priyanka Vakkalanka, a PhD student in epidemiology and occupational epidemiology trainee with the UI’s Heartland Center for Occupational Health and Safety, was selected as the 2020 recipient of the American College of Epidemiology’s Annual Student Paper Prize. Vakkalanka’s paper examines the effectiveness of treating opioid use dependence (OUD) in veterans with buprenorphine, an opioid agonist medication. Her research team conducted a study to determine whether treatment with buprenorphine was associated with mortality, and to determine whether risk of mortality varied by length of time from last known treatment. The study found that those who were not on buprenorphine were over four times more likely to die by suicide/overdose compared to those on treatment on any given day, and this risk did not significantly vary by time since last treatment. “This study adds to the growing body of evidence that buprenorphine treatment works and may have long-term beneficial health impacts,” says Vakkalanka.

Study Explores How Societal Development Affects Disease Transmission A research team led by University of Iowa College of Public Health investigators has received a $2.5 million grant over five years to study how societal development affects the transmission of diarrheal disease among infants in urban Kenya. The funding comes from the Fogarty International Center, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Enteric (intestinal) infections remain the second leading cause of diarrheal illness and death globally in children, despite significant improvements in access to latrines and safe water sources in countries with high rates of diarrheal disease. “Our study is focused on tracking how ongoing rises in the middle class in low-income countries induces a collapse in infectious diarrheal pathogen transmission and disease in infants,” says Kelly Baker, co-principal investigator of the study and assistant professor of occupational and environmental health. “Our statistical developments will allow us to understand points of vulnerability for children susceptible to enteric infections, teasing apart the different pathways of infection,” adds co-principal investigator Dan Sewell, assistant professor of biostatistics. The statistical and modeling tools developed through this project in urban Kenya will be widely applicable to studying multi-pathogen infectious disease transmission dynamics in other low- to middle-income countries, and will address global needs for evidence to prioritize urban development interventions. Additional co-investigators include Sriram Pemmaraju with the UI Department of Computer Science, and Blessing Mberu, Sheillah Simiyu, and Abdhalah Ziraba with the African Population Health Research Center.

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CLASS NOTES OLU AFOLAYAN (12MPH) is a clinical analyst at Blue Health Intelligence in Chicago, Illinois.

TRISHA KREMAN (03MPH) is a research grant administrator at Avera Health in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

BENJAMIN BOOTH (09MS) is an epidemiologist at the FDA in Washington, DC.

MOLLY LEE (17MPH) is the associate director, Center for Food Security and Public Health, at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa.

DON BRATHWAITE (19MPH) is an associate at JP Morgan Chase in Plano, Texas. ISABELLA BRAUHN (20MPH) is a service coordinator at Optimae LifeServices, Inc., Ottumwa, Iowa. MORGAN CASEY (16MPH) is the heart disease and stroke coordinator at the Iowa Department of Public Health in Des Moines, Iowa. PEGGY DOUGLAS (17MPH) is an epidemiologist at Washington State Department of Health in Seattle, Washington. KAITLIN EMRICH (09MPH) was named one of the Corridor Business Journal’s 2020 Forty Under 40, which recognizes leaders for having significant impact in their business and community early in their careers. Emrich is the assessment and health promotion supervisor at Linn County Public Health in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. RYAN GREKOFF (10MHA) is the medical group senior vice president at MercyOne Clinton in Clinton, Iowa. CAITLIN (LUECK) HARD (15MPH) is the senior director of product at HealthMine Inc. in Chicago, Illinois. ANNA HERRING-VANRYSWYK (05MS) is an epidemiologist and ELR project manager at North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health, in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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CORY MEAD (13MHA) is chief operating officer at Overland Park Regional Medical Center, part of HCA Midwest Health, in Overland Park, Kansas. DANIELA CLAUDIA MOGA (12PhD) is the Larry H. Spears Endowed Chair in Pharmacogenetics, assistant dean for research, and associate professor at University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky. MINH NHAT NGUYEN (16MPH) is a public health advisor on the tuberculosis team at USAID in Washington, DC. NOR RAHMAH NOR HASHIM (08MS) is the head of environmental health at PETRONAS in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. TYLER PETERSON (13MHA) is the senior director, data intelligence and interoperability, at Vizient, Inc. in Chicago, Illinois. ADAM PRICE (15MHA) is vice president of revenue cycle automation at Steward Health Care in Dallas, Texas. AARON REINKE (19MPH) is an epidemiologist at Black Hawk County Health Department in Waterloo, Iowa. JAMISON ROBINETT (19MHA) is an assistant administrator at St. Mark’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah. STEPHANIE KRAFT SHELEY (16MHA) is a consultant with Cambridge Reproductive Health Consultants in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

ALEX SYVERUD (20BS) is a clinical lab analyst at the State Hygienic Laboratory - University of Iowa in Coralville, Iowa. ANNE THEOBALD (15MS) is a data and evaluation coordinator at the City of Milwaukee in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. BLAKE THOMPSON (20BA) is a patient access representative at USF Health in Plant City, Florida. RACHEL TREVIZO (10MHA) was named one of the Corridor Business Journal’s 2020 Forty Under 40, which recognizes leaders for having significant impact in their business and community early in their careers. Trevizo is vice president of revenue cycle services at MediRevv in Coralville, Iowa. KATIE YOHNKE (12MPH) is an infection prevention specialist at Inova Health System in St. Louis, Missouri. TAO ZHANG (13PhD) is the director of biostatistics at Hengrui Medicine in Shanghai, China.

SHARE YOUR NEWS Have you started a new job, received an honor or award, or achieved a noteworthy milestone or accomplishment? Share your professional news and updates with fellow College of Public Health alumni! Submit your news to tara-mckee@uiowa.edu with Class Notes in the subject line. Be sure to include your year of graduation, department or program, and contact information so we can follow up with any questions.


GALLERY

Making a Positive Impact

A

hospital stay can be a stressful experience, but alumna Carol Ayangbile (13MHA) strives to make it as smooth as possible. Ayangbile recently started a new position as senior director of patient experience with Agilon Health. In her role, she coordinates with patients, physicians, and hospital administrators to ensure delivery of high-quality care. She also directly leads the work on CMS policies and guidelines around reimbursement based on care excellence metrics. Although patients generally perceive they’ll receive good care at most hospitals, “what makes them come back and remain loyal to the organization is how they felt they were treated and how they experienced the care they were provided,” says Ayangbile, who lives in Bettendorf, Iowa, and previously worked as director of patient experience with UnityPoint Health. While there are challenges in her job, “the wins are very rewarding,” she says. “Especially when you see the tremendous positive impact on patients, their families, and even the care teams!”

Ayangbile’s career was sparked by a desire to help others. “I always wanted to be in medicine, but my mom became very ill and I had to forgo attending medical school so I could help her recover from several brain tumor surgeries,” Ayangbile recalls. “I knew I still wanted to pursue a career in the health care field to help support the teams such as the one who walked that medical journey with my mom and my family, as well as support future patients and families. When I learned how health care administration could help me reach those goals, I chose that as my career path.” Ayangbile considers her MHA degree from Iowa “one of my most valuable assets in my career.” As a graduate student, she assisted with aspects of the planning and operationalization of two University of Iowa health care facilities. “Those opportunities opened up so many doors for me early in my career and even now,” she says. “This is one of the reasons I remain involved and give back to the students each year. I have a lot of pride in our program.” Supporting her community is also important. While at UnityPoint, Ayangbile developed “Medicine in the Barbershop,” an initiative to address a history of distrust within the African American community regarding health care. The partnership trains barbers and beauticians to have conversations about health and how to connect clients to health care services. The project received a grant from the College of Public Health’s Business Leadership Network. Ayangbile is energized about her new role at Agilon Health, where she’ll work closely with large physician groups across the nation. “Additionally, there’s already work underway to address equitable health care in underserved communities, and that’s something I’m really looking forward to,” she says. 25 INSIGHT FALL 2020


145 N. Riverside Dr. 100 College of Public Health Bldg., Room S257 Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2007

SPARK

Remember the crunch of snow and sting of winter wind on your cheeks as you trudged to class with a friend? Such ordinary moments now seem special looking back from our current pandemic vantage point. It has, without a doubt, been a tough year. Yet our students, faculty, and staff pulled together and successfully completed the fall semester by adapting to the many changes necessitated by the pandemic. It may not have been the year any of us were hoping for, but maybe it was a year that made us pause and be more grateful for the little things, like walking across campus after a fresh snowfall. PHOTO BY TIM SCHOON