SPHHS Alumni News - Summer 2012

Dean's Welcome

Welcome to the SPHHS Summer 2012 Newsletter. The School continues to improve its facilities which are so critical to faculty and student success, enhance the teaching and research efforts of the faculty, and provide meaningful on- and off-campus experiences for students. We are fortunate to have a SPHHS Dean's Advisory Board which assists the School in its efforts in the area of student opportunities, faculty opportunities, alumni services, corporate connections, and fund-raising. The Board meets this month, and it leads me to think about these individuals, some of whom are not SPHHS alumni, who volunteer their time and energy to improve the School and do so in their "spare" time. Each individual contributes as is appropriate given individual circumstances, and all for the betterment of the SPHHS. So what does it mean to give back to a group, despite being geographically or temporally distant? Why do it? I hope it is because people are thinking of the greater good, because people recognize they are in a position to offer assistance to others and significantly and positively impact others, or simply because people believe in the unique mission and vision of the SPHHS. I encourage you to find the group that speaks to you, whether it is the SPHHS or another entity. Such interactions benefit all sides, and I want to thank personally, the Board members and the many of you who contribute behind the scenes, supporting the students, faculty and staff of the SPHHS in their endeavors.

School News

SPHHS Celebrates Class of 2012

SPHHS Graduates 2012
Graduating seniors at the SPHHS Senior Recognition Ceremony

The School of Public Health and Health Sciences held its Senior Recognition Ceremony on Saturday, May 12, 2012 in the Fine Arts Center Concert Hall on the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus. The SPHHS ceremony recognized the undergraduate class of 2012, which this year welcomed over 400 graduating seniors into its ranks.

This year’s ceremony featured a welcome address from Dean C. Marjorie Aelion, who thanked families and friends in attendance for the many years of support they provided the graduates while at UMass Amherst. She also recognized the SPHHS faculty who inspired and educated the graduating students and helped to build a solid foundation for careers in public health and the health sciences. Dean Aelion saved the final tribute for the graduating seniors – thanking them for their countless hours of study and labor, their participation in internships and volunteer efforts, and for the dedicated research and lab work that many of them conducted.

Dean Aelion reinforced the School’s mission – and the common purpose that links the departments within the SPHHS – to improve the health, wellbeing, and quality of life of our fellow men and women. With her closing remarks, she welcomed our graduating seniors into the SPHHS’ growing alumni family.

The ceremony also featured remarks from Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Daniel Gerber, who acknowledged student award recipients and presented the SPHHS Outstanding Teacher Award to Frank Rife, Kinesiology, and the SPHHS Oustanding Online Teacher Award to Carol Bigelow, Public Health. Nutrition Department Head Nancy Cohen, Communication Disorders Department Chair Jane Baran, Public Health Department Chair Edward Stanek, and Kinesiology Department Chair Patty Freedson also addressed their student bodies before awarding the graduation medallions to their respective members of the Class of 2012.

The SPHHS Senior Recognition Ceremony helped cap the UMass Amherst Commencement weekend, which featured over a dozen individual ceremonies recognizing graduates from the individual schools and colleges, including Commonwealth Honors College. In addition, the Graduate School held its ceremony on Friday, May 11. The Graduate School ceremony recognized the students (including many within the SPHHS) who earned advanced graduate degrees from the university. Later that same day, the University held its annual Undergraduate Commencement, which welcomed Ted Koppel as its featured commencement speaker. Mr. Koppel, a renowned journalist and former ABC News’ “Nightline” correspondent, was awarded an honorary degree from the university.

Nutrition Hosts 24th Virginia A. Beal Lecture

Beal Dinner Guests 2012
Guests at the 24th Annual Virginia A. Beal Lecture and Dinner

The Department of Nutrition hosted the 24th Annual Virginia A. Beal Lecture and Dinner on April 30, 2012, in the Amherst Room on the 10th Floor of the Campus Center. The evening celebrated the memory of Professor Virginia Beal, who passed away this December, and focused on child nutrition research and practice, an area near and dear to her heart.

The lecture featured three notable UMass Amherst alumni discussing “The Challenges and Successes of Childhood Nutrition: What Works?” Ann Ferris ‘75, PhD, RD, Director of the Center for Public Health and Health Policy at the University of Connecticut, addressed obesity in children in a talk titled “Turning the Tide on Obesity in Young Children: Interventions that Work.” Ferris discussed the successes and challenges of the Husky Programs, a series of community nutrition outreach programs which seek to provide educational opportunities about healthy food choices, food safety, and physical activity for Connecticut citizens needing assistance.

Jean Anliker ‘85, PhD, RD, of UMass Extension, followed with a presentation on adolescent obesity interventions titled “Moving the Mark in Adolescent Obesity: Interventions that Work.” Anliker discussed her work with the Strength and Power in Nutrition (SPIN) and Challenge! programs, in which she employed social cognitive theory and Lindstrom’s marketing model for tweens to develop highly successful participatory programs that empower adolescents to improve their nutrition habits.

Elizabeth Ward ’84, MS, RD, freelance writer and nutrition consultant, capped the evening’s lectures with a discussion of “Nutrition for Families: Keeping It Real Using Today’s Technology.” Ward discussed how communicating nutrition information and healthy-eating strategies to families are evolving with the advent of Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, and other Internet-based media outlets.

The Beal Lecture and Dinner also featured an awards ceremony in which the Department recognized the recipients of departmental scholarships including the Virginia A. Beal Undergraduate and Graduate Scholarships, the Helen S. Mitchell Undergraduate and Graduate Scholarships, and the Peter L. Pellett Graduate Scholarship.

The 2012 scholarship awardees were:

  • Erwin Apaza – Virginia A. Beal Undergraduate Scholarship
  • Elizabeth Lundy – Virginia A. Beal Undergraduate Scholarship
  • Gina Ruscio – Virginia A. Beal Undergraduate Scholarship
  • Shanshan Chen – Virginia A. Beal Graduate Scholarship
  • Catherine Wickham – Virginia A. Beal Graduate Scholarship
  • Lindsey O’Regan – Helen S. Mitchell Undergraduate Scholarship
  • Sharmin Hossain – Helen S. Mitchell Graduate Scholarship
  • Shanshan Chen – Peter L. Pellett Graduate Scholarship

Throughout the course of the evening, Professor Beal’s legacy remained the focus of attention. Beal, a longtime member of the Food Science and Nutrition faculty from 1971 until 1986, was revered by her peers and impacted generations of students through her teaching and research. Department Head Nancy Cohen, along with Professor Emeriti Mokhtar Atallah and Peter Pellett, opened the evening with a moving tribute to the late Professor Beal. Many other alumni and friends shared their remembrances of Beal over the course of the evening.

Established through an endowment from Professor Beal, the annual Virginia A. Beal Lecture Series continues through the generosity of many alumni and friends. Beal presented the first lecture in 1989, and in the intervening years, well-known scholars in the field of nutrition have been invited to speak and honor her. In addition to the lectureship, Professor Beal endowed a series of scholarships to support nutrition students and a fellowship to support a doctoral student in nutrition.

Cohen has announced a fundraising goal of “25 for 25” in which the Department of Nutrition seeks to raise $25,000 by the 25th anniversary of the Virginia A. Beal Lecture and Dinner in an effort to keep the lecture series alive and flourishing. If you’d like to contribute to the Virginia A. Beal Lecture Series, please follow the link here, choose "School of Public Health and Health Sciences" in the "Allocation" drop-down menu, and then select "Virginia Beal Lecture Fund."

For more information on the Virginia A. Beal Lecture series, contact Nancy Cohen at cohen@nutrition.umass.edu.

Kinesiology Launches Walter Kroll Lecture Series

Walter Kroll
Commonwealth Professor Walter Kroll

The Department of Kinesiology hosted the 1st Annual Walter Kroll Memorial Lecture on April 19, 2012 in the Integrated Sciences Building. The Department launched the annual lecture series to honor the many contributions made by Commonwealth Professor Walter Kroll, one of the founding members of the Department of Exercise Science (later, Kinesiology) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1965.

For over three decades, Professor Kroll conducted novel research in Motor Integration, taught undergraduates in courses such as “Psychology of Coaching,” and mentored graduate students, many of whom began careers in higher education. His continual study of technical advances in a wide variety of fields helped him disseminate research concepts that had a major influence on others. These concepts included the use of intra-class correlation analysis of variance as a reliability instrument, the fractionated reaction time model, the use of multivariate statistical techniques to study, for example, the athlete personality, and neuromuscular stimulation as an impetus for Sensory Imparted Learning.

In the mid-1970s, Walter Kroll was named a Commonwealth Professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He was the author of two widely acclaimed books, Perspectives in Physical Education and Graduate Study and Research in Physical Education, and he published over 50 papers during his illustrious career.
Faculty and friends of Commonwealth Professor Walter Kroll

The inaugural lecture focused on “The Legacy of Commonwealth Professor Walter Kroll.” Department Chair Patty Freedson kicked off the event by welcoming the Kroll family, including Walter’s wife Jackie Kroll, and several professor emeriti (all former colleagues of Walter Kroll) who had turned out for the occasion.

Two of Professor Kroll’s doctoral students, Kinesiology Professor Gary Kamen and Robert Gilbert, Associate Professor of Exercise Science and Physical Education at Montclair State University, shared their remembrances of their former faculty advisor. Both noted Kroll’s passion for research and analysis, his unparalleled thoroughness of preparation, and his dedication to his students. He was a demanding mentor, “old school” in many respects, who challenged his students and motivated them to set their own expectations higher.

Waneen Spirduso, Ed.D., Professor Emerita in the Department of Kinesiology and Health at the University of Texas-Austin, delivered the keynote lecture. Spirduso, another protégé of Professor Kroll’s from their days at the University of Texas, noted how Professor Kroll changed her career trajectory and that of their department at the University of Texas, and how his vision and pursuit of excellence helped create a top-five doctoral program at UMass Amherst. His research output was prolific in the pre-computer and pre-Internet days, and his methodology helped set the standards for research design and statistics in the field of Kinesiology. Kroll was a champion of the profession, Spirduso added, who supported the field by publishing in professional journals aimed at “scholars, professionals, and practitioners.”

Most importantly, Kroll left a tremendous heritage of PhD graduates of the highest order. Of his more than 20 doctoral students, she noted, half hold leadership positions and continue to impact the next generation of students, who will then impact the generation after that, and on exponentially.

“The impact of a standout professor never ends,” Spirduso concluded.

In addition to the lecture, the Department also acknowledged three of its exceptional graduate students who had received awards from the American Kinesiology Association. A reception immediately followed the lecture.

For more information on this event, contact Department Chair Patty Freedson by email at psf@kin.umass.edu.

SPHHS Honors National Public Health Week

Research Day 2012
SPHHS staff members Megan Griffin, Erika MacDonald, and Lori Peterson attend the annual SPHHS Research Day.

The School of Public Health and Health Sciences celebrated a week’s worth of events in honor of “National Public Health Week 2012: A Healthier America Begins Today.” The events highlighted the School’s message of education, research, outreach and practice.

Among the student-centered activities during the week were the undergraduate major in Public Health Sciences’ Poster Internship and Study Abroad Day on April 2, 2012, and the School’s 15th Annual Research Day on April 3, 2012.

The Poster Internship and Study Abroad Day showcased the many internship and study abroad experiences of public health students, and provided peers with an idea of what opportunities are available both locally and globally, what students learn, and the value of practice-based learning. The Western Massachusetts Public Health Training Center also provided information and applications for paid summer internships available throughout the region as part of the School’s $2.5 million Training Center grant awarded by HRSA.

On Research Day, students from all SPHHS departments presented posters of their work. Posters were entered into a faculty-juried session and judged based on research content and presentation. Select individuals received awards for Research and Practice. In addition, Andrea Morand, Kinesiology, was presented with the Delta Omega Honor Society Award. Her winning poster abstract became eligible for further judging by the Delta Omega Society's national committee for possible presentation at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association.

In addition to those events, the Public Health Sciences program and the Public Health Club co-sponsored a traveling exhibit titled “The Ex-Smokers’ Hall of Fame” on April 3, 2012, in the Student Lounge in the UMass Amherst Student Union Center. The Ex-Smokers’ Hall of Fame celebrates the stories of former smokers who were successful in quitting. The event showcases their personal journeys to being smoke-free. By sharing their strategies for success, members of the Ex-Smokers’ Hall of Fame hope to provide inspiration and support to smokers trying to quit. Their stories illustrate that there is hope for people who attempt to quit. The Ex-Smokers’ Hall of Fame is a joint effort of the Hampshire Council of Governments’ Tobacco Free Community Partnership and the Massachusetts Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program.

Also on April 3, 2012, the campus welcomed Pierre Minn, postdoctoral fellow from UCLA, for a talk titled “Where They Need Me: Haitian Health Professionals and International Medical Aid Before and After the 2010 Earthquake.” The event, sponsored by the Five College Program in Culture, Health, and Science, of which the School is a member, included an informal dinner followed by the lecture.

SPHHS student clubs also sponsored a number of other events throughout the week, including workshops on CPR and First Aid Certification and Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, and a screening of the film “Contagion.”

Faculty News

In the Spotlight: Jacquie Kurland, Communication Disorders

Jacquie Kurland, Assistant Professor of Communication Disorders, recently received a five-year, $1.75 million grant to study neuroplasticity and mechanisms supporting language improvement in chronic aphasia, a speech-language disorder that frequently occurs following left-hemisphere stroke.

As Kurland explains, "Aphasia can affect any or all aspects of language including speaking and understanding spoken language, reading and/or writing. With brain injury from stroke, for example, people with aphasia know exactly what they want to say but they can’t access the words. In the end what we really want to do is increase the person’s functional independence, improve their language proficiency and maximize their quality of life."

In fact this work, which will focus on more severely aphasic individuals than typical studies, is innovative for its three-pronged approach using behavioral, neuro-imaging and quality-of-life measures to assess meaningful long-term improvements from intensive treatment plus a maintenance home therapy program.

Kurland and a full-time speech-language pathologist will conduct three one-year treatment experiments, enrolling eight different people per year who have chronic, moderate-to-severe aphasia. An important aspect of the study, supported by a National Institutes of Health grant, will be functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to characterize brain activity patterns that correlate with improved picture naming and to compare such patterns among treatment groups.

One of the key questions Kurland hopes to answer is which of two approaches, constraint-induced language therapy (CILT) or unconstrained language therapy (ULT), is most effective in helping people with aphasia to recover language skills and maintain them over time. In CILT, people are constrained to use only spoken words to communicate about pictured objects and actions during their therapy sessions. With ULT, they can use gestures, drawing, writing, pointing and facial expressions as well as speech.

Both therapies are expected to improve quality of life along with language skills, Kurland notes. But she expects the intense focus on speech in the CILT approach plus at-home practice to prove most effective and long-lasting. "We have anecdotal evidence that this type of training can improve such factors as confidence that can affect a person’s quality of life, but tools for measuring these changes are still being developed," she says.

"When a person has a stroke and aphasia, their social universe suddenly shrinks, they lose their job and the fulfillment of work and they have trouble communicating. Confidence can go way, way down. If we can offer improvement and boost their confidence to pick up the telephone or get out of the house and operate more independently, we’ll have succeeded."

Therapy for study participants, at no cost to them, will be intense, with daily three-hour sessions of speech and language treatment in the laboratory five days a week for two weeks using either CILT or ULT, followed by daily home practice sessions ("overlearning") and regular check-in sessions via video link.

Participants will undergo pre- and post-treatment diagnostic testing, including structural and functional MRI, and two post-treatment testing sessions at six months and one year after their therapy sessions. Kurland says she expects words that are trained and practiced, that is "overlearned" after CILT and ULT will show better maintenance in 12-month follow-up testing.

"The idea is to gradually improve one’s ability to verbally name an object or action that is pictured on a card. On the first day, it may be that a participant is unable to say ‘dog’ when shown a picture of a dog, but following the intensive practice retrieving first the word and then short phrases including the word, the connection between the concept and the word becomes more automatic."

In her experiments, the language researcher also looks for treatment-induced neuroplasticity, which is whether the brain’s structure and activities are changed by treatment as measured by analysis of the four fMRI tests per subject. A group of healthy, non-brain-damaged, age-matched subjects will serve as controls.

For information on eligibility to participate in this study, Kurland encourages persons with aphasia or their significant other to contact the Brain Research on Chronic Aphasia (BRoCA) lab at (413) 545-4008. The lab offers workshops for stroke survivors and family and a monthly support group. It also sponsors an annual Walk for Aphasia Awareness in downtown Amherst, held this year on April 14, 2012.

The aphasia research of Jacquie Kurland is featured in two new articles appearing in Health Care News and in the Springfield Republican. Kurland also recently appeared on WFCR. Follow the links to read more.

Conferences & Appearances

Peterman testifies for the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics

Jerusha Nelson PetermanJerusha Nelson Peterman, Assistant Professor of Nutrition, testified as an invited panelist on applications for community research for the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) in Silver Spring, MD on April 17, 2012. Her testimony came as part of the Subcommittee on Privacy, Confidentiality & Security’s two-day panel on “Next Steps for Community Data Use.”

The National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics was established by Congress to serve as an advisory body to the Department of Health and Human Services on health data, statistics and national health information policy. It fulfills important review and advisory functions relative to health data and statistical problems of national and international interest, stimulates or conducts studies of such problems and makes proposals for improvement of the Nation’s health statistics and information systems.

Peterman’s community-based research focuses on issues of food security, acculturation, and dietary choices in immigrant families. Her testimony helped to inform the panel on how building capacity in communities through research partnerships can strengthen the research process and help translate findings into community programs and applications.

Hamill delivers trio of keynote lectures

Joseph HamillJoseph Hamill, Professor of Kinesiology, recently appeared as the keynote lecturer at three conferences held over a two-week period in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. Regarded as a leading expert in the field of biomechanics, and in particular the mechanics of the lower extremity during locomotion, Hamill shared his latest research findings with his peers.

On March 30, 2012, Hamill presented “The Case for Shod Running” at the Mid-West American College of Sports Medicine Symposium held in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He followed that with an appearance in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on April 4, 2012. There, Hamill delivered “Altering Footfall Patterns: Implications for Running-Related Injuries” for the Biomechanics Interest Group Symposium. His travels concluded in Sydney, Australia on April 11, 2012, for the International Foot and Ankle Biomechanics Symposium, where he gave a keynote lecture titled “Rearfoot vs. Forefoot Footfall Patterns.”

Oransky delivers talk at TEDMED 2012

Ivan OranskyIvan Oransky, M.D., adjunct instructor in the online MPH in Public Health Practice program and executive editor at Reuters Health, was an invited speaker at TEDMED 2012. The annual conference was held this year on April 10-13 in the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.

Oransky delivered a talk titled “Is the ‘Disease Model’ Sick – Or Just Exhausted?” He argued that our current way of thinking about health, with its perverse incentives for both patient and health care provider, is driving up costs and anxiety while making us all more ill.

Fellow online MPH in PHP faculty member Marya Zilberberg, M.D., joined Oransky at TEDMED 2012 as a delegate. Zilberberg attended on a TEDMED Front-Line Scholarship, which is open to “anyone who is an innovator or leader or on the front lines of medicine, public service or research.” Zilberberg’s award covers the full registration cost for the TEDMED conference.

TEDMED is described as “a community of people who are passionate about imagining the future of health and medicine. Its curated audience includes thoughtful individuals from every realm of science, business, technology, government, religion, law, military, media and the arts.”

You can view Oransky's talk at TEDMED on his personal blog site. For more information on TEDMED, visit their website at www.tedmed.com.

Reich teaches workshop at Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health

Reich Thai WorkshopOn March 1-2, Nicholas G. Reich, Research Assistant Professor of Biostatistics, co-instructed a workshop titled “Forecasting Dengue Incidence and Outbreaks in Thailand” in Bangkok, Thailand with colleagues from Johns Hopkins University, where Reich received his PhD. The Field Epidemiology Training Program at the Ministry of Public Health in Thailand hosted the workshop.

The Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study, or MIDAS, sponsored Reich’s involvement in the workshop. MIDAS, an international research consortium, was established by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences in 2004 as a “collaborative network of research scientists who use computational, statistical and mathematical models to understand infectious disease dynamics and thereby assist the nation to prepare for, detect and respond to infectious disease threats.” (For more information, visit their website at https://www.epimodels.org/.)

Reich and his colleagues designed the workshop to introduce new methodologies that help predict dengue incidence and provide early warning of outbreaks in Thailand. The researchers discussed two approaches to prediction and outbreak detection. The first focuses on using the frequency of Internet searches related to dengue to identify outbreaks before they are evident in case data reported to the Thai Ministry of Public Health. The second method uses spatial and temporal correlation of dengue incidence in different provinces throughout Thailand to estimate the probability of future outbreaks in each Thai province months into the future. Both methods are implemented in the open-source R software package, a free statistical analysis tool used by researchers worldwide. Reich and colleagues provided the participants with code for running the predictions and creating “weather-map” style risk maps of outbreaks in Thailand.

Reich and his collaborators have been working for several years with the Ministry to develop these methods and incorporate them into an easy-to-use software package. “We hatched this idea with our Thai collaborators a few years ago and have been putting the pieces together since then,” said Reich. “This was the first time that we showed them a version of the software. Many of the participants told us that they were excited about using it in their work to help them understand the current outbreak threats in Thailand. We think there is great potential for these methods to be used to inform public health response to infectious disease epidemics in Thailand.”

Graduates of the Thai Field Epidemiology Training Program, many of whom currently serve as epidemiologists for the Ministry throughout Thailand, were the primary participants in the workshop.

DiFulvio presents at the 2012 NASPA Conference

Gloria DiFulvioGloria DiFulvio, undergraduate program director for the Public Health Sciences major, joined Diane Fedorchak and Sally Linowski of University Health Services (UHS) as featured presenters at the 2012 NASPA Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Prevention and Intervention Conference, held January 19-21 in Atlanta.

The campus' nationally recognized environmental management approach to substance abuse prevention has helped decrease dangerous drinking among students by as much as 48 percent since 2005. NASPA, the foremost professional association in the student affairs field, has featured university experts at its prevention conference seven times in the past three years.

DiFulvio and Fedorchak, director of the BASICS alcohol and other drug abuse prevention programs at UHS, led "Digital Stories: Shining Light on Hidden Voices." The session explored this emergent research method as a tool for understanding and assisting vulnerable populations including gender variant youth and students struggling with addiction.

Fedorchak and Linowski, director of UHS' Center for Health Promotion and co-chair of the Campus and Community Coalition to Reduce High-Risk Drinking, also joined Dolores Cimini of the University at Albany for "Engaging Human Capital: Fostering Collaborations and Stakeholder Enthusiasm for Alcohol and other Drug Interventions." The team called on experiences at both schools to show how simple efforts can help evidence-based intervention programs succeed.

The NASPA conference brings together senior-level campus administrators, alcohol education specialists, health promotion and prevention staff, and researchers from the alcohol and other drug arena to focus on advancing knowledge of student affairs educators and information-sharing about alcohol and other drug use on college and university campuses.

Learn more at NASPA conference.

Honors & Awards

Grants Manager Linda Downs-Bembury receives Chancellor's Citation for Excellence Award

Linda Downs-Bembury Citation
From left: Chancellor Robert C. Holub, SPHHS Grants Manager Linda Downs-Bembury, Vice Provost for Undergraduate and Continuing Education Carol Barr.

Linda Downs-Bembury, Grants Manager for the School of Public Health and Health Sciences, recently received one of ten Chancellor’s Citation Awards for 2012. Chancellor Holub honored Downs-Bembury, along with the other Citation recipients and the Gerald F. Scanlon Student Employee of the Year award winners, at a reception held on May 2, 2012, in the Marriott Center.

“I was very surprised when I received the call that I’d won the award,” said Downs-Bembury. “I knew I’d been nominated, but I didn’t think there was any chance I’d receive it. I think I beamed for the next week.”

The Chancellor’s Citation Award program was implemented in 1985 as part of the university’s continuing effort to reward exemplary performance. The award recognizes and honors university staff members who have demonstrated outstanding performance in contributing their time and/or skills in helping the university achieve its goals and objectives. Specifically sought are examples of original contributions to the university, attainment of high-priority university objectives, performance “beyond the call of duty,” and achievement of significant improvements in productivity or savings in university operations.

“It’s particularly meaningful to receive this award,” Downs-Bembury added. “In terms of personal performance, I think this is the highest award you could receive. It meant a lot to me to be able to receive it under Chancellor Holub’s leadership.”

Recipients may be nominated by any member of the campus community. Richard Peltier, Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences, championed Downs-Bembury for the award.

“I nominated Linda because she’s a wonderful co-worker who helped me immensely as a junior faculty member here,” Peltier commented in a video testimonial played at the award reception. “Linda’s primary responsibility to us as faculty is to accept our scientific research proposals that come in the form of scientific jargon and convert it into the language that’s necessary for the funders. Linda puts the burden of writing the science on me, and she takes all of the administrative hassle and takes it upon herself to help with that process. I wanted to thank Linda for all her hard effort and the wonderful work she does every day.”

“I was very, very touched by Rick’s video,” said Downs-Bembury. “It’s infrequent that people have the time to say thank you, and to have someone say thank you in such a public forum was really touching.”

“I’m still amazed,” she added. “I want it to happen again.”

Downs-Bembury has served as the SPHHS Grants Manager for the past 9 years. She has been a university employee for nearly 31 years.

Delta Omega Honor Society welcomes new members

New Delta Omega Members 2012
From left: Faculty inductee Susan Hankinson, Rho Chapter President Margaret McCarthy, Student inductee Steven Atwood

The Delta Omega Honor Society, Rho Chapter, inducted two new members into its ranks at a luncheon held on April 25, 2012, in the Marriott Center. Rho Chapter President Margaret McCarthy welcomed Steven W. Atwood, V.M.D., M.D., M.P.H., as its 2012 student inductee, and Susan E. Hankinson, Sc.D., Professor of Epidemiology in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences, as its 2012 faculty inductee.

Election to membership is intended to recognize merit and to encourage further excellence in public health. Atwood, a recent graduate of the online Master of Public Health in Public Health Practice program, was cited for academic excellence and demonstration of qualities of leadership in public health. Hankinson was recognized for her contributions to public health scholarship, teaching, research, and publication.
Delta Omega poster abstract winner Andrea Morand

McCarthy also recognized Andrea Morand, a graduate student in Kinesiology, as winner of the Delta Omega Honor Society’s poster abstract competition at this year’s SPHHS Research Day. Morand, who was awarded for her entry titled “Providing further construct validity for a newly developed measure of functional-living in older adults: Movement and Activity in Physical Space (MAPS),” discussed her research findings with luncheon participants.

Delta Omega is the national public health honor society within accredited schools and programs of public health. The purpose of the society is to encourage excellence in student scholarship and research, to recognize academic and professional achievement in the field of public health, and to promote continued effort in public health. Originally founded in 1924 at The Johns Hopkins University, the national Delta Omega Society has more than 70 local chapters in the U.S. and internationally. The Rho Chapter was founded at UMass Amherst in 1985 by Professor Emeriti Robert Tuthill and Howard Peters and Dean Emeritus William Darity.

Individuals must be nominated to join the Rho Chapter of the Delta Omega Honor Society. There are three categories of nomination: student, alumnus/a, and faculty. In addition to individuals in the Amherst on-campus programs, students in the Online MPH Program and in the UMass Worcester campus program are eligible for nomination for membership.

The Rho Chapter of the Delta Omega Society also co-sponsors, along with the School of Public Health and Health Sciences, the annual SPHHS Research Day held every spring.

Peterman named Family Research Scholar for 2012-2013

Jerusha Nelson PetermanJerusha Nelson Peterman, Assistant Professor of Nutrition, was among six UMass Amherst faculty members named as 2012-13 Family Research Scholars by the Center for Research on Families. She was selected to participate in the ninth cohort of the program on the basis of her promising work in family-related research.

The program provides selected faculty with the time, technical expertise, peer mentorship and national expert consultation to prepare a large grant proposal for their research support. A goal of the program is to bring together a diverse, multi-disciplinary group of faculty to foster innovation and collaboration across research areas related to the family.

Over the year, the scholars participate in an interdisciplinary faculty seminar that includes concrete instruction on the details of successful proposal submission and the resources of the university, individualized methodology consultation, and information about relevant funding agencies, which culminates with the submission of a research proposal to a major funding agency. For scholars, the program offers extra time through a course release, support and expertise. One current scholar lauds the program for giving him "the time, space, structure, and guidance to understand and get started in the world of large grants in a way that would not have been possible otherwise as an assistant professor." Since the program first began in 2003, 50 Family Research Scholars have submitted more than 136 proposals.

The Center for Research on Families' mission is to increase research on family issues, to build a multidisciplinary community of researchers who are studying issues of relevance to families, to connect national and internationally prominent family researchers with faculty and students, to provide advanced data analytic methods training and consultation, and to disseminate family research findings to scholars, families, practitioners and policymakers. Research at CRF encompasses disciplines as diverse as the life sciences, social sciences, public health and nursing, education, and natural resources. CRF is a research center of the College of Natural Sciences and the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and has affiliated faculty from departments across campus.

Peterman will be researching the "Predictors and Dietary and Health Consequences of Food Insecurity in Immigrant Families in the U.S."

See the complete list of Family Research Scholars.

Norton receives Student Choice Award

Claire NortonClaire Norton, Lecturer and Undergraduate Program Director for the Department of Nutrition, has received the Residential First-Year Experience (RFYE) Student Choice Award. First-year students were given the opportunity to nominate a professor or instructor who had a profound influence on them during their first semester. Nominations were made for a variety of reasons, including: inspiring students to learn, hosting interesting and motivating lectures, going above and beyond to support first-year students, helping students adjust to college, challenging students to reach their full potential, and much more.

The RFYE Student Choice Award is organized by the Residential First Year Experience program in the office of Residential Life at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Rife receives SPHHS College Outstanding Teacher Award

Frank Rife, Associate Professor of Kinesiology, and Undergraduate Program Director and Chief Undergraduate Advisor for the Department of Kinesiology, has received the College Outstanding Teacher Award for the School of Public Health and Health Sciences. The award is sponsored by the UMass Amherst Provost’s Office and the Center for Teaching & Faculty Development, and given annually to honor individual faculty members for their teaching accomplishments.

Rife was recognized at the UMass Amherst Undergraduate Commencement and at the School’s Senior Recognition Ceremony. He was cited for his impact on students and contributions to the teaching mission at the university.

“I am honored to receive this award as it suggests that my major goal in teaching might be having a positive impact,” said Rife. “One of my major goals in class is to engage my students. I try to encourage them to challenge me, and I seek this by developing a questioning atmosphere in my classrooms where both civility and curiosity are valued. Basically I want students to be confident in what they know before they begin to apply what they have learned. The end goal is to encourage them to be better at making decisions based on sound and critical analysis and evaluation.”

This past year, Rife taught two classes each semester: (1) a senior-level course entitled Wellness for All which includes the effects of lifestyle choices on health and fitness and also information on health disparities and possible solutions to reduce those disparities, and (2) a course in Fitness Management which provides some of the business-related skills that students will need in various careers in Allied Health. In addition to his teaching duties in the Kinesiology Department, he is the undergraduate program director and chief undergraduate advisor. Rife’s area of expertise is in campus wellness and fitness programs, as well as workplace wellness and health promotion programs and fitness management.

Bigelow receives SPHHS Outstanding Online Teacher Award

Carol BigelowThe School of Public Health and Health Sciences has named Carol Bigelow, Research Associate Professor of Biostatistics, as the 2012 recipient of the SPHHS Outstanding Online Teacher Award. The award, which is given annually by the School, recognizes excellence in online teaching.

Bigelow, who taught online courses in Introductory Biostatistics and Practical Data Management & Statistical Computing, was cited for her contributions to teaching in an online classroom environment. Her research interests are in the areas of clinical epidemiology, randomized trials, and cancer prevention.

“Dr. Bigelow teaches two of the most challenging online MPH courses, and does so brilliantly,” said Daniel Gerber, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Director of the online MPH in Public Health Practice program. “She has the ability to tailor the courses to each student’s unique ability, thereby ensuring success. She is also highly approachable, amiable, and willing to put in extra effort to assist her students. Her efforts are most appreciated by all who have the privilege of learning from her.”

“I’m so grateful to the students I’ve been able to reach,” said Bigelow. “It was a joint effort to say the least. This recognition is a wonderful encouragement to keep after the rest.”

Carbone named Director of Community Research Engagement

Elena CarboneCommonwealth Honors College has appointed Elena Carbone to serve as director of community research engagement. Her goal will be to identify faculty involved in community-engaged research and develop means to get outstanding honors students involved in this research.

Carbone is an Associate Professor in the Department of Nutrition. Her research expertise is in community nutrition, especially regarding how people make behavioral decisions regarding diet and health practices. Based on her research findings, she has developed interventions for various target audiences, including adults and children, Latinos, and low-income and low-literate individuals.

Read more at Commonwealth Honors College.

Heffernan named Director of the Western Massachusetts Public Health Training Center

Dawn HeffernanThe School of Public Health and Health Sciences announced the hiring of the Western Massachusetts Public Health Training Center’s (PHTC) new director, Dawn Heffernan. As director, Dawn will oversee the center’s internship program, collaborative community-based projects, and training of community health workers and other frontline health workers.

Dawn joins the PHTC’s Team bringing a wealth of experience and knowledge in community health, chronic disease management, program development, and training and supervision of community health workers. Dawn is known throughout the state for her work in diabetes and chronic disease at Holyoke Health Center where she worked for the past eight years. She is welcomed back to the University where she completed her undergraduate and graduate studies in the School of Nursing.

Peltier receives Health Effects Institute’s New Investigator Award

Richard PeltierRichard Peltier, Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences, was recently selected as a recipient of the 2011 Walter A. Rosenblith New Investigator Award by the Health Effects Institute (HEI). The HEI is a nonprofit corporation chartered in 1980 as an independent research organization to provide high-quality, impartial, and relevant science on the health effects of air pollution.

The New Investigator Award is named after the late Dr. Walter A. Rosenblith, chair of the HEI’s first Research Committee and a former member of its Board of Directors. The award supports the work of a promising scientist early in his or her career, and is given based on the applicant’s potential for a productive scientific career in air pollution research, the support provided by the applicant’s institution, and the scientific merit of the research project and its relevance to HEI’s mission.

Peltier received the award for a project titled “Development of a new method for measurement of reactive oxygen species associated with PM2.5 exposure.” With the award, he plans to develop a new instrument that can quantify the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) caused by fine particulate matter (PM) exposure.

Grant News

Choe awarded grant to study robot-mediated stroke rehabilitation

Yu-kyong ChoeYu-kyong Choe, Assistant Professor of Communication Disorders, has been awarded a two-year, $109,251 grant from the American Heart Association (AHA) to examine “Interdisciplinary Stroke Rehabilitation Delivered by a Humanoid Robot.”

Nearly three million Americans chronically experience the debilitating effects of stroke on their daily communication, dexterity, and mobility. Even at the chronic stage, stroke patients can make significant recoveries from these disabilities; however, intensive rehabilitation programs are rarely available or accessible for most stroke patients.

Choe’s research project will explore alternative methods of delivering needed therapy services. In collaboration with Roderic Grupen, Professor of Computer Science, Choe will utilize a humanoid robot to deliver both speech and physical therapy services to stroke patients.

The proposed study will compare two treatment conditions: robot-mediated and computer-mediated. In the robot-mediated condition, patients will complete word-retrieval tasks and upper-limb exercises delivered by a humanoid robot. In the computer-mediated condition, the same tasks and exercises will be presented on a laptop computer. Choe predicts that the robot-mediated condition will yield better outcomes in both speech and physical functions because of the interactive engagement and the resultant patient-robot interactions.

Choe’s research holds the potential for clinical research as well as clinical practice. The robot-mediated treatment program can deliver highly structured therapy activities, and it can ensure the consistency of tasks across therapy sessions and across treatment conditions. Choe envisions future projects utilizing the humanoid robot as a reliable research tool to further test various aspects of interdisciplinary stroke rehabilitation.

To learn more about Choe’s project or to participate in the study, please call her (413-545-4297) or e-mail her (ychoe@comdis.umass.edu).

Van Emmerik leads research team examining impact of soldier's equipment load

Van Emmerik Research Team
From left: Mike Busa, Luis Rosado, Richard Van Emmerik, Chris Palmer, Jongil Lim and Darnell Simon at a Viet Nam memorial on campus. Photo courtesy of UMass Amherst.

A team of researchers led by Richard Van Emmerik recently received a 2.5-year, $975,000 grant through the Navy Health Research Center in the Department of Defense to study how the average 100-lb. equipment load carried by soldiers, which can be even heavier in some missions, affects their survivability, likelihood of injury and ability to carry out missions.

"Load is not a new issue for field commanders to consider," says Van Emmerik, who is director of the Sensory-Motor Control Laboratory. "But while past studies typically focused on how load affects gait and the lower body, we will for the first time look at how the upper body, trunk and head coordinate in a soldier who is burdened by a heavy load, which is a fundamentally different and a more complex situation."

Doctoral candidate Christopher Palmer, an Army employee who is an expert in motor control and military performance and a key member of Van Emmerik's team, adds, "To us, gait is just the beginning. We'll introduce a visual search task and track the coordination of upper body, postural control and visual acuity. No study has yet added all these, plus other factors, together in a realistic way to look at how load affects the soldier's ability to perceive threats, his or her operational effectiveness and survivability in combat."

Findings will also have practical significance for firefighters, police, rescue workers and others who must wear helmets, body armor, backpacks or other equipment while carrying out their duties.

The Kinesiology research team, which includes doctoral students Mike Busa and Luis Rosado, with postdoctoral fellows Darnell Simon and Jongil Lim, will recruit highly trained infantrymen as laboratory subjects who will be tested with no load as well as while carrying a variety of loads between 70 and 120 lbs. for the studies.

Van Emmerik notes, "Biomechanics has taught us a lot over the past 30 years about load and locomotion, stamina, oxygen use, energy use and so on. We'll expand to look at whether load affects reaction time, visual attention to critical details and the ability to discriminate friend or foe. We'll set up some fairly realistic tasks such as having a soldier jump off the back of a truck, scan an area, and then immediately hit targets in a marksmanship test."

In preliminary tests, Palmer says, they have used participants who are "fresh" and not fatigued. But as work progresses, they plan to also conduct tests with women and with subjects who are tired to see if they have trouble recognizing friend or foe on a radio call or taking a marksmanship test wearing night vision goggles, for example. "We'll add different layers of stress in a smart progression so that we can understand what each layer is adding to the challenge."

Overall, the Kinesiology research team would like to be able to report to the military a great deal of new knowledge about the physical and mental trade-offs and limitations that come with soldiers carrying heavy loads, and of which a field commander can be aware.

"We'd like to contribute to commanders being able to make better decisions about what can be accomplished under certain conditions," Van Emmerik says. "For example, if the protective equipment has to be x, y and z, where can you expect the sharp drop in performance and how can you balance that with mission success?"

Reich receives UMass Amherst Open Education Initiative Grant

Nicholas ReichNicholas Reich, Research Assistant Professor of Biostatistics, was recently selected as a recipient of an Open Education Initiative Grant by the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The grant comes as part of a joint incentive program by the Provost’s Office and the University Libraries to encourage faculty to use existing technology and information resources to support student learning.

The high cost of commercial print textbooks is a growing concern for students and their families. The Open Education Initiative provides grants based on competitive proposals designed to support faculty to use non-traditional educational resources as an alternative to the traditional textbook.

Reich received a $1000 grant for his proposal to develop a statistical computing course that will utilize freely available resources for statistical learning, such as the popular software program R. He will deploy this alternative curricular resource strategy for his Introduction to Statistical Computing and Data Visualization course to be taught during the Fall 2012 semester.

Please visit http://guides.library.umass.edu/oer for more information on Open Education Resources.

For more information on the R Project for Statistical Computing, please visit http://www.r-project.org/.

Kinesiology doctoral students LaBarbera, Xin receive ACSM Foundation Research Grants

Ling Xin and Kate Labarbera
From left: Ling Xin and Kate LaBarbera

Kate LaBarbera and Ling Xin, Kinesiology doctoral students, have been awarded research grants from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Foundation. The ACSM Foundation awards research grants for doctoral students up to $5,000 for a one-year period. The awards are to be used for experimental subjects, supplies, and small equipment needs.

The ACSM Foundation Doctoral Student Research Grant program awarded LaBarbera for a proposal titled “NF-κB and muscle damage effects on endothelial cells.” LaBarbera hopes to gain a better understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms of muscle repair and regeneration. In order to do this, her study will focus not only on muscle cells, but also on the cells that contribute to the skeletal muscle environment, including pericytes and endothelial cells. Pericytes are a type of cell that associates with endothelial cells, which form capillary vessels. The aim of her project is to determine how pericyte NF-κB, a transcription factor that regulates many cellular processes including proliferation and muscle damage stimulus, affects endothelial cell proliferation in vitro. She also hopes to identify the cytokines involved in the signaling process between pericytes and endothelial cells. This would identify for the first time that endothelial cells are important for muscle regeneration.

Xin received her award for a proposal titled “Attenuated inflammation: contralateral repeated bout effect.” Her research examines the phenomenon of “repeated bout effect” (RBE), in which a second strenuous exercise session causes less damage to the same muscle used in the initial session. Her previous research has shown that RBE also occurs in the opposite (contralateral) leg. The mechanisms to explain this finding are not known. Her project will examine if the contralateral RBE is due to a blunted inflammatory response involving nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB), which is believed to be an important stimulator of inflammation after damaging exercise. The identified molecular and cellular mechanisms involving NF-κB from this project may be important in the development of interventions to enhance contralateral RBE while setting up rehabilitation exercise for a unilaterally immobilized limb and in identifying targets of future therapies to facilitate recovery from injury.

The ACSM began its Foundation Research Grant Program in 1989. In 2011, the program awarded approximately $111,000 among 19 research students.

Media & Publications

Online MPH-PHP program highlighted in Continuing & Professional Education promotional spot

The online Master of Public Health in Public Health Practice degree program is highlighted in a new promotional spot produced by Continuing & Professional Education. The promo features MPH-PHP alum Marie Meckel. View the promo below!

Foulkes' research could improve testing, resource use for treating AIDS in poorer countries.

Associate ProfessorOne of the major problems that has slowed progress toward universal access to life-saving antiretroviral therapy (ART) to treat AIDS in developing nations has been limited availability of laboratories and trained medical staff to conduct blood tests of immune system CD-4 T-cell levels that indicate when to start ART.

Now, Andrea Foulkes, Associate Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences, with colleagues at Philadelphia’s Wistar Institute and elsewhere, propose a tool for prioritizing laboratory-based CD-4 cell count testing by linking cell counts to other patient data. They report details of their new “prediction-based classification” (PBC) system in the current issue of PLoS Medicine. Researchers in the United States, Argentina, South Africa, Canada, the U.K. and Malaysia took part in the study at seven sites around the world.

Foulkes, who with others at UMass Amherst has been actively driving this research, says, “By using these new statistical tools, we can decide how to allocate resources to the patients who need them the most. In other words, we identify which patients are most likely to benefit from secondary testing.” PBC could reduce by nearly 57 percent the number of CD-4 tests needed during the first year of ART.

The study is a retrospective analysis that modeled CD-4 counts from 1,000 HIV-infected individuals. The researchers used estimates derived from the model to predict, from CD-4 counts taken at the start of treatment plus white blood cell counts and lymphocyte percentage measurements taken later, whether CD-4 counts would be above the threshold recommended for starting ART and how a patient would do over time.

Dr. Luis Montaner at the Wistar Institute says, “Our algorithm could be used as a triage tool to direct available laboratory CD-4 testing capacity to high-priority individuals, that is, those likely to experience a dangerously low CD-4 count.” He and colleagues believe that with additional testing and refinement, their PBC system could increase the ability of medical and laboratory facilities in poorer countries to maintain AIDS treatment.

“Our data raises the possibility that we could save money in order to save more lives,” Montaner points out. Foulkes, Montaner and colleagues say that more studies are needed to demonstrate the long-term feasibility, clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the PBC approach and whether the accuracy of its predictions can be improved.

The work was supported by the National Institutes of Health, The Philadelphia Foundation and The Wistar Institute.

The full, freely available journal article can be found online here on PLoS Medicine’s website.

Zilberberg authors book on how to evaluate medical literature

Marya ZilberbergMarya Zilberberg, M.D., M.P.H., adjunct faculty in the online Master of Public Health in Public Health Practice program, has authored Between the Lines: Finding the Truth in Medical Literature. The book is available in print and e-book format through EviMed Research Press.

Between the Lines aims to educate readers from all walks of life about how to evaluate some of the claims behind today’s health news headlines. Dr. Zilberberg seeks to demystify the nuances of such details as what constitutes a valid scientific question, how to judge whether the study design is appropriate, how to identify common threats to validity, and how to evaluate a study’s conclusions. Between the Lines is written for a broad audience ranging from journalists and healthcare professionals to students and those who are interested in becoming a savvier consumer of medical information.

Zilberberg is the Founder, President and CEO of EviMed Research Group, a research and scientific communication consultancy specializing in epidemiology, evidence-based medicine, health services and outcomes research. In addition to her position with the UMass Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences, she serves as a Senior Fellow at the Jefferson School of Population Health, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA. She has authored or co-authored over 150 peer-reviewed articles, scientific presentations and book chapters, including systematic reviews, meta-analyses and cost-effectiveness models. She blogs at Healthcare, etc.

You can listen to Zilberberg discussing her book on New England Public Radio here. To obtain a copy of Between the Lines, visit the book web site.

Bertone-Johnson writes invited commentary for the Archives of Internal Medicine

Elizabeth Bertone-JohnsonElizabeth Bertone-Johnson, Associate Professor of Epidemiology, has co-written an invited commentary for the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

In the commentary, Bertone-Johnson and co-author JoAnn Manson discuss a new study by Italian researchers suggesting that a single ultra-high dose of vitamin D may help women with painful menstrual periods and allow them to forgo the use of painkillers. Bertone-Johnson and Manson recommend larger trials with a longer follow-up to confirm the benefits and weigh them against the potential long-term risks associated with such high doses.

The new study, along with Bertone-Johnson and Manson's commentary, are receiving additional press coverage at CBS News and MedPage Today. To read their commentary, click here.

Alhassan's research featured in UMass Amherst's Report on Research 2011

Sofiya AlhassanThe work of Sofiya Alhassan, Assistant Professor of Kinesiology, is featured prominently in the UMass Amherst Report on Research 2011. The article discusses Alhassan’s efforts to combat childhood obesity and diabetes through an approach focusing on both dance and family. Her work is cited as having the potential to have an immediate effect on families in Springfield, Massachusetts, as well as on the university’s efforts to increase its collaboration with the city.

Read the full UMass Research Report 2011. Alhassan’s story can be found on page 10 of the PDF file.

Freedson answers question in a new "Ask the Experts" column for Runner's World

Patty FreedsonPatty Freedson, Chair of the Department of Kinesiology, explains why walking pedometers are more suitable for measuring steps than distance covered in a new "Ask the Experts" column appearing in Runner's World.

Read her answer.

Braun quoted in Reuters Health story on sedentary behavior

Barry BraunBarry Braun, Associate Professor of Kinesiology, comments in a Reuters Health story on a new study that finds that taking a break to walk around every 20 minutes, rather than staying seated for hours at a time, helps reduce blood glucose levels and insulin after eating.

Read the article.

Kent-Braun quoted in NY Times article on new research linking physical activity with better sleep

Jane Kent-Braun, Professor of Kinesiology, is quoted in a New York Times article about new research linking physical activity with better sleep. A 2011 study done at UMass Amherst showed that there is a very strong correlation between sleep quality and physical activity.

Read the article.

Ronnenberg comments on the "Vitamin D" dilemma in Supermarket News health blog

Alayne RonnenbergAlayne Ronnenberg, Associate Professor of Nutrition, comments on "The Vitamin D Dilemma" in "Refresh: A whole health blog" published on the Supermarket News website. She contributes several different factors to the worldwide problem of Vitamin D deficiency.

Read the article.

Clarkson provides commentary in CBS News Healthwatch article on muscle soreness

Priscilla ClarksonPriscilla Clarkson, Professor of Kinesiology and Dean of the Commonwealth Honors College, comments on a study that shows massage can help sore muscles recover from hard exercise. Clarkson, who studies post-exercise muscle soreness, says the new study didn’t look at whether massage reduced pain.

Read the article.

Bertone-Johnson's Vitamin D research cited in MSN Health article

Elizabeth Bertone-JohnsonThe research of Elizabeth Bertone-Johnson, Associate Professor of Epidemiology, is cited in a story appearing in MSN Health on how vitamin D may affect mental health, especially in winter when many people suffer from seasonal affective disorder.

Student News

Student Clubs Host Bistro Night

Bistro Night 2012
From left: Young alumni panelists Ingrid Ludwig, Kayleigh O'Connor, and Zac Lamb

The undergraduate student clubs in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences, including the Public Health Club, the Kinesiology Club, the UMass Nutrition Association, and the UMass chapter of the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association, hosted the SPHHS Bistro Night on February 1, 2012, in the Campus Center’s Amherst Room. Bistro Night was supported through a student grant awarded by the Student Alumni Association to Jessica He, an undergraduate Public Health Sciences major. Ms. He co-organized the event along with Public Health Club president Catie Piccolo and vice president Sarra Sabouri.

Bistro Night served as an informal career and information resource for students pondering life after graduation. The event drew students from within and outside the SPHHS considering careers in public health or the health sciences. Numerous student groups and organizations, including representatives from each of the four SPHHS student groups, service and philanthropy clubs, Career Services, the International Programs Office, the American Cancer Society, the Pre-Med Society, EMS, and Habitat for Humanity, tabled the event to provide an opportunity to talk with students informally and to answer questions.

Bistro Night’s featured event was a young alumni panel discussion. Recent alumni from each of the four undergraduate majors fielded questions from the student audience.

The young alumni panelists included:

  • Abbie Doucette, ’11, Public Health Sciences
  • John Kleschinsky, ’04, Kinesiology, ’07MPH, Public Health
  • Laura Hutchinson, ’04, ’08PhD, Nutrition
  • Ingrid Ludwig, ’09, Communication Disorders
  • Kayleigh O’Connor, ’10, Communication Disorders
  • Zac Lamb, ’10, Kinesiology
  • Rebecca Thibault, ’11, Kinesiology

The alumni panelists shared their various experiences upon life after graduation, including career options and choices, applying for internships and graduate school, and volunteering for community-based service organizations.

Around the School

SPHHS students awarded Center for Research on Families Grants

Talia GrossmanThree students in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences have been awarded grants from the UMass Amherst Center for Research on Families.

Talia Grossman, an undergraduate in Communication Disorders, received one of two Family Research Undergraduate Assistantships. The assistantship enables an undergraduate to work with a faculty member on a family research project through a grant of $3,000. Grossman was awarded for her proposal titled “The Impact of Developmental Disabilities on Family Relationships.” She will conduct her research with faculty mentor Mary Andrianopoulos, Associate Professor of Communication Disorders. Her research with Dr. Andrianopoulos will examine sibling relationships in families with developmentally disabled or delayed children.

Eden Ketema, a recent Public Health Sciences graduate, received one of four Family Research Honors Thesis/Capstone Awards. This spring, Ketema worked with a group of SPHHS students and Square One, a non-profit organization in Springfield, MA, through internships provided by the Western Massachusetts Public Health Training Center. Ketema and her cohort worked on an assessment of the organization’s childcare services.

In addition, Shanshan Chen, a doctoral student in Public Health-Nutrition concentration, was selected for one of eleven Family Research Graduate Travel Awards.

For more information on the Center for Research on Families Award Recipients, click here.

Kinesiology students receive American Kinesiology Association Awards

AKA Award Recipients 2012
From left: Amanda Libertine, Jeffer Sasaki, Stephen Foulis

Five students from the Department of Kinesiology, including three graduate and two undergraduate students, were named recipients of American Kinesiology Association (AKA) awards for 2012.

Doctoral student Stephen A. Foulis and Master’s student Amanda Libertine were selected as National Graduate Scholars for 2012. The AKA Scholar Awards “honor a select number of students whose academic and leadership records are distinctive.”

Jeffer Sasaki, a doctoral student, was chosen for a Student Writing Award. This award recognizes select graduate students who have published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals. Sasaki was awarded for his publication “Validation and comparison of ActiGraph activity monitors”, which appears in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport.

Salim Zerriny and Michael V. Cavaliere were named as National Undergraduate Scholars for 2012. This award recognizes the “professional competence and dedication of academically accomplished undergraduate students.”

Kinesiology student Michaela Butler named UMass Winter Scholar-Athlete

Michaela ButlerMichaela Butler, a Kinesiology major, was selected as the female UMass Winter Scholar-Athlete for 2011-12. UMass Athletics recently honored her at a weekly Sports Luncheon.

A member of the UMass Amherst diving team, Butler was also named the 2012 Atlantic 10 Women's Most Outstanding Diver of the Year after winning gold medals in both the one- and three-meter dives at the A-10 Championship meet. She went undefeated during the regular season on the boards and competed in the NCAA Zone A Championship, a qualifier for the individual NCAA Women’s Swimming and Diving Championship.

Butler, who sports a 3.4 GPA, plans to become an orthopedic surgeon. “The Kinesiology major is really helpful for a pre-med student,” said Butler. “I’m learning a lot about the human body, which sets me apart from a biology or chemistry major.”

Michaela Butler DivingButler cites Eliza Frechette, Lecturer in the Kinesiology Department, as one of her academic influences. “Professor Frechette makes sure we’re on task and learning, but she makes it fun at the same time.”

“It’s a pleasure to have a student like Michaela in my class,” said Frechette. “She has a great attitude and works well with her peers. More importantly, she implements and demonstrates the skill sets we want to foster in our student-athletes. She has excellent communication skills, she understands time management, and she takes responsibility for her learning. She doesn’t expect a grade to be handed to her. She earns it.”

For Butler, there’s little time for rest. In addition to her Kinesiology studies, she trains daily throughout the year. “My goal for next season is to qualify for the NCAA women’s diving championship.”

Butler has two years of eligibility remaining after taking a redshirt season last year. The 2012-2013 diving season begins in October.

Communication Disorders' Tompkins receives William H. Ross Memorial Scholarship

Stephanie TompkinsStephanie Tompkins, a recent Communication Disorders graduate, received one of four William H. Ross Memorial Scholarships awarded for 2012. The award is made in memory of William H. Ross, former Professor of Physics at UMass Amherst.

Dr. Ross began as an instructor in 1933 and would eventually receive his full professorship in 1956. He was named UMass Amherst’s first Distinguished Teacher of the Year in 1962. Dr. Ross was also a charter member of both the University of Massachusetts Senate and Faculty Club.

The William H. Ross Memorial Scholarship is open to juniors or seniors enrolled as a full-time student at UMass Amherst. Students must be in good academic standing, be registered in a major program, demonstrate financial need, and present a written paper on the subject “What I plan on doing after graduation that will help society as a whole.”

Tompkins recently finished her Honors Capstone Thesis, in which she investigated an alternative method to cochlear implants for those with high frequency hearing loss. The alternative device is similar to a hearing aid. Tompkins will enroll in the Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.) degree program in the Communication Disorders department at UMass Amherst, where she will continue to aid those with hearing loss to improve their quality of life.

Wickham awarded Food Safety Student Challenge Scholarship

Cathy WickhamCatherine Wickham, a doctoral student of Public Health in the Nutrition concentration, was selected as one of nine winners of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation/ConAgra Foods Food Safety Student Challenge Scholarship. Ms. Wickham received the $5000 award based on the program plan she designed to help educate college students on the importance of home food safety.

The Food Safety Student Challenge centers around the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ (formerly the ADA) Home Food Safety campaign, which provides home food safety statistics, information about food borne illness (also known as food poisoning), and safe food handling information and tips. Together with ConAgra Foods, the Academy developed four simple and easy-to-follow home food safety messages, drawn from government recommendations and the Academy’s positions:

  • Wash Hands Often
  • Keep Raw Meat and Ready-to-Eat Foods Separate
  • Cook to Proper Temperatures
  • Refrigerate Promptly Below 40° F

The Food Safety Student Challenge aims to educate and improve food safety for those living on campus focusing on these four key areas. The program emphasizes the unique opportunity campus living provides to educate college students on the importance of food safety.

Ms. Wickham’s proposal incorporated these messages through a blog titled Dorm Food Safety. The blog linked to resources on www.homefoodsafety.org and other sites such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and addressed issues specific to college students living in a dorm environment. In addition posters with the four key messages were developed and displayed on-campus and in dorm kitchens. The posters included a quick response code (QR code) which linked back to the blog and to www.homefoodsafety.org.

“The latest CDC statistics indicate that 1 in 6 Americans will become sick with a foodborne illness each year,” notes Ms. Wickham. “Students who store food in their dorm rooms or cook in dorm kitchens may be at an increased risk due to their unique environments. For example, small room refrigerators do not hold foods to proper temperature, or they may lack experience in safe food-handling practices – like leaving pizza out all night and eating it for breakfast!”

Ms. Wickham implemented the program over an eight-week period. Each week a new blog post covering a different key message or topic was available. Students had the opportunity to take a short questionnaire at the end of each week’s blog and be entered into a raffle to win gift certificates.

Communication Disorders announces scholarship recipients

The Department of Communication Disorders announced the recipients of its annual scholarship awards at the Department’s Senior Farewell Night held this year on April 22, 2012. The 2012 scholarship recipients are:


Kimberly Ann Soucy Scholarship

Stephanie Tompkins


Miriam P. Romo Award

Megan Cronin


Gilbert C. Tolhurst Senior Scientist Award

Samantha Downie


Henry B. Peirce Service Award

Angela Costanzi
Megan Skerry


National Student Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Angela Costanzi

SPHHS recognizes 2012 Research Day award winners

Research Day Winners 2012
From left: Dr. Christine Rogers, Stephen Bell, Shanshan Chen, Andrea Morand, Daniel Feldman, Associate Dean for Research Elaine Puleo, Dr. Aline Gubrium, Nina Moore, Ling Xin, Dean Marjorie Aelion

Dean Marjorie Aelion recently honored the winners of the 15th Annual Research Day faculty-juried poster competition held this year on April 3, 2012. Posters were judged based on content and presentation and awarded in two distinct categories: Research and Practice. One student was also presented with the Delta Omega Honor Society Award, which is given annually based on the poster abstract submission.

Dean Aelion welcomed the winners and their faculty advisors at an afternoon reception held in Arnold House, where the participants had the opportunity to discuss their research among faculty and peers in a more informal setting.

The 2012 Research Day Award winners were:


Delta Omega Honor Society Award:

Andrea Morand (MS, Kinesiology). "Providing further construct validity for a newly developed measure of functional-living in older adults: Movement and Activity in Physical Space (MAPS)."


Research Award, 1st Place:

Nina Moore (PhD, Kinesiology). "Smokers exhibit blunted changes in muscle NFkB activity after strenuous work."


Research Award, 2nd Place:

Shanshan Chen (PhD, Public Health-Nutrition). "Stunting is inversely associated with dietary zinc intake among adolescent girls aged 10-19 years."


Research Award, 3rd Place:

Ling Xin (PhD, Kinesiology). "Botanical supplement effects on nuclear factor Kappa B (NF-kB) DNA-binding activity following eccentric exercise."


Practice Award, 1st Place:

Daniel Feldman (MPH, Public Health). "Tobacco-free communications group."


Practice Award, 2nd Place:

Stephen Bell (MPH, Public Health). "Healthy Environment, Healthy Springfield: Comparative risk assessment for ranking environmental health issues in Springfield, MA."


The annual SPHHS Research Day is co-sponsored by the School of Public Health and Health Sciences & The Rho Chapter, Delta Omega Honorary Public Health Society.

SPHHS students participate in annual Undergraduate Research Conference

More than 800 students from nearly all of the state's public university and community college campuses presented their research at the 18th annual Statewide Undergraduate Research Conference held on April 27, 2012, in the Campus Center. Numerous SPHHS undergraduates participated in the conference.

Students reported on thesis or capstone projects, independent study, community service and study abroad, and lab group work. Some delivered oral presentations, while others showed posters to explain their research, share their findings and respond to questions.

"This conference is a display of the tremendous academic talent of students and their faculty mentors. Students not only conduct meaningful research and contribute knowledge to their fields of study but also present their work among peers and the public--that's an invaluable opportunity," says Priscilla M. Clarkson, dean of Commonwealth Honors College.

The conference is co-sponsored by Commonwealth Honors College and the Massachusetts System of Public Higher Education, composed of 15 community colleges, nine state universities and the five UMass campuses.

UMass Amherst Alumni Association's 2012 award winners announced

The UMass Amherst Alumni Association recently announced its 2012 Student Awards recipients. Each year, the Alumni Association presents more than 100 scholarships and over $90,000 to worthy students.

Once again, students in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences were very well represented among the award-winning group of students. SPHHS students were chosen as the Alumni Merit-Based SAA Scholarship awardee, as Senior Leadership Award recipients, and as William F. Field Alumni Scholars.

The Alumni Merit-Based Scholarship recognizes a Student Alumni Association member who demonstrates outstanding leadership in the Student Alumni Association and within the larger university community. This year, only one student was selected to receive this honor:

  • Jessica He, Public Health

The Senior Leadership Award recognizes graduating seniors who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and service to the UMass Amherst community. Award recipients have distinguished themselves through important contributions to student organizations and campus jobs, through academic excellence, and through public and community service. This year, four of the twenty-five recipients came from the School of Public Health and Health Sciences:

  • Jessica He, Public Health
  • Elizabeth Lundy, Nutrition
  • Summer Moukalled, Kinesiology
  • Thony Tran, Nutrition

Finally, five SPHHS students – a pre-determined number proportional to the size of the School – were chosen as William F. Field Alumni Scholars. The William F. Field Alumni Scholars Program was established in 1976 to recognize and honor third-year students for their academic achievements at UMass Amherst. The program was named in honor of William F. Field, the university’s first Dean of Students, for his outstanding support of academic excellence and his personal commitment to bringing out the best in every student.

The SPHHS William F. Field Alumni Scholars for 2012 were:

  • Megan Colwell ’13, Kinesiology
  • Decia DeMaio ’13, Communication Disorders
  • Molly Flynn ’13, Public Health Sciences
  • Jeffrey Larnard ’13, Nutrition
  • Jennifer Russell ’13, Communication Disorders

The Alumni Association honored these students at a Scholarships & Awards Reception held on April 1, 2012 in the Marriott Center. For a complete list of recipients of the UMass Amherst Alumni Association’s 2012 Scholarships and Awards Recipients, click here.

Communication Disorders group organizes aphasia awareness walk

Aphasia walk students 2012Graduate students in the Department of Communication Disorders, in association with the UMass Police Department, held The Third Annual Walk and Roll for Aphasia on April 14, 2012, in Amherst, MA. In addition to raising awareness of stroke and aphasia, the walk raised funds for the department's aphasia research, outreach, and support services. The 2.6-mile Walk and Roll for Aphasia began on the Amherst Town Common.

Aphasia is a language disorder brought about by brain damage, most often following a stroke. It can impair the ability to use or understand spoken or written language. Aphasia is not a disorder of intelligence, but it can greatly limit a person’s participation in social, vocational or recreational activities, say organizers of the event. In spite of the millions of people affected by stroke and aphasia, public awareness remains relatively low, they say.

This year, the group raised over $4000 in donations. For more information, visit the website https://blogs.umass.edu/aphasia/walk-and-roll/ or contact umass.aphasiawalk@gmail.com.

Public Health student Pena Mejia awarded 2012 Gilman Scholarship

Digna Pena MejiaDigna Pena Mejia, an undergraduate Public Health Sciences major, was awarded a 2012 Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship. She joined 14 other UMass Amherst students who received the scholarship award in 2012, which places the university third nationally.

Sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, the Gilman scholarship program broadens study abroad participation for those in need of financial assistance. Each Gilman scholar is offered a scholarship between $2,500 and $5,000 to study abroad.

Ms. Pena Mejia’s award supported her studies this spring in Thailand.

Upon returning to UMass Amherst, Ms. Pena Mejia hopes to encourage other students, especially those in the Public Health major, to pursue studies abroad and discover new cultures.

Kinesiology students help train U.S. Women’s National Rugby team

Kinesiology students Justin Brown, Matt Pilla and Jordan Marks helped train U.S. Women's Rugby National Team hopefuls. The athletes participated in a set of fitness and training tests at UMass, aided by the kinesiology department's Body Shop Fitness Center interns.

Read the Daily Collegian article.

Alumni News

Alumni Profile: Elizabeth Ward, Nutrition, '84

Elizabeth Ward received her B.S. in Nutrition from UMass Amherst in 1984 and her M.S. in Mass Communication from Boston University. A registered dietitian and nutrition consultant, Ms. Ward is also a freelance writer and the author of nine books on healthy eating, including most recently MyPlate for Moms, How to Feed Yourself & Your Family Better, published by Loughlin Press. She contributes regularly to Men's Fitness, WebMD, and USA Today, and blogs at Expect the Best. She can be followed on Facebook at MyPlate for Moms and on Twitter at @MyPlate4Moms. Ms. Ward has been featured in nearly 1,000 print and broadcast interviews.

[ Read Full Profile ]

SPHHS Hosts Boston Alumni Night

Boston Alumni Network Night 2012
Dean Marjorie Aelion thanks guest speaker Dr. Robert F. Littleton, Jr.

The School of Public Health and Health Sciences hosted a special Boston Alumni Networking Night on March 15, 2012, at the UMass Club in Boston. The School welcomed alumni spanning a wide range of class years from the early 1970s through to pending 2012 graduates

Alumni dined on hors d’oeuvres and refreshments as they enjoyed an opportunity to reconnect with classmates and network among peers. They joined Dean Marjorie Aelion and Associate Dean Daniel Gerber, along with Communication Disorders Department Chair Jane Baran and other SPHHS professional staff, at the event and received first-hand updates on the School’s progress and plans for the future.

Highlighting the Boston Alumni Night was a featured talk from Dr. Robert F. Littleton, Jr., ’71, founder of numerous human service agencies including The Evergreen Center, Beacon ABA Services, and Criterion Child Enrichment. Dr. Littleton discussed "Emerging Trends & Effective Development Practices in Human Service Agencies."

His presentation touched on the key elements of his success developing programs and facilitating treatment access for families of children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Among Dr. Littleton’s keys to success were to “seek out difficult tasks and populations” and to “avoid the easy yes.” Afterwards, he participated in a Q&A session with fellow alumni.

The SPHHS plans to hold future events in the Boston area. Please contact Patrick Freeman if you have ideas or wish to help organize future gatherings.

Support and Follow Us

Save the Date: September 29, 2012!

Please mark your calendars for our annual SPHHS Homecoming Celebration! This year, the event will be held on Saturday, September 29, 2012. Reconnect with faculty and old friends, and meet new faculty and staff and make some new friends. We hope to see you there!

If you would like to be part of the Planning Committee, please email Patrick Freeman.

Also, the SPHHS has set the date for its 4th annual Internship and Workforce Development Fair for Friday, October 5, 2012. Please email Risa Silverman to learn more about the event or to participate.

Join us on Facebook!

facebook iconThe best School of Public Health and Health Sciences is now part of the best social networking tool on the web! We have a new Facebook page that keeps you up to date with current news, health updates, SPHHS events, old and new friends, and more!

Tell us how much you “Like” us at www.facebook.com/umass.amherst.sphhs.

Tell us your news!

Would you like to have your profile appear in an upcoming alumni newsletter? Do you have news you want to share with your fellow alumni? Whether you're telling us about advancements in your research or in your workplace, informing us about upcoming events, gatherings and fundraisers, or just sharing good news about new family members, we would love to hear from you! We will use stories for our website, newsletters, and other SPHHS publications.

To share your story, please email Patrick Freeman.

Career Opportunities

Did you know that the SPHHS has its own Career Opportunities page? If you're a student looking for an internship or a professional looking for new opportunities in Public Health and the Health Sciences, visit our "Careers and Job Opportunities" page now!

Are you an employer looking for promising candidates within Public Health and the Health Sciences? Tell us about your job openings. Please email Risa Silverman with details and we'll place your job post on our Career Opportunities page — free of charge.

Give to the SPHHS

Give to UMassWe are grateful to the many alumni, parents, and friends who play such a crucial role in supporting our School. We are committed to our mission to optimize the public's health and quality of life through education, research, outreach and practice, and we need your support in helping our students, faculty and the SPHHS achieve these goals. Contributions to the School of Public Health and Health Sciences enable us to enhance the quality of educational experiences for our students and foster new research and outreach programs on and off campus. If you would like to give to the School of Public Health and Health Sciences, please click here, or call our Development Office at 866-450-UMASS.