2018 Iowa Public Health Heroes will be honored Nov. 28

Generic image of the Iowa Public Health Heroes Award trophy.The University of Iowa College of Public Health will honor three leaders whose contributions across a range of disciplines are helping to promote better health and prevent disease throughout the state of Iowa.

The 2018 Iowa Public Health Heroes Awards will be presented to Arlinda McKeen, recently retired from a 25-year career with the State Public Policy Group; Patricia Quinlisk, who served as the medical director and state epidemiologist at the Iowa Department of Public Health for 24 years until her retirement earlier this year; and Kara Vogelson, organizational development and research manager at the Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health.

The award recipients will be honored Wednesday, Nov. 28, at a Spotlight Series event from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in room C217 in the College of Public Health Building. The recipients will give brief remarks and participate in a panel discussion and Q&A with the audience.

The annual Iowa Public Health Heroes Awards recognize exceptional efforts by individuals from diverse career paths who have worked to improve health and wellness throughout Iowa. Award recipients are nominated by their peers in the Iowa public health practice community.

“These three award recipients have dedicated their careers to protecting, improving, and advocating for the health of Iowans,” says Edith Parker, dean of the College of Public Health. “The college is proud to recognize their outstanding service and achievements.”

Arlinda McKeen

Arlinda McKeen has been an advocate for public health in Iowa and a leader in innovative outreach and engagement efforts that benefit community well-being throughout the state. Prior to her retirement in March 2018, she was an integral part of the State Public Policy Group for nearly 25 years. In that time she served as senior program director, VP for programs and services, executive VP and COO, and president and CEO. Two examples of her many projects include developing solutions to long-standing concerns for Iowa’s emergency management system and working with the Iowa Department of Human Services to develop guidance and criteria for rating home-based and center-based child care providers. McKeen was a key partner in gathering information and communicating with stakeholders as part of the effort to establish the University of Iowa College of Public Health in 1999. In 2011, she was essential in helping the college create the Business Leadership Network (BLN), which fosters ongoing, mutually beneficial relationships between the college and small and medium-sized businesses and communities in Iowa. In addition, McKeen helped develop and oversee the BLN Community Grant Program, which provides funding to support projects, programs, and activities that build collaborations and support healthier Iowa communities.

Patricia Quinlisk

Patricia Quinlisk, MD, MPH, served as the medical director and state epidemiologist at the Iowa Department of Public Health for 24 years until her retirement in September 2018. She has been a national leader and a trusted source of health information for Iowans on nearly every health issue ranging from immunization to foodborne outbreaks, preparedness, hepatitis, mumps, measles, monkeypox, and much more. Before her career in public health in Iowa, Quinlisk was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nepal, where she saw firsthand the importance of public health in preventing diseases. In 1989, she became a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer. In 1998, she was elected president of the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists. In 2003, she became a member of the Board of Scientific Counselors in the CDC. She also served on the Emerging Threats to Health in the 21st Century Committee of the National Institute of Medicine. Dr. Quinlisk has trained and mentored the next generation of public health professionals through active involvement at the University of Iowa, the University of Wisconsin, and Des Moines University.

Kara Vogelson

Kara Vogelson, MHA, began working at the Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health in 2002. During her career with the department, she has advanced through multiple positions, including environmental health specialist, healthy homes program coordinator, and assistant health planner. She currently serves as the organizational development and research manager and is the assistant deputy director of administrative operations. Most recently, she has added the duties of regional development and public policy advisor. She has written hundreds of successful grants, facilitated strategic planning sessions, written Community Health Needs Assessments/Health Improvement Plans, conducted trainings, and mentored staff and students. She has served on boards, commissions, and committees locally and statewide. Vogelson organized and initiated the Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health’s process to become accredited with the Public Health Accreditation Board. Through her leadership, the department became the second in Iowa to achieve accreditation in February 2018. Her contributions as a planner, grant writer, and visionary impact many public health paradigms. In each of her positions, she maintains a committed focus and dedication to helping people live longer and healthier lives.

Petersen contributes to new veterinary infection control and biosecurity guidelines

Christine Petersen

New guidelines published this month provide veterinary professionals with information and resources to prevent the spread of disease in their practices and implement protocols that protect both animal and human health.

Christine Petersen, associate professor of epidemiology in the University of Iowa College of Public Health, served as a member of a national task force of experts that developed the guidelines on behalf of the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA).

The 2018 AAHA Infection Control, Prevention, and Biosecurity Guidelines offer practical standard operating procedures (SOPs) to guide veterinary practices in areas such as cleaning and disinfection, hand hygiene, personal protective equipment, identifying high-risk patients to prevent their entry into the waiting area, and managing contagious patients in isolation.

Petersen says the new veterinary guidelines complement the growing emphasis in human medicine on infection control to prevent hospital-acquired infections (HAIs).

“These recommendations are intended to protect both animal and human health within veterinary practice,” says Petersen. “Effective infection prevention, control, and biosecurity practices in veterinary medicine help check the spread of drug-resistant bacteria such as methicillin-resistant staphylococci and the reduce potential exposure of pet owners and veterinary staff to zoonotic diseases, such as leptospirosis, rabies, and salmonellosis.”

The new guidelines are published in the November/December issue of the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association and are available online at aaha.org/biosecurity.

Looking to the Future: Building Healthy Native Communities symposium is Nov. 14

“Looking to the Future: Building Healthy Native Communities” will take place Nov. 14 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in C217 CPHB.

Registration, including online live broadcasting, is available online.

The symposium is hosted by the National American Indian & Alaska Native Addiction Technology Transfer Center based in the College of Public Health.

2018 Symposium: Looking to the Future: Building Healthy Native Communities

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact the College of Public Health in advance at 319-384-1500.

MHA students win case competition

group photo of Iowa MHA students at U Kansas case competitionA team representing the University of Iowa College of Public Health’s Department of Health Management and Policy won first place at the  2018 University of Kansas Case Competition for First Year Track Students in Kansas City on November 2.

Team members were Coleman Heaney, Alex Smolik, Benjamin Meyer, and Mary Kate Titus.

The first year track competition consisted of nine teams from schools accredited by the Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME).

A second team of first-year students from the University of Iowa also competed and finished in the top three.


Free screening of ‘Memories of a Penitent Heart’ is Dec. 3

memories of a penitent heart posterA free screening of the documentary “Memories of a Penitent Heart” will be shown at 7 p.m. on Dec. 3 in Ellig Classroom (N120 CPHB) in honor of World AIDS Day. A panel discussion will follow the film and light refreshments will be provided.

The event is hosted by the Health Equity Advancement Lab (HEAL) in collaboration with the University of Iowa Libraries and the LGBTQ Advocates student group.


Combining a wealth of recently discovered home movies, video, and written documents with artfully shot contemporary interviews and vérité footage, Memories of a Penitent Heart is a documentary that cracks open a Pandora’s box of unresolved family drama. Originating from filmmaker Cecilia Aldarondo’s suspicion that there was something ugly in her family’s past, the film charts her excavation of the buried family conflict around her uncle Miguel’s death, and her search for Miguel’s partner Robert a generation later.

After two years of dead ends, Robert turns up: but he’s not the same man. He’s reinvented himself as Father Aquin, a Franciscan monk with twenty-five years of pent-up grief and bitterness. For the first time, a member of Miguel’s family wants to hear Aquin’s side of the story—but is it too little, too late? This is a story about the mistakes of the past and the second chances of the present.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa–sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact Rebecca Bucklin in advance at 3193844025 or rebecca-bucklin@uiowa.edu

Video highlights community-based efforts to increase HPV vaccination

A new video from the University of Iowa’s Cancer Prevention and Control Research Network (CPCRN) highlights community-based participatory research approaches that began in 2014 to increase human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination rates in the east central Iowa community of West Liberty. “Despierta a Tu Salud” (Wake Up to Your Health), a cancer prevention project for rural Latino communities, was developed in response to community concerns about cervical cancer.

Jason Daniel Ulloa, clinical assistant professor of community and behavioral health, led a team of UI students and community partners that included schools, churches, volunteers, and the UI Mobile Clinic. In the video, Daniel-Ulloa provides an overview of the project, emphasizing his commitment to community involvement and mentoring, and student researchers share their experiences.

Iowa entrepreneurs pursue startup success

Two friends with University of Iowa roots co-found a company dedicated to improving people’s communication skills.

Public speaking is a common fear—most of us are anxious about freezing up or tanking in front of a room full of people. Nico Aguilar, a University of Iowa alumnus (14MHA/MPH, 11BS), still vividly remembers the time he bombed a speech in college.

“I had an anxiety attack in front of my entire rhetoric class,” he recalls. “My palms were sweaty, my breath stopped. My mind just went blank and I totally botched my presentation.”

photo of Speeko team
Left to right: Cameron Faerber, Anthony Pham (19MPH, 16MD, 11BS), Nico Aguilar (14MHA/MPH, 11BS), Nicole Cook (04BBA), Will Field-Thompson

That moment helped crystalize Aguilar’s determination to improve his communication skills, a quest that has led to many new doors opening over the following years.

“That journey,” he says, “changed my life.”

Aguilar, along with current UI student Anthony Pham (19MPH, 16MD, 11BS), are co-founders of Speeko, a voice analytics company that uses artificial intelligence to help individuals measure and improve their verbal communication. As a team, the two have pitched their way to startup success at a number of university and international entrepreneurial competitions.

Aguilar and Pham met in class as undergraduates at the UI. Both physiology majors, they worked on several group projects together and became good friends. While in graduate school, they both collaborated on other startup ventures and contributed to a National Institutes of Health-funded research project that measured communication patterns in medical settings.

They were also avid users of mobile apps that help people improve a variety of skills, from learning new languages to tracking exercise to meditating—products that “are like having a coach in your pocket,” Pham says. “We were seeing this happen in other industries, and we thought: Why aren’t we leveraging the incredible advances in technology to improve communication coaching?”

Merging these experiences and ideas, Pham and Aguilar created Speeko two-and-half years ago, working on the company nights and weekends while pursuing their graduate studies. They connected with the UI John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (JPEC) and participated in numerous events, winning the Rose Francis Elevator Pitch Competition and Business Model Competition. The latter event propelled them to the 2018 International Business Model Competition, where they placed as semifinalists.

Most recently, the Speeko team was selected by Techstars, a global startup accelerator, to be part of its 2018 Chicago cohort. Only 10 companies from over 2,200 applications were chosen for the three-month program that ran July through October. Techstars provided the teams with workspace and direct access to a mentor network of Midwest tech investors, executives, and founders.

The Speeko team, which now includes five full-time members, will continue working in the Techstars office for the next nine months. To cap off a great summer, the Speeko app officially launched in October 2018.

While Aguilar is based in Chicago and works full-time on Speeko, Pham is at the UI finishing up his Master of Public Health degree in occupational and environmental health.

Aguilar and Pham draw parallels between their shared public health background and their business venture. “Improving people’s communication skills is how we want to improve people’s lives,” Pham says. “The ability to communicate effectively contributes to your personal and professional success and well-being.”

“If our technology can intervene and improve the transmission of thoughts and ideas, it will have many positive downstream impacts,” Aguilar notes.

They also have advice for aspiring student entrepreneurs.

“The university has an abundance of resources available. JPEC will connect you to a strong local network of entrepreneurs and mentors. That’s how we got our start,” Pham says. “It may take you out of your comfort zone to present your ideas to new people. Taking that first step is the only way you can learn, and it will make all the difference in turning your ideas into reality.”

“My biggest piece of advice is to enjoy the journey,” Aguilar says. “There are so many ups and downs, and there are always a million priorities competing for your attention, but this should be about the journey and not just the destination. It’s important to appreciate the experience and have perspective throughout it.

“We’re grateful for the support from the University of Iowa and JPEC,” Aguilar adds. “We wouldn’t be where we are today without that support across the campus.”