Health Management and Policy welcomes Dan Gentry as MHA Program director

portrait of Dan Gentry
Dan Gentry

The University of Iowa Department of Health Management and Policy is pleased to welcome Dan Gentry, PhD, MHA, as the director of its Master of Health Administration (MHA) Program effective June 30, 2016. Gentry will succeed Tom Vaughn, PhD, MHSA, who has served as MHA Program director for seven years.

“Tom’s outstanding leadership as program director is much appreciated by students and the department,” says Keith Mueller, professor and head of the Department of Health Management and Policy. “He has contributed significantly to the success of our MHA program, which has a 100 percent post-graduation placement rate and ranks among the top ten health care management programs in the nation. Tom has played a vital part in ensuring that our students are so well prepared to enter the workforce.”

Vaughn will continue to serve on the faculty as an associate professor.

Gentry comes to the University of Iowa from the University of Memphis School of Public Health, where he is professor and director of the Division of Health Systems, Management, and Policy; coordinator of the doctoral program in health systems and policy; and special adviser to the dean for strategic planning and accreditation.

From 2007 to 2011, Gentry served as professor and director of the Graduate Program in Health Systems Management at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. From 1994 to 2007, he was on the faculty of the Saint Louis University (SLU) School of Public Health, where he served as the director of the SLU MHA Program from 2004 to 2007. In the most recent US News & World Report rankings of graduate programs in health administration, both SLU and Rush ranked among the top ten.

“We’re looking forward to the vision and wealth of experience that Dan will bring to an already strong program,” says Mueller. “He’s a great fit for our MHA program, and his experience and research interests will lead to productivity in our department and in relationship with the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.”

Gentry’s research has focused primarily on the financing, organization, and delivery of prevention and care services; tobacco policy; childhood obesity policy; HIV/STD policy; and evaluation of health and social service programs. He teaches in the areas of health care organization, health policy, and organizational analysis and change.

He has served on the boards of the Association of University Programs in Health Administration and the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME), including serving as chair of the CAHME Board from 2013-14.

He earned an MHA from the Medical University of South Carolina and a PhD in Health Services and Policy Analysis from the University of California, Berkeley.

CPH launches new Executive-in-Residence Program with John Deere

Executive-in-Residence Laurie Zelnio (left) with CPH Dean Sue Curry
Executive-in-Residence Laurie Zelnio (left) with CPH Dean Sue Curry

On April 21, the UI College of Public Health launched a new Executive-in-Residence Program designed to integrate senior business leaders into the life of the college; provide opportunities for these executives to interact closely with students, faculty, and staff; and help shape future strategic directions.

The inaugural business leader in the Executive-in-Residence Program was Laurie Zelnio, Director of Environment, Health, Safety, Standards, and Sustainability for Deere & Company of Moline, Ill. Zelnio leads initiatives and programs to assure the company’s products and global operations are in compliance and focused on safeguarding customers, employees, and the environment while also reducing the company’s use of natural resources.

During the day-long experience, Zelnio held a series of individual and small-group meetings with faculty, students, and staff. She presented an overview of Deere’s global business operations, was a guest speaker in two classes, and held a college-wide seminar focused on global ethics and the challenges of managing environment, health, and safety issues in different cultures.

Executive-in-Residence Laurie Zelnio talking with seminar participants
Laurie Zelnio talks with seminar participants

Zelnio outlined several factors that fueled Deere’s interest in the Executive-in-Residence concept, including enhancing the number and quality of potential employees, collaborating on projects and research, and informing the company’s position on policies, standards, and regulations.

“So much that happens in the college has tremendous value for Deere and others in industry,” said Zelnio. “There are huge benefits to maturing our relationship with the College of Public Health. There are benefits for Deere, for the agricultural and construction industries, and we think for the college as well, whether you are trying to find locations for your graduates or partners for your projects and research.”

College of Public Health Dean Sue Curry highlighted the long-term benefits of strengthening connections with industry partners.

“The College of Public Health hosts many visitors as lecturers and conference participants, but the Executive-in-Residence program is designed to foster long-term relationships between the executives and our college,” said Curry. “These relationships will help guide new strategic initiatives.”


Colloton receives 2016 Hancher-Finkbine Medallion

UI College of Public Health alumnus John W. Colloton has been named the recipient of the UI’s Hancher-Finkbine Alumni Medallion for 2016, one of the University’s highest honors. Colloton is director emeritus of University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC). He earned an M.A. in Hospital and Health Administration in 1957 and dedicated more than 40 years of his professional career to UIHC. Under his leadership, UIHC developed into one of the premier academic medical centers in the world.

The Hancher-Finkbine Medallion honors those who exemplify learning, leadership, and loyalty. In acknowledging Colloton’s numerous professional accomplishments and contributions over a distinguished career, UI President J. Bruce Harreld said: “In all three of these areas, you have been and remain committed to the application of knowledge and innovation to critical social problems, and you keenly understand the major impact of health policy and the organization of health services delivery on public health.”

The medallions are named for UI alumnus William O. Finkbine and for Virgil M. Hancher, a student guest at the first award ceremony in 1964, who later served 24 years as president of the University. Seven medallions are awarded annually to four outstanding students, one professor, one staff member, and a graduate who has attained special distinction.

John Colloton receives the 2016 Hancher-Finkbine Alumni Medallion

Alumni Relations Advisory Council holds inaugural meeting

The UI College of Public Health’s Alumni Relations Advisory Council held its inaugural meeting on April 8, 2016. The Council was formed to enhance overall CPH alumni programming and complement alumni initiatives at the department and program level.

The meeting included overviews of the College, current alumni efforts, and the new undergraduate program. Several student projects were featured and the CPH Student Association presented results from their survey to all CPH students on how they would like to engage with alumni. Small group discussion topics focused on alumni-student engagement activities, professional development, events, volunteer opportunities, and support for diversity initiatives. A reception followed the meeting that offered alumni an opportunity to connect with students, deans, department heads and coordinators.

Alumni attending this first meeting included:

  • Desiree Einsweiler, MHA 2007 – Health Management & Policy
  • Dwight Ferguson, MS 2006 – Epidemiology, PhD 2012 – Occupational & Environmental Health
  • Michelle Formanek, MS 2013 – Epidemiology
  • Shardé Hameed, MPH 2014, PharmD 2015
  • Tom Hart, MPH 2006 – Occupational & Environmental Health
  • Katie Jones, MPH 2012 – Community & Behavioral Health
  • Stephanie Kliethermes, MS 2009 & PhD 2013 – Biostatistics
  • Nikki Knapp, MS 2006 – Occupational & Environmental Health
  • David-Erick Lafontant, MS 2013 – Biostatistics
  • Danielle Pettit-Majewski, MPH 2010 – Community & Behavioral Health
  • Steve Slessor, MHA 2008 – Health Management & Policy
  • JonDavid Sparks, PhD 2009 – Biostatistics



Ten members of the newly formed Alumni Relations Advisory Council. Left side, from top: Nikki Knapp, Katie Jones, Shardé Hameed, Michelle Formanek, Desiree Einsweiler. Right side, from top: Dwight Ferguson, Stephanie Kliethermes, Danielle Pettit-Majewski, David-Erick Lafontant and Steve Slessor. Not pictured: Tom Hart.
Left side, from top: Nikki Knapp, Katie Jones, Shardé Hameed, Michelle Formanek, Desiree Einsweiler. Right side, from top: Dwight Ferguson, Stephanie Kliethermes, Danielle Pettit-Majewski, David-Erick Lafontant, and JonDavid Sparks. Not pictured: Tom Hart and Steve Slessor.


PharmD-MPH alumna Shardé Hameed.
PharmD-MPH alumna Shardé Hameed.


Occupational and Environmental Health alumnus Tom Hart chats with department head Peter Thorne.
Occupational and Environmental Health alumnus Tom Hart chats with department head Peter Thorne.
Biostatistics alumna Stephanie Kliethermes.
Biostatistics alumna Stephanie Kliethermes.


MPH student Avanthi Ajjarapu.
MPH student Avanthi Ajjarapu.


Biostatistics student Keyla Pagan-Rivera and alumnus David-Erick Lafontant.
Biostatistics student Keyla Pagan-Rivera and alumnus David-Erick Lafontant.

Public health without borders

Alumna Tala Al-Rousan (MPH ’15) uses her public health training to understand and address the health needs of Syrian refugees and other vulnerable populations around the globe.

Tala A--Rousan stands by a map in Zaatari refugee camp
Tala Al-Rousan stands by a map in Zaatari refugee camp

When Tala Al-Rousan was training to be a doctor, she often stumped her professors with challenging questions.

“Many things I asked during clinics or rotations couldn’t be answered by physicians,” Al-Rousan recalls. “They would tell me, maybe you should pursue a degree in public health because your questions are tackling social determinants of health, health disparities, and access to care.”

Social activism and the health of vulnerable populations have always been important to Al-Rousan, who grew up in Jordan and earned her medical degree at Cairo University in Egypt. As a medical student, she engaged in many public health initiatives, including raising awareness against female genital mutilation in Egypt and promoting breast cancer screening education. After receiving her degree, she joined Doctors without Borders as a medical officer and served in Yemen for several months before she moved to the U.S. in 2011.

Her husband’s job then brought her to the University of Iowa, where she enrolled in the MPH program in epidemiology.

“Data is the most powerful tool. I wanted to be equipped with the necessary tools to do quantitative research that would inform policies,” says Al-Rousan about her program choice. At the UI, she conducted research with Robert Wallace, CPH professor of epidemiology.

Al-Rousan has “a personal level of commitment to those less fortunate,” says Wallace. “Using a national U.S. database, Tala was able to write two papers on the health of older people living in mobile homes and the preparedness of older people for natural disasters. In both situations, she found that there were clear deficits in health status and in preparation for emergencies.”

She also researched Iowa prisoners’ health needs and participated in the Obermann Graduate Institute, a weeklong interdisciplinary program in which UI graduate students explore how public engagement can enhance teaching, research, and creative work.


The Syrian Refugee Crisis

Tala Al-Rousan meeting with refugees to discuss health concerns
Al-Rousan meeting with refugees to discuss health concerns

Al-Rousan is currently a Lown Scholar at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a project coordinator at Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. The Lown Scholars Program was established in honor of Dr. Bernard Lown, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and a world-renowned cardiologist and activist whose career has advanced public health globally.

Al-Rousan is researching the impact of the Syrian refugee crisis on the health of refugees in Jordan, as well as the health of the host country’s population. Since the conflict in Syria began in 2011, more than 4.8 million Syrians have sought refuge outside their home country, with millions more displaced within its borders. The United Nations has called the situation the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

Jordan, which shares borders with Syria, is providing asylum for an estimated 640,000 refugees, presenting significant humanitarian and economic challenges to the small country of limited resources.

In late 2015, Al-Rousan spent two months in northern Jordan, where she interviewed officials from hospitals, non-governmental organizations, and the Ministry of Health about refugees’ health issues. She also conducted focus groups with refugees at Zaatari, the largest refugee camp in the Middle East. She used the information to develop a questionnaire for refugees so they could rank their health concerns.

Al-Rousan and her colleagues are currently analyzing the data to determine what the most pressing health concerns are to help guide priorities and allocate resources. A second phase of the project will use these findings to craft a public health intervention that would lessen the impact of this crisis globally.


Life in the Camp

The fence surrounding Zaatari refugee camp
The fence surrounding Zaatari refugee camp

“It’s like a big city,” Al-Rousan says of Zaatari, which houses roughly 80,000 people. The camp has streets, schools, hospitals, a thriving (but unauthorized) market, tents, and trailers — all surrounded by razor wire-topped fences and guards. Services are unevenly distributed, and about 1 in 3 children don’t attend school. Residents can’t leave without permission and aren’t authorized to work in Jordan, meaning many refugees have little to do but wait and hope they can return home someday.

“There are many health issues affecting this population, such as disease outbreaks, high rates of infant mortality, and others,” notes Al-Rousan. Non-communicable diseases are the leading cause of death and remain difficult to manage. At the same time, measles, tuberculosis, and other diseases are re-emerging.

The preliminary results from Al-Rousan’s research show that the burden of Syrian refugees is destabilizing an already strained Jordanian health care system. Jordan can no longer afford to pay for refugees’ health care, so chronic diseases are inadequately treated.

There is also widespread stigma around seeking mental health care, even though “mental health issues are very common in war-affected communities,” Al-Rousan says, adding that both children and adults have experienced immense trauma.


Building Trust 

A muddy street in Zaatari refugee camp
A street in Zaatari refugee camp

Building partnerships among different sectors was very important to her research, but very challenging, Al-Rousan says. Being fluent in Arabic helped significantly, as was her familiarity with Jordan. Equally important was “getting the government’s blessing and help” with the project, she says.

Al-Rousan’s research assistant, Zaker Schwabkey, who is based in Jordan, had many helpful personal connections as well.

“We worked with Syrians to identify people who were good at recruiting others,” explains Al-Rousan, who spent a great deal of time meeting with and listening to various groups and stakeholders. “We had to build that trust relationship.”

As for future steps, Al-Rousan plans to apply the research to refugee camps in other countries that share the same amount of refugee burden, such as Turkey and Lebanon.

“If similarities are found, then the results could be applied elsewhere,” she says. “There’s a huge need and huge opportunity for public health research on refugees all over the world. It is a public health disaster.”


We All Are Connected

Tala Al-Rousan meeting with women and children refugees
Tala Al-Rousan meeting with women and children refugees

Public health translates across borders, something Al-Rousan urges students and practitioners to remember.

“You can still do global heath inside the United Sates. It doesn’t have to be outside the U.S.,” Al-Rousan says, citing work with homeless populations as one example.

“At Iowa, I also worked with prisoners during my practicum,” she adds. “This really helped me to apply my skills in the refugee camp setting, because I think of refugees as prisoners, too.”

She also stresses the value of public scholarship and community engagement, as well as keeping in mind the human stories behind the research.

“Syrian refugees are people like us – teachers, artists, engineers – who have been forced out of their country,” says Al-Rousan. “We as public health practitioners understand how connected we all are. The Syrian crisis affects the entire world.”


All photos courtesy of Tala Al-Rousan and Zaker Schwabkey

See more photos at the Lown Syrian Refugees Health Study Facebook page


Healthier Workforce Center for Excellence produces nutrition training video

healthierworkforcecenterlogoResearchers at the University of Iowa’s Healthier Workforce Center for Excellence (HWCE) have produced a new installment in a series of in-depth training videos focused on Total Worker Health®.

“Nutrition in the Workplace” features nutrition experts and employers discussing good food choices as well as programs, policies, practices, strategies, and interventions to promote healthy eating among employees.

According to Linda Snetselaar, professor of epidemiology and director of the UI’s Nutrition Center, nutrition is an often overlooked aspect of worker health that can also have a big impact on job performance.

“Employees who eat a healthy, well-balanced diet tend to be more productive, more attentive, and safer at work,” Snetselaar says. “The bottom line is that both the employee and the company benefit when a workplace offers healthy food options and emphasizes good nutrition and wellness.”

Other videos in the “In-Depth” series feature segments about ergonomics, transportations safety, and managing stress, along with tips and best practices from experts, employers, and business leaders around the Midwest.

HWCE has also produced a series of Total Worker Health® Essentials videos; 8 short segments where business industry leaders share their experiences with designing, implementing, and evaluating Total Worker Health® programs, practices, and policies. The series is designed to help small businesses utilize innovative techniques to incorporate programs, practices, and policies that can be tailored to their workplace.

To view Total Worker Health and other related videos, visit the Healthier Workforce Center for Excellence web site.

Summer biostatistics institute receives funding renewal

Students from the Iowa Summer Institute in Biostatistics pose in front of the Iowa Advanced Research Laboratories.
Students from the Iowa Summer Institute in Biostatistics pose in front of the Iowa Advanced Research Laboratories.

The UI College of Public Health recently received funding from the National Institutes of Health’s National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) for the Iowa Summer Institute for Research Education in Biostatistics (ISIREB)—a three-year continuation of the former Iowa Summer Institute in Biostatistics (ISIB). ISIB has been offered since 2010.

ISIREB is a unique program that provides biostatistical training and applied research opportunities to undergraduate students from around the nation. The seven-week on-campus program is focused on clinical trials, translational research, and models used in the analysis of biomedical studies and serves as a fundamental building block for students to understand the field of biostatistics.

The institute hosts a group of 18 trainees each summer. Special emphasis is to recruit minority, underrepresented, and disadvantaged students who wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed to the field of biostatistics.

According to Gideon Zamba, associate professor of biostatistics, director and PI of ISIREB, the vision of the program is to increase the proportion of undergraduates who enter graduate programs in biostatistics and to maintain a solid underrepresented minority pipeline into biostatistics graduate programs.

“This program presents a unique opportunity for students with quantitative backgrounds,” Dr. Zamba says. “Trainees will have a privilege of shadowing a biostatistician, of working closely with outstanding faculty mentors on research projects that give them valuable experience as they move forward with their graduate education and careers.”

In addition to the hands-on biostatistical training and research, the institute also provides students with guidance on how to successfully prepare for their GRE and how to prepare a successful application for graduate school.

There are no fees or tuition costs associated with participation in the program. Roundtrip transportation, housing, and meal allowance are provided and students have full access to university computing systems, libraries, and other academic and recreational facilities.