ColoradoSPH a recognizable force at last week’s American Public Health Association Conference

University Communications
ColoradoSPH’s booth in the APHA conference expo hall was a popular gathering place for the school’s faculty, staff, students and alumni
ColoradoSPH’s booth in the APHA conference expo hall was a popular gathering place for the school’s faculty, staff, students and alumni

Last week, the American Public Health Association held its annual 2016 conference in Denver at the Colorado Convention Center, with a focus on “Creating the Healthiest Nation: Ensuring the Right to Health”. More than 12,000 public health practitioners, educators and students descended on the Mile High City from across the nation and globe, and more than 100 of the Colorado School of Public Health’s faculty, students and alumni showcased the school’s  work at more than 120 presentations or research abstract exhibits over the five-day conference.

From left: APHA President-Elect Tom Quade and Assistant VC for Student Affairs at CU Anschutz Jan Gascoigne
From left: APHA President-Elect Tom Quade and Assistant VC for Student Affairs at CU Anschutz Jan Gascoigne

The APHA organization hosted keynote sessions featuring popular speakers like Colorado’s own Governor John Hickenlooper, Cecile Richards—president of Planned Parenthood nationwide—who charged conference attendees to address healthcare access and equity, and Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, the current director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) addressed the audience alongside four other past directors about the role of public health and the CDC to keep Americans safe. Other popular sessions also focused on the public health and prevention in the context of the 2016 Election—including one such session with David C. Goff, MD, PhD, dean of the Colorado School of Public Health (ColoradoSPH), who sat on a panel to discuss recommended public health priorities for the next U.S. Congress and new Administration to consider.

Honoring ColoradoSPH

Many ColoradoSPH faculty, staff and students were recognized by varying APHA professional sections including Charlene Barrientos Ortiz, project manager and professional research assistant in ColoradoSPH’s Community and Behavioral Health department at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. Barrientos Ortiz received the 2016 Henry Montes President’s Service Award from the APHA’s Latino Caucus for Public Health (LCPH) for her work as an active research community liaison for Colorado’s urban Latino community as well as director for the Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute’s (CCTSI) community immersion training programs for researchers. She is also a founding board member of the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), and volunteers with many other local boards advocating for Latino health. Barrientos Ortiz received the award for her commitment to using her professional skillset and passion to address health disparities and improve health equity.

From left: Eric Lucas, MPHc at ColoradoSPH at CU Anschutz; Tonya Ewers, ColoradoSPH’s director of communications and alumni relations; Georgette Vigil, alumni relations director for CU Anschutz; Christine Gillen, ColoradoSPH’s associate dean for administration and finance
From left: Eric Lucas, MPHc at ColoradoSPH at CU Anschutz; Tonya Ewers, ColoradoSPH’s director of communications and alumni relations; Georgette Vigil, alumni relations director for CU Anschutz; Christine Gillen, ColoradoSPH’s associate dean for administration and finance
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From left: ColoradoSPH Dean David Goff with Donna Arnett, dean of the University of Kentucky College of Public Health, and Shiriki Kumanyika, immediate past president of the American Public Health Association

Two doctoral students of ColoradoSPH at CU Anschutz were also recognized by the APHA’s professional section for Injury Control and Emergency Health Services (ICEHS). Lauren Pierpoint, an epidemiology PhD student at ColoradoSPH, was awarded the APHA ICEHS Student Oral Presentation Award for her research on the epidemiology of injuries that resulted in withdrawal from high school sports in athletes who were either cleared to play or were not medically disqualified to compete. ColoradoSPH alum and current epidemiology PhD student Patrick Carry, MS, received the Honorable Mention Award for the 2016 Student Paper Competition. Carry was recognized for a paper based on his epidemiology MS thesis that focused on the performance of a wearable inertial measurement tool as an accurate system to assess postural stability. His research and findings could be applied to the independence and well-being of Parkinson’s patients and others who are at risk of falling and fall-related injuries like construction workers, athletes, or older adults and patients with head injuries.

Another PhD candidate in Epidemiology at CU Anschutz, Danielle Ostendorf, MS, ACSM-CEP, also won an award from the APHA’s professional section for Physical Activity. Ostendorf was recognized for Outstanding Student Research in Physical Activity for her poster presentation of research related to people who lost weight and were able to keep it off. She and her colleagues used a device called ActivPAL to measure standing versus sitting, and found that weight loss maintainers spent far less time sitting and were more active overall.

Additionally, Eline Van Den Broek, a PhD candidate in Health Services Research, was recognized by the Delta Omega Honorary Society in Public Health for her research and poster presentation at their 20th annual poster session at APHA’s annual conference. Van Den Broek received the Best Poster Award for her research on health plan provider networks and the cost savings associated with narrow or closed networks—cost savings that are passed on to consumers in lower premium fees. 

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Epidemiology DrPH candidate, Molly Gutilla, was one of many presentations by ColoradoSPH students, faculty and alumni

“Simply having an abstract selected for an oral presentation is quite an accomplishment given the large number of submissions and the competitiveness of the work being done by ICEHS members,” said Zachary Kerr, PhD, MPH, APHA ICEHS chair-elect and assistant professor for the Department of Exercise and Sport Science at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, in an email. “I was so impressed by the quality of work that [these students] presented.”

Reconnecting with alumni

In addition to the presentations and awards, ColoradoSPH also held a special school-wide event at APHA for all alumni, students, faculty, staff and community partners to celebrate its recent re-accreditation, hosted a booth in the APHA expo hall, and co-sponsored an APHA Public Health Service Day for students that drew hundreds of local and visiting public health students to volunteer at local nonprofit organizations on Oct. 30. The school was also a sponsor of the conference and hosted the student booth for all students of public health who were learning to navigate the conference for the first time.

“Having the APHA annual conference in Colorado was an enormous opportunity to highlight the Colorado School of Public Health’s programs, campuses, faculty research and far-reaching community involvement and engagement,” said Tonya Ewers, director of communications and alumni relations. “It was a great time to connect with our alumni who live near and far, and to hear how individuals from ColoradoSPH and the greater public health community are impacting population health not only across our state and nation, but also across the world.”

The Colorado School of Public Health is the first and only accredited school of public health in the Rocky Mountain Region, attracting top-tier faculty and students from across the country, and providing a vital contribution toward ensuring our region’s health and well-being. Collaboratively formed in 2008 by the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Colorado State University, and the University of Northern Colorado, the Colorado School of Public Health provides training, innovative research and community service to actively address public health issues including chronic disease, access to healthcare, environmental threats, emerging infectious diseases, and costly injuries. Learn more and follow ColoradoSPH’s updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Guest Contributor:  Tonya Ewers, Director of Communications & Alumni Relations, Colorado School of Public Health