Salud y Saludos
Salud y SaludosApril 2013
In This Issue
From the Dean's Desk
April is OT Month
Building Freedom
COURI Symposium
The Cutting Edge
Hogg Foundation Scholarhips
1st Prize in Visual Sociology
New Building 
Calendar of events

Wednesday May 1, 2013
4:00PM College of Health Sciences Honors Recognition Ceremony-HSN Building

Saturday, May 18, 2013
3:30PM College of Health Sciences Graduation Celebration and Hooding Ceremony-Magoffin Auditorium

7:00PM 2013 Spring Commencement - Don Haskins Center

In the News 
Get Up! Get Out! And Get Going!

Pharmacist Challenges Superbugs

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From the Dean's Desk 
Dean Curtis

As we approach the end of the Spring 2013 semester, there are many important events to celebrate. This month marked the official beginning of our university's centennial celebration. UTEP, formerly the Texas State School of Mines and Metallurgy, was actually established by the state legislature in 1913. On April 16, 1913, Texas Governor O. B. Colquitt signed Senate Bill No. 183 (1913), to establish the Texas State School of Mines and Metallurgy. Over a year later, on Sept. 23, 1914, the new school enrolled its charter class of 27 students to begin classes. The University then joined the University of Texas System in 1919, only the third school become part of the UT system, after UT Austin and UT Medical Branch at Galveston.


I was fortunate to attend UTEP's celebration of the 100-year anniversary

of the signing of Senate Bill 183 on April 16, 2013, in Austin, with a resolution read in the Texas house and senate, respectively by Rep. Marisa Márquez and Sen. Jose Rodriguez. While listening to the resolution, I was proud to know that the University of Texas at El Paso has far exceeded the expectations of those who first founded the mining school. We are thrilled to be a small part of UTEP's history!  


We are also very proud to of our students who participated in the 2013 Campus Office of Undergraduate Research Initiatives Symposium. This is the first year that undergraduate students from our College have been invited to compete for year-long research awards ($2000 per semester) to fund their mentored research. Three of our students received these prestigious awards. These three students, in addition to four trainees from our 2012 Minority Health International Research Training Program then presented four poster presentations at the symposium. Read all about them below!


The Golden Age Fitness Association (GAFA), founded by participants in UTEP's  flagship older adult fitness program, hosted a dinner in honor of their 7th anniversary of the program on Sunday evening, April 28, 2013. GAFA became an official support organization of the College of Health Sciences in 2011. Congratulations on another great landmark year to Dr. Sandor Dorgo and the fittest older adults in El Paso!

Congratulations as well to our accomplished Ph.D. student, Oscar Beltran. We will hear a lot more about him in the future, I'm sure!


Go Miners!

April is National Occupational Therapy Month! 

Occupational therapy enables people of all ages live life to its fullest by helping them promote health, prevent-or live better with-injury, illness, or disability. It is a practice deeply rooted in science and is evidence-based, meaning that the plan designed for each individual is supported by data, experience, and "best practices" that have been developed and proven over time.


Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants focus on "doing" whatever occupations or activities are meaningful to the individual. It is occupational therapy's purpose to get beyond problems to the solutions that assure living life to its fullest. These solutions may be adaptations for how to do a task, changes to the surroundings, or helping individuals to alter their own behaviors.


When working with an occupational therapy practitioner, strategies and modifications are customized for each individual to resolve problems, improve function, and support everyday living activities. The goal is to maximize potential. Through these therapeutic approaches, occupational therapy helps individuals design their lives, develop needed skills, adjust their environments (e,g., home, school, or work) and build health-promoting habits and routines that will allow them to thrive.


By taking the full picture into account-a person's psychological, physical, emotional, and social makeup as well as their environment-occupational therapy assists clients to do the following:  

  • Achieve goals
  • Function at the highest possible level
  • Concentrate on what matters most to them
  • Maintain or rebuild their independence
  • Participate in daily activities that they need or want to do.

Founded in 1917, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) represents the interests and concerns of more than 140,000 occupational therapists, assistants and students nationwide. The Association educates the public and advances the profession of occupational therapy by providing resources, setting standards including accreditations and serving as an advocate to improve health care. Based in Bethesda, Md., AOTA's major programs and activities are directed toward promoting the professional development of its members and assuring consumer access to quality services so patients can maximize their individual potential. For more information, go to


The UTEP Occupational Therapy program is 22 years old. It enrolled its first class as a cooperative program with the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in 1991. Transfer of administrative control of the program transferred from UTMB to UTEP in 1997. The program moved from a bachelor's level program to an entry-level master's level program in 2005. UTEP currently offers the Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) program, which can be completed in about two and a half years. The program typically graduates 12-18 students a year. UTEP MOT graduates typically secure employment in hospitals, outpatient rehabilitation clinics, skilled nursing facilities, public schools, early intervention agencies, pediatric clinics, and mental health hospitals, clinics and agencies. OT was recently ranked as one of the "150 Best Recession-Proof Jobs" (JIST, 2008) and was named to U.S. News & World Report's"Best Jobs in 2012" list. The Labor Department predicts this profession will grow by 33.5 percent between 2010 and 2020.The Bureau of Labor Standards estimated the median annual income for occupational therapists to be $70,680 a year in 2009.  



Building Freedom for the Homebound  

Every year, the Occupational Therapy students at UTEP are involved in a community service program called the Texas Ramp Project. The Texas Ramp Project is a nonprofit volunteer agency dedicated to helping the disabled in the El Paso area and through the state of Texas by constructing ramps for accessibility. This program has provided 1,000 ramps across the state of Texas in 2012 and a total of 3,248 ramps have been built since 2006.


The El Paso organization meets one Saturday a month with volunteers from various clubs and organizations. Priority is given to hospice patients and those who are living alone and are unable to exit/enter their homes. The organization works primarily with referrals from health care professionals who can establish the physical and financial needs of potential candidates for program services.


The Occupational Therapy students at UTEP learn the rewards of providing an adaptation that makes a home accessible and can change someone's life dramatically and quickly. This experience also teaches the students the use of woodworking tools, understanding ramp dimensions and other accessibility concepts. These concepts are integral to the Occupational Analysis and Adaptation class which is required in the Occupational Therapy Masters Program.  


Anyone can volunteer in the Texas Ramp Project by e-mailing [email protected].  Health care professionals can refer patients to the Texas Ramp Project by logging on to The Texas Ramp and filling out the referral form.

Texas Ramp Project

CHS Undergrads Exhibit at 3rd Annual COURI Symposium 

The 3rd annual Campus Office of Undergraduate Research Initiatives (COURI). research symposium featured four poster presentations affiliated with the College of Health Sciences.  Three of these were presented by CHS undergraduates who received competitive research awards for the 2012-2013 academic year.  These included Amanda Sepulveda, pre-Speech Language Pathology (mentored by Dr. Vanessa Mueller);  Michelle Gonzalez, pre-Speech Language Pathology (mentored by Dr. Connie Summers) and Nahomi Martinez, Social Work (mentored by Dr. Griselda Villalobos).  A fourth poster was presented by four of the 2012 Minority Health International Research Training program (MHIRT) trainees, Leah Diaz, Jose Chavez, Brianda Prado and Sergio Flores (mentored by Dr. Gabriel Ibarra-Mejia, Department of Public Health Sciences.)


These presentations included:

  • Parental perception of a baby sign workshop on stress and parent-child interaction (Amanda M Sepulveda, Vanessa T Mueller)
  • Lexical diversity in the narratives of adult bilinguals (Michelle P Gonzalez, Connie Summers)
  • Soldiers without rank (Nahomi N Martinez, Griselda Villalobos)
  • Identifying prospective study participants in Quito, Ecuador through a census and Mini Mental State Exam (Brianda Prado Prado, Leah Diaz, Sergio Flores, Jose L Chavez, Gabriel Ibarra-Mejia )

Pre- Speech Language Pathology student Amanda Sepulveda received three awards for her research and participation. Those awards included 3rd Place Individual Speaker - "Explaining Research to a Non-Technical Audience"; 2nd Place Team - "Explaining Research to a Non-Technical Audience"; and  Best Student Poster - Psychology, Health Sciences and Nursing. Pre-Speech Language Pathology student Michelle Gonzalez also received honorable mention for her poster presentation in the Psychology, Health Sciences and Nursing category. 


Congratulations to all of these outstanding students and Thank you for representing the College of Health Sciences so well at the Symposium.    

COURI Symposium
Clockwise from top left: Nahomi Martinez, Michelle Gonzalez, Amanda Sepulveda, Jose Chavez, Leah Diaz, Sergio Flores, Brianda Prado


The Cutting Edge:  Oscar Beltran, MS, ABD 
Weigel, M.M., Armijos, R.X., Beltran, O. (2013). Musculoskeletal injuries in aging Mexican immigrant agricultural workers: Association with pain, disability and health-related quality of life. Journal of Immigrant Minority Health. DOI 10.1007/s10903-013-9788-6


Oscar Beltran Oscar Beltran is a 5th year doctoral student in the Interdisciplinary Health Science (IHS) PhD Program. He earned his Master's of Science degree in Health Promotion and Education from UTEP in 2008, and his Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Universidad Autonoma de Ciudad Juarez in 2004. Mr. Beltran is the recipient of a Pre-Doctoral Training Fellowship from the Center for Population Research in LGBT Health, The Fenway Institute/Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. His mentors for this fellowship include Kenneth Mayer, M.D., Director of HIV Prevention Research, BIDMC, Visiting Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Medical Research Director, The Fenway Institute; C. Andres Bedoya, Ph.D., Staff Psychologist, Massachusetts General Hospital, Instructor, Harvard Medical School, Department of Psychiatry; and Steven A. Safren, Ph.D., ABPP, Director of Behavioral Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Associate Professor, Harvard Medical School, Department of Psychiatry. At UTEP, Mr. Beltran is mentored by M. Weigel, PhD, R. X. Armijos, MD, ScD, and E. Provencio-Vasquez, PhD, RN. Mr. Beltran was interviewed on April 5th, shortly after the publication of his co-authored manuscript.  Christina Sobin, Ph.D. is the interdisciplinary Health Sciences Ph.D. Program Director. 


CS: Oscar, Congratulations on your paper.   Is this your first publication?


OB: No actually this is my third, I had two other publications from last year. Those focused on people with HIV.


CS: What are you investigating in this project?


OB: The primary goal of this work was to analyze the prevalence and burden of work-related persistent musculoskeletal injury pain in middle-aged and elderly Mexican immigrant farmworkers living on the US-Mexico border. We were especially interested in examining the impact of persistent musculoskeletal injury pain on functional impairment, disability and physical and mental health-related quality of life.


CS: Why are you interested in this area of study?


OB: Well, my primary interest is in ethnic and sexual minority health. This paper is focused on aging Mexican immigrant workers, and also investigates quality of life and mental health components of health risk. These are areas that I've been trying to understand in my research, and write about in my papers.


CS: How is this research interdisciplinary?


OB: Our work is interdisciplinary because we are researching risk of injury from different perspectives.

We use measures that assess both physical and mental health. We ask about many types of ailments and chronic conditions as well as what problems the participants may have that are injuries specific to working in the fields. We also explore whether they use traditional medicines in addition to western medical care. We start with musculoskeletal and other health problems, and then we find out about quality of life and mental health, as well as the use of complementary alternative medicine. We're trying to figure out risk to these participants of injury, by understanding their complete backgrounds and conditions, including living conditions, health practices, and mental health. We explore all the different elements that contribute to risk of musculoskeletal injury.  Then we also look at how these injuries impact their quality of life, now and in the future.


CS: So what were your findings?


OB: Well we found out that 50% - 60% of the population had persistent musculoskeletal injuries, and half of those with injuries reported having conditions in multiple sites, like in the elbows, knees, neck, and back. So in many it was not one injury, but several. Many of those that were injured reported getting several injuries while working in the fields and received no kind of care at all.


CS: That's huge.


OB: Yes, and we found that those injuries were strongly related to both the physical and mental health quality of life for the participants. The more injuries they had, the more physical and emotional problems they developed, and also the lower their quality of life. And we also found that less than 25% of the participants got any kind of treatment at all for their conditions.


CS: You mentioned "quality of life." How do you measure quality of life in your study?


OB: We use a scale - it's called the Health Related Quality of Life scale. It measures the physical and mental health of participants, and we measure how difficult it is for participants to do everyday activities, like taking a shower, or putting on socks.


CS: How are your findings important for the field?


OB: The findings are very important because aging farm workers are neglected in health care. Most of the people we collected data from were Mexican immigrants. Most of them didn't have any access to health care systems and they were very underpaid. They couldn't afford to go to the proper doctor and get proper health care. The findings are very important for policy making and for creating stricter regulations on pay and on health care for workers.


And there's another problem. Because they are seasonal workers they don't have retirement packages, and so they have to just keep working and working as they age. They get no benefits and their health and quality of life just keeps deteriorating.  


Another important thing is that, because they are seasonal workers, they have to be on their own a lot. They have to travel from state to state, or after being in the U.S. they might have to return to Mexico and travel back and forth. It's a life style where they spend most their time alone. If they're not able to do daily life activities, the effect on them is very bad because they can't take care of themselves and there's no one there to help them. If they can't take good care of themselves they actually have increased risk of more injuries.


CS: How do you think the findings could be used to make changes?


OB: In the Fair Labor Standard Act, the OSHA regulations have to change. The norms for occupational safety for these workers have to be changed and employers need to follow standards for preventing falls and supervising ladder safety, and they have to provide injury compensations. Also, workers should be given equipment to protect themselves. For example some of the workers reported having persistent knee and shoulder pain because they have to be on their knees most the time in the crops. They also reported burns on their hands from the pesticides. By having standard regulations for reducing accidents, and using protective gear, many musculoskeletal injuries can be prevented. Small changes could make a difference for the workers quality of life.


CS: And how could the findings be used to improve services?


OB: I think the findings inform health care providers about the gaps in health care and quality of life for these seasonal farm workers, and could be used to develop interventions addressing these needs.


CS: This is very important work. What do you intend to study next? What are the next questions that you want to address?


OB:   Policy making in public health is very important, how do we create regulations that would improve health and safety for these workers? In research, we should try to develop interventions to address the mental and physical needs of the workers, and use ergonomic approaches. Research could be used to develop and test culturally appropriate interventions to give workers basic health care. That would improve their quality of life.


CS: Congratulations again, Oscar on helping to complete this important work. And I want to especially congratulate you on doing research that has so much importance for so many people.


OB: Thank you very much.  



Hogg Foundation Awards Full Scholarships to UTEP Students 

University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) graduate students Leticia Castillo and Graciela Rodriguez have been awarded scholarships by the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health to support bilingual mental health services in Texas. They are both students in the Department of Social Work. The Hogg Foundation Project is administered by Dr. Mark Lusk, professor of social work, in the College of Health Sciences.


Castillo has a bachelor's in social work from UTEP. She envisions using the skills she is going to acquire to assist those who have been traumatized by the drug-related violence in nearby Juarez, Mexico.


"Growing up in one of the most economically disadvantaged communities in El Paso reinforced my commitment to a social work career that will allow me to make a difference in families' lives, so that they may experience recovery and wellness," said Castillo.


Rodriguez also has a bachelor's degree in social work from UTEP. She says that the pivotal moment for her in deciding to pursue a career in social work was her experience assisting at-risk youth in attaining their high school diplomas or GEDs, vocational training and employment at Serco of Texas in El Paso. She currently aspires to help veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


"Subsequent to receiving my master's degree as well as my certification as a licensed social worker, my plan is to seek employment at the Veterans Affairs hospital in El Paso, Texas," said Rodriguez. "I have experienced the consequences of PTSD in my own family. My husband served 22 years in the Army and was injured in the Gulf War. For that reason, this issue is dear to my heart and has sparked a personal goal in wanting to help others who are facing similar challenges."


Now in its fifth year, the bilingual scholarship program has awarded a total of 123 scholarships since fall 2008 to increase cultural and linguistic diversity in the Texas mental health workforce.


"This innovative scholarship program directly addresses the critical need for a more culturally and linguistically competent mental health workforce," said Dr. Octavio N. Martinez, Jr., executive director of the Hogg Foundation. "This year's scholarship recipients exemplify the talent and skills that we need in our mental health professionals."


Scholarship recipients receive full tuition and fees. The scholarships are available at all 12 Texas graduate schools of social work that are accredited or pending accreditation by the national Council on Social Work Education. Recipients commit to working in Texas after graduation providing mental health services for a period equal to the time frame of the scholarship. Recipients must be fluent in English and a second language chosen by the graduate program, typically Spanish.


Studies have shown that populations of color and those who speak a language other than English are under-represented in social work and mental health professions in Texas. As a result, many people may not have access to mental health services that adequately meet their cultural and linguistic needs.


Research and experience show that language barriers can be a huge impediment to effective service delivery. Even when language barriers are overcome, subtle nuances of world view, cultural beliefs, religion, family traditions and cultural norms can sometimes interfere with delivering effective treatment. With the foundation's help, these scholarship recipients will soon be in a position to contribute their cultural and linguistic expertise to the behavioral health services system in Texas.


The Hogg Foundation advances recovery and wellness in Texas by funding mental health services, policy analysis, research and public education. The foundation was created in 1940 by the children of former Texas Gov. James S. Hogg, and is part of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at The University of Texas at Austin.


First Prize in the Visual Sociology Competition 

Katheryne Ponce Katheryne M. Ponce, a junior in the Bachelor of Social Work Program recently won the first prize in the Visual Sociology Competition at the Southwestern Sociological Association Annual Conference held in New Orleans, LA.  Ponce's project depicts young people's perceptions of contemporary gender inequality and socially constructed gender roles. Ponce hopes that her presentation would help her audience become aware of the gender stereotypes that plague the United States and other countries.  Ponce's faculty mentor for this project is Dr. Yok-Fong Paat.