Salud y Saludos
Salud y Saludos
May 2013
In This Issue
From the Dean's Desk
Occupational Therapy
Social Work
Physical Therapy
The Cutting Edge
New Building 
In the News 

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From the Dean's Desk 
Dean Curtis

May marked a number of landmark events for the College of Health Sciences. First and foremost, the UTEP/ UT Austin Cooperative Pharmacy program marked the graduation of the 100th graduate of the program. Ten years ago, the first group of pharmacists completed the program. One of those was Dr. Amanda Loya, now a faculty member in the Cooperative Pharmacy program. All of the members of the Class of 2013 shared the honors of being the 100th graduate.


Of course, the real winner is our community, where almost 70% of these 100-plus graduates now practice. Congratulations to Dr. Jose Rivera, Program Director, Dean Lynn M. Crismon (UT Austin College of Pharmacy), all of our Cooperative Pharmacy program faculty, students and alumni on this tremendous accomplishment!  


We are also looking forward to some new beginnings. Five exciting new faculty have recently confirmed that they will be joining us for the Fall 2013 semester. We are thrilled to welcome the following new faculty:


Celeste Vinulan, Pharm D. will be appointed Clinical Assistant Professor of Pharmacy-Adult Medicine in the UTEP/UT Austin Cooperative Pharmacy program. Vinulan will complete her Post Graduate Year 1 (PGY1) general pharmacy practice residency at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York in June 2013.


Adam McCormick, Ph.D., MSSW currently Assistant Professor of Social Work at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa has accepted a faculty appointment in the Department of Social Work. As an El Paso native and researcher focusing on youth in the child welfare system, McCormick will provide leadership for the UTEP Master of Social Work program.


Jacen Moore, PhD, MA, MT (ASCP), CHT, an active researcher in Sjögren's syndrome and systemic lupus erythematosus, and currently post-doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, College of Medicine, will join the Clinical Laboratory Sciences program with an appointment as Assistant Professor.


Feng Yang, Ph.D., an accomplished researcher in the biomechanics of falls, has accepted an appointment as Assistant Professor in the Department of Kinesiology. Yang is currently Research Assistant Professor in the Physical Therapy Department, University of Illinois at Chicago.


Katherine Lawson, OTR, Ph.D. completed her doctorate in our Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Ph.D. program and accepted a faculty appointment in the Master of Occupational Therapy program. Lawson, featured in an interview below, provides insight into our impressive interdisciplinary research in falls prevention.


Please read more below about the outstanding accomplishments of our students and faculty. They continue to contribute to our community, lead their profession sand make us all very proud! Go Miners!


Kathleen A. Curtis, PT, Ph.D.

Occupational Therapy Program 
The UTEP Occupational Therapy Program congratulates one of its own- Dr. Katherine Lawson successfully defended her dissertation entitled The Impact of Fear of Falling on Functional Independence. She graduated May 18, 2013 with her PhD from the UTEP Interdisciplinary Health Sciences PhD Program. She joins the UTEP family as an Assistant Professor in the UTEP MOT Program in September. Congratulations Dr. Lawson!
Dr. Katherine Lawson

Dr. Eugenia Gonzalez, Dr. Katherine Lawson, Dr. Stephanie Capshaw


Sixteen students from the Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) classes of 2013 and 2014, and four MOT faculty traveled to San Diego, CA in April to celebrate OT Month and join almost 9,000 other OT practitioners and students at the American Occupational Therapy Association's Annual Conference and Expo. It was a wonderful time of learning, networking, and enjoying San Diego!

MOT Students

The MOT Program extended offers to 24 applicants who will begin the program at the end of May. We look forward to welcoming them to campus. The program remains highly competitive and we congratulate them all on the hard work it took to meet the standards for acceptance! While we welcome a new cohort to UTEP in May, we prepare to send another cohort out on their final clinical rotations. We wish the MOT Class of 2013 (graduating next December) the best as they begin the transition from students to new practitioners!

MOT Class of December 2013

Department of Social Work

Veronica Perez Ms. Veronica Perez, a student in the College of Health Sciences Bachelor of Social Work program, was selected to be the University Banner Bearer - the highest recognition given to a graduating student.  Veronica was the first member of her family to graduate from college and obtain a degree.  Ms. Perez was born in Long Island, New York to migrant parents from the Dominican Republic. A few years later, her family moved to Florida for better opportunities. Veronica graduated from high school with a 3.0 GPA. Veronica has always had a passion for helping and improving the lives of people and made the decision to dedicate her life to Social Work. She enrolled at El Paso Community College and two years later graduated with an Associate's Degree. She furthered her education by being admitted into the Social Work Program at The University of Texas at El Paso. During her junior year in the Social Work program, she developed an interest in the study of foster care and adoption after reviewing the needs and demand in the field. Veronica is a member of Sigma Lambda Gamma National Sorority, National Society of Collegiate Scholars (NSCS), Student Association of Social Workers (SASW), Phi Alpha Social Work Honor Society and National Association Social Workers (NASW).  She has also volunteered in the community, working at shelters, at schools, and doing collection drives. Veronica received recognition at the 2013 Honors Convocation. Veronica was recently accepted into the Advanced Standing Program in the Masters of Social Work. She plans to complete the Master of Social Work degree program and become a licensed Master Social Worker. Veronica's ultimate goal is to obtain a doctoral degree in Social Work and make policy changes in foster care and adoption.




MSW Student Organization Officers The Master of Social Work Student Organization (MSWSO) at The University of Texas at El Paso was formed in 2010. The mission of the organization is to serve as a voice for students in the UTEP community and as an advocacy venue to promote social action in the U.S.-Mexico border region. The MSWSO has been active in the border community by  participating in various activities that have allowed members to gain experiences while at the same time contributing to make El Paso a better community for all. The members of the organization participated in two community health fairs to inform the community about lung health and tuberculosis. Students and volunteers used culturally and linguistically-sensitive tools like loterias (lottery games), interactive wheels, and soccer balls to engage children and adults in health promotion. Other activities included participation in Project Move, Child Protective Services annual prevention fair, San Elizario community health fair, a sock drive and a food drive for Centro Sin Fronteras, and one food drive for Family Services of El Paso.

Las Horminas A.C.
One of the most rewarding activities was the collection of hygiene products for Las Hormigas, a nonprofit organization in our neighbor Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua.   Students were  inspired by the Las Hormigas' work with people in Anapra, one of the most economically deprived population of Ciudad Juarez, and enthusiastically pursued the opportunity to collaborate to collect 60 kits for children.


The MSW Student Organization Officers: Laura Carmona, President; Luis Zamarriapa, Vice Presiden; Daniel Silvadoray, Treasurer; Norma Palacios Student Representative; Liliana Christensen, Secretary; Carliene Quist, Field Representative; Elisa Gonzalez, Student Representative; Rosana Lopez, Activity Representative



Dr. Donna Cude-Islas

Honoring Donna Cude-Islas 

Donna Cude-Islas, MSW, LCSW, ACSW   clinical instructor and practicum coordinator of the College of Health Sciences Department of Social Work wins Leadership award in health care. Each year the Society for Social Work Leadership in Health Care - Texas (SSWLHC-TX) recognizes extraordinary members in recognition of career long contribution to the society, to the development of future social workers and to the social work profession. Ms. Cude-Islas will be presented with the Susan Browder Award for 2012 at this year's state conference Social Work in Health Care Reform: Leading the Charge to the Summit.



Doctor of Physical Therapy Program 

We are pleased to announce that the UTEP Doctor of Physical Therapy Program has recently received notification of the  reaffirmation of accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).  For more information, please check  the Doctor of Physical Therapy program site.  The program was also commended for the quality of the self-study report and for its curricular innovations in integrating Spanish and cultural competence for working with the Hispanic population . Congratulations to our PT team on their success!  


DPT Class of 2012  


Dr. Celia Pechak
Congratulations to Dr. Celia Pechak, Assistant Professor on her three recent publications.  The first publication listed below was done in collaboration with Dr. Connie Summers, Assistant Professor in the Speech Language Pathology Department.  Dr. Eugenia Gonzalez and Dr. Stephanie Capshaw, both faculty members in the Occupational Therapy Program.

Pechak C, Gonzalez G, Summers C, Capshaw S. Interprofessional education: a pilot study of rehabilitation sciences students participating in interdisciplinary international service-learning. Journal of Allied Health. In press.


Pechak C, Black JD. Exploring international clinical education in US-based programs: identifying common practices and modifying an existing conceptual model of international service-learning. Physiotherapy Research and Practice. In press (online publication expected mid to late 2013; hard print Feb 2014).


Pechak C, Black JD. Benefits and challenges of international clinical education from a US-based physiotherapist faculty perspective. Physiotherapy Research International. In press.



Department of Public Health
The Department of Public Health Sciences is proud to announce the graduation of 17 students who received their Bachelor of Science degree in Health Promotion on May 18, 2013.

Graduates with a BS in Health Promotion are prepared to address population health through innovative interventions. More specifically, Health Promotion graduates are qualified to provide the information and skills necessary to help individuals and communities to make informed decisions about lifestyle and personal health behaviors.  These talented graduates can play an important role in preventing and controlling non-communicable and communicable diseases and to support initiatives conducive to healthy living. Congratulations to our graduates: Karen Acosta,
Aldo Carrasco, Christian Dior, Jessica Dominguez, Stephanie Holz, Martha Kluge, Crystal Lomeli, Genevieve MacFall, Celicala Macias, Elisa Martin del Campo, Andrea Miller, Cristina Orozco, Jacob Ortega, Jennifer Salas, Barbara Sanchez, Lizette Sidransky-Ulloa and Maria Valenzuela.


These graduates that participated at the College of Health Sciences pre-commencement ceremony are pictured below: Jessica Dominguez, Lizette Sidransky, and Maria Valenzuela.  


The Cutting Edge:  Dr. Katherine Lawson 
Katherine Lawson was born and raised in El Paso and graduated this May from the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences PhD Program at UTEP. Ms. Lawson has 29 years of experience as a social worker and 19 years of experience as an occupational therapist. She earned a Bachelor's of Science degree in Social Work from New Mexico State University, a Master's of Social Work from the University of Texas at Arlington, and later, a degree in Occupational Therapy from the University of Texas Medical Branch/UTEP joint program. While pursuing her doctoral degree, Ms. Lawson participated in numerous funded research projects. Her goal as a research clinician is to improve the health outcomes of older adults with a focus on falls prevention in the elderly. In fall 2013, she will join the faculty of the Occupational Therapy Department in the College of Health Sciences as an Assistant Professor.


Reed-Jones, R., Solis, G., Lawson, K., Loya, A., Cude-Islas, D. & Berger, C. (2013). Vision and falls: A multidisciplinary review of the contributions of visual impairment to falls among older adults. Maturitas, 75 (2013) 22- 28.


Christina Sobin, Ph.D. is the interdisciplinary Health Sciences Ph.D. Program Director. 


CS: Kathy, congratulations on your co-authorship of this paper.


KL: Thank you very much. 


CS: What was the topic that you were reviewing?


KL: We did an overview of visual impairments and falls in the elderly. We had been doing a study on falls in the elderly, with funds from a UTEP Interdisciplinary Research grant and we were seeing a lot of visual deficits in the people that we were interviewing, but we weren't focusing on that. We were looking at balance, medications, physical therapy issues, occupational therapy issues. But a lot of older adults were saying, "I've got visual problems and those are causing my falls." So we decided we should be doing research looking at that, at visual acuity. We wanted to include people who had cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and look at how those conditions might be precipitating factors for falls. There isn't a literature on that.


CS: Who was the "we" that you refer to? How did this group get started?


KL: The "we" is a group of us that first included social work and occupational therapy.   Dean Curtis had been saying, "We really need to promote interdisciplinary research." So when this project started, we wanted to be the first group to have a truly interdisciplinary research approach for understanding and preventing falls in older adults, and specifically in a Hispanic population. We reached out and found somebody from kinesiology, somebody from nursing, and from pharmacy. Then we all came together in one room and basically said, "We all have our own mind sets on how we evaluate people, but now let's all use all those mind sets so each of us looks at this one problem from each perspective."


In one way, understanding visual deficits and falls was probably most in line with Dr. Reed Jones' field of Kinesiology, because those visual deficits cause balance problems which then lead to falls. My interest as an Occupational Therapist was how these visual deficits or "intrinsic" factors, interact with "extrinsic" factors, like the environments that our patients live in. For example, when we go to see a patient in the home, a lot of times you'll see that the house is very cluttered. Even though the person may be used to that environment, with visual deficits, cataracts, with macular degeneration, their visual acuity is poor. Even though they know their own home environment, when the person has to walk to the bathroom in a cluttered environment, or get in and out of the shower, because of the visual problems they may be more likely to fall, because of missed functional transfers and poor ambulation.


CS: What are "functional transfers?"


KL: A functional transfer is, for example, if I go from a sit to a stand, or if I transfer in and out of the shower, or have to step over the lip of the bathtub to get into the shower. If I have visual deficits, I won't see the depth of the step and I'll end up falling.


CS: Kathy, how did the interdisciplinary work on this project develop?


KL: Usually all of us look at a problem from only our own perspective. What's needed is to be able to look at it from someone else's perspective - from a pharmaceutical stand point for example. I knew my patients were on medication but I didn't know what psychotropic medication, for example, did to somebody's vision, or I didn't know what pain medication did to somebody's vision - pain medication can make vision blurred, and it can make patients see dots.


When we started, each one of those people in the room said, "you know, this is what my field brings to the table - this is what you need to understand in how we do these measurements, and what we measure." My approach was to look at only extrinsic factors. Someone else might be looking at an intrinsic factor, and I was able to come back and say, "okay, now I see the intrinsic deficits that you're talking about and they're affecting the extrinsic environment in this way." Maybe they had never thought about how I was looking at the problem. When I started this, my whole focus was on "functional independence." Someone would talk about the intrinsic factor of visual acuity, and I would come back to them and say "visual acuity problems affect functional independence, so they're not able to dress, they're not able to cook, they're not able to reach for things."


It was so fascinating to have 5 people in there, egos aside - which is critical to this - egos aside, each saying, I want you to now be a kinesiologist, I want you to now be a nurse, social worker, pharmacist. And it was difficult to play those different roles! All of us had to set aside for a minute our own perspective and put ourselves in the other person's position.


CS: You used the phrase "egos aside." What does that really mean, how does that play out in a group?


KL: One issue is who will play a leading role - the group dynamics are very interesting. Regarding "ego's aside," as an occupational therapist, I think that my discipline is the most important approach for treating a patient, because I'm looking at overall function.


CS: That's probably why people choose to study one field rather than another.


KL: Probably. But having gotten into the interdisciplinary approach, now I know how important it is for me to understand the pharmaceutical perspective, the nursing perspective, social work, kinesiology. I really wasn't aware of that before, I didn't really have a grasp of that.


CS: How do you think having an interdisciplinary team look at this problem changes what will be done by the team?


KL: Well, we're not publishing single perspective papers, which would be easy to do. It would have been easy for me to look at visual acuity in the elderly and write a paper on how visual acuity pertains to occupational therapy. We're not doing that. Also, the interdisciplinary research leads us to interdisciplinary intervention. For our study, all 5 of us went into the homes of 30 people, and all 5 of came back saying "this is what we saw the problems were for occupational therapy, kinesiology, pharmacy, nursing, and social work. It's exciting, because the interdisciplinary research approach comes full circle, back to interdisciplinary intervention.


One other challenge is understanding each other's measurements. We all approach a problem with different measurements. I see someone with a balance problem and so I assess their "Activities of Daily Living," and then say, "okay, I'm going to find home modifications to improve the deficits in daily activities caused by the balance problems." A kinesiologist will say, "I need to get this person in the lab and find out what the specific balance deficits are." Well, I don't have the skills to do that. All of us like to think that we have "the answer" to a particular problem. But when you really open your mind to what the other disciplines do, and you drop your defenses, you absorb like a sponge what those other disciplines tell you. That's when we really start to learn about a problem.


CS: Thank you Kathy, for your insights on interdisciplinary research, and congratulations again on your group's publication.


KL: Thank you.