Salud y Saludos
Salud y SaludosJuly 2013
In This Issue
Scholarships Available to MOT Students
Welcome MOT Class of 2015
Research Notes
Two New Pharmacy Residents
Pharmacy White Coat Ceremony
Christina Sobin identifying effects in brain of early chronic low-level lead exposure
Pharmacy White Coat Ceremony
New Building 
Calendar of events

August 14, 2012

MHIRT Program Research Symposium

Location: HSN 217 

Time: 1:30p.m. - 5:00p.m. 


August 26, 2013

Fall 2013 classes begin. 



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From the Dean's Desk 
Dean CurtisAs we look forward to the Fall semester, our calendars are beginning to fill and we are preparing for a busy semester. 


Watch for our September newsletter for more details about the new faculty who will be joining the Clinical Laboratory Sciences, Social Work, Occupational Therapy, Kinesiology and Cooperative Pharmacy programs.  We are thrilled to welcome these talented new colleagues to UTEP! 


The University of Texas at El Paso is one of 20 community partners sponsoring  an exciting new website:  Healthy Paso del Norte, that provides a dashboard of important demographic and health indicators for our five-county far west Texas, southern New Mexico region.  Please take a look at the site and stay tuned for more information on this exciting new resource for our region.  


Our Minority Health International Research Training (MHIRT) Program students  have now been at their international sites for over four weeks.  Check out our UTEP MHIRT program Facebook page to follow their progress. Our 12 MHIRT program participants will soon return and present their research in the annual UTEP MHIRT Research Symposium on August 14, 2012.  We can't wait to hear about their summer research experiences and to see their presentations.


Go Miners! 

Scholarships Available to MOT Students

The UTEP Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) Program received notification from the Health Resources and Services Administration's (HRSA) that the "Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students (SDS)" grant was renewed for the 2013-14 academic year! Scholarships totaling over $560,000 are available to eligible MOT students this academic year to help them relieve the financial strain and focus on their graduate education. The scholarships will be applied toward tuition and fees, books and program expenses and will allow students to pay for a required review course for their certification exam for professional licensure. Funds can also be used to assist students with living expenses while they complete out-of-town clinical rotations. The SDS program provides scholarships to students from low-income or from communities with limited resources. These disadvantages often prevent students from succeeding in a health professions program. It is estimated that about 50 students will benefit from the scholarships associated with this grant during this academic year alone. 

Welcome MOT Class of 2015

The UTEP MOT Program welcomes 24 new students to the program. The students attended an orientation over the course of several days and began coursework in late May. Congratulations!

Research Notes

Congratulations to Dr. Celia Pechak, Assistant Professor, Physical Therapy; Dr. Eugenia Gonzalez, Assistant Professor, Occupational Therapy; Dr. Connie Summers, Assistant Professor, Speech Language Pathology; and Dr. Stephanie Capshaw, Associate Clinical Professor, Occupational Therapy!  Their work in interprofessional education and service learning in Guatemala has resulted in the following article, accepted for publication in the Journal of Allied Health:

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


Dr. Celia Pechak

Photos: left to right Dr. Celia Pechak, Dr. Eugenia Gonzalez, Dr. Connie Summers and Dr. Stephanie Capshaw.



Congratulations Dr. Valencia

Valerie Valencia, Pharm.D., raised in the community of San Elizario and a graduate of the Cooperative Pharmacy Program Class of 2012, successfully completed her community pharmacy residency program (PGY1) with the UTEP/UT Austin Cooperative Pharmacy Program in collaboration with Centro San Vicente Clinics. Among her accomplishments, Dr. Valencia received grant funding from the APhA (American Pharmacist Association) Foundation and presented her original research at the annual APhA meeting in March 2013 in Los Angeles, California. She served as a board member in the El Paso Pharmacy Association and participated in clinic committees to evaluate medication safety. Dr. Valencia continues her work with us  a clinical pharmacist at University Medical Center Outpatient Clinics. Congratulations Dr. Valencia!!!


Two New Pharmacy Residents

The Residency program welcomes two new pharmacy residents Dr. Jessica Paola Gomez (Centro San Vicente Clinics) and Dr. Grecia Heredia (Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe). Drs. Gomez and Heredia are recent graduates of the UT Austin College of Pharmacy. Their studies were completed with the cooperative program in El Paso.

Pharmacy White Coat Ceremony

The UT El Paso/Austin Cooperative Pharmacy Program held its annual White Coat Ceremony on June 7, 2013. This ceremony marks the beginning of the students' professional pharmacy education as they transition from the University of Texas at El Paso to the University of Texas at Austin. This year 12 pharmacy students were presented their lab coats (white coat).


The ceremony includes a dinner for students, families, and friends; remarks from representatives from both UTEP and UT; presentation of academic scholarships; and the presentation of the white coat. Key speakers this year were Dr. Kathleen A. Curtis, Dean of the UTEP College of Health Sciences, and Dr. Richard Wilcox, UT Austin Asst. Dean for Admissions. Dr. Josť Rivera, Director of the Program, served as emcee for the event. Faculty members Drs. Amanda Loya, Margie Padilla, and Jeri Sias presented the white coats to students. Endowment scholarships in the amount of $1,000.00 were presented to each student.


This year's White Coat Ceremony was funded by Walgreens. In addition, Mr. Alef Gutierrez, RPh, District Manager, and Mr. Rick Fernandez, Pharmacy Supervisor for the El Paso Region, presented academic scholarships in the amount of $1,500.00 to each student.


The following students will transfer to UT for the 2013-2015 academic years:


Michelle Aguirre, Art Armendariz, Miguel Cortez, Norma Cruz, Diana Dominguez, Nicole Dominguez, Jose Tony Hidalgo, Joel Isaias, Lauren Ramos, Mauricio Rivera, Pablo Saenz, Jason Zehden

Christina Sobin identifying effects in brain of early chronic low-level lead exposure  

Christina Sobin, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences, presented a platform lecture summarizing the results of her translational research program examining effects in brain of early developmental low-level lead exposure at the annual conference of the Neurobehavioral Teratology Society meeting, Tucson, Arizona, in June. Dr. Sobin started this program of research in 2007 to benefit the health and well-being of children in the El Paso border region. The program started with child studies, and the child study results guided the development of a specifically relevant animal model. Following on Dr. Sobin's commitment to always provide needed services while conducting research, this program has provided free blood lead level and neurocognitive testing for over 700 public school children in the El Paso border region.  


"Lead exposure is an old problem that requires new solutions. Lead is uniquely damaging to the developing brain. We focus on effects of exposure that produce blood lead levels far below those previously used to determine intervention. It is well known that no level of lead exposure is safe for children. Nonetheless, many people gave up on the problem of chronic low-level exposure years ago because environmental lead is ubiquitous and source removal, the only known intervention, can be impossible to accomplish. Technological advances are now allowing us to re-examine this old problem with new approaches and the findings are striking. Among approximately 700 school children living in low-income neighborhoods, over half had detectable blood lead levels, and those levels were associated with poorer memory and motor dexterity. In follow-up translational animal studies, we showed that the volume of a specific brain region critical for learning and memory is reduced in animals with blood lead levels similar to those in over 60% of child participants, and neuroimmune cells in that region, required for neuro-protection and normal brain development, were missing. All of these findings require replication. We hope our work will encourage other investigators to take up this line of questioning and contribute to our understanding of this national child public health problem."  


UTEP students who contributed to this work included Mayra Gisel Flores Montoya; Marisela Guitierrez; Miguel Cervantes; Mayte Barbosa; Omar Solis; Benjamin Valencia; and Jasmine Guerra. Dr. Sobin's scientific collaborators include Mari Golub (UC Davis); Bruce McEwen (The Rockefeller University); Karen Bulloch (The Rockefeller University); Rodrigo Armijos (UTEP); Tanner Schaub (New Mexico State University); and Natali Parisi (New Mexico State University).


This research has been made possible by funding from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation, El Paso, Texas; the J. Edward and Helen M. C. Stern Professorship in Neuroscience (CS), University of Texas, El Paso; Center for Clinical and Translational Science, The Rockefeller University; National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R21HD060120), National Center for Research Resources (5G12RR008124-12), and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (8G12MD007592-12), National Institutes of Health.
PhDs successfully defended dissertation during summer 2013 

The Interdisiciplinary Health Sciences PhD program currently has 31 students enrolled.  Since the program's inception in 2005, this program has contributed to the advancement of border scholarship by conferring 16 PhD degrees.  Over the past academic year alone, 7 of our doctoral students completed their degrees. Three of our most recent PhDs successfully defended their dissertations during summer 2013. 


Silvia Flores Luevano (defended July 2nd) started our program in 2008.  Prior to beginning her doctoral degree, Dr. Flores had completed her Master's degree in Environmental Health and a medical degree with specialization in pediatrics.  "I started the PhD program because for many years I had been doing clinical practice and I wanted to develop research and teaching skills.  I wanted to look for a way to contribute in bigger ways to the field of child health."  For ten years prior to entering the program, Dr. Flores had been working with asthmatic children and she saw the great need for novel treatment approaches.  For her doctoral dissertation, she decided to study associations between asthma and nutrition by analyzing data from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey program (NHANES).  "I wanted to discover new knowledge that would give us novel ways to help asthmatic children.  The results showed that a high percent of children have deficiency in vitamin D which was highly related to an increased risk of allergy and asthma." 


Ximena Burgos-Monzon (defended July 3rd) also started the IHS PhD program in 2008.  Dr. Burgos completed a Master's degree in Health Promotion at UTEP and before that, completed her Bachelor's degree in Nutritional Sciences Universidad Autonoma de Ciudad Juarez.  "I am interested in the prevention of chronic diseases, which is one of the reasons I studied nutritional sciences back in 2000.  Many diseases can be prevented by keeping a healthy diet." For her doctoral dissertation, Dr. Burgos studied dietary patterns among Hispanics living in the El Paso border region.  She also examined the associations between diet, obesity and cardiovascular disease risk factors.  "I found approximately equal proportions of two major dietary patterns in this border population, the Western and the Prudent diet. The western diet included foods that were very high in calories and energy but not very nutritious. The other pattern was healthier and included foods like fruits, vegetables, fish and chicken.   The findings indicated that we need to identify factors that influence food choices, for example, availability and affordability of healthy foods."


Rena DiGregorio (defended July 23rd) was one of the first students to join the IHS PhD program.  Dr. DiGregorio was trained as a registered nurse and had worked in clinical practice and hospital administration for 23 years.  She was inspired during her administrative work by her experiences in women's services.  Her scholarly endeavors began with clinical observation.  She noticed that the facial expressions among many women transitioning to motherhood were not always happy, but instead, reflected sadness during a time that most people assume should be joyful.  "I wanted to learn how to apply research methods to determine whether these clinical observations could be measured objectively."  In her doctoral dissertation, Dr. DiGregorio prospectively examined the impact of stress and coping in pregnancy and the post-partum period.  "I found that perceived stress exerted relatively little influence on depressive symptoms, however coping style was associated with severity of depression.  The qualitative results were among the most interesting.  Surprisingly, the greatest perceived stressors were body image issues and the stress of mood lability.  These are not stressors talked about in the literature and they are not currently used as predictors." 


Our new PhDs exemplify what our program is attempting to achieve.  Dr. Flores, Dr. Burgos and Dr. DiGregorio came to our interdisciplinary program with years of academic and/or clinical experience.  They had the insight to realize that becoming research scholars would empower them to become leaders in shaping the future of their respective fields.  Through their hard work and scholarly accomplishments they have achieved the highest academic rank.  They are now prepared to create new knowledge, and improve health in the border region and beyond.  Congratulations Dr. Flores, Dr. Burgos and Dr. DiGregorio.