New research finds exercise may help slow memory loss for people living with Alzheimer's


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Amanda Goodman

Promising new research shows aerobic exercise may help slow memory loss for older adults living with Alzheimer’s dementia. 

Arizona State University Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation Professor Fang Yu led a randomized-control pilot trial that included 96 older adults living with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s dementia.

Participants were randomized to either a cycling (stationary bike) or stretching intervention for six months. Using the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale-Cognition (ADAS-Cog) to assess cognition, the results of the trial were substantial.

The six-month change in ADAS-Cog was 1.0±4.6 (cycling) and 0.1±4.1 (stretching), which were both significantly less than the expected 3.2±6.3-point increase observed naturally with disease progression.

“Our primary finding indicates that a six-month aerobic exercise intervention significantly reduced cognitive decline in comparison to the natural course of changes for Alzheimer’s dementia,” Yu said.

However, they did not find a superior effect of aerobic exercise to stretching, which is likely due to the pilot nature of the trial.

“We don’t have the statistical power to detect between-group differences; there was substantial social interaction effect in the stretching group, and many stretching participants did aerobic exercise on their own,” Yu said.

The findings are described in a recently published article, "Cognitive Effects of Aerobic Exercise in Alzheimer’s Disease: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial," in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

The pilot trial results are encouraging and support the clinical relevance of promoting aerobic exercise in individuals with Alzheimer’s dementia to maintain cognition. And, Yu points out that there are additional benefits to this type of exercise within this population.

“Aerobic exercise has a low profile of adverse events in older adults with Alzheimer’s dementia as demonstrated by our trial. Regardless of its effect on cognition, the current collective evidence on its benefits supports the use of aerobic exercise as an additional therapy for Alzheimer’s disease.”

Can humility fix health care?


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Amanda Goodman

Health care has a humility problem, according to Barret Michalec, director of Arizona State University's Center for Advancing Interprofessional Practice, Education and Research and associate professor in the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

“There’s an embedded occupational status hierarchy within health care that one health profession might be 'better' or 'more knowledgeable' than another,” Michalec said. “Doctor, nurse, PA, clinical social worker, physical therapist, occupational therapist and others, they’re all stratified in our minds in terms of who knows what, who can do what, and who is smarter, had harder training, or is more important. That value ladder gets taught to us as patients and to health profession students in various implicit and explicit ways. It’s totally socially constructed, but it has real impact and real consequences.”

Whether you work in health care or you’ve been a recipient of services as a patient, you have likely experienced this hierarchy in action and may have even unknowingly contributed to it.

Michalec is quick to point out that this is the result of deeply entrenched cultural norms and practices within both the health professions and health education. 

“They (students) are siloed and socialized in their own professional education pathway, and while interprofessional education is supposed to bring students together it may only do that in certain ways, like one-off events, or focusing purely on assumed clinical roles.”

And humility, which for these purposes is defined as “an accurate assessment of one’s abilities, achievements, as well as gaps in knowledge and limitations,” might be just what’s needed to break through the hierarchies and break open the silos.

With a good grasp of the problem, Michalec is now focused on finding solutions. That’s where the Humility Paradigm comes in. This new research and educational initiative out of the Center for Advancing Interprofessional Practice, Education and Research is focused on promoting the values of humility as they relate to interprofessionalism in health care.

We spoke with Michalec to learn more about what this initiative will look like in practice and find out why he thinks this approach could fix health care.

Question: What does the Humility Paradigm look like in practice?

Answer: The Humility Paradigm is the title of this broad initiative and it’s a way for (the center) to package our work in this area. It’s like the north star for us. So we’re developing new educational programs like I-TEAM By Design and outlining our research agenda, but we’re also getting the word out through talks, podcasts, blogs and so on that promote the idea and the value of humility within health professions generally and interprofessionalism more specifically. 

We really need to start drilling down into the concept, into the practice, into the theory to see how it plays out in social settings and health care delivery. As someone who does interprofessional education, I think it’s an essential element to advancing team-based care. And we’ve got to figure out how we can tap into that.

Q: How did this initiative come about and why is it needed?


Barret Michalec

A: The idea stemmed from my previous research on empathy. I was putting together the final report for a program funded by the Macy Foundation, and I realized that some of the major elements that I had been pushing through this program like empathy and emotional contagion were all extremely valuable, but something was missing. 

It felt as though the health profession students were getting the gist of interconnectedness and shared values but I knew in the long term that they were going into a professional practice setting that would really be emphasizing the status hierarchy amongst the professions, and that was something that empathy wasn’t going to change.

We need to have a paradigm shift in health professions education and practice, one that focuses more on connectedness, shared values and shared vulnerabilities and less on strict, rigid professional role differentiation. That’s the Humility Paradigm, and we think interprofessional education needs to start tapping into what we’ve termed "professional humility."

Professional humility encompasses the fundamental tenets of humility but also promotes an ability and willingness to understand the strengths and limitations of one’s own health profession as well as acknowledge the skills and abilities of other members of the health care team, which includes patients and their caregivers.  

Q: How can professional humility help improve health care? 

A: We know that team-based collaborative care has multiple benefits. Better health outcomes, enhanced work-related satisfaction, it’s more cost-effective and increases patient safety. So what we need to be doing is embedding team-based, interprofessional care into regular, day-to-day health care delivery practice. Although we see that in particular areas of health care and various interventions, it’s certainly not the norm.  

In order to do that, we need to infuse professional humility at an early stage of education and training and thread it consistently throughout. It needs to be an essential and consistent element of professional development, and we need to be providing opportunities for health professionals to develop their humility-related muscles early and often. 

Because humility has so much to do with status, I think that by advancing and enhancing professional humility as a trait and practice among health professionals we can actually make a dent in the occupational status hierarchy that plagues our health care system and really diminishes true team-based care. I also think professional humility is the vehicle to authentically engage patients and their caregivers in clinical decision-making.  

Q: What do you want patients to know about this work?

A: At (the center), we’re developing innovative ways for providers to connect and communicate with one another to provide better, safer and more cost-effective health care. A key element of this has to be patient-centered care delivery and the health care team must include the patients and their caregivers. This is why we’re so focused on humanism and promoting the shared human-ness of health and health care.    

One of the biggest barriers to patient-centered care delivery is the socio-emotional distance that is somewhat assumed between providers and patients. A lot of that has to do with perceived status. We want to minimize the status differentials between providers but also between the provider and the patient so that the patient is also seen as a valuable team member. 

And, it’s important that they know we are invested in making a health care system that works with and for them. ASU is a public research university and the work we do translates directly into our communities which is one of the reasons I’m so excited about this initiative.

Q: What are some of the research aspects of this initiative you’re currently working on?

A: One of the things coming soon will be a paper on humility and social status. As I was exploring the research on humility I discovered that the literature doesn’t address issues related to humility and race and gender. Although this paper isn’t specific to health care delivery, it is an essential early step in the development of the Humility Paradigm and will lay the foundation for our future research.

It’s a key piece because we think of humility as this wonderful and consistently socially beneficial thing. But in certain situations, if you’re a person of color or a woman, for example, the idea of being perceived as humble or not could actually be detrimental. This is something that just hasn’t been talked about — there’s this elephant in the room. Humility may not be socially beneficial for everyone. 

This needs to be dissected before our humility research can move forward because this specific paper will also have implications for how we frame the notion of professional humility within health care delivery and health professions education.  

Q: Anything else you think is important for people to know?

A: Humility and being humble do not mean that you’re not proud of yourself or your accomplishments, or that you lack self-confidence or assertiveness. It's actually quite the opposite. With advancing the professional humility concept and the Humility Paradigm in general, we’re not trying to efface doctors or nurses or the skills and knowledge they bring. We’re trying to level the playing field a bit, to call out the occupational status hierarchy that’s been hiding in plain sight in health care delivery, and utilize humility as the flashlight.  

We think that teaching and practicing humility may be an effective way to promote authentic interprofessional, team-based care and a way to truly engage patients and caregivers in interactions and decision-making. We need to get beyond the self, beyond the professional role-focus, beyond the silos and echo chambers, which are more like echo chasms, and acknowledge, accept and appreciate our interconnectedness and shared vulnerabilities. With the Humility Paradigm, we’re hoping to advance new ways of thinking about and practicing interprofessionalism while also expanding humility theory in general.

ASU students support Westward Ho residents during pandemic isolation


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Mary Beth Faller

The COVID-19 pandemic has been hardest on the most vulnerable people, and Arizona State University students have been working to help one group in downtown Phoenix.

Residents at the Westward Ho apartments – low-income older adults and those with disabilities – have faced extra burdens over the past year. A population that was already susceptible to loneliness was further isolated when they couldn’t see friends and family in person. They were unable to access services in their building, like the computer room, which was closed. Some residents didn’t always have enough to eat.

For several years, the ASU Community Collaborative has been supporting the Westward Ho residents, and while the COVID-19 pandemic created difficult challenges, that help has continued. Students checked in on the residents over winter break, made sure the food cart was stocked and are thinking of ways to resume some activities.

“In the fall, there were a lot of unknowns of what we were going to be able to do,” said Taylor Elliott, a Master of Social Work student and intern with the ASU Community Collaborative.

“We knew that as long as our ZIP code was in the red zone, we would not be open for services. The residents were losing hope because we would tell them we had to wait for the numbers to get better, and that was the only answer we had.

“Now, we’re doing what we can to find alternatives and to just make things work.”

Starting in January, the ASU team began offering several outdoor, socially distanced activities for the residents, including social hours and mindfulness sessions. More meetup groups are planned.

And the students also figured out how to help residents access computer time and other services.

The goal of the ASU Community Collaborative is twofold: to provide students with real-world experience and to enhance the quality of life for the residents. The ASU Community Collaborative, based on the first floor of the Westward Ho, includes the School of Social Work, the School of Community Resources and Development, the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation and the College of Health Solutions, coordinated by the Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy.

Westward Ho resident Sharron Ross (right) plays with her dog, Tilly Suzanne, during a social meetup at Civic Space Park in downtown Phoenix. ASU School of Social Work student Adrine Rodriguez (left) is one of the interns who runs the weekly activity. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

When the pandemic hit in March, in-person services such as counseling were switched to Zoom, which was very challenging, said Stacey Gandy, an instructor in the School of Social Work and the program coordinator for the ASU Community Collaborative.

“Many residents don’t have internet,” she said. “And navigating technology is hard. That’s one of the services we provide – teaching them how to navigate their phones and tablets – and we weren’t here to help them.”

With the summer to plan, the team was able to resume some services in the fall semester, including the food cart.

“When we came back in the fall, we got to hear for the first time what it was like for them over summer not having us here and not having the food cart when food was a big issue for them,” Elliott said. “So in the fall we had to get it back in shape.”

The students also made sure the food cart was stocked and open a few hours a week over winter break.

The ASU team then solved another problem. When Zoom didn’t work for counseling, the sessions were switched to phone calls. But many residents have a limited supply of minutes on their cellphones. So the collaborative opened a room in the lobby with a phone, and residents can use it one at a time, with cleaning in between visits.

Besides the counseling sessions, the students added “Phone Pals,” in which the students call residents just to chat.

“It’s to talk about what’s going on in their lives right now, like with their grandchildren or with friends who have gotten sick,” Gandy said.

“Sometimes it’s about arguments with neighbors. Part of what we’ve done in the past is help the residents resolve issues, so we help them work through those conflicts.”

Ron Bookman, who is pursuing his Master of Social Work degree, is an intern with the collaborative. He participated in the Phone Pals.

“I had residents tell me it made a difference in their day. Their demeanor would shift 180 degrees,” he said.

“We continued it over break because that’s when people needed it the most was over the holidays.”

While chatting, he would try to make sure that the residents’ basic needs were met.

“I would ask if they could get food and get to the doctor,” said Bookman, who runs the weekly mindfulness sessions outdoors for the residents.

Trying to solve access to technology has been a focus for everyone, Gandy said.

“The residents rely on our computer lab to do emails and such,” she said.

“So we’re trying to find ways to provide services in a safe way. We’re going to do a signup sheet and open the computer lab for 30-minute slots to one person at a time. When they leave, we’ll sanitize the space before the next one comes in.”

The collaborative is planning to add other services, including outdoor meetups for women and for pet owners, as well as an online pain-management group in which residents can borrow iPads to access the sessions.

Gandy said that the length of the pandemic disruption has started to wear on the residents.

“With some residents who struggle with anxiety, it created more anxiety. But for those who struggle with social anxiety, I think it relieved some of the pressure of having to interact with people,” she said.

“They could walk down the sidewalk and not have to worry about that social expectation. But even some of the ones who were doing OK in the fall are struggling because this has gone on so long.”

Bookman said that the students’ efforts to solve the pandemic challenges gets to the heart of social work.

“We are empathetic, but we also have to be adaptable,” he said.

“This got us working together and stretching our minds and working as a team. We’re really engaged, bouncing ideas off each other and thinking about the residents.”

Bookman said he sees the residents as his mentors.

“They’re helping me to be a better social worker and preparing me for my success,” he said. “They’re definitely helping me as much as I’m helping them.”

The ASU Community Collaborative accepts donations for its pantry of food and hygiene items. The items most needed are toilet paper, bar soap, laundry detergent pods and nonperishable sources of protein such as canned chicken, tuna, Spam and peanut butter. Email Stacey Gandy to set up a time for drop-off at

Top image: School of Social Work graduate students Brandon Falk (left) and Ronald Bookman (right) chat with Westward Ho resident Douglas Meyer during an informal meetup in Civic Space Park in downtown Phoenix. The social-hour activity was started this semester by the ASU Community Collaborative as a way for residents to safely connect. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

The experience Kenja Hassan has gained during her PhD program is translating to the community, leading to real-world solutions to help end the HIV epidemic in Phoenix and beyond.

Graduate student finds mentorship and support in Edson College’s PhD program


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Kenja Hassan’s job is to build meaningful relationships between Arizona State University and diverse communities. Specifically, she acts as a liaison for the university with African American and Asian American community leaders and organizations. 

It’s a role she not only loves but excels at, as evidenced by her recent promotion to assistant vice president of ASU’s Office of Government and Community Engagement. 

“I consider myself knowledgeable about issues affecting the African American community because of my job and my race,” said Hassan.

So, it came as a surprise to her to learn just how stark the disparity for African American women with HIV has become. “The community doesn’t talk about this health issue. I think it’s an important knowledge gap to address for African Americans locally and for people who are affected,” she said.

According to the most recent statistics, HIV remains a top 10 cause of death for African American women between the ages of 20-44 nationally. It is not a top 10 cause of death for any other group of women at any age.

One of the ways she’s addressing it is through her doctoral program. Hassan is enrolled in the Nursing and Healthcare Innovation, PhD offered through ASU’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation. 

Her research focuses on this complex issue by investigating what’s behind the statistics and working toward identifying solutions to address this critical health issue.

Hassan explained that she found out about Edson College’s program through her co-worker, a nurse, who had actually started the PhD herself and loved it.

“One of the important and helpful things for people to know is that this Nursing and Healthcare Innovation PhD is a research degree, not a practice degree. I don’t have a medical background and it’s not necessary to do well in the program.”

Still, most of the other students in her cohort are nurses, something that Hassan says has been really beneficial for her because of their caring and compassionate nature. She found support and comradery from her cohort, which given the intensity of a PhD program was valuable. 

“My fellow students and I were all very interested in looking after each other and making sure that we were all successful. It would have been a lot harder to continue without them.”

The same goes for the faculty and program mentors who model a culture of caring, creating an environment that encourages success but not at the expense of one’s sanity.

Hassan sums it up this way, “This is a discipline about caring for other people, so how can we shape a future where people are better cared for? And that comes through from the faculty. There is this sense of compassion that is different from other disciplines.”

That doesn’t mean that their research is any less rigorous. Though Hassan admits she didn’t know what to expect from a doctoral program when she first started it.

What she discovered was that in a PhD you’re really learning the research process. And when she came to understand this it reinforced her respect for professors and researchers even more. 

“I knew their work was difficult, but now, having experienced this process for myself, I really understand how hard it is.”

Her biggest piece of advice for those considering a PhD program is to spend some time figuring out what they really want to study. In fact, she recommends maybe even doing a little work ahead of time to ensure the research project is something that can be followed through with.

Of course, she is partial to the Edson College program and wholeheartedly recommends it to anyone with an interest in health care, no matter their background because the fact is, it affects everyone.

“Health care in the United States is an ongoing challenge and the more we know about how the system works and how to help people through it, the better off we’ll all be.”

Hassan’s research is mostly complete. Right now she’s in the analysis and writing stage with a few chapters down in her dissertation. If all goes to plan, she’ll finish the program sometime in 2021.

And in the meantime, she’s incorporating some of what she’s learned into her job at ASU and her role as an appointed member of the City of Phoenix Fast Track Cities Initiative.

Specifically, Hassan has been speaking at events large and small, about the devastating impact of HIV-related stigma on African Americans living with HIV. She’s also sharing her knowledge on patient-provider relationships with local organizations to improve communication and build trust.

Ultimately, her experiences in the program are translating to the community, leading to real-world solutions to help end the HIV epidemic in Phoenix and beyond.

ASU nursing student helps with COVID-19 relief effort in Guam


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Emma Greguska

Last fall, as populations across the globe struggled to adapt to life in the midst of a pandemic, ASU nursing student Lindsey Collins made the selfless decision to leave the familiarity of her home in Phoenix and head west to the U.S. island territory of Guam to lend a hand.

On Oct. 29, she signed a contract for the assignment. On Nov. 2, she received her flight information and flew out the very next day.

“Within 48 hours, I had relocated 6,436 miles away from Phoenix,” Collins said.

Despite the risk, Collins recognized the rare chance to help out as just the kind of opportunity she had been looking for.

“Ultimately, I decided to take the assignment because I am passionate about global health issues,” she said. “I knew that taking an international assignment would help give me that experience needed to make a difference and gain more knowledge for my dream job of working with global health organizations.”

As a student at ASU’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, the move came smack in the middle of the semester and the global health course she was taking online for her Bachelor of Science in nursing. Thankfully, course instructor Nancy Spahr completely understood.

A retired nurse herself, with more than 50 years of experience, including 17 years at Mayo Clinic, Spahr developed an interest in global health while working for the Peace Corps in the late 1960s, traveling to India and later Vietnam, where she helped found an organization to educate nurses there.

slide from Power Point with photos of a nurse

A slide from ASU nursing student Lindsey Collins' PowerPoint presentation shows her wearing PPE, ready to lend a hand at Guam Memorial Hospital. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Collins.

“We live in a global society and what happens in other countries has important relevance to all of us,” Spahr said.

As the main project of her global health course, students are required to research a health concern in a particular country, taking into account things like culture and existing policies, and then come up with their own recommendations for prevention and treatment options.

In 10 years of teaching the course, Collins’ trip to Guam marked the first time one of Spahr’s students was actually spending time in the place they were researching. And even though there were challenges – internet access isn’t great on the island, and most of her days were spent covered head-to-toe in PPE for hours on end – “Boy, she came through,” Spahr said of Collins.

“When I saw her project, it was just so outstanding, and I could see she had such a passion for what she was doing.”

Collins, a mother of two and a full-time nurse at Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital in Phoenix, is currently working on earning her third degree from ASU. It wouldn’t be possible, she said, without the ability to take online courses like Spahr’s, which has helped her realize her true passion.

“I feel like global health is my calling,” Collins said. “The coursework pushed me to dive into topics. I love research! I always kept going down rabbit hole after rabbit hole. It is fascinating how subjects have so many layers and require community and government engagement, whether pandemics or policies.”

Though she is appreciative of the time she was able to spend in Guam and all she learned there, Collins is eager to get back to the Valley, and her kids.

“I'd like to go home and see them,” she said.

Top photo: ASU nursing student Lindsey Collins stands outside of Guam Memorial Hospital, where she has been working on the COVID-19 relief effort. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Collins

ASU transcends fundraising goal, grows culture of philanthropy


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Michelle Stermole

Dementia research. Coronavirus testing. Revitalizing communities. Giving more students access to education through scholarships.

Supporters’ tremendous generosity to Campaign ASU 2020 enabled all of those accomplishments and many more.

Nearly 359,700 individuals, corporations and foundations donated to Arizona State University’s fundraising campaign, which raised $2.35 billion and established a culture of philanthropy across the university. Of those, 213,473 were new donors.

“The resources the university receives from donor investors are among the most impactful support ASU receives,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow during a virtual donor appreciation event Tuesday. “They enable us to fund individual students in making progress, to give special resources to individual faculty members, to create entire faculty chairs that change the trajectory of an academic unit. They help us to maintain all of our initiatives in sustainability and dozens of other engagements that allow us to serve more people and accomplish more for the state; $2.3 billion-plus sounds like a huge number, and it is a huge number, but the impact is infinitely greater than that — it’s infinitely greater in lives changed, trajectory changed, outcomes changed.”

A gift of land enabled ASU’s start, so it’s fitting that philanthropy pushed boundaries and opened up new avenues for faculty, students and the community overall. More than 87.5% of the gifts were less than $100, but there were more than 10,000 gifts of $25,000 or more during the campaign.

“We are extremely grateful for the gifts to support ASU’s vision for what higher education can and should be,” ASU Foundation CEO Gretchen Buhlig said. “Every gift is important, whether it’s $10 or thousands of dollars. It all makes a tremendous impact on our students, faculty and the community.”

RELATED: Celebrating the impact of faculty and staff giving

Another notable campaign milestone is the endowment reached the $1 billion threshold. This achievement enables the university to attract and retain distinguished faculty and their research, provide additional scholarships to students, and offer additional enrichment opportunities and research to solve world problems in perpetuity.

ASU is one of about 45 public universities and 100 universities overall that have an endowment of $1 billion or more, according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers fiscal year 2019 survey.

The ASU Foundation publicly kicked off Campaign ASU 2020 in January 2017 to raise the long-term fundraising capacity of the university and focused on six priorities: ensure student access and excellence; champion student success; elevate the academic enterprise; fuel discovery, creativity and innovation; enrich our communities; and drive Sun Devil competitiveness. The campaign concluded Dec. 31, 2020.

“Together, our potential is limitless,” Crow told donors during the celebration. “There’s nothing that we can’t do, nothing that we can’t achieve, and you all have been a part of making that happen. Thanks.”

Enrich our communities

“This has really been a fantastic opportunity where the campaign has allowed us to amplify our charter,” Crow said. “Our focus on inclusion versus exclusion and the success of our students, our focus on research that benefits the public, and really importantly, our focus on taking responsibility for our community.”

Caring for the ASU and Arizona communities was paramount when the COVID-19 outbreak spiked in March 2019.

“We were very fortunate that the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust stood and helped us out in our early response to the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Josh LaBaer, executive director of the Biodesign Institute. “We were contacted by a number of first responder organizations as well as critical infrastructure people, people who run power companies. They have individuals critical to the power grid, but they cannot socially distance. By offering them testing, these people could safely work in their environment and know they weren’t going to infect each other.”

ASU developed a COVID-19 saliva test to offset the shortages of nasal swab tests in Arizona and rapidly scale testing for the ASU community as well as the community at large. The new test was available by the beginning of April, and more than half a million tests have been completed since then, LaBaer said.

“All of this was because of the seed the charitable trust planted by getting us going quickly, by putting that equipment in place, by getting us the supplies we needed to run those tests,” he said. “It got us up and running immediately. That was crucial.”

Ensure student access and excellence

One student who benefited from donor support is Sonia Villalba, a senior studying communication in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. She moved to the United States from Ecuador when she was 5, and her father passed away when she was 11.

“Going to school was a big deal for my family, especially attending a four-year university,” Villalba said. “We never thought we’d have the money to do that. That all changed when I met Chris and Chuck Michaels.”

Charles “Chuck” (’83) and Christine “Chris” (’87) Michaels created a scholarship to help Arizona high school graduates continue their education at their alma mater. They were among 92,479 degreed alumni who donated to ASU during the campaign, which is up 11% from when the campaign began.

“Education is the great equalizer,” Chris Michaels said.

“We’ve really tried to not only help financially but to help with mentoring,” Chuck Michaels added.

Villalba is one of 70,969 undergraduate and graduate students who received $253 million in ASU Foundation philanthropic scholarships during the campaign. That’s a 22% increase in scholarship recipients.

Elevate the academic enterprise

During the campaign, $85 million was donated to establish 60 new chairs and professorships, which is a 53% increase during the campaign.

While endowed positions are prestigious for the scholars who hold them, they are also marks of distinction for a college, Mari Koerner said. The former dean of Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College became the Alice Wiley Snell Professor of Education in 2015 to 2020. Now a professor emeritus, she said, “An endowed professorship or chair is an act of trust by an individual that an investment in this enterprise, specifically in faculty, will pay dividends through increased knowledge for and impact on the community.”

Koerner’s professorship was not the first to be funded by Richard and Alice Snell. They previously endowed a professorship in education policy studies in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ School of Social Transformation, formerly held by Emeritus Professor Teresa McCarty.

Faculty not only benefited from private support, but also contributed to a culture of philanthropy. Nearly 4,747 faculty and staff members donated during Campaign ASU 2020, doubling the number of employees who gave to ASU at the start of the campaign.

Fuel discovery, creativity and innovation

Brent Nannenga, an assistant professor in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, is working with a few others in the university to use advanced technology to understand why toxins attack the brain and a transformational gift from J. Orin and Charlene Edson is bolstering that work.

“The seed funding has really helped us because we’ve had this idea that has potentially groundbreaking implications, but we just need to get it off the ground,” Nannenga said. “Can we use some of these tools for new diagnostics, or can we use some of these tools for new therapeutics, maybe develop a vaccine?”

“It’s been great to finally get the resources to make a difference for Alzheimer’s research,” Nannenga said.

Abigail Gomez Morales, nursing and health care innovation PhD candidate in the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, is combining virtual reality and geriatrics to simulate what Alzheimer’s disease and dementia patients endure to help their caregivers improve communications.

“Thanks to your gift I got an education that gave me all of the foundations that I needed to create this gift for the community,” Gomez Morales said during the virtual donor appreciation event.

Champion student success

Donors contributed to the new, larger Pat Tillman Veterans Center, now located inside ASU 365 Community Union, which also was made possible, in part, from donor support.

The Pat Tillman Veterans Center provides comprehensive resources for about 10,000 student veterans, military active duty, guard and reserve members, as well as their dependents who are utilizing their sponsors’ GI Bill benefits while attending ASU. The center connects them with academic and support services such as assistance with veterans’ benefits, employment and referrals to make the transition from the military smoother.

Chris West and his family established the Family First Scholarship to assist dependents of veterans who died or were completely and permanently disabled while on active duty with their Chapter 35 benefits, which includes 45 months of education and training benefits.

“What’s so important about this group is they fall short of Veterans Administration help by one year,” West said. “It just fell in our lap that this is a great opportunity to pick up this last year for them. When you speak to them, and you can hear in their voice and see the relief you’re bringing to them, it gives me great joy that I’m touching lives and not just writing checks.”

Drive Sun Devil competitiveness

Zylan Cheatham, NBA player and ’19 graduate, wanted to make a difference in the south Phoenix community he grew up in that was surrounded by poverty, gang violence and other challenges.

“I knew I wanted to change things for the next generation of kids,” Cheatham said. “I wanted to get into the classrooms and get into the school systems and donate. Anything I can do to help.”

Cheatham’s gift benefits the ASU Center for Child Well-Being, which works with children whose parents are incarcerated.

“I know I’m going to impact kids that weren’t presented the same resources that everyone else was. That’s pretty much a big thing for me,” he said. “The more educated, the more prepared students are for the next level, for the real world, it’s only going to benefit us in every way.”

Private support is not a replacement for the university’s other sources of revenue, including investments from the state, students, their families, faculty, staff and research grants.

“Private support is critically important to Arizona State University because it enables solutions to problems that can transform lives and improve communities,” Buhlig said. “Private support enables opportunities for growth, innovation and excellence for our students and faculty.”

Although the campaign concluded, fundraising to elevate ASU’s work toward transforming higher education and making it more accessible continues.

“There’s no rest. There’s only where we move to next,” Crow said. “We have already emerged as America’s most innovative university and we are well-positioned by 2025 to be a completely new breed of university. One that impacts the state of Arizona, its residents, businesses and environment and extends across the nation and around the globe.”

Edson College launches nursing program at ASU at Lake Havasu


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Marshall Terrill

The ASU at Lake Havasu admissions team can breathe a huge sigh of relief, because they’re offering a nursing degree later this year.

And that makes their top executive very happy.

“Every week since I’ve been here, our admissions office gets phone calls from students and community members asking if we offer a nursing program,” said Carla Harcleroad, who was hired as the ASU at Lake Havasu director in April 2020. “Now when they call we can say, ‘Yes, we have nursing!”

Woman in blue blazer

Carla Harcleroad

Beginning fall 2021, ASU’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation will offer the Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN) at the Lake Havasu location. The new program helps fill immediate job growth needs in the health care field both in Lake Havasu City and in Mohave and La Paz counties at large, an area that exceeds a population of 200,000.

Katherine Kenny, associate dean of academic affairs for Edson College, worked over a seven-month period with Harcleroad to create a program for Havasu. She said a lot of care and thought went into the endeavor.

“Our programs are in direct response to our national workforce needs and right now, there is a large need for rural health care,” Kenny said. “They are desperate for nurses, and I don’t see that need decreasing when the pandemic is over.” Kenny added that when nurses are educated in a smaller community like Lake Havasu City, they are more likely to be hired upon graduation and stay there.

But there is also great flexibility in the field, said Salina Bednarek, a clinical assistant professor and director at Edson College.

“Nursing in general is highly sought-after because graduates can pursue a variety of fields with this degree,” Bednarek said. Besides a hospital setting, she said, registered nurses can work at public schools, private corporations or nonprofits, mental health facilities, rehabilitation centers, older adult care, outpatient care centers and telemedicine.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses earn a median annual salary of $73,300 with some earning as much as $180,000 annually.

Students will have two possible pathways to the BSN: Those who have already earned a bachelor’s degree in another field will be able to pursue nursing degee prerequisites at ASU at Lake Havasu through in class or remote course offerings. Students working on their first degree will also be able to complete the same prerequisites. Once admitted to the nursing program, students complete 50 nursing-specific credits. Initially, Havasu students will visit Phoenix at various points during their coursework for simulation and experiential learning at the Edson College Grace Center.

Harcleroad said Edson will offer the BSN at the ASU at Lake Havasu tuition rate, which is a lower rate compared to other ASU locations.

“It’s an incredible deal and opportunity for our students and community members,” Harcleroad said. “Part of our mission is to provide the most affordable education possible, and we feel like we’ve delivered on this promise.”

The program has space for 32 students in the fall 2021 cohort, and with current demand for nursing education, the program is expected to reach capacity each year.

Top photo courtesy of iStock/Getty Images.

A dose of facts: Answering your questions about the COVID-19 vaccines


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Pete Zrioka

With two COVID-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use in the United States and more in development, vaccination efforts are well underway worldwide. 

The speed with which Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech developed their vaccines, coupled with the internet’s ability to spread rumors more quickly than the coronavirus itself, means many people have questions about how the vaccines work and how safe and effective they are.

We asked experts from Arizona State University to answer some common questions about the vaccines and inoculate us against misinformation, so people can get their shots with confidence.

How does the COVID-19 vaccine work?

Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are administered by injection in the upper arm. The vaccines require two doses, taken three to four weeks apart, to be fully effective.

These injections carry a little piece of the virus’s genetic code, called messenger RNA, or mRNA. mRNA contains instructions for our bodies to make a harmless piece of the virus, its spike protein. Your body identifies the spike protein as an intruder, marshaling the immune system to defend itself by creating antibodies. After creating the spike protein, your body destroys the mRNA instructions, but the antibodies remain. If you’re exposed to the coronavirus in the future, your body will recognize the spike protein and deploy antibodies in defense.

Will the COVID-19 vaccine have side effects?

Possibly. Reported side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines may include fever, chills, fatigue, headache, and pain and swelling where you received the injection. But those side effects aren’t cause for concern.

“That's a great sign. Symptoms show that your body is creating an immune response to COVID,” said Heather Ross, a clinical assistant professor in ASU’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation and School for the Future of Innovation in Society. She also participated in the Moderna vaccine clinical trial over the summer.

“After the first dose, my arm was pretty sore and I had a headache, but not anything serious. After my second dose, about eight hours after the shot I had a fever, I felt super tired and pretty grumpy for about 30 hours. And then I was fine.”

These symptoms are normal signs that your body is building protection against the virus and are an expected response to a vaccine.

“The whole point is to activate your immune system,” said Anna Muldoon, who holds a master’s degree in public health and is a PhD student in the School for the Future of Innovation and Society. She currently studies the relationship between infectious disease outbreaks and social crisis in the United States. “And that means while you may feel like something activated your immune system, it doesn’t mean that something is wrong.”

While the expected side effects might be unpleasant, Ross says they pale in comparison to becoming sick with COVID-19.

“I do tell people, vaccination symptoms are a hell of a lot better than getting sick with COVID,” she said. “I have students, healthy young people, who are still getting short of breath when they try to exert themselves, months after recovering. It can be really, really disabling. We’ve seen people getting strokes after the fact from having COVID. It's really scary stuff.”

A very small number of people have had allergic reactions to the vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website has guidance and details on the safeguards in place. Any allergic reactions that have happened have been immediate, which is why staff members keep you at the vaccination site for about 15 minutes after you receive it to monitor for any reaction. Seasonal allergies have not been named a concern with the vaccine.

Who was the vaccine studied on?

People age 16 and older were included in the Pfizer-BioNTech study, while people 18 and up were included in the Moderna study. Combined, the clinical trials of the two vaccines included more than 70,000 people after preliminary, small-scale trials to ensure safety. Both studies included people from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds.

“A lot of times older adults are excluded from clinical trials, but they were definitely included here due to their vulnerability to COVID-19,” Ross said. “It was vital that these vaccines were effective for older adults.”

“If you look at the ethnic makeup of both of the vaccine trial groups, they pretty closely mirror the ethnic makeup of the United States,” said Bertram Jacobs, a professor of virology with the School of Life Sciences and a researcher in the Biodesign Institute's Center for Immunotherapy, Vaccines and Virotherapy. “And that's actually pretty unique, because for many reasons, we've had difficulty enrolling minority communities in clinical trials.”

If people close to me get vaccinated, why do I need to get a vaccine?

Getting vaccinated helps us reach herd immunity, which means most of a population is immune to a disease — either through vaccination or previous infection. It provides indirect protection to those who aren’t immune. The percentage of immune people in a population needed to reach herd immunity varies for different diseases and is unknown for COVID-19. 

“It's very possible that there might be someone in your life who can't get vaccinated, due to a suppressed immune system,” Muldoon said. “So, the more people get vaccinated, the more we can protect those people in our friend groups and families.”

Is natural herd immunity better than herd immunity by vaccination?

“Natural herd immunity” is a theoretical case of herd immunity achieved through naturally occurring infections rather than vaccines. But it may not even be possible.

“In recorded medicine, we have never reached herd immunity naturally. We have only achieved it via vaccination,” said Dr. Joshua LaBaer, executive director of ASU’s Biodesign Institute.

It would also be particularly difficult to achieve with COVID-19, because it’s unclear how long natural immunity against COVID-19 lasts after recovering from an infection.

“In this case, it's really good to have a vaccine in case natural immunity starts fading out,” Muldoon said. 

Furthermore, herd immunity through vaccination will place less strain on our health care system and will ultimately save lives. 

“Getting to ‘natural herd immunity’ means a whole lot of people are going to get sick and some are going to die,” Ross said. “And when we look at other diseases such as smallpox or polio, we would have never reached herd immunity without vaccination. What we would get is people with lifelong disabilities or who would die.”

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU

Was the COVID-19 vaccine rushed?

Yes, but that’s not a bad thing!

“It was faster than almost any other vaccine or treatment for anything in history,” Ross said. “And why was that possible? One of those reasons is that it was extremely well funded, which meant that the brain power and the work of so many people was devoted to working on these vaccines.”

Another reason the vaccines were developed so quickly is their underlying technology. Both are mRNA vaccines, which have been studied and worked on for decades. mRNA vaccines can be made using readily available materials in laboratories. This means their production can be easily standardized and scaled, hastening development.

The widespread nature of COVID-19 also allowed scientists to quickly test and develop their vaccines. To test the efficacy of a vaccine, it needs to be given to some people and not given to others. Those two groups are then followed to see who gets sick and who doesn’t.

“Normally you might have to wait years and years for enough people in a clinical trial to get exposed to an illness, but because COVID-19 is so prevalent, particularly in the United States, we had many people getting sick with it,” Ross said. “We were able to reach those study goals much faster because so many people in the clinical trials did ultimately get exposed and get sick.”

Should people who have had COVID-19 get the vaccine?

Yes. The CDC recommends that everyone be offered the vaccine, regardless of whether they have been infected. 

“We think you have some sort of immunity if you were infected,” Ross said. “But we don't know how strong it is and we also don't know how long it lasts. So yes, we are recommending that even if you had COVID-19, you should still get vaccinated.”

As more is discovered about the virus, the CDC will likely continue to update its guidance on who should receive the vaccine and when.

What do we know about the long-term effects of the COVID-19 vaccine? 

No long-term side effects have been reported for either the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.

“The longest-term effects that we have are from the first people getting the vaccine back in the spring in the earliest phases of the clinical trials,” Ross said. “Those people have been followed forward and we have not seen any serious long-term effects. If there were serious long-term effects that came up, then all of that information would have been entered into the FDA process and it would not have been authorized for use.”

“The overwhelming majority of vaccine side effects show up within two months,” Muldoon said. “People don't get weird effects from a vaccine 10 years later. The body doesn't work like that.”

The Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines contain only a few ingredients, which do not remain in the body long.

“We only have short-term data,” added Jacobs. “But I don't worry so much about long-term negative consequences, because we know they are really nonexistent in vaccines. And there's no reason to believe that this vaccine is going to be different from any others.”

What is in the COVID-19 vaccine?

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines contain mRNA, lipids and saline solutions. The single active ingredient — mRNA — is contained within a protective bubble of lipids. The saline solutions in the two vaccines are commonly used in medications and vaccines and serve to keep the pH and salt levels of the mixture close to those in the human body. Both vaccines are essentially genetic material wrapped in a bubble of fat suspended in salt water.

The full ingredients of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are: messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA), four lipids: SM-102; polyethylene glycol (PEG) 2000 dimyristoyl glycerol (DMG); cholesterol; 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DSPC); and the saline solutions composed of tromethamine, tromethamine hydrochloride, acetic acid, sodium acetate and sucrose.

The full ingredients of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are: messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA), four lipids: (4-hydroxybutyl)azanediyl)bis(hexane-6,1-diyl)bis(2-hexyldecanoate); 2-[(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide; 1,2-Distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine and cholesterol; and a saline solution of potassium chloride, monobasic potassium phosphate, sodium chloride, dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate and sucrose.

Does the flu vaccine protect against COVID-19?

No. The flu shot does not protect against COVID-19. It protects against different strains of influenza, but influenza is a different virus than SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19. 

Does the COVID-19 vaccine prevent people from getting the virus?

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are 95% and 94.1% effective. This means that almost everyone who gets vaccinated — over 94% — will be protected from getting symptomatic COVID-19 illness.

“That's very high and totally reasonable for the kinds of vaccines that we licensed in the United States regularly,” Muldoon said. “But there is no such thing as a 100% guarantee.”

The small number of people who do get infected are likely to have a milder case than they would have without the vaccine. 

“You may still get COVID-19 even after the vaccine, but it will protect you from having a serious case,” Ross added. “Because the clinical trials were designed to look for symptomatic illness, you could still get the virus, but have no symptoms and not know at all. We just don't know that yet, because that's not what the clinical trials were designed to measure.” 

For this reason, people should continue to wear masks and social distance even after vaccination.

Does the COVID-19 vaccine change your DNA?

“No, absolutely not,” Jacobs said.

While the vaccines contain genetic material (mRNA), they have no effect on our DNA. These mRNA vaccines simply deliver instructions to our cells to make a single protein from the coronavirus. Once the protein is created, those instructions are broken down and the protein piece is displayed on the surface of a cell. Our immune systems recognize that it doesn’t belong and make antibodies in defense. This is the same way our bodies respond to a natural infection.

“DNA is like a very big blueprint, let’s say 20,000 pages long. If you want to make something on page 1,000, you don’t take the whole blueprint to a factory. Instead, you make a photocopy of that page,” Jacobs said. “Then, once the factory starts making what’s on the photocopy, it’s torn up so they can start making whatever else needs to be made.”

That’s messenger RNA, Jacobs said. The mRNA does not remain in the body. It’s disposed of once it delivers its instructions and does not impact our DNA. 

Will the COVID-19 vaccines protect me from new strains of the virus? 

It’s unknown if the COVID-19 vaccines will protect from new strains of SARS-CoV-2. Preliminary research suggests that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will provide protection against the more infectious strain first detected in the United Kingdom. 

Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines prompt the body to create antibodies tailored to a region of the viral protein, and new strains of the coronavirus are exhibiting changes to that region.

“We don't think those are going to be enough changes to prevent the vaccine from working,” Jacobs said. “What we might see, though, is instead of being 95% effective, maybe the vaccines are 80% effective or 70% effective against the new strains.”

While diminished efficacy is a concern, Jacobs says both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines can be quickly adapted to protect against emerging strains.

An infographic explaining how mRNA vaccines work to protect you from COVID-19.

Illustrations by Shireen Dooling

About our experts

Heather Ross is a nurse practitioner and holds a doctorate of nursing practice and PhD in human and social dimensions of science and technology. She currently serves as a special adviser to Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego.

Anna Muldoon previously worked in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the Department of Health and Human Services as a science policy adviser. She currently works in Biodesign’s Modeling Emerging Threats for Arizona (METAz) Workgroup and recently co-authored COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories: QAnon, 5G, the New World Order and Other Viral Ideas

Bertram Jacobs has been working with vaccines for more than 25 years and is one of the world’s foremost experts on a poxvirus called vaccinia, a cousin of the smallpox virus. He has genetically engineered the virus as a vehicle against numerous infectious agents, bioterrorism threats, cancer and other viruses, including HIV. 

In addition to leading the Biodesign Institute, Joshua LaBaer is director of the Biodesign Virginia G. Piper Center for Personalized Diagnostics. He is an expert on using biomarkers — unique molecular signifiers of disease — as early warning signs of diseases like diabetes and cancer.

Brooke LaVelle pictured in her cap and gown, then after starting her first job as a nurse and more recently in full personal protective equipment.

A season of transitions brings perspective and confidence for 2019 alumna


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Amanda Goodman

Time spent in nursing school is full of transitions. You have your transition into the professional program, to different specialties, and then there’s the transition to practice which is meant to prepare you for your first job as an RN.

Brooke LaVelle progressed through each step successfully. She graduated from ASU’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation in May 2019, earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

“As a result of my Term 7 and Term 8 clinicals, I was able to network while in school so that I had a job lined up post-graduation, at the same facility I did rotations in,” said LaVelle.

The future looked especially promising. 

She started in the Progressive Care Unit in September at a Scottsdale area hospital, with the goal of transitioning to the Intensive Care Unit relatively quickly. LaVelle jumped enthusiastically into her new job ready to deliver exceptional care. It marked one of the biggest transitions yet into her chosen profession and sent her into a mild version of what’s commonly known in the field as “reality shock.”

"As a new grad RN, you go through an initial period which is kind of like a honeymoon phase. After working so hard in nursing school and passing the state boards, you begin your first job and everything seems like it’s going to be rainbows and unicorns from then on… and then reality sets in and you feel like maybe you’re inadequate or don’t have the right resources to succeed," she said.

The timing of this was not great. LaVelle was trying to navigate this new, strange feeling of inadequacy as the first cases of a new, highly contagious virus were beginning to spread overseas.

She knew she couldn’t sit in that feeling for long and worked toward pulling herself out by focusing on what she was doing well and how to build on those skills. In the areas she was struggling, it was about tapping the resources available to her, doing more research and seeking more education.

“That was a big thing that helped me, along with looking in the mirror and admitting to myself I wasn’t supposed to be perfect. The reality is nursing school teaches you a lot but it does not and, truthfully, cannot teach you everything.”

All the while, LaVelle was still focused on her goal of making the transition to a role in the Intensive Care Unit. But before she could put that plan in motion the coronavirus had made its way to Arizona and the onslaught of cases quickly consumed her hospital. 

“I ended up staying in my current unit and learning a whole lot more than I thought I ever would in my first year of nursing. I took extra classes and went out for certifications I otherwise wouldn’t have. I’ve gained so much knowledge by investing myself in my first job rather than just looking at it as a means to get to the next place.”

All of those efforts have paved the way for new and exciting opportunities. LaVelle is now serving as a preceptor for nursing students and joined Edson College’s Alumni Board

At the same time, working through her insecurities as a new nurse during a global pandemic only reinforced the humbling impact that nurses have on their patient’s lives.

“We are our patient’s lifeline. They’re not able to have visitors come into the hospital, we’re the face they see from sunup to sundown every day. Whether you’re a nursing student, recent alumni or you’ve been in the field for 25 years, as nurses, we have this awesome responsibility and privilege. I do think that’s something to be mindful of.”

Her first year as a nurse may not have gone according to plan but LaVelle is enjoying the detour and optimistic about the future.

“As much as I do feel bad for all of us new nurses since we never really knew what it was like before the pandemic, in some ways, it is an advantage because it can only go up from here.”

New medical director joins ASU to advance clinical and translational research


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Arizona State University's College of Health Solutions has announced the selection of Dr. Frank LoVecchio as the new medical director of clinical and community translational research. 

LoVecchio will provide medical oversight of clinical and community translational research studies aimed at improving population health. In this role, he will foster research collaborations both within the university and in the greater community that employ the translational research process, which shortens the time from research discovery to clinical practice. 

An attending physician in the Department of Medical Toxicology at Banner University Medical Center, LoVecchio practices emergency medicine and critical care and is board certified in emergency medicine, medical toxicology, medical forensics and addiction medicine. He also holds research scholar and professorships at both the University of Arizona College of Medicine and the Creighton University School of Medicine in Phoenix. 

He is the principal investigator for the EMERGEncy ID NET, a group of emergency departments funded through the Centers for Disease Control to conduct infectious disease trials. Together with collaborators he has garnered more than $15 million in research funding throughout his career.

As part of his work with the College of Health Solutions, he will join the college's Clinical and Community Translational Science program as a key addition to the team working to significantly advance research at the Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix. The program is led by Scott Leischow, a College of Health Solutions professor and director of clinical and translational science.

“We are pleased that Dr. LoVecchio has joined our team as medical director. His extensive clinical experience, as well as his expertise in laboratory and clinical research, will be essential as we expand our Clinical and Community Translational Science program in collaboration with partners at ASU and in the community,” Leischow said.  

In previous positions, LoVecchio served as director of the Banner Poison and Drug Information Center. He also served as vice chair and research director at the University of Arizona College of Medicine at Maricopa Integrated Health (now Valleywise Health). In the course of his professional work, he has published more than 100 articles, book chapters and textbooks.

“Dr. LoVecchio is a well-known and highly regarded medical professional who will accelerate our efforts to take research from discovery into practice to improve the health of people and communities across Arizona. His expertise in clinical trial research will be invaluable as we collaborate across ASU and with community partners on solutions that help people stay healthy, improve their health and manage chronic disease,” said Deborah Helitzer, dean of the College of Health Solutions. 

“From my first discussions with Dean Helitzer, I saw a natural alignment between the mission of the College of Health Solutions and my strong passion for research to improve population health. I am truly honored to further this work in the ASU community and to collaborate with the esteemed faculty here,” LoVecchio said.

LoVecchio holds a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree from the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine and a master’s degree in public health from the Harvard Medical School of Public Health. He has served on several journal editorial boards and is the recipient of local and national teaching awards.

In addition to working with the College of Health Solutions, LoVecchio will provide medical oversight of clinical trials for ASU’s Biodesign Institute, Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation and the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

First residents move into Mirabella


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Marshall Terrill

Ruth Jones has found her forever home.

It’s 20 stories tall, sits at the edge of the ASU Tempe campus and offers spectacular views of the Valley.

“My forever home had to be someplace, and this is it,” said Jones, a retired political science professor who worked at the university for 35 years. “I chose this place because I wanted to come to a deep, vibrant, exciting place with lots of engagement and activity.”

Jones was one of a handful of residents of varied backgrounds and life experience who moved into Mirabella at ASU, a new $252 million intergenerational living and lifelong learning complex, on Dec. 28. Residents will continue moving into the building — four units a day — through the spring.

Exterior photo of Mirabella at ASU

Mirabella at ASU features 246 independent-living apartments and 52 health care units, as well as an array of other amenities. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU

The new structure at the southeast corner of University Drive and Mill Avenue was developed by private, nonprofit developers University Reality and Pacific Retirement Services on land owned by ASU. It features 246 independent-living apartments and 52 health care units, as well as an indoor pool and wellness center, physical therapy gym, theater, art museum, event and lecture hall, game rooms, salon and spa, dog park, valet and underground parking, and four restaurants, including a ground-floor bistro that will eventually be open to the public.

Mirabella at ASU promises to combine urban sophistication with a rousing university environment for a one-of-a-kind retirement experience. It will also link the university community to the residents, who are age 62 and older, with an average age of 76. They will be able to take classes, have full access to the campus’ amenities, and be near cultural and sports events, while soaking in the desert oasis from the heart of the city.

“ASU wants its students to become master learners, meaning individuals who are capable of learning and adapting throughout their whole lives,” said Lindsey Beagley, who is the lifelong university engagement director at Mirabella at ASU. “Our residents are people who know that learning doesn’t stop after they graduate or they’ve concluded their professional careers. This is an opportunity to integrate master learners into our campus environment, which is a win-win for everyone.”

According to Beagley, Mirabella at ASU residents can join ASU classes as “guest learners” and study alongside ASU students. Instructors have extended invitations to residents to join 117 courses in the spring, and the list is growing. Twenty-three residents have already signed up to attend classes during the spring 2021 semester.

Five years in the making

Perhaps no one is happier to see Mirabella at ASU open than its builder — McCarthy Building Companies Inc. It has been on its drafting table since 2015.

“When you open a building of this size, it’s a great relief and very satisfying. A lot of planning and effort went into Mirabella at ASU,” said Kurt Nyberg, vice president of operations for McCarthy. “Architecturally, it’s a striking building, and it’s now a monument in Tempe.”

Nyberg said the impact goes beyond aesthetics. The building includes sustainable material from the state and region, and 50 percent construction waste reduction. Other environmentally friendly features include electric vehicle charging stations, water-saving fixtures and photovoltaic panels.

The 613,000-square-foot structure took more than a year to construct and employed approximately 500 laborers, according to Nyberg.

“The labor expenditures for putting this building together has been enormous, but it has supported over 500 families with diverse backgrounds for an entire year,” Nyberg said. “Those same workers also ate at nearby restaurants, shopped at Tempe stores and infused money into the local economy.”

The concept also lured Tom Dorough, executive director at Pacific Retirement Services, which co-owns and operates the site and will eventually employ approximately 200 part- and full-time employees. Dorough worked for a major hotel chain for 18 years but said Mirabella at ASU intrigued him.

“When the project was announced in Tempe near the ASU campus, I thought it was a great concept because so often retirement communities talk about how they can change and be innovative. No one could quite put their finger on it,” Dorough said. “With ASU’s involvement, we were able to do some very innovative things. It was so exciting that I said, ‘That’s something I want to be a part of.’”

University-inspired retirement (with plenty of perks)

When 85-year-old Sheila Zieglowsky heard about Mirabella at ASU a few years back, she and her husband, James, loved the concept of being near the university and its enormous library. A retired educator originally from Illinois, Zieglowsky said her two-bedroom, two-bath apartment at Mirabella is 1,450 square feet and has a balcony that offers views of ASU Gammage, Tempe Butte and South Mountain. It’s much different than their large home in the Superstition Mountain Golf & Country Club in Gold Canyon, but they were ready for a new life and a new home. And no yard work.

When James died in February, Sheila said Mirabella at ASU became her new lifeline.

“I needed to get out of that big house and come to where there’s people, excitement, restaurants and shopping,” Zieglowsky said. “I’m also a big reader and now have access to ASU’s library and many classrooms.”

Zieglowsky will have access to much more. In addition to residents' access to ASU Library materials (some 5 million books, plus digital materials, collections, facilities and maker spaces) and classes, Mirabella at ASU will host on-site faculty-led lectures, workshops and book clubs, as well as touring various destinations of interest on campus.

Residents are officially affiliated members of the ASU community with Sun Cards (university ID cards), granting them access to the following benefits:

  • Free admission to all ASU Athletics (except men’s football and basketball).
  • Free admission to performances by Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.
  • Group rates for ASU’s “Beyond” series and presale access to Broadway performances at ASU Gammage.
  • Affiliate discount to the Sun Devil Fitness Complex.
  • Discount on ASU merchandise at the bookstores.
  • Buses for shopping and errands in a 10-mile radius.
  • Complimentary town car service/shuttle for medical, dental, eye appointments and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

But the best perk for Zieglowsky’s daughter Valerie is knowing her mother will be in good hands.

“We know she’ll be safe and well taken care of at this location,” Valerie Zieglowsky said of the on-location security and health care staff. “We’re thankful that she’s here.”

Connecting the Dotts

Don Dotts was ASU’s alumni director for 26 years and serves on seven local nonprofit boards, including the board of trustees at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. At 85, he has taken on a new job: editor of the “Mirabella at ASU Universe.” The online community newsletter will publish every other month, and Dotts is working on its third edition. He likes the idea of staying busy and being within walking distance of his church and the campus.

“Instead of doing my daily walk around my neighborhood, I’ll be walking around the campus,” said Dotts, who has lived in The Lakes of Tempe for the last 43 years. “I look forward to walking to ASU Gammage and to Sun Devil Stadium. I’m also a block from my church. All of this was appealing to me.”

In 1953, Dotts and his wife were freshmen at the ASU Tempe campus when its student body was 10,000 strong. Now, at 85, he is willing to impart his acquired knowledge to others. Mirbella at ASU residents will have the same opportunity. Approximately 15 percent have signed on the ASU Mentor Network to be student mentors, imparting professional, civic and industry knowledge to students and providing guidance.

A wall display shows large photos of various desert flora

Each of Mirabella's 20 floors has a different desert botanical theme, in partnership with the School of Life Sciences at ASU. Mirabella will also offer opportunities to students in arts, nursing, engineering and more. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU

That’s just one of many partnerships the complex has planned with the university. The location of Mirabella at ASU creates opportunities for academic units and student experiential learning. Others include:

  • Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts: Three students from ASU’s School of Music, Dance and Theatre will be selected to live in the building as artists-in-residence in exchange for performing five to six nights a week or creating music programming.
  • Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation: Pre-licensure nursing students can provide valuable health services and gain supervised clinical experience as well as exposure to a potential professional pathway.
  • College of Health Solutions: Kinesiology, sports and exercise science student internships will focus on physical activity, sleep, nutrition and stress reduction to enhance all aspects of wellness.
  • Ira A. Fulton Colleges of Engineering: Computer science students are to offer residents technical support service.
  • Mirabella at ASU will also house 10,000 square feet of gallery and studio space where Herberger Institute students can showcase their art and creative design work alongside residents’ work.

Health at your doorstep

Loyd and Susan Shipman traded an oceanside view in San Luis Obispo, California, for a view of Mill Avenue and University Drive. They have waited three years to move into their two-bedroom, 1,450-square-foot unit. So far they have no regrets.

“There’s so many amenities here, but I especially liked the fact they had a woodworking shop,” said 88-year-old Loyd Shipman, a retired field engineer with AT&T.

Susan Shipman, who worked for the Bank of America for 30 years, said there was another draw for the couple — the health care options Mirabella at ASU offers.

“We’ve had a few surgeries, and it was very hard at our age to recover while looking out after the other,” Susan Shipman said. “We want to continue the life we’re living, but we also don’t want to be a burden to our children.”

As a Life Plan Community, Mirabella at ASU offers every level of health care on-site, from assisted living to memory support, skilled nursing and rehabilitation services. Having this full continuum of care on-site gives the Shipmans great peace of mind.

In the meantime, they plan on living well.

“We’ve saved all of our lives to have a good retirement,” Susan Shipman said. “Today it starts.”

Top photo: Ruth Jones moves into her two-bedroom, two-bath unit at the new Mirabella at ASU, on Dec. 28, the first day residents could move into their new residences. The 20-story senior-living facility residents can take university classes, have access to the libraries and are close to cultural and sporting events. Mirabella will offer opportunities to students from Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, College of Health Solutions and the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU

Sun Devil DACA recipient siblings celebrate graduation together


This is a kicker

Hannah Moulton Belec

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2020 graduates.

Siblings Carlos Yanez Navarro and Nicole Yanez Navarro weren’t supposed to “walk the stage” on the same day. Nicole, originally a few semesters behind her brother, took on extra classes each semester so that they could graduate together this December. And while there won’t be an in-person commemoration at Desert Financial Arena like usual, the Yanez Navarros plan on creating their own in their backyard on commencement day, Dec. 14. Their grandmother, who lives in the family’s native Chihuahua, Mexico, might even make the trip to Phoenix. It will also be their father’s birthday. The Yanez Navarro family has much to celebrate, and Carlos and Nicole’s achievements embody decades of sacrifice.

“I knew I wanted to graduate with my brother and give that gift to my parents and my grandmother because they’ve been a huge support for us. We wanted to experience it together,” Nicole said. 

The future is bright for the siblings, but as undocumented students, their journey has been punctuated by obstacles that they and thousands of others face in seeking higher education in the United States. Before they could realize their dreams, they had to overcome barriers that their peers didn’t have to face, including access to very limited financial aid and arduous processes. 

“When I was getting out of high school, I still wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to go to college or receive any further education because of our legal status,” Nicole said. 

With the help of her mother and family friends, Nicole, 23, was able to become a Deferred Action for Early Childhood Arrivals recipient while Carlos, 21, was able to do the same about two years later, which meant temporary assurance that they could remain in the United States, where they have lived since they were children. Meticulous DACA requirements can make or break a person's chances of being a recipient — one part of the process requires proof of residence within the United States in every year since 2007.

“That meant getting six to seven documents a year [since 2007]. We pulled out everything we had — middle school certificates, school attendance records — I remember it being a process,” Carlos said. “We were lucky because we had a lot of written proof, but a lot of people have a hard time with providing these documents.”

Although the DACA process is a difficult and tiring one, it has only fueled inspiration in the Yanez Navarro siblings to take on careers centered around helping others, particularly those in more vulnerable situations. 

Carlos, who is graduating with three degrees this December — justice studies, political science and transborder Chicana/o and Latina/o studies (U.S. and Mexican regional immigration policy and economy) — is hoping to work for a community-based organization as an attorney. He was selected as the Hispanic Convocation Outstanding Undergraduate Student Awardee, and he already has substantial experience working with DREAMzone, a community and resource at ASU dedicated to helping DACA, undocumented and students from mixed-immigration-status families succeed at ASU. Nicole, who currently works as a nurse since she previously earned her associate degree and recently passed the NCLEX-RN, is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in nursing from the ASU Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation. She is hoping to eventually open up a nonprofit practice with her friends and fellow nurse practitioners to help people in low-income communities or those who face language and cultural barriers. 

As they prepared to graduate, Carlos and Nicole reflected on their time at ASU and what advice they have for other Sun Devils. 

WATCH: Carlos’ story — ASU Hispanic Convocation

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Carlos: For me, I’ve been involved in a lot of community organizing for a while. I started organizing when I was in high school, so I was helping people with their DACA forms and the naturalization process. I was also involved in other community organizations. I used to want to become a doctor and originally started at ASU studying biology. I ended up switching after becoming more involved in volunteering. 

Nicole: I realized that I wanted to major in nursing early on when I was still in middle school. My parents only speak Spanish, and growing up, I always watched my parents struggle with the language barrier when seeking health care. Although translators were always available, many things became lost in translation and a lot of the time they were still left with uncertainty. I knew early on that I wanted to make a difference in the nursing field by being able to communicate with Spanish-speaking families and allow them to leave my care feeling comfortable and knowing that all of their concerns are addressed.

Q: During your time at ASU, what has inspired you or changed your perspective? 

Carlos: As part of our DREAMZone collaborations with on-campus clubs, we worked to build mentorship programs. My mentee’s story really stuck with me. She wasn’t eligible to apply for DACA because of the confusion surrounding the cancellation. She’s fully undocumented without the permit, but she keeps moving forward — she just added a minor and another certificate. The tuition is pretty expensive, and she’s not on any specific scholarships. 

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

Carlos: So I could stay close to my family. I didn’t want to go out of state because of them. 

Nicole: I chose ASU because they allowed me to begin my bachelor’s program while completing my associate degree in nursing at Gateway Community College. This concurrent enrollment program allowed me to finish both programs only one semester apart from one another and be able to start my nursing career only a few weeks after finishing school.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

Carlos: Professor Eileen McConnell, from the School of Transborder Studies, really helped me out. I was at the Supreme Court deliberations for the DACA argument last year, and she was the one who helped me afford the plane ticket to Washington, D.C. I was taking one of her classes during the time, and she’s been there for me for the past year helping with recommendations and introducing me to other undocumented lawyers. She has been so helpful. 

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

Carlos: During my time at ASU, I saw all my friends and the people who came through DREAMZone persevere and keep going. Besides DACA recipients, I’ve met some TPS [temporary protected status] holders and people with different statuses. They make the best of the situation and keep pushing through. I think that is something I’d tell other people. We all play with the cards, but it’s still up to us to push through. 

Nicole: Yeah, make the best out of the situation that you have. 

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life? 

Carlos: Hayden Library, but the old one [before renovations]! There were booths on the first basement floor where we’d study. 

Nicole: When I was still doing community college and ASU Online, we’d meet up together and do homework. We were each other’s inspiration the whole time; we kept pushing each other throughout college. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

Carlos: I’m applying to law school right now. I’ve been accepted to two schools so far, so right now I’m waiting on other schools’ decisions and weighing financial aid. I’m planning on studying immigration and asylum law. The Florence Project is a really good example of where I want to work. They get a lot of people out of detention centers and help asylum cases go through. [Carlos now does work for The Florence Project as a legal assistant.]

Nicole: For now, I just graduated with my associate degree in nursing. As soon as I passed the NCLEX-RN exam, I started working as a nurse right away. This is my third month. So once I’m done with my BSN, I’m going to take a break from school and go back to get a master’s in about a year. 

Written by Julian Klein, ASU Student Life

ASU's health care compliance and regulations degree the first undergrad program in nation to earn prestigious accreditation


This is a kicker

Amanda Goodman

Already a groundbreaking program, the Bachelor of Science in health care compliance and regulations offered through Arizona State University’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation has achieved a major milestone.

This fall the health care compliance and regulations degree became the first, and only, undergraduate program in the nation to earn accreditation from the Compliance Certification Board. The board sets the standards that individuals must meet to receive and hold certification in compliance. 

“I’m so thrilled that this program, which was the first of its kind to be offered as a bachelor’s degree, has achieved another first, earning accreditation through the CCB. It’s a testament to the dedicated faculty and staff who modeled the curriculum after the core requirements of this prestigious accreditation body,” said Edson College Dean Judith Karshmer

Launched in fall 2016, it became the first baccalaureate degree program in the U.S. dedicated to the education and training of compliance specialists specifically in the health care environment. 

In the program, students gain the skills and leadership insight to ensure patient safety, manage compliance training and advocate for proper ethical and legal decisions.   

“In health care, providers, regulators and insurers need skilled staff who can root out fraud and abuse, which we know can create inefficiencies, increase costs and, most seriously, endanger patients' lives,” said Mary Smalle, Health Care Compliance and Regulations program director. “Our program prepares students to help their organizations comply with the safety regulations and health care laws to protect patients, staff and government programs from harm.”

While the program is relatively new, graduating its first students in 2018, the demand for qualified compliance specialists in health care settings is on the rise.

Specific roles for graduates include compliance analyst, health care auditor, hospital quality assurance compliance associate, and legal and compliance analyst for insurance companies, to name a few. 

By earning accreditation the program’s reputation is bolstered even further. It also ensures that students are learning exactly what they need in order to be successful in this field.

“Whether the student is applying for a job, applying to graduate school, or opening a private practice as a consultant, coming from an externally accredited program provides evidence of a baseline of rigor in their training,” Smalle said.  

Additionally, students who graduate from this program are now eligible to sit for a number of certification exams through CCB that can make them more marketable and help advance their careers. 

“For over 20 years, the Compliance Certification Board has developed the criteria to determine competency in compliance. CCB accreditation will give the students a point of pride when describing their program. Students will also be assured that our program is one that has and will continue to look to industry experts to ensure our program continues to evolve in a relevant way to meet the needs of the industry,” said Smalle. 

Having the Compliance Certification Board's oversight and guidance will be an integral part of the program’s success going forward. It’s a partnership that will be advantageous to everyone involved.

On her own, but not alone, single mom earns degree with university support


This is a kicker

Amanda Goodman

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2020 graduates.

Dec. 14, 2020, is a day Audrey Magee-Davey has been looking forward to for a long time. That is when she’ll accomplish a major milestone, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Arizona State University’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

The 39-year-old single mother of two has technically been working toward this goal since earning an associate degree to become a registered nurse in 2011. 

“I’m so excited! Over the years there were a lot of things that impeded my ability to go back to school so it just never worked out,” Magee-Davey said, “But I knew if I didn’t just start, I was never going to do it so when I moved back to Arizona in 2018 I said okay this is it, I’ve got to get this done.”

In a way, it was like coming home, because she’s already a Sun Devil. In 2003 Magee-Davey graduated from ASU with a Bachelor of Arts in French.  

The second time around though was different. As anticipated, going to school, working a full-time job as a nurse, plus picking up a part-time job all while managing a household and taking care of her children was stressful. And that was before the global pandemic.

COVID-19 brought on new levels of responsibility and exhaustion. 

Like so many parents, Magee-Davey had to manage her kids’ school at home. And at work, she was dealing with a crisis, unlike anything she’d ever seen before in the health care field.

“I’ve been a nurse for 9 years and I’ve never had so many patients die, I’ve never experienced that in my entire career so it’s been a really hard year,” she said.

If there were ever a time to justify taking a pause from her program, 2020 was it. Magee-Davey seriously considered it.

“I thought, ya know I’m almost done and I’ve been doing this degree the whole time under a lot of stress, I just have to finish.”

One of the key factors in her decision to carry on was that Edson College's RN-BSN program is fully online, giving her the flexibility she needed to continue. That coupled with the support from her ASU Online success coach and the program’s faculty helped her not only survive but thrive. 

She has a 3.91 GPA and will graduate Summa Cum Laude but perhaps her favorite part of this achievement is the example it sets for her kids. 

“It was important for them to see that it’s good to apply yourself even when the external circumstances are not ideal. I think getting a degree is really important especially when you know what you want to do. So it’s a big deal for me to have my children see me succeed.”

On the cusp of her second bachelor’s degree from ASU, we talked about what she’s learned throughout her Sun Devil experiences and solicited her advice for current students. 

Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

Answer: During the time I have spent at ASU — over 6 years now! — I have learned a lot. When I was at ASU for my first degree in the early 2000s, I found a community that accepted me for who I am. This university has widened my perspective on the world and opened my eyes to different cultures and new people. This gave me the opportunity to grow as a person, to be more accepting of new experiences, and brave enough to try new things and take risks. ASU gave me the opportunity to study abroad, to meet new people, and experience new things I may not have been able to if I choose a different path.  

Now that I have been able to return to ASU, I brought additional life experiences that I could share with others and use to continue to develop my profession in a way that can return to the community once I graduate. ASU has helped me to be proud of my accomplishments and who I am as a person.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Professor Natalie Heywood showed me the potential nurses have to work in many different facets and to continue to be lifelong learners. She helped me to see that I have the potential to continue to pursue further education and achieve my goals.  

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: What you learn in school is yours to keep forever. It is okay to change majors, to take a class just because it looks interesting, or to follow a different path. The important part is that you stay curious, stay focused and be open to trying new things. 

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: If someone gave me $40 million dollars, I would want to use it to help underserved populations have better access to health care, mental health resources and continuing education.

Study shows COVID-19 often undetected in Maricopa County


This is a kicker

Pete Zrioka

COVID-19 cases in Maricopa County are three to four times higher than testing efforts indicate, according to a recent antibody study.

The seroprevalence study, or Serosurvey, was a joint effort by the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, Mayo Clinic and Arizona State University to estimate the prevalence of COVID-19 antibodies in the community. Based on their results, they estimate that 10.7% of residents — approximately 470,000 people — have had a past infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. 

From Sept. 12 to Oct. 1, volunteers collected blood samples from 169 households throughout Maricopa County. The households were carefully selected to provide a sample that represents the larger population, using a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention technique called Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER). 

Mayo Clinic tested the samples for antibodies, which are special proteins created by our bodies in response to different germs. If a participant tested positive for antibodies, it was highly likely they were infected with the coronavirus in the past. Antibodies can be detected one to three weeks after a person becomes infected. 

Where we are and the way forward

Maricopa County’s seroprevalence rate is second only to New York’s reported 14%. However, comparing results to serosurveys from other counties and cities is difficult.  

“There aren't many true comparisons,” said Megan Jehn, an infectious disease epidemiologist and associate professor in ASU’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change, who helped analyze the data. “Most of the published serosurveys were conducted early in the pandemic, around April. Also, we took great care in selecting a representative sample of population in Maricopa County, while most other serosurveys relied on convenience samples.”

Convenience samples include people sampled because they are easy to reach or “convenient,” such as someone who goes to a specific hospital or clinic. They are not randomly selected and therefore don’t accurately represent the whole population. For example, they don’t include people without access to health care. The Maricopa County Serosurvey requested samples from randomly selected households in the county to provide a more accurate estimate of infections throughout the community. 

“That fact that our seroprevalence is similar to what New York saw shows a lot of community spread,” said Marcy Flanagan, executive director of Maricopa County Department of Public Health. “This reinforces that we need to employ these tried and true mitigation methods — mask wearing, social distancing and hand sanitation — to limit spread.”

A woman in full personal protective gear indicates the site of blood draw on a man's arm.

A volunteer with the Maricopa County Serosurvey prepares a resident for a blood draw. Free antibody testing was offered to residents as part of the serosurvey in order to gain a more complete picture of COVID-19 infections in the county. Photo by Andy DeLisle

Another method for combatting COVID-19 will be vaccination. Maricopa County Department of Public Health estimates that 40%–80% of the population will need to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity. Herd immunity occurs when a large enough portion of the population becomes immune to a disease — either through natural infection or a vaccine — to prevent it from spreading widely. Usually, between 50% and 90% of a population needs to be immune to provide herd immunity, depending on how contagious the disease is. While Maricopa County has had more infections than expected, the population is still a long way from herd immunity.

“The take-home point is that the majority of the population is still at risk,” Jehn said.

Vaccinating will be especially important because we don’t know how long COVID-19 antibodies last or how much immunity they confer against the virus, according to Erin Kaleta, director of Infectious Disease Serology and co-director of Clinical Chemistry at Mayo Clinic. Kaleta led the sample testing.

In addition to blood samples, the survey used a questionnaire to collect household-level information. It covered experiences with COVID-19 testing and quarantine, chronic illnesses, employment and access to health care as well as knowledge, attitudes and household practices related to COVID-19.

While the survey also captured demographic information, Jehn said that the study was not designed to report subgroup-specific seroprevalence estimates.

A dedicated group of volunteers

Jehn, who co-led the Maricopa County Serosurvey, said she’d never undertaken a project of this scale before. With only about 10 weeks of preparation, its success rested on an army of volunteers willing to knock on doors at all hours of the day to offer free antibody tests to an often-skeptical public. Volunteers included nurses, doctors and public health workers, as well as a multitude of ASU students in nursing, global health and social work programs.

Operating out of Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, volunteers fanned out to the 29 clusters throughout the Valley, visiting neighborhoods at different times of day and days of the week to create the most representative population sample possible. Volunteers braved 110-degree temperatures, lugging equipment from house to house in full personal protective gear.

“I was really impressed with our volunteers,” Jehn said. “They never quit. I had students return to Sun Devil Stadium late at night after a 12-hour shift and two samples short — and they would head right back out to try and hit our target.”

“They totally stepped up,” added Heather Ross, a clinical assistant professor in ASU’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation and School for the Future of Innovation in Society. “Most of them had not done field epidemiology work before, and nothing phased them. They dealt with rejection, but they were incredibly successful at getting people to participate.”

Ultimately, the project attained 80% of the targeted household enrollment, enough to achieve a valid sample.

Volunteers with the Maricopa County Serosurvey greet a resident.

From Sept. 12 to Oct. 1, volunteers visited 29 randomly-selected clusters throughout Maricopa County, braving triple-digit temperatures at all times of the day to gain a representative sample of 169 households. The volunteer staff consisted of public health and health care professionals, as well as ASU students from nursing, social work and public health programs. Photo by Andy DeLisle

Valuable for education, public health and the community

The Maricopa County Serosurvey also provided a one-of-a-kind learning experience for students volunteering, particularly those in the nursing program. 

Often, health care practitioners interact with patients solely in a clinical setting. These patients have access to health care and have chosen to seek it out. Field work such as the serosurvey allows students to engage with the community on different terms.

“Nursing, like our mission at ASU, is a fundamental responsibility to care for the communities that we inhabit,” Ross said. “It's critically important to understand what it means to go out to the community rather than to require the community to come into you.”

Ross volunteered as field faculty during the survey, overseeing nursing student volunteers as they went door-to-door and providing support where needed. She ensured that samples were labeled correctly, aided with blood draws and spent time centrifuging samples in the mobile lab.

Amanda Smith, a registered nurse studying for her doctorate of nursing practice in the Edson College, was one of the student volunteers. She said it was important to take advantage of every opportunity to gain experience and round out her practice. She also noted how important experiences like the serosurvey are for students just beginning their nursing careers.

“For the same reason we have different rotations in nursing school — community health, psych or home health — these experiences show several different avenues that you can pursue in nursing. The more exposure you get to different kinds of nursing, the better nurse you will be. It enables you to find your calling, and to make an impact,” she said.

Smith was working in a hospital treating COVID-19 patients before leaving to focus on school full time. Even now, she’s working with recovering COVID-19 patients as part of her curriculum. Though the serosurvey was not her first COVID-19 assignment, she said the work was gratifying, as she was contributing to a large-scale effort that could affect public health. 

“It pushes the needle in the right direction,” she said. “We need more information to understand how COVID-19 is affecting the community. And when we understand how it affects the community, we're better able to handle the pandemic.”

Jehn thinks that projects such as the Maricopa County Serosurvey shine a light on the importance of public health work overall.

“So much of the work we do in public health is invisible until a disaster occurs,” Jehn said. “Projects like this allow the community to have their voices heard and to see hard-working public health teams in action.”

Top photo: Maricopa County Serosurvey staff at Sun Devil Stadium review strategies for recruiting households for the study, which ran from Sept. 12 to Oct. 1. The study ultimately achieved 80% of the targeted household enrollment, enough for a valid sample of the entire county. Photo by Sandra Leander

Diversifying genomic medicine beyond genes


This is a kicker

Amanda Goodman

The work to improve health and health care is ongoing and ever-evolving. It takes many shapes, from streamlining delivery to improving care and pursuing inclusive medical research to help develop precision medicine for all populations.

This was a key element of the Arizona RAVE study, a collaboration between researchers from Arizona State University, Mayo Clinic and Mountain Park Health Center. The study brought genomic medicine to a Federally Qualified Community Health Center that serves low-income patients in the Phoenix area, a population that is rarely included in this type of research.

Specifically, 500 Latino adults were recruited and consented to have their DNA sequenced for a panel of “medically actionable genes.” The panel included genes that predispose individuals to certain diseases such as heart disease and breast and colon cancer. Findings in these genes are related to health conditions with established medical recommendations or interventions. The results were then shared with the participants and their providers for follow-up.

The study, published in Genetics in Medicine highlights the intersection of medical advances with social determinants of health — which includes factors such as the unequal distribution of resources, poverty, access to health care, transportation, housing instability and health literacy. 

“We are exploring how to balance state-of-the-art medicine with state of the community," said Gabriel Shaibi, RAVE co-investigator and director of ASU’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation’s Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. "In other words, how can we bring the latest in medical technologies stemming from research advances to diverse populations and settings? Our hope is to establish an approach that allows scientific advances to be impactful and effective for individuals and communities regardless of their socioeconomic status."

The goal is to increase access to personalized prevention in the communities most impacted by health disparities by using genetic information to guide prevention and early intervention efforts. This requires continued partnerships with providers who know their communities and an appreciation for nonbiological factors, i.e., social determinants of health that contribute to health inequities.

The team of ASU, Mayo Clinic and Mountain Park Health Center researchers will get the opportunity to extend their efforts further with funding from the National Human Genome Research Institute at NIH. They will be working on a five-year project with a handful of other institutions across the United States through the eMERGE network.

We spoke with the project’s co-principal investigators: Dr. Iftikhar Kullo and Richard Sharp from Mayo Clinic, as well co-investigator Shaibi and their collaborators Dr. Davinder Singh, medical director of Mountain Park Health Center, and Valentina Hernandez, director of Integrated Nutrition Services, about the importance of this work and its potential impact.

Question: What was your key takeaway from this first study?

Hernandez: The importance of including diverse populations in research is crucial, but along with including diverse populations, we must take into account how the social determinants of health influence individuals and address those in research planning. The AZ RAVE Study was eye-opening in the sense that it highlighted the lack of resources, support and understanding in the local population. These challenges became barriers for patients to take meaningful action that was recommended as part of the AZ RAVE Study. In the future with studies like these, I would like to see a greater investment by researchers and funders to support health education and to ensure that basic follow-up treatment can be provided for research participants regardless of their socioeconomic or insurance status.

Another key takeaway was the success the AZ RAVE study team had in communicating results to participants in the study, both positive and negative, and connecting with every participant that warranted additional follow-up. The study team worked very well and considered the possible challenges and obstacles while planning, even bringing the Sangre por Salud Community Advisory Board into the conversation, as well as the medical provider team at Mountain Park Health Center to ensure the messaging was clear and concise. The team also worked around the needs of the participants by seeing them in the evenings, around work and child care schedules in order to meet the participants in the most convenient way possible.  

Q: Why is this type of genomic research necessary or important? What are the possibilities?

Kullo: Genomic sequencing has potential applications in detection and treatment, in both rare and common diseases, and several health systems have begun to integrate genomic sequencing data into patient care. However, challenges to implementing genomic medicine in low-resource settings such as Federally Qualified Health Centers are not known. We need to expand such research of genomic medicine implementation in low-resource settings to reduce health disparities.

Shaibi: We know that there are certain genetic and genomic factors that increase an individual’s risk for many chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Identifying and sharing this information with doctors and patients can help guide individualized treatment efforts. This type of work has the potential to reduce the burden of disease at the individual as well as societal levels.  

Q: Discuss the need for diversity in genomic research.

Sharp: One of the central aims of our study was to assess the feasibility of offering genomic screening in a nontraditional setting. In the past, access to genomic medicine has been limited to large academic medical centers like Mayo Clinic and, unfortunately, not all patients have convenient access to those types of facilities. As advances in individualized medicine continue, it's essential that we consider how to make genomic testing more easily available to all patients who might benefit from the information those tests can provide.

Q: Why is it important for health centers like MPHC to participate in research? 

Singh: Federally Qualified Community Health Centers (FQHCs) like Mountain Park Health Center have an important role to play in research because the lack of diversity in research indirectly impacts the populations we serve, by limiting new knowledge and discovery to those who have more privilege in the form of health, education and resources. Many of our patients represent communities that carry a disproportionate burden of disease like obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. These communities’ participation in research could help find new ways to alleviate or prevent some of this burden for future generations while contributing to science that can be more meaningful to all communities. 

Mountain Park Health Center and other FQHCs are also important to research because research in minority communities must be done in a well-thought-out and ethical manner. Many people in vulnerable communities might be leery of researchers and research in general. Mountain Park believes trust is at the foundation of our role in the community, and therefore any research in our clinic must be done in a way that is culturally appropriate, in the language of the patient, with the best interest of the patient in mind, as well as provide some benefit to the patient, which can include diagnostic tests, education or an intervention. 

Q: Do you have a sense of how this research may be received by the broader community?

Singh and Hernandez: At Mountain Park Health Center we formed a Community Advisory Board (CAB) that consists of community members, some patients, and some nonpatients. The group is diverse in education, language, occupation and gender. We engaged the CAB early on to help us with the research and presented the results to them once we were finished. The CAB’s overall consensus was that bringing this type of research and education to the community is very important, in order to further science and improve awareness of research and genomics. The CAB also acknowledged the potential for concern that genomics research may have on vulnerable individuals within marginalized communities and advised us on how we can address these concerns going forward. 

The implementation of the AZ RAVE study was in great part a success because of how much the CAB helped to advise the team on various components of the study. From the planning process to the implementation, the CAB was involved in each step and provided valuable insight, such as how to best consent on a complex topic, how to best communicate results, both negative and positive results in a way that would not alarm patients (negative) and communicate some urgency (positive) in patients receiving results.

Q: Anything else you'd like us to know?

Kullo: In the next phase of this project, we plan to focus on the genomic risk of common diseases including coronary heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, colon cancer, etc. Our goal is to incorporate genomic risk variants in conventional risk stratification algorithms to increase their accuracy and assess outcomes after returning results to participants and providers.

Shaibi: This type of project can only be accomplished through collaboration. The individuals and institutions involved worked as a team focused on a collective goal. Being able to continue the collaboration with an additional round of funding from NIH is a testament to the team’s energy, effort, and commitment to advancing science and improving health equity. 

Edson College Salute to Service through Service nominees

Edson College Announces Nominees for ASU Salute to Service Spotlights


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For nearly a decade, ASU has honored those who have served and contributed to our nation's defense. This tradition was aligned with Veteran’s Day on Nov. 11 and developed under the banner ASU Salute to Service.

This November is no exception, as we broaden the focus to include people in fields such as education, medicine, nursing and other essential workers who have stepped up during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Edson College is proud to announce its nominees for this year's spotlight.

Cheryl Schmidt, clinical professor in Edson College, is an Army veteran, is active in the Red Cross and has volunteered in every COVID-19 community, public health and ASU opportunity for testing. This includes specimen collection for nasal and saliva testing, as well as serving as command lead for community-based Sero-Survey testing. Through her service and dedication she has personally impacted student learning, consumers of health services, community and ASU colleagues, and contributed to high visibility, high priority public health initiatives.

Natalie Heywood is a clinical assistant professor in Edson College. She served as co-lead for the ASU-Community Partner Drive through coronavirus testing that began in March 2020. Natalie led the expansion of drive-through testing by traveling to remote areas of Arizona and New Mexico over several weeks to support the development of drive-through testing. Access to testing would have otherwise not been available to underserved and Native American Communities without her leadership.

As a faculty member, she quickly revised a capstone course for RN-BSN students to support their direct participation in the Maricopa Department of Public Health Sero-Survey in collaboration with ASU, Maricopa Department of Public Health and Mayo Clinic. She is now leading an ASU initiative in collaboration with ASU Health Services to support ASU students who have tested positive to COVID-19. In addition to maintaining a full teaching workload, she has been in the field regularly since April 2020 contributing to COVID-19 initiatives. Her volunteerism has impacted student learning, ASU student health, the health of underserved and Native American populations and the health of the greater community.

Aliria Muñoz Rascón is a clinical associate professor in Edson College. She is also a critical care nurse, who, in response to the coronavirus epidemic developed a free, seven-module online course, designed to uptrain non-ICU nurses to the ICU setting. By mid-July, there were more than 1,295 registered nurses enrolled in this program, which helped nurses to transition and enable them to care for Covid-19 patients. Along with other faculty members from the college, Aliria worked with ed tech company, Sana Labs, to design a training program to transition nurses at New York City’s Mount Sinai Hospital into critical care on short notice.

Learn more about ASU’s Salute to Service.

Arizona Wellbeing Commons conference finds answers for COVID-19, hope for future


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Mikala Kass

After battling on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic most of the year, Arizona’s health care community paused on Oct. 9 to evaluate what we’ve learned about COVID-19, what challenges are yet to come and how best to work together for greater success. Approximately 300 health care professionals, researchers, policymakers and others gathered virtually for the fourth annual Arizona Wellbeing Commons event, which focused on the coronavirus pandemic.

Arizona Wellbeing Commons brings scientists, clinicians and partners together in a powerful network of researchers to tackle the health issues that impact well-being in the state. This initiative, which includes Arizona State University, the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University, has created a community of collaboration to find successful answers for our most pressing health issues — such as cancer, dementia, mental health and obesity.

Bringing together multiple points of view enables solutions that are as multifaceted as the problems themselves. The current challenge of COVID-19 has highlighted the power of collaboration even more.

Though the scope of the virus’s impact is vast, the research community has answered the call by sharing resources to increase testing, distribute personal protective equipment, understand how the virus works, treat those affected, predict how the virus will react and travel, search for a safe and effective vaccine, evaluate the social and economic effects of social distancing, and help schools and businesses find ways to continue operating.

“The Arizona Wellbeing Commons was created to help researchers in Arizona connect with one another to build collaborations and achieve greater results. Now that COVID-19 has limited our routine interactions, it is more important than ever to come together at this virtual annual conference to learn about what is happening in our community,“ said Joshua LaBaer, conference leader and executive director of the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University.

LaBaer compared the group to a swarm; just as bees can do more together than they could individually, so it is for scientists working toward a healthier Arizona.

“In order for us to accomplish things, we need to work together,” said LaBaer, who is also a professor in ASU's School of Molecular Sciences.

Video of COVID: Information is Power

What we know about COVID-19

“We are living in the age of epidemics,” noted Tara O’Toole, executive vice president and senior fellow at In-Q-Tel, in the keynote address. “We should not be surprised when epidemics appear, and we should be more prepared to deal with them.”

O’Toole, an expert in epidemic and pandemic response and preparedness, directs B.Next, In-Q-Tel’s initiative devoted to identifying and accelerating biotechnologies that could help detect, manage and quash epidemics of infectious disease. She shared an overview of what the scientific community has learned about COVID-19 in her address.

For example, instances of a large number of people being infected at the same time, which she called superspreading events, play a significant role in the spread of COVID-19. Only 10%-20% of those infected cause 80%-90% of cases of the disease.

It’s also clear that Black, Hispanic and American Indian populations are disproportionately affected by the virus, with higher numbers of infections and hospitalizations.

“Epidemics always cause social, economic and political disruption to various degrees,” she said, in particular by exacerbating existing societal stresses.

Video of COVID: Bridging the Gaps

Looking toward the future, the public health community’s concerns for the winter include the possibility of a “twindemic” with the flu and increased spread due to holiday travel and gatherings. A vaccine opportunity may be available by next spring, but O’Toole cautioned that it could take years to deliver it throughout the U.S., let alone the world. Further complicating these efforts is a lowered confidence in vaccines.

“The intrusion of politics has eroded people’s trust in whether a vaccine will work,” said Complex Adaptive Systems Initiative Regents Professor George Poste, who moderated a Q&A with O’Toole.

To earn back that trust and boost vaccine confidence, O’Toole said, the public health community must be extraordinarily transparent about vaccines, increase awareness of misinformation campaigns, work with doctors to communicate with patients and lead a public information campaign.

But an even longer view is needed to be truly proactive, O’Toole argued. COVID-19 will not be the world’s last pandemic. Recent advances in technology, such as data collection, diagnostic tests and vaccine development, can be put to our advantage.

For example, it’s known that pandemics originate when microbes spill over from animals to humans. (A bat or pangolin is suspected as the source of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.) The process of animal disease developing and then being introduced to humans is a long one, however. O’Toole suggested using this delay and our available technology to identify as many coronaviruses in the wild as possible, create antibodies for them, and store samples of the viruses and their antibodies so that we have them at the ready if needed.

The state of the state’s coronavirus research

In his address to conference attendees, Arizona Board of Regents Chair Larry Penley praised the efforts of the state’s three public universities to combat COVID-19. He called out UArizona’s 13 teams working on different aspects of the virus; NAU’s study of its different strains; and ASU’s efforts to model its spread and adaptations. He also lauded their collaboration to offer COVID-19 testing to the public, as well as their dedication to continue providing education despite today’s new obstacles to teaching and learning.

“Thank you for what you’re doing,” Penley said. “Keep at it.”

Throughout the daylong conference, researchers from across Arizona shared their efforts, findings and recommendations in areas ranging from diagnosis, treatment and prevention options to public health policy to healthy lifestyles and mental health.

Efrem Lim, an assistant professor in the School of Life Sciences and researcher in the Biodesign Institute, reported that the “viruses, immunity, microbiomes and infectious disease” division of the Wellbeing Commons was the first in the state to sequence the virus’s genome. The group is now monitoring virus mutations across the state.

Brenda Hogue, professor in the School of Life Sciences and researcher in the Biodesign Center for Immunotherapy, Vaccines and Virotherapy, presented on her laboratory’s work to develop a platform that can build vaccine-like particles, which could mimic the virus in a vaccine without introducing the live virus.

Lim noted that there is much concern in the virology community about misinformation about a future vaccine, and that this group could be a resource for the public to find reliable information.

David Sklar, a professor in the College of Health Solutions, praised the public health successes of rapid testing, improved collaboration between hospitals, improvements in telemedicine and citizen activism for measures such as mask mandates. He also noted that the immediacy of the pandemic has taken focus away from other important public health issues. Going forward, he recommended the public health community not only continue their efforts around COVID-19 (including growing recognition of complications related to the disease), but also emphasize other pressing health crises like climate and heat, vulnerable populations, violence and guns, health policy and legal issues, and women’s health issues.

College of Health Solutions professors Stavros Kavouras and Dorothy Sears emphasized that preventing disease is the key to fighting COVID-19 — and a healthy lifestyle plays a significant part in that. One practical step?

“Go outside and walk,” said Kavouras, for socially distant exercise with a vitamin D benefit.

Sears spoke about how diabetes and obesity are both risk factors for severe forms of the disease; successfully addressing them not only improves well-being but lessens risk of severe COVID-19. Kavouras observed that the ACE-2 receptor, a protein that provides entry for the coronavirus, is expressed in the body more when a person is dehydrated. He said supporting data is still needed, but that it is possible that dehydration could be one factor in catching the disease.

“From the work that’s been done by each of you, I derive a sense of hope for Arizona, our country and for the globe.”
— Arizona Board of Regents Chair Larry Penley

Kelly Cue Davis, associate professor in the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, and William Corbin, professor in the Department of Psychology, reported that mental health has seen a widespread decline since the beginning of the pandemic, and substance abuse has increased.

Athena Aktipis, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology and Biodesign Institute researcher, presented her project, “Cooperation in the apocalypse,” a longitudinal study of how cooperation changes during the pandemic. Her team has been collecting data from around the world since early March. So far, she has found an increase in feelings of interdependence — the belief that we rise and fall together — in the general populace, but especially among those with preexisting medical conditions.

Looking toward the future, Davis and Corbin believe that mental health researchers and practitioners should focus on studying how COVID-19 affects people emotionally, providing mental health services to first responders, and acknowledging other sources of stress, such as social or political stress.

Rita Sattler, associate professor at the Barrow Neurological Institute, and Jason Newbern, associate professor in the School of Life Sciences, said that studying the short- and long-term impacts of COVID-19 on the nervous system is important, but that this research is still in its early days. One important insight is that SARS-CoV-2 affects the central nervous system, causing inflammation that then affects the vascular system. Young people who experience a stroke, they said, should be tested for COVID-19 as a potential cause.

Richard Gerkin, an associate professor in the School of Life Sciences, spoke about his research on smell perception in the brain and how it relates to COVID-19 — a known symptom of which is loss of smell. He conducted a survey to figure out how people’s experience of smell changes specific to COVID-19 versus other illnesses. This allowed him to create a clinical scale, dubbed ODoR-19, that determines the odds ratio of a patient having COVID-19.

“If you want to figure out if it’s COVID-19 or another respiratory illness, check smell loss,” Gerkin said.

Biodesign Institute researchers Professor Karen Anderson and Associate Professor Carlo Maley of the School of Life Sciences gave updates on the latest in cancer research. Cancer expertise, Anderson argued, can also inform our understanding of COVID-19. For example, cancer immunotherapy studies T-cells, and scientists could use that information to help understand how T-cells recognize mutations of SARS-CoV-2. She also stressed the importance of continuing cancer research, saying that although COVID-19 has become the No. 3 killer disease in the U.S., it has not surpassed cancer.

In that vein, Maley described his vision of applying agricultural pest management techniques to cancer prevention. Farmers know that some pests are more resistant to pesticides than others, so to keep the resistant ones in check, they help the more sensitive pests outcompete the resistant pests. Then, using minimal pesticide later allows for maximum population control. This method, he proposed, might also work for controlling cancer cells, some of which are more resistant to treatment than others.

Tamara Underiner, associate professor in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre and associate dean in the Graduate College, reported for the Wellbeing Commons’ newest division, “culture, arts, design and humanities in health.” She pointed to the ability of the arts to promote social cohesion, fight isolation, improve mental health, manage chronic illness and even reduce pain. During the pandemic, the arts have become crucial as people seek creative outlets to cope while staying at home. This unique time presents an opportunity to study the impact of digital arts, she said, since much of our consumption of and participation in the arts has moved to a digital medium. She urged that researchers should also study how the arts can specifically support those with COVID-19.

“Especially in COVID-19, really over the past 10 years, we’re beginning to understand how important the arts are to health and well-being, that the arts are no longer just something nice that you add on after taking care of essentials,” Underiner said. “They’re increasingly a necessity.”

Video of COVID: Delivering the Goods

Though the conference was centered around finding answers for the coronavirus in Arizona, attendees left with more than fresh ideas and connections for addressing the current crisis. A focus toward the future throughout the event not only emphasized the need to prepare now for the next pandemic, but also renewed the public health community’s resolve to continue their important work in other areas of physical and mental well-being.

“Out of the challenges of this time, what we really need to call on ourselves for is a sense of hope,” Penley said. “To me, the work that we’re doing at our three universities provides a sense of hope. This conference provides a sense of hope. From the work that’s been done by each of you, I derive a sense of hope for Arizona, our country and for the globe.”

Videos produced by Grace Clark Media.

The Arizona Wellbeing Commons conference was sponsored by the Arizona Biomedical Research Centre, a unit of the Arizona Department of Health Services.

New Edson College partnership opens doors for qualitative research around recovery and exercise


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Amanda Goodman

Editor’s note: This story was written in collaboration with The Hope House.     

Arizona State University’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation has entered into a five-year partnership with The Hope House, an addiction rehab center in Scottsdale, Arizona, to expand treatment services while providing high-quality research opportunities for graduate students.

The partnership will give students enrolled in the advanced nursing practice track of the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program at Edson College the ability to work alongside clinicians at The Hope House and conduct research on a variety of addiction treatments.

To begin, two doctoral nursing students, Hayley Avino and Courtney Routson, will spend the fall 2020 semester providing mindfulness, physical exercise and healthy living classes to The Hope House patients three times a week. 

These sessions will expand on the dual diagnosis program currently in place at The Hope House, intended to help patients deal with mental health problems alongside addiction.

Avino and Routson call their program The DREAMER Project: Defying Relapse through Exercise and Mindfulness to Extend Recovery. 

Prior research has shown that exercise and mindfulness practices are likely to positively impact sobriety and overall mental health, but there has been little concrete evidence around the subject. The nine-week program seeks to change that. 

“We’re looking to build the academic foundation that supports the positive impacts group fitness has on sobriety,” said Avino. “There’s been a lot of anecdotal evidence, but we want to provide a high-quality project to point to.” 

, Edson College DNP student

Hayley Avino

Avino’s motivation behind the project goes beyond overall community health. Her brother, Jeremy Plummer, struggled with addiction for a number of years and took part in a variety of treatment options with marginal success. However, after incorporating group fitness and mindfulness into his daily routine, Plummer was able to attain sobriety and remain in recovery.

In honor of her brother’s accomplishments and the real-world effects Avino has witnessed in relation to exercise and addiction, Avino launched the DREAMER project with The Hope House on Sept. 27, 2020 — her brother’s four-year sobriety date.

“I just want to give people the same opportunity that Jeremy had, and I want to implement it early in their recovery,” Avino said.

Launching this project during a pandemic was both challenging and, it turns out, necessary.

COVID-19 has had a heavy impact on many Arizonans, and Brenna Gonzales, clinical director at The Hope House, says it has led to a significant increase in substance abuse and the need for addiction treatment in Arizona. 

“I would say about 75% (of patients) that are coming in right now are specifically citing COVID as a catalyst to seeking treatment,” Gonzales explained. 

, clinical director, The Hope House

Brenna Gonzales

With the influx of patients and the need to adhere to public safety guidelines, Avino and Routson altered their program to be delivered virtually. The duo designed the program to be broken into three, three-week courses in order to treat as many patients as possible. 

Each patient will participate voluntarily and take the WHO Quality of Life abbreviated assessment before and after completing their three-week session. This assessment was developed in the early ’90s and is widely considered the standard for measuring substance abuse management.

While Avino and Routson’s focus is on exercise and mindfulness, DNP students who come after them are not pinned down to these and can choose alternative treatment paths they are interested in exploring.  

“Future students may develop programs on nutrition, aftercare or even something as cutting-edge as virtual reality treatment,” said Gonzales.

Avino said letting go of the DREAMER Project when she graduates next May will be tough because it is so personal, but she knows it will be in good hands.

On the front lines


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Editor's note: This story originally appeared in the fall 2020 issue of ASU Thrive magazine. 

Serving amid the pandemic — as doctors, nurses and professionals — these Sun Devils have one thing in common: strong foundations in expertise, care and compassion, much of which they learned at ASU.

The nurse who goes above and beyond: Erolinda Becerra-Mendoza

For Erolinda Becerra-Mendoza, ’16 BS in nursing and health sciences, staying positive and tending to the emotional care of patients is as much a part of her nursing work as is physical care. “I’ve been working directly with COVID patients,” she said. “Half of the intensive care unit I work in is designated for them, although we are overflowing to our other unit.”

Erolinda Becerra Mendoza

Erolinda Becerra-Mendoza

Although Becerra-Mendoza is a relatively new nurse with four years of experience, she says she’s never seen anything like the challenges that have arisen during the pandemic.  

“I have seen a few success stories in the ICU unit I work in, but I have also seen patients not make it,” she said. “It breaks my heart knowing that they are not surrounded by family during their last hours of life. I love being a nurse, and I try to make this scary time as special as I can for my patients.”

A perfect example? Becerra-Mendoza had a patient who was about to celebrate a birthday. She took the initiative to ensure it was a happy one. 

“A few nurses and I surprised him with a video conference with his family and grandchildren,” she said. “We got him a sugar-free cake and decorated his room. We had to make it special.” And they did. 

The ER doc: Mara Windsor

As an emergency room physician and chief wellness officer, Dr. Mara Windsor, ’98 BS in psychology, faces COVID-19 on a daily basis. Throughout the pandemic, she’s focused on exceptional patient care, as well as ensuring that her colleagues emphasize their own self-care, particularly given the everyday stressors they face.

“I have seen some devastating situations, but I’ve also seen renewed spirit in humanity by people coming together to accept, understand and support each other,” Windsor said. “My nonprofit organization, L.I.F.E. (Living in Fulfilled Enlightenment), has been supporting the front-line heroes by providing personal protective equipment, food and emotional support.”

Most recently, the organization received a donation of 70 backpacks and 70 lunch sacks from the kids’ backpack company MadPax, all of which will be passed along to the children of health care workers as they make their way back to school. 

“It is through our individual diversity that we can come together collectively to meet the needs of our community and society,” Windsor said. “This is the perfect time to create a global movement that will align human compassion with understanding and acceptance of all. I believe that this will result in greater love and compassion for all.” 

The compassionate caregiver: Carmen Dominguez

Carmen Dominguez

As a certified medical assistant for Abrazo Medical Group, Carmen Dominguez, ’19 BS in health care coordination, works at a small clinic, helping to treat a variety of medical issues. While she acknowledges that COVID-19 has presented a lot of new challenges, she’s grateful that her patients can be seen quickly — and without the stress of having to go to the emergency room. 

“Day in and day out, I hear patients telling me they are glad the clinic I’m working at is still open and accepting patients,” she said. “Working mainly with elderly patients, it is not an option to head to the emergency room when they feel heart-related symptoms. We are able to welcome them into a smaller setting than a hospital, (where they are able) to be seen and assessed — and possibly triaged — in-person. We are glad to be here to help and be of service.”

She adds: “I am so proud of my fellow Sun Devils, those working in hospitals, clinics, urgent cares, etc. Everything makes a difference! For those who have yet to graduate, please keep going! We need you.”

The mobile testing innovator: Farah Al Besher

For Farah Al Besher, ’14 BS in economics, who now works as a front-line coordinator with Ambulatory Healthcare Services-SEHA in the United Arab Emirates, early action meant early containment of the virus in her country. 

“I am part of the COVID-19 National Screening Service Drive-Through project in the United Arab Emirates,” Al Besher said. “We were the first to open the drive-thru testing center in the UAE, and due to its success, we were asked to expand our presence by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. We were able to build 12 new drive-thru screening centers throughout the seven emirates in 10 days, and today we have 18 fully operational centers. By ensuring early detection of positive cases we have been able to increase the safety of our people.” 

The United Arab Emirates experienced a spike in mid-May, followed by a steady decline in positive cases and a subsequent early July resurgence. Since, though, the country has seen a sustained reduction in COVID-19 cases. 

“Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze us,” Al Besher said. “We are all equipped and ready to face any crisis. And remember, you can’t help others without first taking care of yourself. Follow the health guidelines, stay safe and remain positive.”

The mentoring engineer: Aaron Dolgin 

Service and inspiration are just two of the things that motivate Aaron Dolgin, ’18 BS in electrical engineering. Now a systems engineer for Northrop Grumman in Los Angeles, much of Dolgin’s day-to-day life involves a fusion of his love of robotics and systems engineering, and providing for the community. 

Aaron Doglin

Aaron Dolgin

When the pandemic began, Dolgin co-founded a team of more than 150 people who are working to create, print and distribute face shields across Southern California. To date, SoCal Makers COVID-19 Response Team has manufactured and delivered more than 22,000 pieces of personal protective equipment. 

Based on designs and specifications available through the National Institutes of Health, the face shields are 3D-printed visor frames with transparent sheets attached. And many of them are being produced by student volunteers — an extension of Dolgin’s mentorship while he was at ASU. 

“I really enjoyed the robotics program in high school, so I wanted to make sure I gave back in some way,” Dolgin said in June. “During college at ASU, I volunteered at robotics events in Arizona, and I knew I wanted to continue that kind of support when I came back to California. Volunteers don’t need any prior technical knowledge. They may struggle a little at first, but we have a remarkable community ready to get everyone up to speed. All of us are figuring things out together.”

The emergency flight nurse: Christopher Banks

Indeed, compassion is a common theme among alumni health care workers, including Christopher Banks, ’18 BS in nursing, a flight nurse and paramedic for Air EMS Inc. Very early on during the pandemic — in late February — Banks was dispatched to assist in the transport of passengers who had been quarantined aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship off the coast of Yokohama, Japan. 

“When I reached out my gloved hand, in full PPE, patients couldn’t believe they could touch and shake my hand,” Banks remembers. “This was heart-wrenching.”

Air EMS uses a special isolation unit to safely transport people suffering from COVID-19 that ensures that the paramedic crew and pilots aren’t exposed. It looks like a clear rectangular bubble for patients to lay in on top of the gurney. Banks helped test and train personnel on the isolation unit’s use as the pandemic worsened.

“As a base manager of our air medical transport company, I ensured that all of our care staff safely experienced the confined space of our isolation units to build better compassion for the patients.”

Looking to the future

While a vaccine for COVID-19 remains on the horizon and the world continues to adjust to life in a pandemic, there are a lot of uncertainties. But one thing does seem certain: Current students and researchers, as well as alumni, are working tirelessly — and compassionately — to ensure quality care for a global society. 

To learn more about ASU’s Health Heroes or to submit your story, see

Written by Kelly Vaughn, the senior editor for Arizona Highways. Vaughn, ’04 BA in journalism, has written for many publications including Phoenix magazine and Arrive.

Top photo: (From left) Flight emergency nurse Christopher Banks, ambulatory health care services coordinator Farah Al Besher and emergency room doctor Mara Windsor. Photos by ASU

Edson seed grants advance innovative dementia solutions


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More than $300,000 from the Charlene and J. Orin Edson Initiative for Dementia Care and Solutions was awarded to three Arizona State University research teams for innovative research projects. The funding comes from a portion of Charlene and J. Orin Edson’s $50 million gift to ASU for dementia research and education initiatives. 

The Edson Initiative for Dementia Care and Solutions aims to revolutionize care for individuals suffering from neurological disease and support their caregivers. The Edson Initiative will support collaborative research aimed at understanding the roots of dementia in order to treat, detect and prevent its occurrence in patients.

“The Edsons have been very generous to Arizona State University over the years with multiple endowed and nonendowed gifts to a variety of research causes,” said Joshua LaBaer, executive director of ASU’s Biodesign Institute. “We are excited to see this vital funding propel innovative researchers and students forward in making impacts that help those suffering from dementias and other neurodegenerative diseases.”

Proposals awarded the seed funding by Biodesign embody the spirit of the Edson Initiative for Dementia Care and Solutions by bringing together scientific experts and students from different disciplines to create solutions to the challenges of neurological disease.

Protein-based therapies for neurological disease

Michael Sierks, a professor in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy; Jeremy Mills, an assistant professor in the School of Molecular Sciences and the Biodesign Center for Molecular Design and Biomimetics; and Brent Nannenga, an assistant professor in the Biodesign Center for Applied Structural Discovery and the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, were awarded funding to analyze toxic proteins in neurodegenerative diseases.

The team will develop and apply high-resolution imaging techniques to characterize the structure of proteins commonly found in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients. The information discovered from these studies will be used to develop protein-based therapies to fight the mechanisms of toxic proteins in degenerative neurological diseases.

Interdisciplinary living learning lab

Another team led by David Coon, associate dean and professor in the Edson College of Nursing and Health InnovationPhilip Horton, interim director of The Design School; and Patricia Moore, an industrial designer and gerontologist, received funding to create the Edson Family Neurodegenerative Disease Research Center Living Learning Lab.

The lab will bring together scientists and clinical researchers from across ASU to design, test and implement tools that improve care — from everyday object use and behavior management approaches to health care systems and homes of the future. The research outcomes will provide a platform to build real-world solutions for those living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias and their family caregivers.

Uncovering molecular mechanisms of poor cognition

The final team, awarded for their work to decipher the underlying molecular mechanisms leading to cognitive dysfunction in Alzheimer's patients, is led by Ramon Velazquez, an assistant research professor at the ASU-Banner Neurodegenerative Disease Research Center. Velazquez will be collaborating with Patrick Pirrotte, an assistant professor at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) in Phoenix, and Matthew Huentelman, head of the Neurobehavioral Research Unit at TGen.

Velazquez’s team will be determining whether exposure to glyphosate, a common herbicide used to prevent plants from making proteins needed for their growth, is a risk factor for cognitive deterioration leading to Alzheimer’s disease. The team will utilize findings on environmental toxin mechanisms to better understand how exposure to chemical agents in people’s daily lives can affect their risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases.

ASU, Dignity Health partner on interprofessional primary care education


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Emma Greguska

In the latest move to advance their partnership of five years and counting, Arizona State University and Dignity Health have announced the launch of a new project to design, implement and evaluate a new model for interprofessional primary care education that will build in changes and lessons learned from COVID-19, including the dramatic increase in remote visits, telemedicine, new teamwork models and distance education.

“Primary care is the hub of our health care system,” said Gerri Lamb, an Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation professor who serves as co-principal investigator along with Dr. Keith Frey, chief medical officer at Dignity Health Arizona and a professor of practice at ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business.

Primary care providers and teams are responsible for prevention of illness, helping patients manage chronic illnesses and coordination across various health care settings.

“Even before COVID, we were seeing signs that primary care needed some reenvisioning,” Lamb said. “Not only in terms of quality of care, but also in how we educate students.”

Some of the signposts of the need for change she and Frey listed include primary care workforce shortages, diminishing numbers of new residents (according to Lamb and Frey, 2019 saw the lowest number of residents applying for primary care positions in decades) and a decline in the number of younger and middle-age people scheduling visits with their primary care providers.

“What happens then is everybody all the sudden shows up in the emergency room or urgent care, overwhelming those resources,” Frey said. “So this is a system issue, from a regional and national level.”

Another issue with the current system he and Lamb hope to address is the lack of emphasis on interprofessional education.

“We already know that when you're done with your training, your work environment is going to be a team sport, and yet historically, we don't train people together very well,” Frey said. “So the idea behind this is to create an environment where we can get the trainees — physicians, advanced-practice nurses, physician assistants, behavioral health professionals, registered nurses and all members of the health care team — to learn health care in a more integrative model.”

Funded by a $525,000 grant from the ASU – Dignity Health Collaborative Strategic Initiatives Program, phase one of the Transforming the Primary Care Workforce project began Sept. 1 and will last 18 months, during which project investigators will conduct focus groups and stakeholder interviews, hold advisory meetings, and make facility site visits to design, test and analyze the new model for integrated primary care practice and education.

“The way the project is framed is we are doing this with and from and about the stakeholders,” Lamb said. “Patients, families, students and providers. … We will be inviting them and celebrating them at the table as our advisers in this. They know what they need, so we're going to listen to them, and we’re going to create something that works for them.”

She and Frey had been discussing the possibility of such a project for some time when the opportunity arose for Dignity to create a new family medicine residency in the East Valley, a region of the Phoenix metropolitan area that is swiftly growing, making physician shortages even more acute. The decision to partner on the venture was a natural one.

“Rather than set up a program on our own, we thought why not partner with colleagues who I've known for many years at ASU, like Gerri Lamb, who are national thought leaders in this space,” Frey said. “Why not stack hands, come together and build on this partnership that we already have enjoyed for several years and see if we can reconceptualize a new model that will get us where we always wanted to go.”

Susan Pepin, ASU’s managing director of health and clinical partnerships, praised Dignity Health in turn for its commitment to the communities it serves.

“As a health system, they really care about the social determinants of people’s health and meeting people in underserved populations,” she said. “They’re not a hospital on a hill. They really reach out into the community and want to make a difference.”

Indeed, the purpose of this new model of interprofessional training is not only to prepare outstanding practitioners to deliver top quality care, but to attract top students who will stay in Arizona.

“Keith has a vision for this,” Lamb said. “And his vision was very aligned with my vision for what was possible, and with Edson's vision, in terms of a community partnership and doing meaningful work while also addressing workforce issues.”

They expect residents of the new program to begin in the summer of 2023, once the soon-to-be-developed clinical learning environment program has been tested and evaluated.

The project includes co-investigators from ASU’s College of Health Solutions: Kristen Will, a clinical associate professor and current chair of the steering committee for the National Collaborative for Improving the Clinical Learning Environment (NCICLE); and Bradley Doebbeling, professor of the science of health care delivery and biomedical informatics. It also involves collaboration between ASU’s Center for Advancing Interprofessional Practice, Education and Research (CAIPER) and ASU’s Center for Innovation in Healthy and Resilient Aging (CIHRA).

Of the many social determinants of health that the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare, those that affect Arizona’s aging population will be the main focus of phase one of Transforming the Primary Care Workforce. Later phases will examine others, such as poverty, racial inequities and food insecurity.

According to David Coon, CIHRA director and associate dean of research at Edson College, the pandemic has highlighted issues already of concern for older adults, such as social isolation and loneliness, and also raised awareness of the importance of telemedicine. Furthermore, he believes there should be more emphasis on the role of caregivers in the wellness and health outcomes of older adults.

“As our society continues to age, we really need to be thinking about how we can up the game of the primary care workforce and prepare them to work with older adults and their family members and caregivers, because they’re not always seen as a part of that interprofessional care team, but they are critical members,” Coon said.

If patient experience and outcomes are one half of the Transforming the Primary Care Workforce project, provider well-being is the other.

“The amount of burnout in nurses and physicians and students is shocking,” Lamb said. “And COVID is making it worse. So there's huge need not only to reenvision primary care from a practice and learning perspective, but also because we really need to pay attention to the well-being of providers. All of that is part of this project.”

Top photo courtesy of Pixabay

Edson College Alumna and current Faculty Associate Jennifer Bonilla shares some of what she learned during her MHI program and her advice for anyone else mid-career itching to try something new.

Lifelong learner levels up with MHI


This is a kicker

By all accounts, Jennifer Bonilla was incredibly successful. She’d earned an MBA and was two decades into her career creating and executing growth strategies for global business process & logistics companies in North America. 

But as a self-described lifelong learner, Bonilla became interested in changing sectors, intrigued by the many challenges that her health care and pharmaceutical clients were faced with. She also wanted to make a difference in the rapidly-changing field of health care. 

“I searched nationwide to find a really unique graduate health care curriculum, and it was in my own backyard at Arizona State University,” she said. 

The program she found was the Master of Healthcare Innovation and she never looked back, enrolling in 2012, when the program was just evolving into an online program. 

It was an especially unique time to be diving into the health care sector. 

“With so many health care organizations focused on transformation due to the Affordable Care Act, recovering from the Great Recession, and all the industry consolidation within health care systems prevalent at the time, the program content was so in-tune with industry needs.”

Bonilla said in addition to learning all about her new field, the concepts were also applicable to the role she held at the time as Division President of Sodexo Healthcare, providing consultative and ancillary services to 400 hospitals and senior living facilities. 

She graduated from ASU in 2013 and, in addition to finding success outside of academia, she decided to remain a part of it. Bonilla has been a faculty associate in the MHI program for the last six years, teaching Financing in Innovation, Outcomes Evaluation and Complexity Science and Systems Thinking. 

Her talents as a highly-innovative leader, driven by her MHI experience has expanded her depth and breadth in multiple roles. 

In fact, she’s been so successful in growing businesses and leading teams as large as 22,000 people as an executive, that she was most recently recognized by ASU as a Sun Devil 100 and also by Diversity MBA Magazine as a Top 100 Women of Influence leader.

We asked Bonilla to share some of what she learned along the way and her advice for anyone else mid-career itching to try something new. 

Question: What part of your journey so far do you think is most important to share? 

Answer: I am a lifelong learner and really appreciate how much I learn and grow every year. At this point in my career, I love being able to mentor students – many who are mid-career professionals and I am able to support them in planning their career paths, resolving workplace challenges, and learning how to utilize candid conversations and constructive feedback to excel in their careers. 

Q: How did your degree program help you in advancing your career? 

A: I was interested in changing sectors to specialize in the health care field and it allowed me, leveraging my extensive leadership experience, to get hired as a health care president and quickly have credibility in peer consulting with hospital CEOs, and secondarily, it was a stepping stone to completing my Ph.D. in 2018, researching clinical burnout, turnover and employee engagement.

Q: What were some unique challenges, if any, you had to overcome while pursuing this degree? 

A: I was working 70 hours a week and traveling extensively. I appreciated the online flexibility and the opportunity to work with Boston Children’s Hospital, a client at the time, for my capstone.  Being able to combine my educational and career pursuits increased my commitment to the program and was also a win for my client and employer. 

Q: What advice would you give to students who are currently enrolled in the program?   

A: Focus on how you can hone core leadership competencies and apply these learnings in the workplace. Employers value this much more than a grade on your transcript. There may be courses where you really have to push yourself just to earn a B. It is likely that you will learn more from this experience than the courses that come naturally to you. Also, push yourself to develop your emotional intelligence. Technical skills become less relevant as you advance in leadership. Your ability to manage key stakeholder relationships, resolve conflict, and influence without formal authority will take you much higher up the ladder than will your technical skills. Finally, don’t be afraid of finance!  Every health care leader needs financial skills to be effective in a cross-functional team and to help hospitals survive these difficult financial times.

ASU, Mayo Clinic and Maricopa County Department of Public Health collaborate on antibody survey


This is a kicker

Pete Zrioka

Maricopa County Department of Public Health, Mayo Clinic and Arizona State University are embarking on an ambitious project to better understand the prevalence and spread of COVID-19 cases in the county — and they need the public’s help to do it.

Their Serosurvey Project will send teams across the Valley of the Sun to selected neighborhoods and request blood samples from residents for antibody tests to determine if households had any prior exposure to COVID-19. In the absence of the ability to currently test everyone, such a survey will provide critical insights for the county health department (MCDPH) to better understand and project how many Maricopa County residents may have already been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

“It will be really eye-opening to get an idea of how much spread we actually have had in Maricopa County,” said Marcy Flanagan, executive director at MCDPH. “Our residents have been great at stepping up to help reduce spread and protect our families, friends, and neighbors, and participating in this serosurvey is a way to contribute to knowledge specific to our community.”

The sample collection and survey of Maricopa County residents will run from Sept. 12 to Sept. 19.

Why Maricopa County health needs your help

The project aims to collect 500 samples from 210 households in selected clusters throughout Maricopa County. The clusters were chosen using a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention technique called Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER). CASPER is designed to give public health officials a snapshot of a community based on a carefully selected sample representative of the larger population. This can better inform public health strategies, identify information gaps, aid response and recovery, allocate resources and assess new or changing needs in communities. 

The teams will go to people’s homes instead of relying on patients coming to a clinic for testing, because this method ensures a more accurate representation of the community, said Megan Jehn, an associate professor in ASU’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change. Jehn is an infectious disease epidemiologist who leads a student outbreak response team working with MCDPH to support the public health response to COVID-19. 

“We're trying to come out on different days of the week, at different times of the day and to different neighborhoods, because we want everyone to be represented,” Jehn said. “We want to know the true impact of COVID-19 in the community with a sample to reflect our community’s socioeconomic, geographic, age and ethnic diversity.”

What antibodies tell us

Once collected, Mayo Clinic will test the blood samples for antibodies, which are proteins that our bodies produce in a unique response to a particular germ.

“The process of making antibodies starts with exposure to a virus — your body sees that virus, recognizes it as foreign and will generate antibodies against it,” said Erin Kaleta, director of Infectious Disease Serology and co-director of Clinical Chemistry at Mayo Clinic. Kaleta will be leading the sample testing.

A negative test result means that an individual has probably not had the virus, while a positive result means someone was probably infected with COVID-19 at some point in the past. And studies have shown that even people who may be asymptomatic for COVID-19 can produce antibodies to the virus.

Since this antibody data shows who has and hasn’t been infected, it gives public health officials a more accurate idea of the actual number of cases in the county. The serosurvey will allow MCDPH to calculate an estimated total number of undiagnosed cases for Maricopa County. Similar projects in the U.S. found that for every diagnosed case of COVID-19, as many as eight to 10 people had antibodies. This suggests the virus is far more prevalent than diagnostic testing reveals.

“The benefit of this is that we can get a better idea of who's been infected overall, which is a better indicator than using diagnostic testing, as those only see a moment in time,” Kaleta said.

In addition to aiding the county’s public health work, the antibody data could provide useful information to participants volunteering blood samples. 

“You might learn something about how your behavior is associated with your likelihood of contracting COVID-19,” Jehn said. “You may learn something about those risk factors that you have in your life.”

First county household demographic data

Along with blood samples, teams will be conducting a survey with residents to gain a more complete picture of each household’s experience with COVID-19.

The survey questionnaire will provide data on a household’s experience with COVID-19 testing and quarantine, chronic illnesses, employment and access to health care, and finally knowledge, attitudes and household practices related to COVID-19.

Survey questions will be asked at the same time as the blood draw, which will be collected by nursing students from ASU’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, said Heather Ross, an assistant professor in the Edson College, who aided the survey development.

Ross is also working to staff the serosurvey field teams with ASU students in global health and anthropology programs. In addition, volunteers who support Maricopa County Department of Public Health’s efforts will serve in a variety of roles, both in the field teams and behind-the-scenes.

“The most critical component of this project is field teams asking residents for blood samples,” said Michael Shafer, a professor in the School of Social Work in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions. “That’s a pretty big lift.”

To ease the load, field teams will be partially staffed with students in social work programs, who bring a useful skill set to the Serosurvey Project. 

“Social work students can empathize, build rapport with residents, respond to fluid situations, and will be able to address people’s concerns in a constructive way,” Shafer said. “This is the kind of project that really galvanized me as a young man and taught me about what was important to me.”

Field teams will ask survey questions and collect blood samples in portable tents set up outside with the permission of participating residents, and a mobile clinic will be on hand for support. Team members will wear CDC-recommended personal protective equipment including masks, gloves, gowns and booties when conducting the surveys and drawing blood.

“This is to protect our field teams, but also to provide assurance of protection to a family who is inviting a stranger into their community in the name of public health,” Ross said.

Illustration by Ashley Quay.

Privacy is a priority

Privacy is just as important to the serosurvey team as accuracy. No personal identifying information will be attached to blood samples for testing. Instead, samples will be assigned codes when they are sent to Mayo Clinic. After testing, Mayo Clinic will return the results to MCDPH, who will match the codes with the participants before contacting the participants by phone. Participants can also request a mailed copy of their antibody test results. 

“The thing that's really, really important to know about this is that all of the survey results and all of the blood test results will remain confidential,” Ross said. “They'll be shared with the county public health department. And that's it.”

Armed with that data, MCDPH can more effectively chart a course forward for Maricopa County. This is even more important as schools, businesses, places of worship and other community entities seek guidance on reopening safely.

Top photo: The blood draw will be collected by nursing students from ASU’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation. Photo by Andy DeLisle

ASU workshop teaches health care pros how to disrupt their field, launch new ventures


This is a kicker

Amanda Goodman

The path to entrepreneurship looks different for everyone but there are some universal steps that can be taken to get to your destination faster. At Arizona State University, the Health Entrepreneurship Accelerator Lab serves that exact purpose for health-related ideas.

It provides resources, programming, executive education and continuing education unit opportunities to not only the ASU community but anyone in the community at large with aspirations to start their own health-focused business. 

Their most recent offering, a Health Innovation and Entrepreneurship Workshop, was designed to meet the needs of current health care practitioners. This is a group that is able to see the problems in their field but may not have the tools or background to create solutions.

“We launched this program as a direct result of the community telling us they needed this resource,” said Clinical Professor Rick Hall, director of the HEALab and senior director of health innovation programs at ASU’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation. 

Originally, the two-day workshop was scheduled to take place in the spring and in person but with the onset of the coronavirus, plans changed. The workshop was moved to August and took place virtually. 

What didn’t change was the curriculum, which was focused around a few key topics.  Participants workshopped how to identify problems, ideate solutions, develop a business model, find funding opportunities and navigate legal issues.  In addition, participants also earned six hours of continuing health education credit through ASU’s Office of Interprofessional Continuing Health Education.  

“We worked in partnership with Coplex and the Maricopa County Medical Society in order to provide meaningful resources and experts. Our goal for the workshop was to present participants with valuable information and insights from our panelists and keynote speakers who have been in their shoes,” Hall said.

One of the keynote speakers was Lisa Porter. The ASU nursing alumna is the founder and creator of JobDocs, an app that lets users upload, organize, and share job-related documents and certifications.

Lisa Porter, Nurse Innovator | Founder & CEO at JobDocs | MSN-RN-FNP | Entrepreneur

Lisa Porter, Founder & CEO, MSN-RN-FNP

She says health care professionals have constant exposure to problems that exist, adding that they are problem solvers at their core and seek out careers in the medical field because they want to make things better.

“As providers, we have so many skills that cross over to entrepreneurship. Those skills include our ability to ask questions, seek out alternatives, use strategies to meet goals, collaborate with teams, and seek out experts that help us meet goals for our patients. These are also key characteristics in business, both in product development and in creating ventures,” Porter said.

Drawing those connections and pointing out all of the learned skills they already have that will serve them well in business is an important message for Porter to share. So while starting any new venture can be daunting, these individuals are already well equipped to take the leap.

Her goal in sharing her own entrepreneurship experience with her colleagues and peers at the workshop was to encourage those who might be sitting on a great idea to take the next step.

“I hope they took away some inspiration and felt empowered to move forward with their innovative ideas around products, services, and technologies that create valuable solutions to have a positive impact on patients, caregivers, and improve processes that benefit the health care industry.”

Participants also heard from Dr. John Shufeldt, a man who has literally done it all. The physician, lawyer, pilot and W. P. Carey School of Business MBA graduate is a self-described change agent and multidisciplinary entrepreneur. He’s founded several companies over the last 30 years including the successful and innovative NextCare Urgent Care. 

For him, being able to speak to fellow providers with entrepreneurial aspirations at events like this is not only rewarding but inspiring.

“I love the quote from Descartes about the ability to see a little further by standing on the shoulders of giants. Sharing the knowledge I’ve gained, the mistakes and successes and the incredible journey helps me to reenergize knowing that in a small way, I was able to provide some degree of lift so that they too could see over the horizon,” Shufeldt said. 

Dr. John Shufeldt, MD, JD, MBA, Founder & CEO

Dr. John Shufeldt, MD, JD, MBA, founder and CEO.

And while Porter wanted to shine a light on the skills providers already have, Shufeldt highlighted the idea that through this journey, entrepreneurs will discover skills and traits they never even knew they had.

Of significant importance he says are the traits of persistence, humility and humor. 

“The ability to persevere against the odds, when things do not go as planned is of paramount importance. Having the humility to take risks and the sense of humor to laugh at yourself when things go wrong will increase both your chance of success and of keeping your sanity,” he said. 

From inspiring keynotes to breakout sessions full of concrete steps and action items, participants gained valuable insights throughout the workshop. And each person received a resource guide featuring information on funding opportunities as well as companies and organizations to connect with as their venture develops.

It wasn’t all learning and no play though, there was dedicated time for networking on both days, another important aspect of entrepreneurship and a huge benefit for the more than two dozen people who enrolled in the workshop.

“Whether you’re connecting with people who are just starting out or who have multiple companies under their belt, every experience is relevant and provides a more realistic view of what it takes to be an entrepreneur. I was inspired by the content and curriculum we were able to deliver and I know this experience will be a catalyst for some great health care ideas to come to market,” Hall said.

The Health Entrepreneurship Accelerator Lab (HEALab) is an interdisciplinary endeavor between Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, College of Health Solutions, and New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, with a centralized co-working space on the Downtown Phoenix campus and additional programming on the West campus and ASU Online, on a mission to provide an array of resources for innovators who are interested in bringing their health-related business ventures to market.

ASU launches wide range of new programs for fall 2020 semester


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Arizona State University offers more than 800 fully accredited undergraduate and graduate degree programs — not to mention more than 270 minors and certificates — and that number is growing this fall.

From sports business to political philosophy to venture development, these new programs will equip students with the knowledge and hands-on learning to thrive in their future careers. Here are some of the new options for fall 2020.

Immersion (on campus)

American studies

The discussion and understanding of the United States in an interdisciplinary context is important, and in wake of current events, increasingly relevant. The American studies master’s degree program — now offered through the School of Social Transformation — is designed to give students a look into what the field of American studies is, where it comes from, and where it’s going.

Classical liberal education and leadership

The School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership has launched a new master’s degree in classical liberal education and leadership. Focusing on philosophy, politics, literature, ethics, history, mathematics and science, the program combines theory and practice through the reading of classic texts with opportunities to strengthen pedagogical leadership skills.

Counseling — substance abuse and addictions

The substance abuse and addictions concentration of the BS program in counseling and applied psychological science in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts prepares students to care for and help individuals who struggle with substance abuse, addictions and related disorders. Students in this concentration program acquire the necessary skills in screening, assessing, diagnosing and planning treatment of patients afflicted with substance abuse, addictions and related disorders.

Creative writing

The Department of English offers an accelerated degree program in creative writing. The 4+1 BA English (creative writing) and MA English (creative writing track) program seeks to support the artistic growth of student-writers through access to writing workshops affiliated with the nationally ranked MFA program in creative writing while also providing clear, practical value.

Data science

Machine learning and data mining are invaluable technologies with applications as diverse as detecting fraudulent online credit-card transactions, understanding the dynamics of social movements, and personalizing medical treatments based on a tumor's unique genetic profile. The School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences' new bachelor’s degree in data science prepares students to be critical analysts and users of data in a variety of areas such as business, research and government. The program allows students to choose a focus area from six different tracks (scroll to the bottom of the major map for the tracks). 

Disability studies

The School of Social Transformation has established an undergraduate and a graduate certificate in disability studies that promotes a new understanding of contemporary culture, not only for the disabled, but for society as well.

Financial planning

The W. P. Carey School of Business has created a bachelor's degree in financial planning, which provides students with the tools and expertise to work as a personal financial planner. The program highlights ways to stand out in the industry and ensures students graduate with the ability to solve complex problems for their clients.


The School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning has a new accelerated/4+1 degree for geography. The fast-track approach allows highly qualified students who are finishing their Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science in geography degree, or Bachelor of Science in geography (meteorology-climatology) to be enrolled simultaneously in the Master of Arts in geography degree program.

Humanities and global management

The School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies has partnered with Thunderbird School of Global Management to offer a new 4+1 program allowing students to receive an undergraduate degree in a humanities-related field and a graduate degree in global management.

Innovation and venture development

A unique new degree will teach students from any background how to launch a successful venture. The Master of Science in innovation and venture development is a transdisciplinary partnership among three schools at ASU: The Design School in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, the W. P. Carey School of Business and the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Students in the one-year, on-campus program will choose an issue, research it, develop ideas, prototype and develop a business model.


To accommodate working professionals, the W. P. Carey School of Business is launching a new blended format for its highly ranked executive MBA through enhanced learning technology. EMBA students will get the same comprehensive business curriculum taught by W. P. Carey faculty with less time away from home and work. The school is also now offering a fast-track MBA that allows students to earn an MBA in as little as 12 months

Organizational leadership

The College of Integrative Sciences and Arts has added an accelerated 4+1 option for its master's degree in organizational leadership. With an emphasis on learning best practices, students explore areas such as institutional evolution, strategic change, leading diverse teams and conflict mediation, as well as learning advanced methodological and statistical skills.

Population health

Optimizing health requires a blending of both public health and health care delivery — a timely degree for a global public health crisis we never could have predicted. In the College of Health Solutions' new Bachelor of Science program in population health, students will learn how social determinants, access to care, decision-making, policy and infrastructure influence the health of defined groups, as well as the roles of various stakeholders and how to work across systems to improve health.

Popular music

The popular music concentration within the Bachelor of Arts degree in music in the School of Music is for those interested in becoming singers, songwriters, laptop performers or composers, producers, engineers, or entrepreneurs in the entertainment world.

Project management

Leadership and project management are vital skills in today's job market. The College of Integrative Sciences and Arts' BAS program in project management offers a skill-driven curriculum to prepare students to be excellent project managers and project management leaders. Students acquire the skills necessary to manage complex projects and learn to integrate leadership theory and practice in organizational leadership courses. (This degree is also available through ASU Online.)

Special education – visual impairment

The Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College's bachelor's degree in special education – visual impairment prepares graduates to work with blind and partially sighted students across educational settings. Candidates are taught to work collaboratively with parents, classroom teachers and related service personnel to meet the unique needs of students with visual impairments. The program leads to dual certification in visual impairment (birth–grade 12) and mild-moderate special education (K–12).


The graduate certificate in sustainability from the School of Sustainability is designed to be the first introduction to sustainability research for a nondegree graduate student or allow a currently enrolled student to add a sustainability dimension to their existing degree plan. The certificate requires 15 credit hours and is available on multiple campuses and through ASU Online. 

Technological leadership

ASU’s Interplanetary Initiative has announced its first degree program, the Bachelor of Science in technological leadership, a scalable three-year program where students learn complex problem-solving, critical thinking and leadership through an interdisciplinary blend of classroom learning and research. (This degree is also available through ASU Online.)

Writing, rhetorics and literacies

The Department of English's new minor in writing, rhetorics and literacies teaches students strategies for inquiry. Students study the ways in which communication has, does and will create knowledge and action, and how communication is constructed, circulated, reacted to, and repurposed through time and place.

ASU Online

Aging and health

The Master of Science in aging and health teaches students about the multidimensional aging process and how to address the complex needs of older adults. Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation students learn to work with other professionals and obtain a certificate of completion in interprofessional collaboration. 

Astronomical and planetary sciences

Through ASU Online, the School of Earth and Space Exploration is offering a new bachelor’s degree in astronomical and planetary sciences, 100% online. In this program, students can explore planets, solar systems and galaxies, preparing them for careers in science policy, journalism or K-12 teaching in STEM fields.


Students in the School of Molecular Sciences' online biochemistry degree programs take formal lecture-style courses online but also get critical hands-on skills through in-person laboratory courses. New to ASU Online are the Bachelor of Arts in biochemistry program and the Bachelor of Science in biochemistry with a focus on medicinal chemistry, which covers the fundamentals of organic chemistry in the context of drug discovery and development. 

Biological sciences

The School of Life Sciences has launched three new concentrations through ASU Online, as well as a minor.

  • The bachelor's degree in biological sciences – biomedical sciences will prepare students for careers in medicine and biomedical research. They will gain in-depth knowledge of human biology, including genetics, anatomy, physiology and behavior, while completing the coursework necessary for applying to medical school.
  • Learn to navigate the complexities of how biology and society intertwine. The bachelor's degree in biological sciences – biology and society explores how society shapes science and how science shapes human behavior and our place in the environment.
  • For students concerned about environmental challenges such as climate change and habitat destruction, the bachelor's degree in biological sciences – conservation biology and ecology will prepare them to understand and potentially find solutions to complex environmental threats.
  • The minor in biological sciences can open up the secrets of the living world in ways that satisfy students' desire to know more while complementing their major in surprising ways.

Early childhood studies

The bachelor's degree in applied science – early childhood studies through Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College is intended for students working in early childhood settings, focusing on birth through age 5, who do not need initial teacher certification issued through a state department of education. The program prepares students with skills in child development, setting appropriate learning goals and more.

Education — various master's degree concentrations

Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College has expanded its online offerings with the following:

  • The master's degree in education is designed for professionals interested in learning about education or whose work intersects with education. It prepares students to work with children, youth and adults in formal or informal learning environments in nonprofit settings, community institutions, civic organizations and businesses. This flexible graduate program can be completed in as few as 16 months.
  • Graduates from the master's degree in education – literacy education program are leaders in literacy in a broad array of educational contexts — wherever reading, writing, oral language and the visual arts are at play. Graduates learn how to support inclusive educational practices, critical-thinking skills and multiliteracies to face the challenges of a diverse and global society.
  • The master's degree in education – educating multilingual learners program prepares students to educate bilingual and multilingual learners in a variety of settings, including pre-K–12 schools, colleges and organizations serving linguistically diverse populations. Students of this program gain skills and knowledge in language and literacy development, pedagogy, culture and context, and in advocacy for multilingual learners.

Educational studies

Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College's bachelor’s degree in educational studies prepares students to work with children, youth and adults in several environments, such as nonprofits, community institutions, civic organizations and businesses. Students also complete a three-course internship series wherein they put their knowledge and skills to practice in the field. 

Energy production and sustainable use

As new energy technologies are introduced for commercial use, they will create new jobs for American workers who will need to be trained in a variety of areas from renewable energy generation and storage to sustainable transportation. Enter the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport, and Energy's Master of Science in modern energy production and sustainable use, in which the school will utilize its transdisciplinary expertise to provide graduate student training in fundamental science and engineering principles.

English language learning/teaching

ASU's Global Launch — a platform that provides academic preparation services, training in multilingual communication and professional skills development for students, teachers and professionals — has launched several new offerings for fall 2020.

  • The self-paced Teach English Now: 120-Hour Online TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Certification is for anyone with an interest in teaching English as a second or foreign language, with a focus on college-aged and adult learners. This course is especially beneficial for those with little background in TEFL.
  • The Full-Time Online Immersion English Language Program is developed for a wide range of learners at the basic, intermediate and advanced levels. In each level, all students will learn and improve upon the four core competencies of reading, writing, listening and speaking while experiencing American culture. This program is accepted as proof of English proficiency for admission to ASU undergraduate and graduate degree programs.
  • The Academic Persuasion Self-paced Online English Course is for students who wish to improve upon their English language skills in the characteristics of persuasion in academic writing, speaking and instruction. Learners will understand all aspects of persuasion and how best to organize summary and response compositions for a future career in academia as a student, researcher or lecturer.

Graphic design

The Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts is expanding its bachelor's degree in graphic design to ASU Online. The program is focused on teaching how to visually communicate rather than teaching software. Students will learn visual literacy, critical thinking and storytelling skills that can be used in many design-related industries.

Homeland security

Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions' graduate certificate program in homeland security is focused on the topic as a field applicable to all levels of government (federal, state and local) and to positions in private-sector organizations with functions related to organizational security. Students can study topics related to current international and domestic terrorism issues, intelligence analysis, cybersecurity issues and crime prevention.

Nursing and food safety

The Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation has expanded two of its master's degree programs to online: the Master of Science in nursing and the Master of Science in nursing (nursing education). Additionally, it has launched the all-new online Master of Science in regulatory science (food safety), which focuses on the regulations to ensure the safety of food products, including the production, manufacturing, processing and handling of food and food products and sale to consumers.

Political psychology

The Department of Psychology and the School of Politics and Global Studies have joined forces to better equip students for the modern political environment with the new online master’s degree in political psychology. Political psychology focuses on decision-making and the psychological factors behind politics, such as group dynamics, conflict, leadership and understanding beliefs and motivation. 

Public interest technology

The School for the Future of Innovation in Society is launching the Master of Science in public interest technology. The online, cross-disciplinary program will help students develop the knowledge and skills that will allow them to understand the motivations for and challenges of public interest technology, assess new and emerging technologies for social impact, engage with users and deploy technologies responsibly.

Sports business

For the sports enthusiast, the online bachelor’s degree in sports business prepares students for evolving careers in the domain of sports. The program resides in the top-ranked W. P. Carey School of Business and focuses on sports business with analytics, consumer behavior and design principles embedded into the curriculum.

Sustainable food systems

Students enrolled in the School of Sustainability's online Master of Science in sustainable food systems examine policies and practices related to sustainability, food trends, public policy and agricultural innovation in the United States. Graduates will be prepared to create policy initiatives that will drive the future of food policy and production. 

Tech consulting

Students can complete the new Professional Credential in Tech Consulting 100% online over the fall 2020 semester. It uniquely provides master’s-degree-level instruction from W. P. Carey faculty and nine credit hours toward an online Master of Science in information systems management (MS-ISM) program, which students can begin as early as fall 2021.

MORE: Browse the full list of recently launched ASU Online programs.

Top photo: A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover onboard launches from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on July 30, 2020. The Perseverance rover is part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, a long-term effort of robotic exploration of the Red Planet. Read about Mastcam-Z, the camera system on the new Mars Perseverance rover created by principal investigator and ASU scientist Jim Bell's team. Photo by Joel Kowsky/NASA

Identifying the facts on sex trafficking and the internet


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Emma Greguska

In 2017, Samantha Calvin created a first-of-its-kind course for Arizona State University’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation. HCR 394: Fundamentals of Human Trafficking set out to teach present and future health care workers how to identify and speak up for victims of sex trafficking.

A lot has changed in just a few short years, not least of which the sudden viral proliferation in trafficking conspiracy theories spreading on the internet. In July, the National Human Trafficking Hotline found itself overwhelmed with reports after rumors began spreading online that the home-goods company Wayfair was actually a front for child sex trafficking.

That report has been debunked, but the repercussions are still reverberating in the lives of those whom the very real issue has touched. In response, Calvin has added a new module to her course, specifically to address the spread of misinformation online.

“I think that it's good for individuals to be able to identify conspiracy theories and fake news in all areas, but especially with regard to trafficking,” Calvin said. “But honestly, more impactfully, after taking this course, students are going to be able to educate their personal networks of friends and family about the issue, too.”

ASU Now asked Calvin to share some of what she has learned about the subject over several years working as a researcher and a mentor for sex trafficking survivors.

headshot of ASU Edson College of Nursing Instructor Samanthat Calvin

Samantha Calvin

Question: When did you notice that conspiracy theories about sex trafficking were gaining traction online, and how has the pandemic exacerbated it?

Answer: People have glommed onto conspiracy theories forever. But lately trafficking conspiracy theories have really started picking up, and the internet is allowing them to spread even faster. Initially, we had a spike in 2016, right around the presidential election with the Pizzagate conspiracy theory. That gained a lot of momentum and then it kind of died off, and then it picked back up again. The Jeffrey Epstein case also sparked an increase in these kind of conspiracy theories. But I would say I’ve seen the biggest increase — not only in a resurgence of ones from the past, but in the rise of new ones like the Wayfair conspiracy theory — over the last couple of months since the pandemic started. People are spending a lot more time online now, and unfortunately, a lot of it seems like an attempt to use human trafficking as a deflection from the pandemic, but also other issues like Black Lives Matter. And that, to me, does a disservice to both human trafficking as an issue, and to the pandemic and to Black Lives Matter.

Q: How is it harmful when people spread misinformation about sex trafficking or make false reports?

A: I usually tell my students, if you've learned the signs of trafficking and you see something at the 7-Eleven down the street that looks a little off to you, it's OK to report it to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, even if it ends up not being human trafficking, because they’ll be able to determine that. But now, with what we're seeing with things like the Wayfair conspiracy theory in particular, is that so many people — who are probably not very well-informed about the signs of trafficking, and even less so of how to spot it online — are calling into the hotline and overwhelming them, and that delays them being able to get victims the help they need. The other thing is, for someone who's a survivor of trafficking and sees these conspiracy theories spreading and incorrect statements being made about what it looks like to be a victim, I think that does a huge disservice to them and their experience, which may look totally different.

Q: What are some guidelines for being able to tell what's real and what's fake when it comes to reports of sex trafficking being shared online?

A: This is really part of a much bigger conversation in terms of, how do we educate people about how to identify just fake news in general? And I think people can have good intentions with trying to share information about missing children and trafficking online, but too often they quickly share things they see without really considering the source. It seems simple: Don't share things without thinking them through. Look at who actually created it. Does it serve a political interest? Is it too simplistic? Human trafficking is super complicated, so if you're boiling it down to something that's super simple, it's probably not correct. For example, I keep seeing this graphic of human trafficking cases being shared, and it looks kind of like a heat map of the United States, showing where it’s allegedly most prevalent. The problem with that is if you take that map and overlay it with a map showing Domino's pizza locations, it will probably look the same, because what it really reflects is population density. So just using deeper critical thinking skills around some of these things that are being shared and considering who's sharing them and why they're sharing them is extremely important. And if you’re going to share, stick to only sharing things from trustworthy organizations, like Polaris and the National Human Trafficking Hotline, who've been doing this work for a long time.

Q: We know that the internet can be used to spread misinformation about sex trafficking — either intentionally or unintentionally. Unfortunately, it can also be used by traffickers themselves. How are they using it and for what purposes?

A: The internet is probably the best thing ever invented for trafficking. There was a detective who spoke to my class one time, and he said that in today's society, it's safer to drop your kid off in the middle of a public park at night than it is to leave them in their bedroom alone with their phone. There are traffickers who exclusively use Instagram, a very public platform, not just to sell victims but to recruit them. They'll send like a hundred messages a day to different people, which is easy to do on Instagram, that say, ‘Hey, I think you're really beautiful, I want to go on a date, let's meet up.’ And even if 98% of the people don't respond because they know that it's a scam, one or two people who maybe need that self-esteem boost, that reassurance, will respond.

I met a woman on a plane once who told me a story about her 15-year-old daughter. They lived in rural South Dakota, and this guy started talking to her daughter on Facebook. They talked for about a year and he built this relationship with her, and when she was 16, he convinced her to drive out to California so that they could meet, but told her not to tell her mom or anyone else because they wouldn’t approve. So she agreed and she drove out to California and got into what turned out to be a tough situation. But this guy had spent a year online pursuing this relationship because there's so much profit to be made just from one person that they will spend that kind of time to do it. They also use Snapchat, TikTok, Facebook, OkCupid, Bumble, Tinder, you name it. All of those platforms serve them very well, and it's easy to communicate quickly and efficiently with people who are looking for that confidence boost or that attention. And a lot of it happens in very plain sight. Backpage, which had a lot of trafficking incidents, has been shut down for about two years. But as soon as Backpage shut down, there were a hundred other sites that came in to replace it. Even on very public social media platforms, there are things like hashtags used in the trafficking world that indicate sex for sale. Victims also have profiles where they are actively posting and recruiting people for “dates.”

Q: What should you do if you think you’ve identified a legitimate case of sex trafficking online?

A: You can certainly screenshot it and report it to the hotline or to Instagram, or whatever site you see it on. But in some cases, that does more harm than good on the side of the victim. So if you find what appears to be a profile of a trafficker, you can report their profile. But if you report the profile of someone you think is a victim, they could get have their profile taken down, which could result in a loss of income and punishment from their trafficker.

So if you’re really looking for ways to help, there's often a nonprofit or some kind of organization actually doing something on the ground to help survivors and people going through this. Here in the Valley, there’s the Gender Identity Center, StreeLightUSA and the Phoenix Dream Center. So instead of reporting things you find on the internet or posting something that might not be true and thinking that that's going to do any real good for actual survivors and victims, I would say go volunteer at one of these organizations, because that's not only going to be a better way to use your time and energy to help, but it's going to teach you what it actually looks like in your community. So get off of Facebook or Instagram and seek out a helpful way to be productive.

Top photo courtesy of Pixabay

ASU startup seeks to fill the gaps in home health care


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Amanda Goodman

If you want to learn about the challenges in health care, you can ask just about anyone. If you want to learn about ways to solve those challenges, ask a nurse.

Jasmine Bhatti is a nurse, a PhD student in Arizona State University’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation and, now, an entrepreneur.  

Her startup, Navi Concierge Nurses, was born out of a problem her hospital patients kept running into when it was time to be discharged. With the help of the HEALab last fall, it came to life fairly quickly. 

“I worked as a teacher’s assistant for ASU 101, and one of the requirements for Edson College students in this course is that they spend a day in the HEALab. That’s when I first learned about everything they did and had to offer for students and anyone at ASU with a health-related idea,” said Bhatti.

After that visit, she reached out to Clinical Professor Rick Hall, director of the HEALab and senior director of health innovation programs at Edson College, to set up a meeting and share what she had in mind for a health care business.  

Her idea was to create a marketplace connecting nurses to people in need of medical guidance and support after a hospital stay or outpatient surgery, or for families seeking additional help for aging loved ones. The goal is to fill the gap left when patients don’t qualify for home health care but still need a bit of professional help.

, Edson College PhD Student Headshot

Jasmine Bhatti

“When people are sick and in the hospital, they’re vulnerable. When they’re getting ready to leave they’re being flooded with information and they can’t really absorb it. So by the time they get home, they may have an idea of what they’re supposed to do but then they don’t remember,” she said.

Her time spent with Hall describing this concierge nurse marketplace went really well.

“After one meeting, I knew that her idea behind Navi had significant potential — and she ran with it,” Hall said.

As a result of their meeting, Hall connected Bhatti with a professor in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. From there she worked with graduate students and had them build a very simple model of what the technology would look like.

Hall also encouraged her to join Venture Devils, a suggestion that would prove incredibly fruitful in many ways just a few months later.

Navi Concierge Nurses was no longer just an idea in her head, but an actual startup and things moved quickly from there. She brought on two team members, Ayan Said and Shawn Harrell; they had their first paying customers lined up and were preparing their pitch for Venture Devils Demo Day.

Then the coronavirus hit, and their momentum halted as they worked to determine the safest way forward for their nurses and patients. While that was going on, Bhatti — who works at a local hospital caring for COVID-19 patients — said she began seeing another problem.

“What we started to realize with COVID is that people who are discharged from the hospital are having to absorb the home care plan on their own because no visitors are allowed. So if they miss something or they forget what they’ve been told, they’re on their own,” she said.

It became clear Navi Concierge Nurses could help solve that problem for people, once they identified and implemented the necessary precautions to start taking on patients again.

In the meantime, the team was still working on their pitch for Venture Devils Demo Day, which was held virtually this spring. They were excited to pitch and thought it went well. 

“It’s the year of the nurse, and it's such a profound time for the spotlight to be on nurses and what it is that we do and why our work is so important. We went into our pitch with the attitude of now is the time when nurses can make an impact on the community and we want to be a part of that,” said Bhatti.

They knocked it out of the park, winning $10,000, one of the largest funding amounts of the event.

Navi Concierge Nurses team celebrates virtually after winning funding during Demo Days

The Navi Concierge Nurses team celebrates on Zoom after learning they won $10,000 in funding during Demo Day.

That was in May. By late June they’d started taking patients again and had competed in another pitch competition, making it to the final four. The momentum was rebuilding, and the business was back on track with plans for a technology component in development.

“Jasmine has two co-founders, an advisory board, funding opportunities, and paying customers. It is even clearer to me today that this idea has the right team to connect talented nurses and nurse practitioners directly to people through technology that is disruptive and needed,” said Hall.

For her part, Bhatti is adamant that none of this would have happened without the resources of the HEALab and the startup community in the Valley. The connections made, the mentors established and the doors that continue to open are because of the solid entrepreneurial environment that has been developed here.

All of those elements and the tremendous support allowed her to focus on the purpose and the mission of Navi Concierge Nurses. Her hope for the future is to provide a meaningful and successful service while showing her fellow nurses that there’s so much more they can do.

“It’s hard because nurses, we’re innovative but we don’t really take credit for things and we don’t often step outside of the box. So we want to show nurses that it’s possible to create the solutions we all talk about and encourage them to not be afraid or to let things hold them back and go after what they want.” 

Books by ASU authors that illuminate the African American experience


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Penny Walker

As awareness of racial injustice has broadened this spring and summer, reading lists have been shared to help increase people's understanding of our nation's past and present — including one in Arizona State President Michael Crow's statement on Juneteenth

English Professor Keith Miller was excited to see Crow's post linking to the Chicago Public Library's Black Lives Matter book list, but he noticed one thing: There were no ASU authors on the list. 

He reached out to Kenja Hassan, director of cultural relations in ASU's Office of Government and Community Engagement, to see if such a list might be created — with the goal of increasing awareness within the ASU community of what other faculty are working on.

"During my first years as a professor at ASU, few of us taught courses in African American history and culture. Even though we were scattered in different units, we knew each other and met occasionally," Miller said, pointing out that ASU later initiated its African and African American Studies program in the 1990s. "Since then, ASU has, fortunately, hired numerous additional professors who teach courses in African and African American culture, art, music, literature, rhetoric and history. Many of them have published significant scholarship in these fields. Kenja Hassan works diligently to keep people in touch.

"But, unlike before, not everyone knows everyone else, especially those who teach on different ASU campuses. So I thought it would be useful to compile a complete list of scholarly books, if possible, so that each of us could gain a more complete idea of what everyone else is doing." 

Working with Suzanne Wilson of Media Relations and Strategic Communications, Hassan put out a call to faculty for titles, confirming whether the books would help readers "understand some aspect of the current anguish African Americans are experiencing," Hassan said. The authors come from a variety of units across ASU, and the titles include both fiction and nonfiction.

Many of the books on the list also have a gender focus, and it's important not to ignore that intersectionality, Hassan said.

"Being a Black female during slavery and Jim Crow meant a particularly cruel level of abuse without recourse," she said. "Women were expected to produce more slaves from both Black and white men, raise them and often take care of the slave owners' white children, too. Today, disparities in hiring, promotion and pay highlight the relatively lower value placed on Black women in the world of work. Black girls are more harshly disciplined in schools; outspoken Black women are often viewed as threatening rather than assertive."   

In addition to the reading list below, Hassan suggests these learning resources:

Even if ongoing Black Lives Matter protests don't draw as much media coverage as earlier in the spring, Hassan said it's important for people to keep doing the work of learning about racism and having the conversations.  

"Ignoring systemic racism is like ignoring cancer once you have a diagnosis. You may not feel it at the moment, but if unaddressed it will eventually lead to your demise," Hassan said. "Our nation is the most diverse in the world of its size. We must be exemplary in all ways in order to prove to the world that people can collaborate and live peaceably in one nation despite cultural, language and religious differences. In order for us to do that successfully, we must face and uproot our systemic inequalities."

The ASU book list is a place to start — or continue — that work.

Books by ASU authors on the African American experience and race relations


College of Integrative Sciences and the Arts

Department of English, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation

Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

School of Music, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts 

School of Social Transformation, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences 

T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences 

Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions 

W. P. Carey School of Business


Book chapters

Barrett, the Honors College

Hugh Downs School of Human Communication

 Top photo from Pixabay

A small number of Edson College nursing students are once again taking classes in person on ASU’s Downtown campus.

Nursing students return to campus for selective lab experiences


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Nearly an hour before labs began, students started lining up outside the Grace Center for Innovation in Nursing Education, anxiously awaiting their first in-person courses in almost four months.

“It’s honestly really exciting just to see other humans again and to be able to interact with them. But it is a little strange being on campus again and the whole social distancing and wearing masks is a bit different,” Erica Medina said.

Medina is part of a small number of Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation summer session students who chose to come back to campus for selective lab experiences. 

Returning to in-person courses in the era of COVID-19 is intentionally careful. Every precaution is being taken to ensure a safe and healthy learning space for these future nurses and the Edson College faculty and staff facilitating.

In compliance with CDC guidelines and the university’s own protocols, everyone on campus is required to wear a face covering, practice physical distancing and monitor their own health.

“In the morning we do a temperature check and if we have an elevated temperature, we don’t come in and if we have any symptoms we don’t come in. So we’re just doing as much as we can to prevent people from getting sick,” said student Brian De Mouy. 

Some additional changes include:

  • New signage installed throughout the Grace Center reminding everyone to follow the guidelines.
  • Cleaning supplies readily available to sanitize rooms and equipment in between assignments. 
  • Smaller groups to accommodate physical distancing.
  • Designated flow of traffic throughout the building to minimize congregating. 

Even as the environment around them has changed, Margaret Calacci, the director for the Grace Center says the coursework and the skills they’re working on to become competent health care providers have not.

“Our curriculum is made up of evidence-based principles and good nursing care in the areas of critical thinking, communication and safety. Students still have the same opportunity to put their hands on, explore and develop those competencies with their patients," said Calacci.

Practicing those hands-on skills, like starting IVs and placing catheters is one of the things both De Mouy and Medina have missed the most as a result of remote learning.  Well, that and the real-time feedback from professors and classmates.

“I learn better in person, so being able to talk to my peers, interact with them and engage is really what’s exciting,” Medina said.

While some students are on campus, others are participating in the same labs and simulations via Zoom through ASU Sync, the university’s new synchronous, technology-enhanced and fully interactive remote learning option. 

Each remote-learning student is paired up with one of their classmates who is there in-person and they work through the various assignments together. There’s also faculty online to help round out this blended instruction.

“The beauty of ASU Sync is that we can have simultaneous learning so whether you’re on a zoom call or in-person you get those same opportunities,” said Calacci.

For Edson College, this summer session provides a preview of what the fall semester may look like and an opportunity to continue to adapt and pivot as needed.

Edson College nursing students physical distance while getting instructions before labs

For the students preparing to graduate, it’s a peek into their not so distant future as they prepare to join the health care frontlines bringing much-needed reinforcement.

“It is a little scary, admittedly, I think it’s definitely a time though when I feel needed. As we enter the medical field as nurses during the course of a pandemic it’s just that extra responsibility we get as providers,” De Mouy said.

Their professors have incredible confidence in the students’ abilities as future providers, not only because of the top-notch education they’re getting but because of the intangibles they’ve developed along the way.

“I believe these students will be the most resilient as they go out into practice, they have overcome obstacles and challenges and they have remained calm and flexible and dedicated to their profession. I couldn’t be more proud,” said Calacci.

ASU acts fast to help nurses transition to ICU


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Emma Greguska

Despite all hope that warmer weather might allow for a brief respite to the rapid spread of the coronavirus, temperatures aren’t the only thing soaring in Arizona this summer. In late May, not long after businesses began to reopen and residents began to let their guards down, the number of cases in the state began to climb at an unprecedented rate.

The alarming and — so far — consistent upward trend has only underscored the urgent need to bolster the ranks of our hospitals’ ICU staff. Nurses of all backgrounds and training specialties are promptly transitioning to care for critically ill patients suffering the devastating respiratory and other effects of COVID-19. It’s not an easy task, though, and usually takes a good deal of time to train nurses for such a transition: Aliria Rascón’s own ICU orientation lasted eight weeks, and that was with four and a half years of medical-surgical nursing experience.

“If you’re coming from a traditional, medical-surgical unit where you have four or five patients at once and you see them maybe every hour or two hours, now in the ICU you are caring for one or two patients and you're seeing them sometimes every 15 to 30 minutes,” said Rascón, a clinical associate professor at ASU’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation. “So it's a culture shift and it's a skill set shift. And there is a lot of training that goes into that, even in a regular environment,” never mind a pandemic.

Fortunately, thanks to the swift work of Rascón and colleagues at Edson, the Office of Applied Innovation and The Learning Enterprise — a new division of the university formed to facilitate ongoing learning — nurses can now be supported in their speedy transition to the ICU under urgent circumstances. “Introduction to Adult ICU Nursing and Mechanical Ventilation” is a free, seven-module continuing professional education course that is accessible online for nurses to take at their own pace and includes an “ask an expert” feature to discuss related issues or questions that might not be Google-able. As of July 14, the course already has more than 1,295 registered nurses enrolled.

“As COVID-19 increases demand on intensive care units, resources like this course can help health care facilities quickly address critical staffing and skill shortages by retraining their existing RNs to help care for patients made ill by the pandemic,” said Andrew Nelson, program manager for strategic network advancement in the Office of Applied Innovation.

Each module in the course covers a different subject related to critical COVID-19 patient care, and in addition to basic content, each includes an assessment quiz and supplemental resources, such as videos, the “ask an expert” discussion board and the opportunity to give feedback.

While sourcing and developing content for the course, Rascón solicited feedback from nurses taking the course and nurse educators to ensure the content was accurate, comprehensive and consistent with their needs.

Candace Keck, a faculty associate at Edson and an ICU nurse educator at Honor Health with over 20 years’ experience, said she was happy to provide feedback, calling it “instrumental in developing a plan for these nurses.”

“As critical care nurses, we are asked to do highly technical, labor-intensive tasks more so now than ever before,” Keck said. “Guidelines for many things are changing daily. Nurses are patient and family advocates, so it is important that we stay current. It is also important to stay current for our own safety.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, she and her fellow nurses have had to rethink even the simplest everyday tasks, like how to get in and out of a patient’s room for supplies, since every time the door is opened, there is potential for exposure.

“As you can imagine, that is a lot of personal protective equipment (PPE). So now, in this new era as a nurse, we need to ‘cluster’ our care. Before, we could complete our assessment, go get medications, come back later and give a bath and so on. Now we need to complete these tasks all in one setting. So now we plan more,” Keck said.

In addition, they are taking on tasks that they may not have normally performed in the past in order to decrease exposure to ancillary staff.

“We draw our own labs, we do our turns without the help of a patient care tech (CNA). Sometimes we are giving breathing treatments for respiratory therapists.”

Course content was also vetted by a team of experts led by Managing Director of Health and Clinical Partnerships Dr. Susan Pepin.

Arizona is hardly the first state that has had to quickly train nurses for the ICU, though, and there are already a lot of training courses available, including one Rascón helped develop at the behest of New York City’s Mount Sinai Hospital.

“There was already a lot of stuff floating around out there, so we were trying to be really conscientious to not be duplicative or redundant and really identify a gap where we could meet a need,” Rascón said.

“Introduction to Adult ICU Nursing and Mechanical Ventilation” differs from other offerings because of a couple of things: its emphasis on educating nurses, in particular, and the “ask an expert” feature.

“That was a really important distinction to make, because I'm a nurse; I'm not a respiratory therapist or a physician or a nurse practitioner. So we wanted to focus on the role of the practicing, registered, bedside nurse, new to the ICU environment. Which seems like a pretty narrow focus, but there are millions of practicing, bedside, registered nurses in the U.S., and many of them could benefit from this course if they’re asked to quickly serve in an ICU setting during this pandemic,” Rascón said.

“And then, with the ‘ask an expert’ platform, I was just trying to think about all my friends working in the ICU right now. … You can take all the classes you want, you can watch all the videos you want. You can take all these quizzes that say you're competent, but there will come a day when you walk into your shift and you see something that you haven’t seen a module on. Human beings are unpredictable and they don't always follow the algorithms. So we wanted some way to support the nurses who are taking this course with those kinds of questions.”

The roster of experts includes Rascón, a handful of Edson clinical faculty specializing in critical care, Edson alumni with at least two years’ career experience and several nurses from around the Valley who volunteered to help out.

With 2020 having been named the year of the nurse, Rascón is merely happy to be able to help in some way.

“It's really nice to not only be the one to educate new nurses and send them out there, but thinking about all of my colleagues out there who are facing this pandemic, who have limited supplies, who are stressed out and scared — to be able to support them in this way is huge,” she said.

Nelson said it’s just another example of ASU doing what it does best.

“This course is an example of ASU fulfilling its charter and taking fundamental responsibility for the overall health of the communities we serve,” he said. “Given ASU’s leadership in online learning, we were well prepared to deliver this world-class content from our incredible faculty in a safe, scalable manner in the middle of a global pandemic. Now, nurses everywhere can freely access this course for as long as the information is needed.”

Introduction to Adult ICU Nursing and Mechanical Ventilation will remain available to any registered nurse, regardless of location, as long as there is an ongoing need for the information. While the course is intended to support nurses orienting to the ICU at a rapid pace during a crisis, it is not intended to train nurses to be ready to work in the ICU as a result of taking the course alone — all nurses intending to work in the ICU will need a site-specific orientation as well as other support.

Top photo courtesy iStock/Getty Images

Virtual internship program helps students stay on track during COVID-19 closures


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Amanda Goodman

Ask any college student or soon-to-be college student about internships and they’ll probably tell you something similar to what Dana Rasmussen had to say.

“I think internships are a unique way for students to gain real-world experience in a chosen field to grow their skills, make connections and really see if something is a good fit for their career goals.”

Rasmussen is a 20-year-old health entrepreneurship and innovation major in the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation at ASU. Like many of her undergraduate peers, she was planning on doing an internship this summer. But, as the coronavirus reached pandemic levels, it became clear many traditional internships were not going to be happening, leaving Rasmussen and a lot of her peers scrambling.

Recognizing the need for an alternative to the quickly vanishing in-person internships, Clinical Professor Rick Hall, director of the HEALab and senior director of health innovation programs at Edson College, had an idea.

“We have great relationships with health-related businesses locally and around the country, some of whom have come through the HEALab or other ASU entrepreneurship programs, so why not tap that network to connect students with businesses in need to work on meaningful projects that would benefit everyone,” said Hall.

And so, the HEALab developed and launched the Healthcare Innovation Virtual Internship in just a matter of weeks.

Hall said he knew there would be interest in the program but he wasn’t prepared for just how much interest: “Even though we knew there was a need, the demand was still surprising and the quality of applicants we got on both sides of this surpassed our expectations.” 

In total they had 90 students apply from 14 states and three countries. This included high school students and undergraduates. Rasmussen was one of them.

Edson College student Dana Rasmussen participates in the HEALab Healthcare Innovation Virtual Internship

Health entrepreneurship and innovation major Dana Rasmussen interned with Securisyn Medical, a medical technology company.

“If this wasn't available, I would not have been able to participate in an internship this summer. I am so grateful that the HEALab team was able to put together such a well-planned virtual internship experience on such short notice,” Rasmussen said.

In all, 17 companies applied to participate, including Humabiologics.

Mohammad Albanna, the founder and CEO of Humabiologics, has a long-standing relationship with the university and says offering internships is one of the ways he can give back to the community, while also helping to develop local talent.

“When we provide internships to students in Arizona, not only do we empower and increase the pool of talent available for us as Arizona companies to leverage in the future, but also for other industries outside the state,” he explained.

During the program, Humabiologics hosted six students who worked in teams to conduct a thorough market analysis on products and explore opportunities of untapped markets.

Albanna described the experience of working with the students as fantastic and said they were happy with “the amount of time and dedication these students put into these projects and the outcomes we got, which will help in our future business decisions.”

This internship program was not for credit, serving strictly for experience, resume-building and networking. The HEALab team coordinated a two-week structured internship, pairing students with businesses who then had them work on specific projects. From there, it was up to the participants to determine what happened next. 

Albanna says they hired an intern from the program due to “his impressive quality of work and ability and speed in learning new things.”

Rasmussen worked with Securisyn Medical, a medical technology company and past participant in the Mayo Clinic and ASU MedTech Accelerator, for her internship. The project she was part of revolved around future product development research, an area that was new to her. Even so, she was able to pick it up quickly, impressing herself and the team at Securisyn who wanted to continue the relationship.

“It is because of this opportunity that I have been able to intern directly with Securisyn for the whole summer, growing my skills and network,” she said.

Students participate in the HEALab Healthcare Innovation Virtual Internship Program

Students participate in the HEALab Healthcare Innovation Virtual Internship program in May.

While the Healthcare Innovation Virtual Internship started out as an alternative option, Hall confirms that their early success has them considering doing this again.

“We know that we can do this now and do it well," he said. "So if we can fulfill a need by creating new and interesting opportunities for students around the globe to gain real-world experience with health care businesses in a virtual environment, I think that’s worth seriously looking into.”

About the HEALab

In partnership with ASU’s E+I programs, the development of Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation's Health Entrepreneurship Accelerator Lab is the first-ever accelerator for students, faculty and the community at ASU to launch initiatives that focus entirely on health and health care solutions. Through outreach, programming, networking, strategic partnerships and mentorship, the lab supports startup activities by connecting students to its own resources, the knowledge base of the expert faculty and the resources of the university and community.

Professor graduates from prestigious nurse leadership program


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Amanda Goodman

This spring Dan Crawford completed the Duke-Johnson & Johnson Nurse Leadership Program. It’s a prestigious and rigorous yearlong fellowship that seeks to equip participants with the skills to lead diverse interprofessional health care teams.

As the director of Arizona State University's Doctor of Nursing program, a clinical assistant professor at the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovationand an advanced practice nurse, Crawford was an ideal candidate. 

“This is an opportunity to work with people in similar-type leadership positions across the country through formal leadership training above and beyond what I had in my graduate studies,” Crawford said.

Duke explains that part of the goal of the program is to “train APNs/experienced RNs and their team members to be better able to meet the challenges of the evolving and complex health care environment.”

There are several elements to the program. Three times a month they’d gather virtually for lectures taught by subject-matter experts to tackle different leadership topics such as financial management, population health, designing evaluations and more.

In addition to the lectures, the fellows also participated in breakout discussions on the weekly topics, completed assignments related to the topic and had the opportunity for one-on-one coaching.

“It covered all of the things you need to know as a leader and provided time to practice these skills. Beyond that, we also were connected with an executive coach and also worked with a program coach a couple of times a month,” he said.

Each fellow also had to come up with and complete a project over the course of the year to potentially be implemented in their own organizations. 

Crawford focused his project on Edson College’s DNP program. Specifically, he was interested in looking at ways the program can better prepare graduates to care for people living in rural and underserved communities.

To find that out, he created a needs assessment questionnaire that he then sent to several current DNP partner practices and facilities in these communities across Arizona.

With the data collected and analyzed, Crawford says they now have some really valuable information to consider and the next steps include pulling together a team to review curriculum.

At the end of the year-long program, the fellows were supposed to return to Duke for a graduation celebration but due to COVID-19, the May event was moved online.

Duke-Johnson & Johnson Nurse Leadership Program Class of 2020

Duke-Johnson & Johnson Nurse Leadership Program Class of 2020 celebrates their graduation on Zoom.

“We were excited to be going back to campus to meet with each other and share our projects with the people we’ve worked with on Zoom over the last year. It was disappointing but the program leadership did a wonderful job given the circumstances.”

It may not have been the ending Crawford was expecting but that didn’t tarnish the experience or accomplishment, both of which he says has changed him and helped him grow.

“I came away with a better understanding of how to lead diverse teams of people in my current role in a way that allows me to bring a new perspective to a lot of the responsibilities with managing faculty and students who have diverse goals, ambitions and backgrounds. It really lets me better understand what each individual brings to the table and how to better engage individuals toward initiatives that we have moving forward.”

A message from Dean Karshmer on Edson College next steps


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Our role as health educators, researchers and practitioners is to teach, investigate and care for people. 

It is also our role to call out injustices and disparities and actively work on solutions that benefit the overall health of all communities.

Systemic racism is a public health crisis. Research supports this and we’ve seen it with our own eyes in our practices and most recently with the COVID-19 pandemic which has disproportionately affected black Americans. 

Addressing health disparities is something we at Edson College are passionate about and it is a focal point of many of our programs. However, this moment has shown us that we must do more, especially at the policy and interprofessional level.

My colleagues and fellow board members from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing said it best, “Together, academic nursing leaders and the larger healthcare community must rally against pervasive inequities in society and move forward with empathy, inclusiveness, and collective action.” 

With that in mind, our next steps college-wide include answering President Michael Crow’s call to come up with new initiatives, programs and ideas to drive new solutions to accelerate social transformation and justice.

Please know that this is not a one-time commitment or a one-way conversation. We are a public institution deeply embedded in our communities and as such devoted to doing this work day in and day out. And, I am always open to your ideas and suggestions on ways we can do better.

Leading a health team during a pandemic. Alumna shares her experiences.


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As the scope of the coronavirus pandemic began to reveal itself, much of the country began slowing down and hunkering down while learning the new skill of social distancing. At the same time, nurse Jennifer Roque, an alumna of the ASU Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, and her team at a Phoenix medical center began ramping up and showing up to rapidly mobilize efforts to prepare to treat the expected influx of patients.

“We worked night and day, devised and revised plans, ran mock codes, educated staff, assessed and redefined patient care and its delivery methods. We rolled out safety plans for our staff and each other, ran our Infection Prevention team ragged, talked, prepared our teams mentally and coached them. We pushed our normally defined leadership roles away to become pandemic planners and responders,” explains Roque.

Jennifer Roque

In her role as RN Senior Manager, she says this is exactly what she was meant to do. This was her calling.  

Like many health facilities across the country, Roque initially saw an increase in COVID-19 cases and a corresponding drop in typical patient cases. Now a couple of months in and her facility is transformed, with multiple designated units that care for COVID patients, accommodating a range of needs, from low acuity up to critically ill.

She says her team’s first reactions to the pandemic’s arrival to their doors were similar to everyone else’s and included fear, panic and stress. Nursing schools, at least in the past, have not spent a great deal of time discussing how to deal with a pandemic. But now she believes, “for years to come, nursing books will write about us and the ways we found to respond to the novel coronavirus pandemic.” 

Edson College Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, Kathy Kenny agrees. “While nursing programs provide a foundation for disaster preparedness, the COVID-19 pandemic gives us a chance to re-envision our preparation of the nurses of the future. It is more important than ever to include evidence-based curriculum related to epidemiology, infection control and public health.” 

Though the first weeks were incredibly trying, Roque says that in true nurse fashion, everyone quickly adapted and began to internalize and fully process the solutions they had devised.

“Just like we have always done, we used data and evidence to help us get through.”

While a lot has changed in such a short amount of time for our health systems and the staff who keep them running, Roque says what remains constant is the commitment of her colleagues and team members to care for patients and to demonstrate compassion.

“I have never felt more proud or privileged to be an R.N.  Today and for the past few months, I lock arms with my sisters and brothers of this profession, of every role and specialty to help our community return to health and to help fight this disease.”


Graham Sawicki graduated with a Family Nurse Practitioner, DNP from Edson College in 2019. Now, as a provider, he’s returning the same compassion bestowed upon him during his childhood battle with cancer to pediatric patients in his care.

Edson College alumnus stands out for all the right reasons


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Realizing dreams is something Graham Sawicki has become an expert at. When the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation alumnus decided to pursue nursing he did so with gusto.

Sawicki methodically worked his way up the health care ladder, starting out as a nursing assistant then becoming a registered nurse and his most recent accomplishment? Earning a Family Nurse Practitioner, DNP.

“This program helped me build my confidence in my ability to be a provider and reassured me that I can do this,” said Sawicki.

Despite his status now as an expert dream achiever, how he got here was not exactly the stuff of fairytales. 

Sawicki’s interest in nursing was first piqued as a pre-teen. He was diagnosed with cancer when he was just 13 and ended up spending a lot of time in the hospital. It’s not a place any kid wants to be.

While he didn’t know it back then, those visits and stays planted a seed for his career today.

“The nursing staff made a significant impact in my life, always making me laugh and just feel like a kid, rather than a patient,” he said.

Eventually, he went into remission but that wouldn’t be the last time cancer wreaked havoc on his family. A few years later, Sawicki’s mom, who was a nurse, died from the disease.

After losing his mom he realized one of the best ways he could honor her was by following in her footsteps and becoming a nurse.

“I suppose that was a great gift she left me with, direction and a sense of purpose.”

Those personal experiences were the catalyst that helped Sawicki decide on nursing as a profession to pursue and in doing so, he found himself standing out. In the beginning, his literal presence was enough to draw attention.

As one of just a handful of men in both his classes and in his various health roles over the years, he attracted a lot of questions and assumptions.

“Going in as a male nursing assistant, I noticed my patients always asked if I was going to be a doctor after this, even though they could tell that I loved my job. And I was always like, maybe but my plan is to go into nursing.”

Then, when he became an RN, he says there were several occasions where patients or family members assumed he was the doctor on the team, even though he was clearly dressed in nursing scrubs and introduced himself as a nurse.

For his part, Sawicki isn’t surprised by the fact that he attracts interest and believes most people are well-intentioned. After all, the societal norm is that nursing is a female-led industry and it is often categorized as a feminine career.

“People seem to think nursing and caring for others is strictly a maternal or female thing,” he said. “I’ve always been pretty progressive in my way of thinking and universally I just want to help people. In nursing, I have the best opportunity to do that.”

He’s perfectly happy smashing stereotypes and providing excellent care along the way.  And, as his career went on, he found himself living his dream, working as a pediatric oncology nurse.

“I hadn’t made a plan for after that, honestly that old adage ‘if you love what you do you never work a day in your life’ is totally true and that’s where I was at,” he said.

Still, he knew he could do more for his patients. That’s when he found Edson College’s Family Nurse Practitioner, Doctor of Nursing Practice program, and decided to enroll.

Three tough years later he graduated, achieving his ultimate dream of earning the highest nursing degree and becoming a nurse practitioner. 

“The DNP I earned here, truly makes me feel empowered and I’m eternally grateful to all of the staff and instructors who made this dream a reality.”

With all of the knowledge and experience he’s gained he’s put it to good use, advocating for his patients, community and his alma mater.

Throughout his time at Edson College, Sawicki was an active volunteer and he continues that now as an alumnus. He is a member of the college’s recently established alumni board and pre-pandemic he was a fixture at every event from Homecoming to Open Door.

In the video below, he shares more about what motivates him to volunteer and stay engaged with Edson College.

Nurses Week 2020 comes with challenges, opportunities


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Amanda Goodman

Each May nurses are recognized nationally as part of a weeklong celebration and awareness campaign of the vital role they play in the health care field. 

This year is no different — except that it is extremely different because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s bizarre, I would have never expected I’d be working through something like this, much less working, literally on the front lines of it,” intensive care unit nurse and ASU alumna Lauren Leander said. “I feel very fortunate that this has come six years into my career so at least I’m settled into a specialty. But it’s wild, it’s really wild. It’s just a completely different take on being a nurse.”

Leander, who graduated from Arizona State University's Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, works at Banner University Medical Center. Recently, she unintentionally became part of the masked-face resistance to protests demanding the reopening of the Arizona economy.

“We were truly there to be a presence for our patients. I was there to be a presence for the people that can’t speak up for themselves and I think that is what we do best as nurses; we are advocates,” Leander said.

It was an extension of the work she’s doing at the bedside. For the last couple of months, Leander’s been treating strictly COVID-19 patients. She was the nurse who admitted the hospital’s “patient zero” when they opened up their COVID-19 unit. That patient was just 27 years old.

Over the course of this pandemic, nurses and their health care colleagues have received a lot of praise and community support as the value of their work is seen in a new, lifesaving light. They’ve also been overworked, underprotected and exposed to COVID-19 at higher rates in some cases.

The irony is that 2020 was always meant to be a celebration of the nursing profession. As part of a global effort to raise awareness of and investment in the workforce, the World Health Organization and partners designated 2020 the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife. It was timed to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale.

And while reasons to celebrate have been few and far between lately, Leander says they’ve been seeking out victories big and small in their unit to help get them through the tough days.

“We play ‘Here Comes The Sun’ over the speakers every time there’s a COVID patient who is discharged; we have posters everywhere. So I think Nurses Week is going to be an extension of the joy we’ve tried to create.”

Below, Leander shares her thoughts on National Nurses Week, as well as how to support nurses now and in the future.

 after a shift in the COVID-19 unit at her hospital

Lauren Leander

Question: What does Nurses Week mean to you?

Answer: To me, Nurses Week is sort of like New Year’s Eve. It’s a chance to reflect on our year. It’s a chance to stop and remember why we got into this profession, celebrate new achievements and lift each other up. It is a chance to be seen and recognized and celebrate all the generations of nurses that came before us. Nurses Week brings out the best in us as a profession. 

Q: What do you want people to know about the profession?

A: I don’t think there is anything like it. In one day I can hold a patient’s hand as they pass away, or bandage a wound, celebrate with the family of an organ transplant recipient, wash someone’s hair, ask a patient to say their name after coming off a ventilator, or feed someone their first meal of solid food in weeks. I am intimately involved in people’s lives on their worst day, and sometimes one of their best, and it is an absolute honor. 

Q: Why did you become a nurse?

A: Nursing found me. It literally popped into my head on a drive home one day. And I never looked back. I knew in my heart it was the right decision. I had changed my major four times in college and was feeling pretty lost before that. 

Q: Who inspires you on the job?

A: My ICU intensivists are the most level-headed, intelligent and thoughtful human beings I know. They directly involve every nurse in the patient’s plan of care and genuinely treasure our opinions. It is teamwork at its finest. They naturally make sure the bedside nurse is working beside them and not behind them. 

Q: Do you think the pandemic has raised the profile of nurses? If so in what ways?

A: I think it has given people a fresh perspective on the resilience of the profession. It has brought out the humanity and the reality of our work. The public knows we care for sick people, many of whom have infectious diseases. But the bar has been raised with COVID-19. Now, we are caring for patients of a disease that could seriously infect our families, children and even ourselves. We are having to self-isolate. We haven’t seen or hugged our loved ones in weeks. We are terrified to see young, healthy adults in our ICUs. We are reinventing the way our hospitals run. COVID-19 has brought unprecedented challenges and we have risen to the occasion to overcome them.

Q: How can people support nurses now and year-round?

A: I think on a large scale, nurses should be compensated better financially and not seen as a replaceable asset. We should be seen as individuals with our own talents and strengths. As an ICU nurse, my critical thinking skills are valuable. Our doctors depend on my patient assessments, and I know that my input is important, because I spend 12-plus hours a day with my patients. It’s important that our health care system keeps a sharp focus on this, as our contributions should not be undervalued.

On a smaller scale, all we ask for is gratitude. Looking us in the eyes and thanking us for what we do is often enough, along with seeing my patient leave the hospital in a healthier state than when they arrived. Knowing that they can now lead more normal and fulfilling lives because of the care we’ve provided, is immensely gratifying.

ASU diabetes prevention program receives grant from Dignity Health


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Amanda Goodman

A new grant from Dignity Health Arizona’s Community Grants Program will extend the reach of a long-standing collaboration between Arizona State University and several key community partners to reduce diabetes risk for pediatric patients.

The $100,000 award will support ¡Viva! – A Family-Centered Obesity and Diabetes Prevention Program

The program, launched through ASU’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation’s Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, has seen success thanks to its dedicated community partnerships.

For years, the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention has been collaborating with the Valley of the Sun YMCA and the St. Vincent de Paul Center for Family Wellness to successfully develop, test, refine and expand diabetes prevention programs for children and families.

With this new grant, Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Pediatrics is joining the team and expanding the program to new communities.

Engaging St. Joseph’s outpatient pediatrics clinic will increase the potential for impact of the collaboration to reduce diabetes risk and improve the quality of life for high-risk pediatric patients.

The pediatrics clinic will refer patients with weight or obesity issues and their families to a 12-week program that includes physical activity classes at a local YMCA and hands-on nutrition education classes led by registered dietitians and community health workers from St. Vincent’s Center for Family Wellness.

“We are excited about the opportunity to expand family-centered diabetes prevention programming, and with the Valley of the Sun YMCA serving as the lead agency, we are moving evidence based-interventions into the community where they can have the biggest impact,” said Allison Williams, research program manager at the center.

Dignity Health Community Grants Award Presentation

Left to right: Sister Margaret McBride, vice president, Missions Integration, Dignity Health Arizona Division; Gabriel Shaibi, ASU; Allison Williams, Elva Hooker, St. Vincent de Paul: Jason Heetland, YMCA; Shannon Clancy, St. Vincent de Paul: Dr. Lilia Parra-Roide, Dignity Health Medical Group - St. Joseph’s Outpatient Pediatrics Clinic; Steve Conrad, YMCA; and Maria Spelleri, community board member, Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center.

Personalized education key to deploying nurses to ICU


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Emma Greguska

Arizona State University has long been a player in the realm of personalized digital education, with a current count of 175 fully online degree programs and 50,000-plus undergraduate and graduate students enrolled from around the world. And it’s no slouch when it comes to preparing students to work in the health care field, with a recent $50 million gift paving the way for a host of new scholarships and degree programs, including one focused on simulation science.

All of this should come as no surprise considering ASU has been hailed as the most innovative school in America for five years running. So when, in the wake of the rapid spread of COVID-19, international educational technology company Sana Labs was tapped to design a training program to transition nurses at New York City’s Mount Sinai Hospital into critical care at a moment’s notice, they knew just who to partner with.

In record time, experts at EdPlus, ASU’s digital teaching and learning unit, and the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation joined forces with Sana Labs to produce just such a program. The teams’ first conversation took place on Friday, March 27. Dubbed Project Florence, the training program was initially rolled out to 35 nurses on Thursday, April 9, and it is now available to thousands.

“I think right now, everyone is feeling like what can I do?” said Wayne Anderson, senior director of EdPlus. “We’re dealing with all different levels of stress, concerns and anxieties, and we want to contribute. This was a good opportunity for us to do a small part in contributing to the fight against the virus.”

Ellis Rubinstein, president emeritus of the New York Academy of Sciences and former editor of Science magazine, praised Project Florence in a press release from the Mount Sinai Health System as one of the first online tools capable of responding to a global event of this magnitude.

Joel Hellermark, Sana labs CEO, said two things made him confident ASU was the best partner in this endeavor: “ASU is known to be the most innovative player in this market, and one which is willing to move fast when needed. And second, the quality of the nursing education that they provide today.”

The 12 days between March 27 and April 9 saw a frenzy of activity among the teams at EdPlus and Edson. Within only a couple hours of learning about the project, Heidi Sanborn, clinical assistant professor and director of the RN-BSN and concurrent enrollment program at Edson, had assembled a team of experts that included Aliria Rascon, clinical assistant professor and assistant director of the Edson Global Health Collaboratory, and Debbie Hagler, Edson clinical professor.

In addition to their roles as nurse educators, all three are practicing nurses with decades of hands-on experience in the critical care setting, an invaluable asset when it came to assembling and then paring down the content needed for Project Florence.

Sanborn explained that the typical clinical workflow at a hospital in the event of something like a viral pandemic is to empty the hospital of all nonessential patients and procedures in order to free up every resource to deal with the crisis at hand and bolster their intensive care units.

“With COVID-19, all the hospitals started preparing that way, but at Mount Sinai, they were already living the reality where all of a sudden their ICU was exploding,” Sanborn said.

They had to act fast. Normally, it takes even experienced nurses eight to 10 weeks, sometimes longer, to train to transition to the ICU. Mount Sinai needed their nurses to transition in a matter of days.

Sanborn and her team worked round the clock the weekend of March 28 and 29, combing through the content provided by Sana Labs and Mount Sinai to tailor it for this specific need, then passed the baton to the team at Edson, which worked with Sana Labs to package it into a user-friendly format.

“It was roughly 10 days from when we first connected to when we piloted a nice, clean, well-designed module,” Sanborn said. “I think we’re all quite astonished at what we did. But we knew this was our way to help. It was a labor of love and loyalty to our fellow nurses.”

Nurses can access the Project Florence training program on any digital device — be it smartphone, tablet or computer — and choose from a menu of topics. Each topic begins with a pretest to determine how much they know about that particular area, which in turn determines the type of content they receive. After they review the content, they take another test to assess comprehension.

Nurse managers also have access to the program, and can use test scores to decide which nurses take which patients based on their levels of mastery.

“The goal was to help nurses understand what knowledge they didn’t possess, so they are aware of it, and also learn what they need to learn as quickly as possible so that they can be deployed as quickly as possible,” said Philippos Savvides, assistant director of learning technologies at EdPlus.

“We were trying to create something as lean as possible so they’re not wasting their time,” Anderson added. “The way the personalized education model works is when you know what the goal is, you can assess what someone already knows and then determine what content you need to (enable) that person (to) understand that. So if a nurse already understands mechanical ventilators, they won’t be presented with that content.

“There are a lot of universities trying to respond to the same need of getting skilled workers in place to help with certain demands. I think the differentiator (between ASU and them) is that personalized piece.”

For Project Florence, Sanborn and her team focused on such topics as lung processes, recognizing how pneumonia presents and progresses, then determining treatments.

Much of the content focused on how to use a ventilator, a complicated machine that nurses who don’t normally work in ICU will never have used. They also included content on pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in the lung that can occur as a complication of using a ventilator, procedures that may be done in the event of a collapsed lung, and capnography, the monitoring of levels of carbon dioxide in a patient’s breath.

The feedback from Mount Sinai has been overwhelmingly positive.

“I’m very excited to bring this innovative approach to Mount Sinai hospitals to help advance the skill set of our nurses,” said Diane Adams, chief learning officer of Mount Sinai Health System, in a press release. “Not only are we advancing the essential skills of our staff, but we are also meeting the needs of our community during a particularly critical time across New York City, the United States, and the rest of the world.”

With the Project Florence training program complete, Sana Labs is looking to deploy it in other areas of need around the world, and over a dozen hospital systems have already signed up.

“This is an issue hospitals everywhere are trying to deal with,” Sanborn said. “And I think there would be interest in a broader market if this pandemic continues to develop. In the future, this holds a lot of value in general because I think hospitals are understanding now that with pandemics, based on whatever the virus is and whatever the issues are for the patient, this could be pivoted for any sort of emergency situation.”

What was most clear in speaking with the players involved in Project Florence was how much they appreciated each other’s expertise and willingness to get the job done.

“In some ways, I think we’ve been preparing for this for quite a long time,” Savvides said. “Because our nurses at Edson were so quick to respond, they were extremely knowledgeable and their feedback was extremely valuable. It was amazing to see them work in this capacity, with such a short turnaround in such a high intensity environment. And then there’s the fact that ASU is willing to work with private industry and startups and things like that to help reach goals that potentially save lives.”

“There’s no playbook for how to do this,“ Sanborn said. “And I think it’s just a really good lesson about what can be accomplished in an emergency when multiple teams come together with a common goal.”

Top photo courtesy of Pixabay

ASU alumna helps others navigate uncertain times with mindfulness practice


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Kelly Krause

Arizona State University College of Health Solutions alumna Tiara Cash describes what she does for a living as “reaching out and holding space for others.” 

And right now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, that is exactly what she is doing as program manager of ASU’s Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience. When the university shifted to remote learning and working, Cash helped move the activities of the mindfulness center online for a daily noontime session of virtual meditation and support, offering people a place where they can reach out and add to their “bucket of resilience,” as Cash calls it, to alleviate some of their anxiety as they deal with social distancing, quarantine and the risk of disease. 

Cash, who graduated with a BS in exercise and wellness in 2013, knows a little bit about resilience. After suffering a career-ending injury in collegiate track and field, she struggled with her new “retired athlete” identity. As an exercise and wellness major, she had studied the hard science of physical wellness, but she had never thought about how mentally and emotionally fit you need to be to weather physical setbacks.

Although she had practiced meditation for years, the experience with her injury inspired her to integrate physical, mental and spiritual practices for a holistic approach toward wellness. In addition, she researched similar experiences of other student-athletes and found that athletes who transitioned to retirement most successfully were those who could call on the meditative practices of introspection and awareness, the same techniques she used in her own transition.

Today, she continues to use this mind-body-spirit approach to help student athletes and others in her work at the mindfulness center. In addition, she is also working to extend mindfulness beyond the self and out into the community through her Equitable Mindfulness Initiative which explores mindfulness as a change agent for social justice and equality through programming and research.

She spoke recently about how the global pandemic has changed her work and how other health professionals can use mindfulness to cope. 

tiara cash

Tiara Cash

Question: How have you adapted professionally during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Answer: The change was almost instant. When we found out ASU would be moving to an online platform for the rest of the year, our immediate response was to find a way to fill the gap. It happened quickly over one weekend when we decided to do our Midday Mindfulness sessions online as part of our first wave of change. Now that we have established this daily platform, we are getting a lot of requests to do presentations and workshops through Zoom, which I find wonderful! In the next week alone, I have three presentations to classes, departments and community members online.

Q: What did you learn at ASU that helped prepare you for your career? Is there anything from your ASU experience that you’re using now to help you navigate this current situation?

A: ASU taught me how to be flexible and to find ways to be innovative under pressure. The faculty, staff and my employment at ASU’s Sun Devil Fitness Center while I was a student helped prepare me. I also learned flexibility and innovation from the faculty and staff at the College of Health Solutions who created pathways on my behalf, specifically, finding creative ways to make sure my classes fit my degree when I transferred to ASU so I could graduate on time. I’ve also used my experience as a presenter at conferences when I was a student which helped me learn how to navigate uncertainty with grace.

Q: What advice do you have for others wanting to make a difference in health in the current climate?

A: Be flexible! We are living in unprecedented times. We will experience emotions and reactions that we cannot predict, so it’s important to remember that we are all human. As human beings we each have resilient capabilities that will help us get through situations like this. I would also say to take extraordinary care of yourselves as practitioners and individuals who work to heal others. We are being looked to as the superheroes of today, but we cannot fill the cups of others until we fill our own. 

Q: Anything else you'd like to share about practicing mindfulness for those working in health?

A: Anything helps. Taking 10 minutes to belly breathe or do a short loving kindness meditation is so beneficial. There are apps you can download that will take you through meditations and scripts online that you can do yourself if you prefer. Also, be kind to yourself as you use these practices over the next few months. Most people like to have a routine for practicing mindfulness and meditation. It’s wonderful if you can commit and continue that routine, but if you find yourself missing your normal routine because we are out of normalcy, remember that finding a few breaths here and engaging in some gratitude there still adds to your bucket of resilience. Anywhere you can find time to check back in and do a quick mindful practice will ultimately help you in the next moment.

Edson College undergraduate blazes a trail in pursuit of her dreams


This is a kicker

Amanda Goodman

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of outstanding spring 2020 graduates.

Before Oumou Bah ever stepped foot on Arizona State University’s campus, her college career was basically planned out for her. 

The Avondale resident was going to be a nurse; that’s the direction her family was nudging her. Given her own interest in health care and desire to advocate for people, Bah decided to pursue nursing.

However, a year in she started to feel a disconnect. That feeling, coupled with the fact that the program was so academically competitive, had her reexamining if she was on the right path.

“I eventually realized I was not happy in the major that I was in. I had a conversation with my parents telling them I wanted to switch my major,” Bah said.

About that time she discovered the Bachelor of Science in Health Care Compliance and Regulations, which seemed like a perfect mix of health care and law. An added bonus, the degree was in her same college, the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

She made the switch and soared. In fact, Bah became the first health care compliance and regulations student to complete a Barrett, The Honors College thesis, which was no easy task.

“It was a bit difficult since I was the first. There wasn’t a lot of guidance because all of the information was nursing student-based. I had to figure out which professors to reach out to and who could actually help with this and find an idea for my thesis that would be appropriate,” she said.

Bah didn’t see that as a setback. Instead, she says it motivated her and helped her work even harder. With no precedence, Bah was able to blaze her own trail while also setting up the infrastructure for others.

“I looked at it like, I have to make an amazing pathway for students to come,” said Bah.

In addition to being an honors student, Bah was involved in several student organizations, worked as an Edson College Community Assistant and was part of the effort to bring the Black Student Union back to the Downtown Phoenix campus. 

“With college, you have to make the best of it. In order to do that, you have to engage with whatever is being offered to you,” she said.

It’s good advice from the soon-to-be college graduate. Next up for Bah is graduate school, where she’ll study law. 

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: I initially wanted to go into the field of law because I wanted to be an advocate for people’s rights. However, I was fascinated by the health care field and with the push and encouragement from my family, I went into nursing. In my sophomore year, I was in the midst of an emotional breakdown of feeling like I was trying to please everyone but myself. I found myself not happy with where I was in life because I lacked motivation and passion for my major. I took time to self-reflect and started searching for majors that matched my interest in health and law. I came across health care compliance and regulations and the brief description for the major immediately hooked my interest! It stated that the major will help prepare individuals to ensure patient safety and advocate for proper ethical and legal decisions. From reading that, I knew that I had found the major that best aligned with my interests, and the following day I scheduled an appointment to switch my major!

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: I was shocked to learn about the prevalence of health care fraud. In my HCR 261 course, I wrote a case study on a nonprofit health care organization called Horison’s Unlimited whose CEO was found guilty of health care fraud and kickbacks. The CEO had falsified patient records, conducted unnecessary procedures on patients, and would charge state Medicare for office visits when truly the patients would have unlicensed doctors dispense opioid medication to them. 

I have always had a positive perception of health care organizations so I was shaken to my core to read that these types of deceptive and unjust actions were occurring. Hearing about fraud cases where greed outweighed the level of care provided to patients made me realize the importance of having individuals in health care compliance. I started to value and respect the field of health care compliance and understood the importance of enforcing rules and regulations to ensure quality patient care. 

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: The most important lesson that I have learned while at ASU was from Caryn Unterschuetz, internship coordinator and clinical associate professor at Edson College. Professor Unterschutez has had various educational and life pursuits and she once told me to follow my passions and keep an open mind to new experiences. Her background and advice resonated with me because it put life into perspective. I constantly find myself wanting to pursue different pathways in life and being overwhelmed with figuring which pathway to take. However, Professor Unterschuetz’s advice made me realize that I can pursue as many pathways as I want and to just remember to follow my heart and try as many new experiences as possible. Due to this, I ended up taking her internship course and found an internship that I originally would not have pursued but I ended up enjoying the experience that came with it. 

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: LEARN ABOUT YOURSELF! Figure out your strengths and weaknesses, your passions and hobbies, your work ethic, your learning style, your goals and aspirations, and above all what you want in life. College is a great time for self-exploration and figuring out what you want in life so please take the time to do so. Especially since in college you have peers around you that are doing the same and you have the resources and staff members that are available to help you. And remember that knowing yourself is a process and everyone moves at their own pace. So focus on yourself and your growth and try not to compare yourself to anyone else! 

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would want to solve the problem of health disparities within low-income communities. Individuals within these communities face a lack of access to health care and health insurance coverage and have a higher risk of illness and mortality. I would want to use the money to implement programs that address the health care needs of these communities and ensure that individuals within these communities are receiving proper care. Health care is a right and health equity needs to be achieved. 

Fighting burnout with Facebook


This is a kicker

Emma Greguska

Long before there was COVID-19, there was health care worker burnout. Dealing with the daily stresses that arise from taking care of people in the best of times is demanding enough. Add to that a global pandemic, and you’ve got the ingredients for widespread exhaustion among the very workforce we’re relying on most at this time.

Jasmine Bhatti has seen firsthand how the coronavirus crisis is affecting health care workers on the front line. A graduate student and teaching assistant at Arizona State University’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, Bhatti works in neurotology, helping patients recover from head and neck surgery. As the virus swiftly pervaded the United States, she watched as so too did misinformation, fear and uncertainty.

All of that compelled Bhatti to create a space where doctors, nurses and other essential health care personnel could go to compare notes, de-stress and commiserate. And since we can’t be together in person right now, she took her idea online and started the COVID Resilience for Healthcare Professionals Facebook group.

“When you think about institutions, it’s sometimes very time-consuming to share ideas and spread knowledge,” Bhatti said. “I thought we really needed to have a place where people who work in all different roles in the health care setting, in all different kinds of institutions, whether rural or urban, (could) share how we’re getting through this. Because no matter where we are, we’re all dealing with the same issues.”

Though the group has been up and running for only a few short weeks, it already has thousands of members spanning the country and world. Bhatti called on colleagues from a variety of specialties to contribute their expertise, from yoga to nightly prayers to holistic coaching. The content is shared both via Facebook Live sessions and posts of videos and other resources that can be accessed at any time.

Edson College postdoctoral scholar Dara James jumped on board to share her knowledge of mindfulness. James’ research background is in looking at the application of mind-body interventions for stress reduction. She has experience applying those methods for patients recovering from breast cancer, but she says mindfulness is a tool for everyone.

“One of the things we focus on in mindfulness is nonjudgmental present awareness, meeting whatever moment you’re in as it is,” James said. “That sounds a little heady and ‘out there,’ but what it means is that mindfulness helps reduce stress by allowing people to be aware of what their circumstances are and what they need to help themselves. So, for instance, if someone is having a stressful moment, mindfulness might help them to understand that it’s just a moment, and it will pass.”

James said what she hopes to offer the members of the COVID Resilience for Healthcare Professionals Facebook group are “bite-size” mindfulness tips they can take with them and use in their everyday lives in the field.

“The whole thing is designed around resiliency and reducing stress and anxiety,” she said. “So I’m trying to offer a variety of tools people can use when they’re in the moment, caring for others, but need some self-care.”

As for Bhatti, she signs on to the Facebook group every day to help moderate, but also to take advantage herself of the resources being shared. She has also enjoyed watching as friends and colleagues make meaningful connections through the group.

“Watching them create these relationships is exciting,” Bhatti said. “You know these amazing people and you get to connect them, or at least facilitate that, and they’re so grateful for the content we’re providing. I’m just happy we were able to create a safe place where people can talk and recognize that they’re not alone.”

Top photo courtesy of Pixabay

Health care heroes by day, homework warriors by night


This is a kicker

Amanda Goodman

It is not unusual for graduate students to work while pursuing their degrees. Such is the case for a majority of Doctor of Nursing Practice students in Arizona State University's Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation. 

But while other graduate students might help pay their way through school by teaching, or driving for Uber, these DNP students are working in health care. So when a health crisis arises like the current global pandemic, all 259 of them are in a unique position to make an impact now — before earning their diplomas.

“While they’re working toward their advanced nursing practice degrees, they’re contributing as nurses to meet the demand of our community by performing COVID-19 testing and caring for patients in need,” said Daniel Crawford, clinical assistant professor and director of Edson College’s DNP program.  

Yuna Sakoma and Megan Nichols are two of those students. Both are set to graduate next month and both are currently working as registered nurses on the front lines in Phoenix but in different capacities. 

Sakoma works in a Valley hospital, where her pulmonary floor was recently converted to a dedicated COVID-19 floor. She says they’re still trying to adjust to the changes and the ever-evolving guidelines they need to comply with. 

“It’s definitely added more anxiety and discomfort just dealing with the unknown. I think it’s very stressful for nurses. But just because we feel fear doesn’t mean that we’re going to bend our responsibility and run away; this is our calling,” Sakoma said.

Nichols is another testament to that. 

She left her full-time job at Phoenix Children’s Hospital to focus on school but when this crisis hit she knew she had to help. So now, she sets off every morning to her new pandemic position, screening essential workers for signs of COVID-19. 

“It was hard watching fellow nurses, physicians and respiratory therapists and techs on the front lines just getting hammered. I have a skill set that can help and I have an even more developed skill set now in terms of policy and procedures that I’ve learned in the DNP program. So sitting here and doing nothing, I just couldn’t continue that,” said Nichols. 

That advanced skill set is coming in handy as complex questions arise around constantly changing guidelines and best practices for adapting policies and procedures in response to the pandemic.

While neither Nichols nor Sakoma oversteps their current license as registered nurses, their colleagues are aware of their education and how close they are to graduation. As a result, they are often sought out for that additional expertise by their co-workers.

“It is interesting to be working as an RN but to have that knowledge base, so I’m trying to use it more in helping to look at certain protocols for what we do with symptomatic employees vs. asymptomatic employees or somebody who was possibly exposed vs. somebody who definitely was exposed. I’m trying to help more in that area than with the diagnostic-type questions that are coming my way even if I think I can answer them,” Nichols said.

Similarly, Sakoma also focuses on nonclinical areas where she can apply the advanced practice skills that keep her, her colleagues and patients safe. 

Both nurses acknowledged the risks involved for themselves and all health care workers who are working day in and day out to save lives around the world. They also shared the unease they feel these days.

“It's just like a pit in our stomach just to get ready for work because we’re going to be exposed to it, we’re going to need to isolate ourselves from our loved ones. You know we can’t go see family. Some nurses are renting places away from the family so they won’t spread this infection from work,” Sakoma said.

And they’re lucky. Right now they’re in facilities with proper personal protective equipment or, PPE, to help shield them from infection.

Even so, Nichols is one of those nurses who has prepared for the possibility that she’ll be exposed. When she heads off to work she brings a go-bag with her, packed with extra clothes, toiletries and essentials in case she can’t go home for fear of spreading the virus to her fiance.

“It’s still a risk if you work in health care of any type that you can be exposed. I have a whole plan where I can go to a friend's place, who isn’t living there right now and I can quarantine there if I need to,” she said.

Between those stressful shifts, they turn back into students, working on finishing up their final coursework and their doctoral projects — for another few weeks at least. 

Sakoma is earning a Family Nurse Practitioner, DNP, and Nichols a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, DNP. 

Edson’s nationally-ranked DNP program prepares students at the highest level of nursing education; it is three years long and requires hundreds of clinical hours on top of projects and other assignments. 

“The education that these students are getting provides them a lot of value in understanding, diagnosing and treating disease processes," Crawford said. "Our students and graduates will be in an excellent position to ensure the highest quality health outcomes and to contribute to quality improvement measures immediately.” 

For students like Sakoma and Nichols who are set to graduate in May, the bulk of those in-person clinical requirements were completed before the coronavirus required physical distancing measures and a shift to remote learning for the remainder of the semester.

Still, in light of all that is going on and because of the extraordinary position many of these students are in, Edson College is responding accordingly.

“As a program, we’ve really tried to convey the message to students that it’s going to be OK and we’re here to work through this with you,” Crawford said.

With graduation so close, there’s a mix of excitement including plans to watch the virtual ceremonies and anxiety about what comes next in life and in their careers, which are so tightly intertwined.  

“Finally I’m at the end of three years of hard work, of schoolwork and working at the same time but it's just so chaotic at this moment that it just feels so unreal. I mean I’m excited to be done but at the same time I’m not sure what kind of a job I’m going to get as an NP in this pandemic,” Sakoma said.

Her hope is to find a position in an outpatient primary care clinic to start and then eventually move into dermatology. 

For Nichols, the dream job revolves around serving pediatric patients in vulnerable communities, providing care and education while working toward building resilience. 

More immediately though her focus is on the pandemic. She says this is not just going to go away and the health care community needs help in the form of widespread testing to get the upper hand.

“I hope we can ramp up testing and I know that will freak people out with the number of cases that go up but maybe then we can truly get a handle on this and see what it’s doing in the community. Because until we really understand what it’s doing, exactly how it's spreading and who is most at risk, we’re just chasing our tail.”

The one thing that is certain is that someday soon they, along with more than 70 of their graduating DNP classmates, will become nurse practitioners, filling a huge need within the health care system. 

The value of understanding hospital resources amid COVID-19


This is a kicker

Crystal Alvarez

As cases of COVID-19 rise in Arizona, it’s essential to take a closer look at the current hospital resources that are available in our state. A quick Google search can help you find the nearest hospital. Still, critical metrics like the number of hospital beds, availability of specialized ICU beds and average ventilator use per week are not so easy to find.

Arizona has a total of 15 counties, some like Maricopa and Pima, which boast dense populations with at least 1 million residents. On the other hand, Greenlee is the smallest Arizona county and has a population of less than 10,000. How do resources look across these counties?

Chuyuan “Carter” Wang, an assistant research professor for Arizona State University's Knowledge Exchange for Resilience and the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, weighs in with a mapping tool featuring four distinct layers including hospitals and hospital beds; confirmed COVID-19 cases by county; CDC social vulnerability index; and population by age group.

This interactive map is a powerful tool that increases knowledge of hospital resources available and paints a picture of where Arizona may need to allocate resources.

The first layer, titled Hospitals and Hospital Beds, shows the total number of licensed hospital beds in Arizona (17,889), 5.4% (1,882) of which are specialized ICU beds. A total of 46 hospitals have the potential to increase their bed capacity, with 25 hospitals located in Maricopa County and 11 in Pima County.

The second layer shows Confirmed COVID-19 Cases by County, and this data in comparison to the hospital resources can be alarming in some counties.

“As the COVID-19 cases increase, the demands of ICU beds and ventilators are also likely to increase in the next few weeks as well," Wang said. "Greenlee County has no hospital or hospital beds. Navajo County has 287 cases, but only 200 beds and 24 ICU beds potentially available as of April 10, 2020. These two counties need more attention from the ADHS and the state government."

The third layer, which shows the CDC Social Vulnerability Index helps people to more easily understand which populations have a heightened vulnerability risk based on census tracts.

“The SVI index ranges from zero to one, with higher values indicating greater vulnerability. The zero value means no vulnerability, and the one value means the greatest vulnerability,” Wang said.

The last layer includes Population by Age Group by Census Tract, which shows an overview of the population by age groups in Arizona. Based on the 2018 census data, there are more than 1 million residents age 65 and older in Arizona.

"It is still uncertain about which age group is the most vulnerable to COVID-19. But worldwide data shows that seniors aged 65 and older may be at higher risk. And they may experience severe symptoms due to underlying and preexisting health conditions," he added.

Above: An animation of the interactive map's zoom feature including a wide view of Arizona, then the city of Tempe and finally St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center hospital resource data. Explore the full map here.

In the most practical use, Arizona residents can use this map to find their nearby hospital and have more in-depth knowledge about the resources available to them. But, the value of these four combined layers can be used across sectors as combined knowledge of hospital resources and vulnerable populations creates a roadmap for areas of focus.

Dawn Augusta, a clinical associate professor for the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation and Knowledge Exchange for Resilience fellow works in developing innovative approaches to bridge education and health care systems design. She is also a registered nurse and has a nursing career that spans over 15 years.

When asked about the value of the interactive map, she said it can help people visualize the scarcity of resources and encourage a shift in attitudes about when to use hospital services.

“People are used to going to hospitals and often use emergency departments as primary care instead of true emergencies,” Augusta said.

Reserving the emergency department for people that need it the most, creates an opportunity for the industry to breathe and allocate resources more strategically.

With experience working on the front lines, Augusta said it’s an exhausting time for health care workers.

“It’s just a never-ending cycle. Each day the night shift hands the baton to the day shift and one back to the other. And you hope that every time you come back to give a report, it’s going to be a better story,” she added.

“The people in the hospital feel like they can’t do anything about the bottleneck, but the people in the community can loosen the grip,” she said.

Community members can make a difference if they properly isolate and participate in meticulous infection protocols like handwashing and not touching their face. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines can offer more recommendations.

Another takeaway Augusta noted is the highly vulnerable population of 3,800 people experiencing homelessness in downtown Phoenix.

“Everyday people can look at this map and say wow, there is a scarce resource. There’s a huge risk of homeless people huddled in Phoenix getting sick very quickly, and all at the same time,” Augusta said.

With a surge in COVID-19 cases among people experiencing homelessness in Phoenix, it can affect neighboring cities since they could use Valleywide resources. She said Arizona needs to voice this concern.

“Let your concern be known to city leaders and ask them to make a strong commitment to finding places for people to go and get temporary emergency shelter. It doesn’t have to be forever. It’s not the new normal; it’s the new now,” Augusta said.

The ASU Knowledge Exchange for Resilience is supported by Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust.The conclusions, views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust.

Edson College reflects on its first year as a named college


This is a kicker

Amanda Goodman

No one could have predicted that one year after the exceptionally generous gift by Charlene and J. Orin Edson to Arizona State University, we’d be in the midst of a global pandemic.

What was known at the time the gift was announced was that the funds would go toward specific initiatives both at the Biodesign Institute and at the newly named Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

Dean Judith Karshmer breaks down the Edson College initiatives into three big categories:

  • Increase the number of new nurses entering the workforce.
  • Prepare clinician-researchers with a focus on dementia science and family caregiving.
  • Promote innovation in nursing education.

The third category is happening now, in real time.

As a result of measures taken by ASU to protect students during the COVID-19 pandemic, all courses are now taking place online. This change includes simulation and experiential learning that would traditionally take place in the Grace Center for Innovation in Nursing Education.

“We have, and not just we at ASU but we as a nursing profession, have had to shift to simulation and virtual simulation at that, as the predominant method during this crisis to prepare the next generation of nurses,” Karshmer said. 

In fact, she predicts there will be opportunities to evaluate lessons learned from this experience to promote advances that take nursing education to where the learner is. 

Another way that the college is actively working toward this goal is with the addition of a degree program focused on simulation science which will begin enrolling students in the near future.

So far, this endowment has paved the way for several new degree programs including one that gets to the heart of preparing clinician-researchers with a focus on dementia science and family caregiving.

The DNP/PhD Concurrent Enrollment program with a focus on adult-gerontology was designed to prepare students with expertise and training in both research and practice.

The Edson gift created much-needed scholarship opportunities, covering tuition for qualified applicants.

“Now, we have funding set aside for nurses to prepare as adult geriatric nurse practitioners while simultaneously preparing as researchers earning a PhD with a focus on dementia and family caregiving.” 

This, along with work already going on at the college around aging through the Center for Innovation in Health and Resilient Aging, will help make Edson a premiere destination for Alzheimer’s and related dementia and caregiving research and expertise. 

In the fall of 2019, Edson College launched a highly anticipated new degree program, the Master of Science Entry into Nursing Practice. It filled up immediately and is part of the college's efforts to increase the number of new nurses entering the workforce.

Dean Karshmer says 30 students were admitted in the first cohort, and that by 2022 it will be 200 nurses. As we’re seeing now, nurses are not only an invaluable player in the health care field but more of them are desperately needed. 

This is just a sampling of the progress the Edson College has made in the last 12 months. And it’s only the beginning. 

With this sustained gift, the college will be able to continue building upon these initiatives, growing each area over time.

“This has helped us to jump start and establish these key priorities that will be Edson’s legacy of care and discovery. And we’re always interested in partnerships to promote our priorities around nursing workforce development, family caregiving, dementia science and innovation in nursing education,” Karshmer said.

Trouble sleeping in the midst of COVID-19?


This is a kicker

Amanda Goodman

How are you sleeping these days? If the answer is “not great” — you’re not alone. Efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus have changed people’s lives drastically and suddenly, as a result, sleep can be more elusive for some.

Megan E. Petrov is an assistant professor with the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation at ASU and specializes in sleep research. She says there are things you can do even in isolation in order to get back on schedule when it comes to a good night’s rest.  

But first, it’s important to know that sleep is unique to the person, so the amount you need may differ from your partner or child, and even that amount can change over time. 

That being said, the National Sleep Foundation, American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society have all offered general recommendations for adequate sleep duration by age.

Here’s a look at the National Sleep Foundation’s guidance:

• Newborns (0–3 months): 14–17 hours each day.

• Infants (4–11 months): 12–15 hours.

• Toddlers (1–2 years): 11–14 hours.

• Preschoolers (3–5): 10-13 hours.

• School-age children (6–13): 9-11 hours.

• Teenagers (14–17): 8-10 hours.

• Younger adults (18–25): 7–9 hours.

• Adults (26–64): 7–9 hours.

• Older adults (65+): 7–8 hours.

As for what is considered good sleep quality, an expert panel convened by the National Sleep Foundation came up with key indicators including the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and sleep efficiency.

Petrov says you’ll know you’ve achieved the right amount of sleep if you feel rested and alert the next day.  

So, how do you get to that point in the midst of a global pandemic? Petrov offers her insight and expertise below. 

Assistant Professor Megan E. Petrov

Assistant Professor Megan E. Petrov.

Question: How does a sudden shift in routine/schedule impact sleep?

Answer: Multiple factors can affect our sleep. Sleep is multidimensional. Change in our daily routines and stress levels can affect our sleep duration, quality, timing, regularity and daytime functioning. A sudden shift in our regular sleep-wake schedule and daily routines can alter the pace and timing of our brain’s biological clock also known as our circadian rhythm. This shift can misalign our biological clock with our social clock, a discrepancy known as “social jet lag.” Social jet lag typically occurs when you maintain a consistent schedule during the workweek, then go to bed, and sleep in late on the weekends. This pattern is then followed by a painful shift back to the workweek schedule on Sunday night paired with a rough Monday morning.  

With a sudden shift toward greater isolation in our homes, reduced commuting, different responsibilities and modes of doing our day-to-day jobs, and more time spent with our kids outside of our normal routines, it is unsurprising that our sleep-wake schedules will likely experience some shifts. 

Q: What are some things people can do to lessen the impact? 

A: Make sleep a priority in your home and encourage consistent sleep-wake schedules for all household members. In this time of swift behavior change, adaptation and new ways of self-managing, use this as an opportunity to set healthy sleep habits that can help you function better during the day and manage these new stressors. 

Q: What are some general best practices for a good night’s sleep?  

A: The keys to adequate, refreshing sleep for most people on most nights is consistency in sleep schedule, establishing sleep-promoting environments and habits, stress management, and, of course, to value your sleep!

Additionally, the Sleep Research Society, an organization of international members who educate and advance sleep and circadian science issued the following sleep tips for when you are isolated indoors. The tips include:

• Get up around the same time every day.

• Get bright light into your eyes within a few minutes of getting up and seek light during the day.

• Keep daytime and nighttime different and separate.

• Keep lights dim and block blue light on electronic devices one to two hours before bedtime.

• Bed is for sleep and sex, not waking activities.

Finally, the World Sleep Society also issued two lists of sleep tips they call the “10 Commandments of Sleep Hygiene for Adults” and the “10 commandments of Sleep Hygiene for Children” to promote good sleep habits. 

Q: We’ve all heard a good night’s rest is invaluable — is that even more heightened in a pandemic situation?

A: Getting a good night’s rest is one of the pillars of good health whether in a pandemic situation or not. An important thing to be aware of is that sleep regulates our immune system functions. So disrupted sleep can increase our risk of developing infectious diseases and can even reduce our immune responses to vaccinations, making the vaccine less effective. We know that both short sleep duration and more fragmented sleep are related to increased risk of catching a common cold and having a more severe cold.

The bottom line is that making sleep a priority and making sure to get adequate amounts of quality rest will not only help you function better but, like washing your hands, it’s one more thing you can do to try to safeguard yourself in the midst of a pandemic.

If you or someone you know is severely struggling with sleep, the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine is a great resource and has a search function by U.S. state to find a behavioral sleep health professional near you. For other clinical sleep disorders, please discuss with your primary provider or a sleep medicine professional.

Mindfulness goes digital


This is a kicker

Katherine Reedy

As the country adjusts to new work- and learn-from-home routines and increasingly practices social distancing, the Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience at Arizona State University is finding ways to help people reconnect and create community online.

This week, the center launched an online mindfulness initiative called “Caring and Connection in the Time of COVID-19.” Led by Teri Pipe, ASU’s chief well-being officer and the founding director of the center, the initiative seeks to bring people together in an online setting to connect, reflect and recharge. 

“The present moment of uncertainty and disruption offers us an opportunity to strengthen our ability to be present and focused, generate sincere care for ourselves and others, and tap into the opportunity not only to get through this, but to become stronger together,” Pipe said.

The heart of the “Caring and Connection” initiative is a live, hourlong mindfulness and meditation session that takes place online, Monday through Friday, from noon to 1 p.m. MST. Each session includes a guided meditation or two, a discussion of the day’s central topic — such as connectedness, compassion for self and others, the benefit of rituals and the power of community — and a chance for participants to ask questions and engage with one another.

The midday mindfulness sessions are streamed live via YouTube, and are open to students, faculty, staff and the public, at no cost. Instructions for accessing the live stream can be found on the center’s website. For those who are unable to join live, video recordings of the daily sessions will be made available on the website.

“We know that health care workers, service workers, families with small children, our older population and those who can’t take time off from work are still important to this ‘culture of care’ community effort,” said Tiara Cash, program manager at the center who specializes in equitable mindfulness. “We want to make sure they can share in this work too.”

Before each mindfulness session begins, Pipe reviews the ground rules with participants. She explains what the intent of the session is, and what it is not: “This is not a support group or therapy session. We are not here to air our personal grievances.”  

Instead, she hopes to create a welcoming, safe space online where people from all backgrounds can connect for an hour of shared contemplation. “I invite everyone to practice with an open mind, without expectation,” she said.

In addition to daily, livestreamed mindfulness sessions, the center is offering mindfulness resources to the public through their website, Facebook group and Instagram. Inspirational articles, practical tips, words of advice and videos are being added to the platforms daily.

Nika Gueci, executive director for university engagement at the center, has been leading the “Caring and Connection” initiative with Pipe. They were inspired to create the initiative after the COVID-19 outbreak necessitated they cancel the center’s annual conference, “Planting Seeds: Rooting in mindfulness for thriving communities.” 

“We realized that people were still craving connection and community to support them through this uncertain time,” Gueci said. They quickly mobilized their efforts around an online platform.  

“These sessions are intended to maintain that idea of the conference: to build community, to share this information with one another, and to come to practice as equals in order to help strengthen and build communities,” Gueci said. 

The messages and practices offered through the initiative are based in principles of mindfulness, which Pipe describes as “the ability to pay attention, with intention, to the present moment.” They are accessible to anyone, regardless of religious or spiritual background, belief system, age, ability, nationality, gender, education or experience with mindfulness. All are welcome and encouraged to participate.

“In this moment, we have an opportunity to expand, extend and include in ways we may not have considered before,” Pipe said. “Let's see how much better we can become as individuals and as a community.”

The Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience was founded by Pipe in 2017 for the purpose of connecting researchers, scholars, teachers, practitioners and learners around the concepts of mindfulness, compassion and well-being. At the center, ASU students and researchers examine the impacts of mindfulness across a wide range of areas, including social relationships, social justice, neuroscience, aging, well-being and immune function.

Additional mindfulness resources

Top image courtesy of

Dean Karshmer to connect with students online


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As the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation continues the transition to all online classes for the remainder of the semester, we know students have questions about how this will continue to impact them and their programs.

This is no doubt an extremely stressful time for students and their families. And, on top of all of this, students may be wondering – “Will I be able to complete this semester?” “How will I get all my clinical hours? “What will happen to my internship, my group project, my presentation?” These are all legitimate concerns.

To help ease some of your concerns and answer your questions, Dean Judith Karshmer will be holding two virtual student town halls this week to connect with students on these issues.

Each virtual town hall will begin with the dean sharing information about both undergraduate and graduate programs and then open it up to students for questions.

There are two opportunities to join:

  • Wednesday, March 25, 10:30 - 11 a.m. Arizona Time.  

             Zoom link: 

  • Thursday, March 26, 3:30 - 4 p.m. Arizona Time. 

             Zoom link: 

Questions the dean is unable to get to during the town hall can be emailed to

If you have specific questions regarding Arizona State University’s response to COVID-19 please visit, The university is consistently updating this website and has a Frequently Asked Questions resource that answers many questions.

Undergraduate students, please be assured that the Student Services team is here to assist you. Our advising team is currently using Zoom, phone and email to stay connected with you. 

You can schedule a phone/Zoom appointment with an advisor using our web-based advising appointment scheduler. If you have a question or need assistance outside of an appointment, please email the Student Services team! We’re here to help. 

Graduate students, as always, can contact their program advisors by email or phone.

Additionally, we are maintaining a streamlined staff profile in both Health North and Health South. However, the buildings will be only accessible to members of the ASU community via the use of their Sun Card swipe. If you have to meet with a faculty or staff member in person, please be sure to arrange this in advance.

Rest assured that the faculty and staff in the college are incredibly committed to our students’ success and they are creatively developing options for you to be able to complete your academic requirements.

Design for all


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Emma Greguska

Duct tape is generally regarded as the best friend of armchair handymen everywhere, but it’s not the best tool for troubleshooting a remote control. Nevertheless, it has been used that way, as a quick fix to block off superfluous buttons that some — often the elderly — find overwhelming.

While the sight of such a jury-rigged contraption might elicit giggles from younger relatives, what it represents is a design flaw that does nothing less than rob someone of their autonomy. And when Patricia Moore saw her father — a man who’d spent his life in a steel mill, literally providing for his family with his own two hands — struggling to power on his TV, that realization struck a chord.

“I can’t even turn on a TV anymore,” she remembers him saying as he resigned himself from the task.

“That broke my heart as a designer,” Moore said. “And that wasn’t funny. It was sad. He had reached a point where a technology he loved was starting to become an enemy, not a friend. As designers, we have to be mindful of that.”

“My disdain for design that discriminates came at an early age.”

— Patricia Moore, industrial designer and gerontologist

The internationally recognized industrial designer and gerontologist shared this poignant anecdote at a lecture Wednesday afternoon on Arizona State University’s Downtown Phoenix campus. Titled “Design and Wellness: Creating Innovative Healthcare,” the lecture was jointly presented by The Design School in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and the Center for Innovation in Healthy and Resilient Aging, which launched last April in the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

Moore, who was honored by The Design School at ASU in 2000 with a distinguished achievement award, has five decades of experience leading the global effort for inclusive design solutions and is considered one of the founders of the philosophy of universal design. She was recently named the 2019 recipient of the prestigious National Design Award for “Design Mind.”

“It is literally an impossible task to introduce Pattie Moore properly,” said Jason Schupbach, director of The Design School, recounting the incredible feat in which she spent four years, beginning in 1979 when she was just 26 years old, traveling the world prosthetically disguised as an 85-year-old woman.

During that time, Moore visited 116 cities in 14 states in the U.S. and two Canadian provinces. She was mistreated, mugged, beaten, and as she discovered later in her life, left unable to bear a child. But, she said, she never felt like a victim, and instead “looked forward to the day (she) would be able to take this information forward, this empathic (approach) to design.”

“That led to an incredible career trying to help people understand how people who are aging experience the world differently and how we have not designed properly for that in the U.S.,” Schupbach said.

“Who thinks we’re going to have a lot of aging people in the U.S.?” he asked the audience in the packed lecture hall, all of whom raised their hands. “And we’re not ready for it. Well, guess what? This is the woman who can help solve it.”

That might seem like a big ask of a woman whose lengthy career already includes contributions to such essential devices as CT scanners and mammogram machines, and whose clients have included OXO Good Grips. (It’s very likely you have an OXO utensil in your own kitchen. What you might not know is that they were designed specifically for ease of use for those who suffer from arthritis, hence the soft, oval shaped handles made from nonslip thermoplastic rubber and the flexy fins on either side. You can also thank Moore for the ingenious shape of Pringles, which were designed to ensure the most efficient distribution of flavor in your mouth.)

But by the end of the evening, it was clear Moore is up to the task.

Her lecture Wednesday was deeply personal and frequently moving, featuring a slideshow of photos from her life and career. It opened with a black-and-white photo of her as a toddler, standing at the bottom of an ominous flight of concrete stairs, looking back toward the camera with a displeased expression.

“My disdain for design that discriminates came at an early age,” Moore deadpanned.

She began her undergraduate education at the Rochester Institute of Technology hoping to major in medical illustration. When that degree program was eliminated, a professor suggested she try her hand at industrial design instead. But, he warned her, “It’s not a field for women.”

“I think he knew that would resonate with me,” Moore said.

She plunged headlong into the field, and during her sophomore year, the dean called her into his office to inform her that Raymond Loewy, the French-born American industrial designer responsible for the streamlined locomotive, wanted her to come to his New York office to be vetted for a classified project in Moscow.

Moore still isn’t able to reveal any details of the project but shared that, despite the fact that it never saw the light of day, it was just as thrilling as it sounds. From there, her career blossomed, but she was still told she did not belong, that she was taking a man’s job and that she should leave.

“That kind of prejudice was something I found alarming,” she said. “But worse yet came the prejudice I heard in meetings.”

When Moore suggested the design of a refrigerator door handle be reworked to consider those who might have trouble opening it, she was told, “We don’t design for ‘those people.’”

“They didn’t think our responsibility went to all consumers,” she said. “People who saw with their fingertips … heard with their eyes, spoke with their hands … people who don’t have hands. Don’t they deserve the respect of design?”

Shortly after, Moore embarked on her four-year tour of North America as an elderly woman, which she credits for solidifying her commitment to the philosophy of universal design.

“I never talk about a person’s disability, but rather, I focus on capacity and the ability each of us has as a consumer when I design,” she said. “I have never designed for a disability; there’s no sense in that. Design is about giving people the quality of life they deserve.”

In her capacity as an adjunct professor at ASU, Moore led students in the design of the hotly contested Valley Metro Rail. Despite the death threats she received from unhappy citizens after her home phone number was published in a local paper, Moore said she is proud of the work she did on the public transit system.

“My primary focus was consumers who needed us the most,” she said. “So the next time you ride, if you wonder about the design, it was very deliberate. … The next project we do with ASU students, we can only imagine what a very close tomorrow will bring.”

The hardest work Moore has ever done, she told the audience Wednesday, is the work she did with wounded warriors on prosthetics and rehabilitation equipment.

“As a conflicted pacifist, I do understand the need to protect sovereignty," she said. "But I will never understand how violence and war can give us peace. And I have never designed any (tool for war), but I will work with bodies who have been abused by war” to attempt to improve their quality of life through design.

"Design is about giving people the quality of life they deserve."

— Patricia Moore

Moore acknowledged that great strides have been made in designing for inclusivity of all lifestyles and abilities, but cautioned that there is still work to be done. She sees the current global socioeconomic landscape as a chance to discover what else is possible.

“We have challenges. They are many and great. Growing disparity between the rich and the poor. … Our commonalities are eroding. … Hate has taken us to places where everyone is at risk and the most innocent among us are thrown from their homes and their quality of life,” she said, adding that considering climate change, that includes the animal kingdom. “That gives designers opportunities.”

One area of great opportunity Moore identified is the aging boomer population, one-fifth of whom she said are considered “RINKs”: retired, independent, with no kids. That specific group of people have given rise to what are being called accessory dwelling units — essentially a second, smaller dwelling on the same grounds as a regular-sized single-family home. They’re becoming necessary to accommodate members of extended family as the model of the typical American family is morphing into one that is less nuclear and more amorphous and intergenerational.

The idea is to create spaces where people can not just age in place, but thrive in place, she said, and that doesn’t stop with the built environment. “The most important component for wellness today is the caregiver,” and that means designing better training and compensation models for them.

In response to an audience question about whether the design of telehealth could be improved to provide more of a human touch feel, Moore said, “Only the presence of another person really fulfills that essential linkage of people in our lives … and we can’t replace that (with robots).” Though she added, “But I’m willing to try.”

Moore likes the idea of things like smart refrigerators and Mirror, an interactive fitness device that allows you to view personal health data, workout routines and your own reflection as you perform them. But she’s not entirely sold on them yet.

“I’m not sure that’s where the technology should be going, into things that can break down.” She’s also concerned about the price point of such tools. Fittingly, then, Moore closed her lecture with her thoughts on equity in design.

“The equity we deserve and the equity we desire is a matter of design,” she said. “It’s a matter of respect and sensible thinking … embracing and building bridges, not walls.”

Top photo: Internationally recognized industrial designer and gerontologist Patricia Moore delivers a lecture on design and wellness Wednesday, Feb. 26, at ASU's Downtown Phoenix campus. Photo by Charlie Leight

Edson College nursing students deliver bilingual health workshop


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Amanda Goodman

Nearly a year’s worth of work led up to a single event for a group of five Arizona State University Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation students in the Mayo Clinic nursing cohort.

That event? A bilingual women’s health workshop for patients at St. Vincent de Paul in Phoenix.

After introducing themselves, the future nurses jumped into their presentation by testing their audience’s knowledge with a few fact or myth questions. And perhaps as a good sign of what was to come, it spurred participation.

They asked about the flu shot and whether or not you needed to get it every year. The answer, for the vast majority of people, is yes.  

The participants weren’t so sure though, and one woman was even little leery of the vaccine altogether.

“I got the flu shot and felt sick after,” she said. “Can you get the flu from the shot?”  

Without missing a beat, Shian Fiame probed a little further into the symptoms the woman experienced and then explained that no, you can’t get the flu from the vaccine. However, you can have side effects that mimic flu-like symptoms and in rare cases have an allergic reaction.

It was obvious to everyone in the room these students were well prepared and knowledgeable.

“I thought they did a great job,” said one participant, who did not want to share her name.

Their preparation began last fall when they enrolled in an upper-division course focused on interprofessional education and collaboration.

Part of the class requirement is to create a community-facing intervention. The group was then assigned a community partner to work with. For this project, it was St. Vincent de Paul.

“We’ve been working with them since last semester and part of that was just understanding more about the population that they serve and the resources and services they offer,” nursing student Jasmine Cura said.

To gain that insight, the students interviewed the director of the medical clinic as well as the director of the Center for Family Wellness, which offers holistic education programs focusing on prevention and managing chronic disease.

They learned that St. Vincent’s serves vulnerable populations from all backgrounds and faiths but is not able to meet everyone’s needs all the time.

“When we understood the gaps in the care that was present here we took that and turned to our textbooks and the research experience ASU has provided us and we formulated an intervention plan and that’s how we came up with the women’s health workshop,” Cura said.

Topics covered included: 

• Vaccines.
• Body image.
• Depression.
• Menopause.
• Sleep.

“We also talked about pregnancy health and the nutrients and vitamins women need throughout that time. We then covered female-specific screenings and their importance,” nursing student Melita Saldanha said.

One thing that came into focus early-on was the need to provide this workshop in Spanish as well as English because a majority of the patients St. Vincent’s serves are Spanish speakers. 

“In order to really tailor our intervention appropriately, we wanted to make sure we could speak to them in their native language. Since one of our cohort members is bilingual we wanted to use her skills so everyone who attended could get the most out of the workshop,” Cura said.

Not only was the workshop delivered in both languages but the supporting materials, including a pamphlet that participants could take home and a survey, were printed in English and Spanish.

With their content intact and a plan to deliver it, they needed to start recruiting women to attend the workshop. Again they turned to their community partner for guidance and best practices.

“They were very receptive to taking my feedback as far as how to engage the participants," said Elva Hooker, director of the Center for Family Wellness at St. Vincent de Paul. "Anytime we do recruitment for any of our programs, we are in direct contact, so either in-person or engaging them over the phone. The students were open to coming in and being able to offer their time to get these phone calls done and get the participants scheduled for their workshop.” 

It was such a mutually beneficial collaboration that Hooker said they’d love to build on this partnership and do more workshops with Edson College students in the future.

The feeling was mutual. Through this process, each of the nursing students, who are graduating in May, said they gained valuable experience and reaffirmed the importance of taking their practice outside of the clinical setting.

“We are really dedicated to supporting and caring for other people — and I think that extends beyond the bedside experience," Cura said. "As advocates for health, we should be nurses who reach out to the community. We want to be able to walk into the spaces they’re familiar with and provide that education so it’s easier for them to feel comfortable and empowered as patients.”

Be your own Valentine this Feb. 14 with self-care


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Marshall Terrill

It’s 2020 and self-care is all the rage.

From Marianne Williamson to Miley Cyrus to Barbie, there is no shortage of celebrity voices touting the benefits of loving yourself first.

With the world becoming a more stressful, challenging and exhausting place, it can’t hurt to have a solid internal foundation to turn to when times get tough.

Self-care is rarely taught in school and is often a lesson overlooked by parents, which is why Valentine’s Day might be a good time to incorporate this practice into your life.

To learn more about the benefits of self-care, ASU Now spoke with Teri Pipe, ASU’s chief well-being officer as well as the founding director of the Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience.

Woman with grey hair

Teri Pipe

Question: How would you describe the concepts of self-love and self-care?

Answer: Self-love and self-care are closely related experiences. Self-care is all of the thoughts, behaviors and attitudes that support the health and well-being of the whole person. Examples include getting enough high-quality sleep and rest; eating health-supporting foods in the right amount for your current situation; engaging in physical activity that supports stamina, strength and flexibility; nurturing positive relationships; living in a way that supports financial well-being; managing stress and adversity; finding things that bring you joy and meaning; and asking for help when it is needed. Often we think of self-care as observable behaviors like brushing teeth, working out and cooking healthy foods. It is also true that self-care can involve more inward, silent or private practices such as journaling, meditating or reflecting. 

Closely related to self-care is self-love, which means cultivating an attitude of self-acceptance, respect and forgiveness when things aren't “perfect.” Acceptance does not mean complacency; it means that while we work toward becoming a better, deeper or more generous human, we recognize that there will be setbacks and imperfections, just by virtue of the fact we are human. Self-love is treating yourself with patience, kindness and compassion.

An important point about both self-care and self-love is that they aren't meant to be selfish or self-centered. Often the most successful self-care and self-love approaches are supported by an intention of becoming better able to help and serve others when we are genuinely taking care of and appreciating ourselves.

Q: Is it possible to love someone else in a healthy manner without knowing self-love? 

A: This idea is certainly part of the current social conversation, and in most situations I do agree that loving others is best approached by having a foundation of love and respect for one's self. However, sometimes it may be more complicated than this. Love is mysterious and I am not sure it is quite this linear, and certainly self-love doesn't have to be "perfect" before we can love others. It makes very good sense that in order to be fully loving of another, we must have a certain level of love and respect for ourselves. On the other hand, babies and very young children appear to have an innate ability to be loving, perhaps because they have not learned how to be self-critical or have low self-esteem yet. And I have seen situations where someone who appears to be very empty of self-respect or down on themselves with self-loathing is able to reach through that fog to help someone else, or an animal, and in that gesture it is like a window is opened so they can actually feel love themselves. And so in that instance, a loving gesture to someone or something else might come first.

I think that as we continue to develop into ourselves, it becomes more important to find ways to be loving and kind to ourselves because we are frequently just the opposite. And as we are able to be more gentle and accepting with our own faults and flaws, this naturally extends to those around us, even people we don't know.

Q: What are the ways in which we can we cultivate self-love and self-care? 

A: One of the first steps is to check in with yourself to see if your habits, self-talk and behaviors are in line with what you consider a healthy and loving lifestyle. This can be a concrete assessment of your sleep patterns, eating behaviors, how you play and have fun, how your relationships are going, how you are managing finances and how you deal with stress and the temptations to not take good care. How are you cultivating a loving friendship with yourself? After all, you will be your own best friend for your entire life.

It is interesting when we approach self-love like we would invest time and energy into a loving friendship with someone else. And of course, this isn't a one-time thing; it is important to check in with yourself even several times a day to see if you can make adjustments in the moment to support a more loving, nurturing way of living and being with yourself. I am a strong advocate for learning the skills of mindfulness and self-compassion as ways to build a lifelong foundation of self-care and self-love so that the way you show up for life is how you most want to be.

Q: Are these new concepts gaining popularity, and if yes, what is spurring this movement?

A: Yes, I think these concepts are gaining popularity. In part, I think this is because of the awareness of how things like loneliness, anxiety and depression often keep people back from living their fullest lives. It is becoming easier to talk about these things, and to find evidence-based skills that can be taught and learned that support a more self-compassionate way of being. The neuroscience of self-compassion is helping us understand how to build specific skill sets around self-love that also impact empathy and more generalized compassion toward others. In regard to self-care, there is a growing body of literature to support the correlation (and causation in some cases) between self-care behaviors and the prevention of acute and chronic illnesses. Keeping ourselves as well as possible doesn't just help us as individuals, it helps keep our communities and societies moving in a more positive direction. When we experience whole-person well-being, including self-love and acceptance, we are much more likely to be able to contribute to society in stronger, more focused ways.

Top photo: Students practice yoga at the Sun Devil Fitness Center on the Tempe campus. Photo by ASU Now

ASU alumni pay it forward by endowing scholarship for master's in aging program


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Amanda Goodman

A new program at Arizona State University’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation is preparing students to advance the well-being of our aging society.

That program, the Master of Science in aging, caught the attention of Dianne and Alan Perry, ASU graduates from the Class of 1974.  

The idea of elevating care to address the multidimensional aging process and the specific needs of older adults across disciplines was particularly appealing to the couple. 

Dianne, an alumna of the nursing program and longtime hospice nurse, has witnessed a disturbing trend when it comes to the treatment of older patients.

“You’re no longer acknowledged and what you say no longer has meaning when you get older in the current system,” she said. 

That, coupled with the very personal experience of seeing their own parents suffer in this system as a result of their age, moved the Perrys to start thinking of ways to help address this issue.

Alan, an alumnus of the engineering school, had his own successful career running a construction company. The couple, who met in high school, are both grateful for the education they received at ASU and, since they’re in a position to give back, they began exploring their options.

On a visit to Edson College, they learned more about the master's degree in aging and were impressed by the faculty expertise and the work already underway to tackle this issue. Then, they had the chance to meet some of the students and see their dedication to this work up close.

“I was blown away by the passion of the kids there who really want to change the world they live in, and I believe that they can do it," Dianne said. "That’s the kind of thing that we want to support.”

And so, in memory of their parents, the Dianne and Alan Perry Scholarship was created for students who enroll in the master's degree. 

With this generous endowment, the Perrys are the first donors to support this program, and they’re thrilled about it.

“We have to change the medical system, and ASU is focusing in that direction, to change medicine for the better and not leave this population behind,” said Dianne.

Students who meet the criteria for the scholarship will have a nursing background, financial need and a passion for working with the aging population, assisting them to live active and meaningful lives.

While they're taking the extraordinary step of endowing a scholarship, Dianne is quick to point out that giving to a collegiate program or issue you care about doesn’t have to be as grand to make an impact.

“Anybody can do this. You don’t have to donate at the level we did; we were blessed to be able to do that. Even if you have an extra $10 and you put it aside every month, in a couple of years you’ll have some cash to give. And if you feel very strongly about a cause or program, you need to participate in a monetary way because all of these things cost money. We would love for it not to be that way, but in reality it does and we have to be aware of that and financially support these efforts.” 

If you are interested in contributing to the Dianne and Alan Perry Scholarship or creating a scholarship for Edson College students, please contact

Top photo: Alan and Dianne Perry, ASU Class of 1974, have endowed a new scholarship for the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation's Master of Science in aging program.

ASU’s Herberger Institute receives $150,000 to develop NEA Research Lab


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Deborah Sussman

Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts is among five recipients selected from across the country to receive an award to conduct a 2020 National Endowment for the Arts Research Lab. The $150,000 award supports the Creative Health Collaborations Caregiving Research Lab, which will examine the role of three art forms in three caregiving situations: how theater might support families of children with special needs; how a smartphone app designed for easy journaling can assist families of cancer patients; and how music aids families of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Now in its fifth year, NEA Research Labs investigate the value and impact of the arts through the social and behavioral sciences for the benefit of the arts and non-arts sectors. The labs are housed at different universities and use transdisciplinary research teams to explore specific research questions in the areas of health, cognition and innovation. To date, 17 labs make up this growing national network.

“We’re grateful to the NEA for its understanding of, and support for, the idea that design and the arts have something powerful to offer health care providers and caregivers,” said Steven Tepper, dean and director of Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. “This is yet another area where we as a society have not fully availed ourselves of the assets that artists and designers have to offer, and ASU is eager to be in the lead there.”

Creative Health Collaborations was first conceived in 2015 to encourage collaborations between ASU faculty in health, humanities, arts and design. In the spring of 2017, Creative Health Collaborations joined the Team Leadership Academy of Knowledge Enterprise, a capacity-building initiative designed to foster ASU’s readiness to respond to new research challenges and advance initiatives of central importance to ASU. 

Creative Health Collaborations is co-directed by founding members Tamara Underiner (Graduate College and Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts) and David Coon (Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation). Founding members constituting its interdisciplinary board of ASU faculty advisers are Marlon Bailey, Bradley Doebbeling, Cora Fox, Shelby Langer, Elizabeth Reifsnider and John Takamura. Kimberly Fields serves as program manager. The team’s mission is to bring about a healthier world through collaborations integrating arts, design, health and humanities approaches in research, education, practice and policy.

“We know in our bones that the arts, design and humanities have something to do with healing, for both individuals and communities," said Underiner. "Creative Health Collaborations is about trying to understand how, and why, and under what circumstances this is so. If we can start to build the right kind of evidence, in collaboration with colleagues in the health sciences, then integrating the contributions of arts, design and humanities into regular health care practices and settings will more and more become the norm — for the benefit of all. And where else but ASU to do that kind of work?" 

Underiner said that the new Caregiving Research Lab supported by the NEA will bring community arts partners together with researchers in Herberger Institute, nursing, health solutions and humanities to help caregivers access creative resources not otherwise available to them and their loved ones. "Studying the effects on their relationships and well-being will help us understand the role the arts, design and humanities can play in broader health outcomes and help to build that evidence base,” Underiner said. 

The lab will study the health-supporting role of the arts in different types of caregiving contexts and via a range of participatory arts experiences involving both caregivers and their loved ones. The lab’s first set of activities will be in partnership with Childsplay Theatre Company, involving workshops with families of children with special needs. Underiner and Coon serve as co-principal investigators. Creative Health Collaborations team members Reifsnider and Langer are co-investigators, while School of Film, Dance and Theatre Professor Stephani Etheridge Woodson joins the team as an investigator. 

Parallel to the lab’s research activities will be the development of collaborative research and practice frameworks that will be of use to others interested in working in this intersectional space.

For more information on NEA Research Labs, visit

Applications open for 2020 cohort of Mayo Clinic and ASU MedTech Accelerator


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Pete Zrioka

Mayo Clinic and Arizona State University are partnering for the second year to advance medical device and health care technology companies through the Mayo Clinic and ASU MedTech Accelerator. The program is seeking applicants ahead of its Jan. 30 deadline. 

The MedTech Accelerator draws upon the combined strengths and resources of ASU Entrepreneurship and Innovation and Mayo Clinic to deliver an unparalleled experience for companies in the health care and medical device fields. 

“ASU is pleased to partner with Mayo Clinic, a world-class innovator in health care, for this accelerator,” says Ji Mi Choi, associate vice president of ASU E+I. “In leveraging our collective strength, we have the opportunity to exponentially and positively impact the incredible improved health outcomes these entrepreneurs are seeking to drive.” 

The accelerator is open to early-stage startups in the health care or medical device industry and growth- and late-stage startups looking at health care as an adjacent market. Companies must be based in the United States and have raised at least $500,000 in seed funding or be generating recurring revenue. 

Promising applicants will be chosen to proceed into a cohort scheduled for March 23 to April 3. Selected companies will be required to execute a participation agreement and pay $50,000 to participate in the program. The fee can be paid as cash or convertible note.  

The intensive, two-week cohort serves as an introduction period for companies, pairing them with customized resources from Mayo Clinic and ASU to specialize their products and services, license intellectual property, and sponsor research or clinical trials. 

“Our goal is really to translate idealism into action and deliver the health care solutions of tomorrow, today,” said Dr. Steven Lester, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist who serves as the program’s chief medical officer. 

Through Mayo Clinic, companies have access to physicians, clinical researchers and business development executives, while ASU offers resources from bioinformatics, engineering and business. Both institutions offer opportunities for licensing and access to potential investors. 

“Participants are in a uniquely high-visibility position to find the right resources, meet the right people and accelerate their company’s futures,” said Rick Hall, senior director of health innovation at ASU's Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation and the accelerator’s co-managing partner. 

Companies will leave the cohort with personalized business plans and an immersive understanding of the health care ecosystem, and they will embark on a yearlong partnership with their distinctive set of connections. 

Hall says the greatest value proposition for companies is access to Mayo Clinic and ASU subject-matter experts and the people leading health care innovation. 

“Last year, one company returned to us after a meeting and said that meeting alone was worth the $50,000 they spent to get in,” said Hall, who heads the Health Entrepreneurship Accelerator Lab. “And that was the first day.” 

Six companies participated in 2019 inaugural accelerator.  

Ken Mayer, the founder and CEO of SAFE Health, called the first MedTech Accelerator “an amazing experience.”  

“They really put together an amazing program that was tailored specifically to us,” he said. “It wasn’t this sort of abstracted program that they set up to be one size fits all.”  

Lukas-Karim Merhi, founder and CEO of BioInteractive Technologies, noted the benefit of talking to experts, mentors and physicians with entrepreneurial experience.  

“We’re very fortunate to have access to people like that who are invested in your success,” said Merhi.  

The 2019 program was the first accelerator experience for Securisyn Medical, a Colorado-based medical device startup. Co-founder, COO and CFO Elyse Blazevich lauded the program for its unparalleled access to Mayo Clinic and ASU assets.   

Some companies from last year’s program were even able to increase their initial investment many times over, though the MedTech Accelerator’s main purpose is to position companies to positively impact health care with the combined resources of Mayo Clinic and ASU.  

“Ultimately we aim to make health care more convenient and accessible for people, and it’s through these partnerships that we're able to deliver those next-generation platforms and solutions for health care,” said Lester.  

Learn more about the Mayo Clinic and ASU MedTech Accelerator and how to apply. 

The MedTech Accelerator is supported by the Mayo Clinic and Arizona State University Alliance for Health Care. The alliance is developing comprehensive improvements in the science of health care delivery and practice, all toward one goal: continually advancing patient care. Together, the recognized world leader in patient care, education and research, and the nation's No. 1-ranked university for innovation are combining expertise from every corner of health care — doctors to bioengineers to business experts — for an adaptive approach to preparing the next generation of health care pioneers and practitioners in our communities. 

Tips for living well in 2020


This is a kicker

Emma Greguska

The hard part of setting goals for the New Year isn’t necessarily deciding what resolutions to make — it’s keeping them. Fortunately, Arizona State University abounds with experts on everything from heart health to screen time to mindfulness.

So if you’re in the market to make some lifestyle changes in 2020, here are some suggestions from experts at ASU’s College of Health Solutions and Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, along with helpful tips for making them stick.

Be more mindful

Before you start getting down on yourself or dismiss New Year’s resolutions as a lost cause, ASU’s Chief Well-Being Officer and Edson College Professor Teri Pipe advises you to take a moment and consider self-acceptance as the first step toward personal growth.

“Resolutions often take us to a place of negativity or remedying a perceived weakness,” she said. “Instead, please remember that you can accept yourself as you are and at the same time be inspired to become a better, more generous or deeper version of yourself. Self-acceptance and becoming a better person are not mutually exclusive; in fact, they go hand in hand.”

And as the founding director of ASU’s Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience, Pipe knows that the practice of mindfulness has benefits for both mind and body.

Improve your heart health

Strapped for time but still want to keep your ticker in tip-top shape? Have no fear. College of Health Solutions Assistant Professor Siddhartha Angadi conducts research on the effects of high-intensity interval training, or HIIT — characterized by short bursts of intense activity — on cardiovascular and metabolic physiology in severe chronic diseases.

He has found that not only can shorter bouts of physical activity produce the same benefits as longer bouts, but that if the shorter bouts are ramped up from a moderate level (something akin to a brisk walk) to a vigorous level (where you’re almost out of breath but not quite), they may even produce more health benefits than longer, moderate-level bouts.

“Less can be more for a fitter you,” Angadi said. “Just 10 minutes of high-intensity interval training three times a week can improve your cardiovascular and metabolic fitness.”

Get more fiber

Though he recently published work outlining a new tool that allows consumers to weigh both the nutritional quality and the environmental impact of protein, Chris Wharton, College of Health Solutions assistant dean of innovation and strategic initiatives, said the average person probably doesn’t need to worry much about their protein intake.

“Chances are, you’re doing just fine getting (more than) enough protein,” he said. Instead, focus on fiber. Adults should shoot for 30 to 50 grams daily, primarily from vegetables, whole grains, beans/legumes and fruits for the best returns on health.

You may not be the most popular guest at dinner parties, but, he said, “The more gas you have, the healthier your diet likely is.”

Reduce your screen time

If a food-based diet isn’t your speed, Wharton suggests going on a screen-time diet. He and colleagues are working to develop more accurate ways to measure people’s screen time usage, associated health effects and potential interventions.

According to Wharton, the benefits of logging off are exponential.

“Reducing the time you spend with screens simultaneously opens time to plan healthier meals and cook, be active and spend time with family, friends and neighbors,” he said. “Because screen time is one of the greatest sources of sedentary time behind sleep and work, it is actually a gateway behavior. It’s really hard to be healthier in other areas in life if you don’t give yourself the gift of time to pursue healthier habits. Your screens are eating all the time you need to be healthier and happier.”

Lower your carbon footprint and reap health benefits

Apologies to Blue Man Group enthusiasts, but “Blue Zones” are not secretly designated practice spaces for the indigo-hued performance artists. A relatively new term, “Blue Zone” was coined by writer Dan Buettner in his 2005 National Geographic magazine cover story to describe areas around the world where people live longer than average lifespans — places like Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; and Loma Linda, California.

“Here is what no one in those societies ever did: go into ketosis or obsess over hitting the gym,” Wharton said. “The take-home: Low-carb diets and cultish exercise regimens are not the foundation of longer life and more functionality in older age.”

Instead, Wharton suggests opting for a diet rich in fibrous plant foods and days anchored by modest, utilitarian physical activity.

“Enjoy your beans, avocados, salads and grains,” he said. “Take walks for the fun of it or hop on a bike to run errands. You’ll do incredible good for your health (and for the environment).”

Make the switch from processed foods to whole foods

More than just a trendy grocery story, whole foods are plant foods — such as whole grains, tubers, legumes, fruits and vegetables — that are unprocessed and unrefined, or processed and refined as little as possible. Carol Johnston, College of Health Solutions professor of nutrition and associate dean for faculty success, suggests that transitioning to a whole-foods, plant-based diet is easier than you might think.

Simply start out by identifying the heavily processed foods in your diet (convenient/fast foods, such as pre-packaged and/or frozen meals) and slowly decrease your reliance on those foods by introducing food prepping and cooking at home to your daily routine.

You can also gradually decrease the amount of animal products in your meals by exploring recipes that use plant proteins such as nuts, edamame, quinoa and hemp seeds. In particular, Johnston has found mung beans to be a great protein supplement.

“The whole-foods, plant-based diet is flexible,” she said. “Focus on plant-based whole foods and eat eggs, poultry, seafood, meat and dairy sparingly; emphasize local/seasonal foods, meatless meals and colorful veggies.”

Stay hydrated

Most Arizonans know the immediate importance of hydration in the desert, but it turns out water intake can have effects on long-term health as well. Stavros Kavouras, College of Health Solutions assistant dean of graduate education and professor of nutrition, directs the Hydration Science Lab at ASU, where he is studying the impact of water intake on health and performance, as well its effects on chronic disease outcomes.

Most recently, Kavouras found that drinking more water could improve the quality of life for patients with Type 2 diabetes and potentially help prevent the disease in others.

He calls water “the forgotten nutrient,” and was quoted in a May 2019 ASU Now story saying, “People forget to drink water, forget to study water, they just forget to include water in anything. The MyPlate, the USDA’s current nutrition guide, does not even include water because every dietary guideline needs to be evidence-based and we have little evidence for water.”

In order to ensure you’re well hydrated, Kavouras recommends monitoring the number of times you use the restroom throughout the day (if it has been several hours and you haven’t been to the bathroom, that’s an indication you haven’t been drinking enough water), as well as the color of your urine: Dark yellow urine indicates dehydration. He also suggests his own personal habit of keeping a full glass of water in front of him at all times.

Sit less, stand more

Sitting is not the new smoking — College of Health Solutions Associate Professor Matt Buman and colleagues successfully debunked the insidious health myth in a paper published in September 2018 — but it can still be detrimental to your health. Too much sitting, Buman said, can lead to health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke and high blood pressure — all of which can be life-threatening.

Because many modern-day jobs require employees to be sedentary at a desk, Buman’s research is focused on developing interventions for excessive sitting in the workplace.

“While reducing your sitting time at work doesn't take the place of regular exercise, adequate sleep or a healthful diet, it's an important part of an overall healthy lifestyle,” he said.

Consider wearing comfortable shoes so you’re more likely to want to move throughout the day, breaking up long periods of focused work with a short standing or moving break (as a bonus, the quick break can improve your focus and productivity), using the restroom on a different floor or getting up to talk to your coworker face-to-face instead of sending an email.

Kick that bad habit

Speaking of smoking … It’s 2020, not 1985. So maybe now is the time to finally say good riddance and flush that pack of Pall Malls (actually, you probably shouldn’t flush them; that could be bad for the environment and your plumbing.)

It’s a notoriously difficult habit to kick, though, so don’t fret if you need a little help.

“Tobacco addiction is a hard addiction to break because even though there are far fewer people smoking than there used to be, it’s a legal drug and it’s a very addicting substance,” said College of Health Solutions Professor Scott Leischow, who directs the Arizona Tobacco Control Program at the college and is a former senior advisor for tobacco policy in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In a January 2019 opinion piece for JAMA, Leischow argued that the smoking-cessation drug varenicline should be made available over the counter, as it is the single most effective medication for smoking cessation. He is now in the midst of a three-year, NIH-funded study to prove that point and hopefully get varenicline approved as an over-the-counter medication. Until then, you can always call the Arizona Smokers Helpline at 800-55-66-222.

Nurse fulfills a commitment to herself by earning BSN


This is a kicker

The decision to go back to school as a working adult is complex. There’s your day job and family to consider, which program to choose, as well as the cost. And sometimes, even when you get all of that sorted out, life just gets in the way.

This was the case for Jennifer Johnson.

The 47-year-old registered nurse from Minnesota has been working in hospitals for years but always wanted to return to college to earn her Bachelor of Science in nursing.

“I thought if I ever want to move up and get any sort of leadership position, I need to finish my four-year degree,” Johnson said. 

After a series of starts and stops in other programs and a serious health scare she decided it was time to fully commit to achieving this personal and professional goal. But where she was going to accomplish it was still up in the air, until a trip to Arizona to visit her parents.

Johnson says she’d driven by Arizona State University’s Tempe campus many times over the years during these trips and always thought it was a really cool campus. During this particular visit, she also noticed an ASU Online billboard.

“I came home and sorta forgot about it. But then I saw another ASU Online billboard, in Minnesota and I thought, this is a sign,” said Johnson.

She called to find out more information about the RN-BSN program at the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation and within a matter of weeks, she was enrolled.

“When you’re an older student, you’re all about the brick and mortar, so initially I was really worried you know, am I going to be able to do this? Those fears dissipated with the first class. All the puzzle pieces came together and it was awesome.”

That was in 2016, Johnson graduated with her BSN in December 2018, was inducted into Sigma Theta Tau, and presented her BSN capstone project at the Sigma Creating Healthy Environments seminar in New Orleans in February 2019.

“I do feel like what I’ve learned at school has changed my way of treating people, I look at them more holistically now. It also changes how you think and how you feel about what you’re doing to help you grow and develop. Now I can see how I would be in any sort of management or leadership position.”

Not only did she fulfill the promise she made to herself to complete her four-year degree, but she also met a lot of great people along the way, including her mentor, Heidi Sanborn, director of the RN-BSN and CEP programs.

“I feel like I would not be here today, who I am without this program and definitely not without her,” said Johnson.

Her time at ASU is not over, the alumna is also a current graduate student. Johnson enjoyed the RN-BSN program and the ASU Online experience so much that she decided to continue on, enrolling in the Master of Healthcare Innovation program.

“The support I got from ASU was a lot better than I got at the brick and mortar schools and because those professors believed in me and gave me honest and constructive feedback, I started to believe in myself more.”

Now, she’s paying that support forward, offering encouragement for anyone on the fence about returning to school.

ASU prof appointed to assist Phoenix mayor on health policy issues


This is a kicker

Emma Greguska

According to Arizona State University Clinical Assistant Professor Heather Ross, it is no longer enough for physicians to just be good at taking care of patients; they also have to be prepared to be policy advocates.

A practicing nurse herself, Ross holds joint appointments in the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation and the School for the Future of Innovation in Society, where she shares that philosophy with her students. Now, with a new appointment as a policy fellow to Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, she’s really walking the walk.

Over the course of her two-year appointment, which began in September of this year, Ross will advise Gallego on a number of health care issues, including behavioral health and public safety, making Phoenix a dementia-friendly city, creating a 24/7 rape crisis center, and curbing the current and future nursing shortage.

“There are so many opportunities to do great work and live out our ASU charter of serving the community,” Ross said. “That is what really inspires me every day. It may seem Pollyanna-ish, but I could not be happier being able to be directly impact the community.”

Read on to learn more about Ross’ plans to tackle health issues in the city of Phoenix, her thoughts on the state of health care policy and how technology may be able to contribute to improved health outcomes.

headshot of ASU Professor

Heather Ross

Question: What steps are you taking to address some of the issues you’re focusing on?

Answer: In terms of behavioral health and public safety, the city is working on a bunch of things, including piloting a program using a behavioral health correspondent model where a behavioral health professional deploys with a police officer to complement their crisis intervention team. Part of my role is evaluating how that works out.

It works well in a lot of other cities in the country and outside of America, but one of the really interesting challenges we have in Phoenix is that the geography of Phoenix is so huge — and we’re also the fifth largest city in the nation in terms of population — so reaching someone in crisis can take time, and when someone is in crisis, every minute counts. So we’re looking at possible solutions to make sure there’s enough staff located throughout the city and that we’re doing it in a way so as not to divert resources away from other critical programs.

And then in January, Phoenix is launching its dementia-friendly initiative. Stakeholders from a variety of sectors will be building a centralized resource repository for people and families experiencing dementia.

Q: In a 2016 interview, you said policy around health care regulation and delivery was in a state of incredible flux. Is that still true?

A: Absolutely. At the federal level, in terms of what is a federal health care system going to look like, is there going to be a public option for health care insurance, how are we addressing pharmacy costs — that’s all still very much in flux.

At the state level, health policy, in some different ways, is always a moving target. Vaping policy is going to be very much on the docket at the state Legislature. And then of course, ensuring that we have ample resources for behavioral health across the state. Right now, among the 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., Arizona ranks No. 50 in terms of accessibility to behavioral health services. So that’s an area coming up for some real attention.

And then at the city level, we’re also looking at vaping ordinances and behavioral health services, as well as resources for those experiencing dementia and homelessness.

Q: You’re a proponent of technology and machine learning in health care. Will you be looking at using machine learning or other tech to help address any of the health issues you’re working on with Mayor Gallego?

A: Yes, absolutely. Particularly in terms of how 911 dispatch systems and police and firefighters can use smart technology most effectively to protect the public. I’ve been spending a lot of time out in the field with them, and they’ve been incredibly forthcoming in talking about some of the technologies that they use in their day-to-day operations on the streets of Phoenix, sharing about the things they see working well and some of the things they wish worked a little bit better.

One thing we’re doing now is trying to figure out what to do with this vast trove of video data we have from the body cams; thousands of hours of data every day. We’re looking at opportunities to use that data so that we can be more efficient and do a better job of proactive and safer policing.

Q: You’ve stated before that in order to be an effective health care provider today, it’s no longer enough to just be good at taking care of patients; you also have to be prepared to be a policy advocate. Why?

A: Everything that we do as health care providers depends on health policy to give us that social structure to do our job, to do our work with our patients and our communities. And frankly, people who are on that ground level, seeing patients every day and hearing their problems firsthand and experiencing some of those challenges of providing health care are the people in the best positions to advocate for the policies and services we need to make sure we have the resources we need to treat our patients.

I teach a health policy course for doctoral students at the Edson College of Nursing and I teach a science and technology course in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society, and I think it’s critically important that people — whether they want to be policy professionals or service professionals — that they understand how policy works and that sharing their expertise and experience with policymakers can help them to write and pass the absolute best policies to serve our community.

Q: Your project SolarSPELL uses technology to spread health education in rural communities around the globe. Do you have any plans to use that tech here in Phoenix?

A: Yes! In fact, I’m going to be collaborating with some of our community partners, in particular here at ASU, with the SHOW clinic, to use SolarSPELL to develop and disseminate health education videos to people experiencing homelessness. One of the things we know is that smartphones are everywhere in the world. People have smartphones in proportions that you would not believe. When I was in South Sudan, people were living in shacks and refugee camps, but they still had smartphones, which was amazing. So because the SolarSPELL platform allows us to basically make a library available to people without having to spend money on data — they can download any of that content onto their smartphone — it became important for us to get educational videos out to people.

The reason video is so important is because you don’t need to be able to read very well to watch and understand a video. That’s one of the concerns with (paper) handouts; a lot of people in vulnerable communities may not have very high literacy skills. But with videos, it doesn’t matter if can’t you can’t read. You can listen, watch and get some really valuable health information. So I’m very excited that we’re going to be able to leverage SolarSPELL locally in that way.

Top photo courtesy Pixabay

ASU first-gen grad sees the impact she can make as a nurse


This is a kicker

Hannah Moulton Belec

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2019 commencement.

Ayanna Bernard, a first-generation college student who is graduating from ASU this December, credits ASU TRIO Programs and a semester spent researching alternative medicine with helping her gain the motivation to graduate with her nursing degree from the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation

Growing up as a military kid, Bernard lived all over the country, but most recently she called Colorado Springs home. When it was time to make her college decision, she jumped at the chance to pursue her degree at ASU. 

Bernard was a part of the Residence Hall Association at ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus during her first and second years. It provided her a chance to meet new people at ASU as an out-of-state student and made ASU feel like a second home. 

Bernard took a hiatus from the nursing program after her sophomore year to do research with one of her professors. Analyzing the effects of aromatherapy on nurses and exploring alternative medicine, the semester of research gave Bernard the chance to see which direction she really wanted to take in her career and life. 

Bernard then joined TRIO, a resource center for first-generation students, low-income students, veterans and students with disabilities. TRIO helped give Bernard all the resources she needed to be successful at school, such as textbooks, computers and even introduced her to her mentor, Rafael Guzman. Now she works at TRIO, giving back to the community that helped her so much as a student tutor for nursing subjects. 

Ayanna Bernard spoke with ASU Now before graduation to reflect on her journey to success at ASU. 

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in? 

Answer: My mom is in the medical field. She’s actually a nurse herself. So I feel like seeing how my mom was very successful helped me. And it was great seeing my mom, who was a nurse because of her passion and she was implementing things that were helping children. It was something I was very inspired by, so inspired by that I was like, "I really want to be like my mom when I grow up," and there’s very few kids who can really say that. Just seeing how she was, and knowing that both of my parents worked, they could teach their kids to take the initiative and to always be there and to be there with passion.

As a nurse I feel like you do so much for the community and make such a positive impact; that’s something I want to be a part of, that I want to get involved in. So far I haven’t really changed my mind about being a nurse. I thought that when I got to school I would actually want to change my mind because being in college you’re exposed to different things, but being involved in all the programs that I was, I think that wanting to help people and that wanting to give back to the community always took me back to seeing it as a way I could be successful. 

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective? 

A: The time I did my first clinical. In fall 2017, I was at the Honor Health Rehab Center. We were caring for a patient who was at the end of life. She had no family left and she just started crying in my arms. She told me how much we meant to her when her life was coming to the end and how happy she was to be surrounded by such compassionate nurses. When she had no one else, we were just there for her, supporting her, holding her hand and just listening. And she was like, “All I really wanted was to have someone’s hand to hold.” And I really just felt emotional and I was telling myself this is the kind of stuff that you’ll get to do. This is the kind of impact that you know that you have on them. Because a lot of the time, people think, “Oh, I could never do nursing. It’s so hard.” And we ask ourselves, “Why do you want to do it?” And that moment made me realize that this is why I want to go down this career path. 

So from that point on, I felt like I could really express my emotions in the clinical setting because at first I was scared. We nursing students go from nursing student to clinical to helping other nurses in the field and they might not like you. They might not think that I’m educated enough, or that I don’t have enough knowledge. And to just have someone sit there and break down crying showed me that we mean so much to her, even though she may not know us. But we just know that this is something she will remember — having compassionate nurses. It’s something you’ve gotta remember before anything else. 

I think that was really a life-changing moment for me. It showed me that it’s OK to get emotional, to cry. There are just some situations that you cannot change. You cannot change the fact that she’s at the end of life. But we’ve still given her the best care that we can. We took care of her. We provided her empathy. But at the same time we don’t want to give her false hope. So I think that that’s one of those moments I’ll always remember. It’s something that I take with me each and every day that I go to the hospital. I want the patients to know that I am there for them. 

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: Growing up being a part of a military family it was a lot of moving, going to new places, meeting new people. After I came back from living overseas I started looking at schools and my mom was like, “Oh, well now you can stop and maybe stay in-state. So now you don’t have to move.” 

I told my mom, "I don’t know what it is, but I’ve always wanted to go to Arizona." It was one of the few places we never actually lived. My mom’s brother lives down here, but we never visited them. I just thought it was a place that I wanted to see and add to the places that I’ve been. And when I was looking up about the school and learned about the nursing program and saw how successful it was and how the graduation rate was very high and how they put such successful students out there, it just seemed like a very excellent program. And now that I am a part of the program I can say it has met my expectations. 

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: My human event professor Dr. Matthew Sandoval. He really taught me a lot about myself. He focused a lot on culture — the Latin American culture, the African American culture. And you don’t learn about that — even in high school. Sandoval had us read books, and I still have some of them to this day, that were not focused on slavery but on how African Americans have excelled throughout the years. 

Going into my freshman year as a downtown student, I wasn’t really surrounded by a lot of students who looked like me — African Americans. I became friends with a lot of people who were outside of my culture. But his class let me learn about my culture and that it’s OK to be the odd man out. It’s OK to be the only African American in class, because I was the only African American in class and in Barrett in general. But he let me see that we can be in Barrett and we can excel. He helped me see that. 

On the last day of class I cried. I broke down and cried in front of everyone. It’s hard when you think you’re the only person. It’s hard when everything is so different. He helped me to see that my culture makes me who I am and that I should be proud of it. He helped me to be comfortable in my own skin and that it’s OK to be different and to see that as a positive thing. You’re inspiring others. 

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: I didn’t really get much advice going into college because I was the first person to go to college in my family. I learned a lot of it on my own. I had to be very independent.  

So I think my advice would be to always ask for help. Always ask for help because I feel like there’s always help out there. I really didn’t ask for help my first couple of years and I think that really made me struggle during my first years in the nursing program. But once I asked for help, I felt like I was excelling and I wasn’t questioning if this is the career I wanted to go into. I felt like I was developing as a nurse and a person. So when I took that semester off and asked for advice and talked to my professors, I was able to kind of figure out who I am and have someone tell me, “You are going to be successful” and “You are a student who can succeed.” 

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life? 

A: Where I spent a lot of time was in our little RHA office. When I was living on campus and working there for them I spent a lot of time there. It was a place where we could all gather, where we could all talk, do homework, watch movies or Netflix. Away from school, away from outside friends. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I really love it here in Arizona. I plan to stay here after graduation and start working here at one of the hospitals around the Valley. And I think that ASU has really prepared me for that. I think the clinicals were a great experience — working at different hospitals so that all the specific stuff you learned is in your back pocket. 

I think it helps you to get you in the door when you start applying for jobs and the clinicals really help prepare you for that. I know I’ll be very successful and will have no problem finding a job. I think ASU has really lived up to that standard of making sure that their students graduate and that their students succeed. I would recommend it as a school. 

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would tackle our health insurance. I think being in the nursing program has shined so much light on medical needs and the services that people still need after the hospital that their insurance doesn’t cover. I would donate my money to a fund that would give money to the people who need that extra care so they can have that quality care, because we have the responsibility to provide for them. It shouldn’t be so expensive and as far as health care goes, everything is getting expensive. And so people are getting health care that isn’t the best because they can’t afford it. And as a nurse it’s really hard to see that. It breaks my heart to see that, to see people getting denied stuff because they can’t afford it.

Written by Lindsay Lohr, Sun Devil Storyteller

ASU graduate raises the bar for academic and athletic excellence


This is a kicker

Jamie Ell

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2019 commencement.

Wherever Matt Eckles goes, he stands out. Literally.

At 6 foot, 5 inches tall, he towers over his peers. But perhaps even more impressive than his height is the reach of his undergraduate career.

This December, he’ll graduate with two degrees from the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, a Bachelor of Science in nursing and a Bachelor of Science in integrative health.

In addition to his academic pursuits, Eckles is also a Division I athlete, having accomplished outstanding feats for ASU’s track and field team. 

To say his plate has been full would be an understatement. 

Ask anyone about the rigors of nursing school and you’ll get an earful about clinicals, lab hours and exams — it’s a 24/7 program.

Add to that the hours of dedicated training on the field and in the weight room to perform at the highest collegiate level and now you’ve raised the bar to a near-insurmountable height.

“Almost all of the schools I applied to wouldn’t accommodate my goals of being both a Division I athlete and a nurse. They told me it was impossible,” he said.

But you don’t become the 2017 Pac-12 pole vaulting champion by giving up in the face of adversity.

“The more you say no to me, the more I want to do it.” 

His persistence paid off when he found the right program at the right university.

“Everyone here — my advisers, my coaching staff and my professors — supported me to make things work, to think differently, knowing that it would require a lot of mentoring, flexibility and personal sacrifice. But they still said yes.”

And with a grin laced with defiance, Matt proudly declared, “And that’s why I came to ASU.”

Now, as he prepares to make the leap from college to a career in nursing he shares some of what motivated him along the way and offers advice to his fellow Sun Devils.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: It was in high school. I really liked biological sciences, but having explored the field a bit more, I found out that I was really wanting more of that human interaction. Quite simply, I wanted to combine biological sciences and people, so nursing made absolute sense to me.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: The entire nursing faculty here at ASU is incredible. You’re dealing with a lot of men and women in nursing who have been in the profession for over 30 years, so they are the most empathetic, caring people you can imagine. They’re always super outgoing and willing to help. Beth Walker, who is a psychiatric nurse at Edson College, always cracked students up during class by offering them to borrow her kayaks or to go on mountain bike rides. She’s amazing and even comes to my track meets — you don’t get that kind of support from your average professor. The glimpse I’ve had of hearing her talk about her career and her life, as she was working in the profession, is just so pure. It really taught me about having a good career balance in nursing: to make time for your passions, even during those odd hours that we as nurses have to endure. She’s someone I aspire to be.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Know the why behind what you do. When I got into nursing school, the mentality wasn’t, "I need to pass this test so I can get the grade," it was, "I need to learn about diabetes so that I can help someone." So knowing the why behind what you do allows you to chase that goal. You can’t just do something just because. If you understand what you’re doing and why you want to achieve it, then the only limiting factor after that is how much heart you have. It becomes pure, and you can begin to build a solid ground for what you’re about to do in your professional life with reason.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I really want to throw myself into the water and just sink or swim by working in an emergency room or intensive care unit, just because I want to learn as much as I can. But I’ve noticed that I really love kids from all of the clinicals that I’ve done here. Once I’ve had my fill of all the action of being in the ER, I’m pretty sure I’ll end up in pediatrics hanging out with all the kiddos.

ASU graduate raises the bar for academic and athletic excellence


This is a kicker

Jamie Ell

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2019 commencement.

Wherever Matt Eckles goes, he stands out. Literally.

At 6 foot, 5 inches tall, he towers over his peers. But perhaps even more impressive than his height is the reach of his undergraduate career.

This December, he’ll graduate with two degrees from the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, a Bachelor of Science in nursing and a Bachelor of Science in integrative health.

In addition to his academic pursuits, Eckles is also a Division I athlete, having accomplished outstanding feats for ASU’s track and field team. 

To say his plate has been full would be an understatement. 

Ask anyone about the rigors of nursing school and you’ll get an earful about clinicals, lab hours and exams — it’s a 24/7 program.

Add to that the hours of dedicated training on the field and in the weight room to perform at the highest collegiate level and now you’ve raised the bar to a near-insurmountable height.

“Almost all of the schools I applied to wouldn’t accommodate my goals of being both a Division I athlete and a nurse. They told me it was impossible,” he said.

But you don’t become the 2017 Pac-12 pole vaulting champion by giving up in the face of adversity.

“The more you say no to me, the more I want to do it.” 

His persistence paid off when he found the right program at the right university.

“Everyone here — my advisers, my coaching staff and my professors — supported me to make things work, to think differently, knowing that it would require a lot of mentoring, flexibility and personal sacrifice. But they still said yes.”

And with a grin laced with defiance, Matt proudly declared, “And that’s why I came to ASU.”

Now, as he prepares to make the leap from college to a career in nursing he shares some of what motivated him along the way and offers advice to his fellow Sun Devils.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: It was in high school. I really liked biological sciences, but having explored the field a bit more, I found out that I was really wanting more of that human interaction. Quite simply, I wanted to combine biological sciences and people, so nursing made absolute sense to me.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: The entire nursing faculty here at ASU is incredible. You’re dealing with a lot of men and women in nursing who have been in the profession for over 30 years, so they are the most empathetic, caring people you can imagine. They’re always super outgoing and willing to help. Beth Walker, who is a psychiatric nurse at Edson College, always cracked students up during class by offering them to borrow her kayaks or to go on mountain bike rides. She’s amazing and even comes to my track meets — you don’t get that kind of support from your average professor. The glimpse I’ve had of hearing her talk about her career and her life, as she was working in the profession, is just so pure. It really taught me about having a good career balance in nursing: to make time for your passions, even during those odd hours that we as nurses have to endure. She’s someone I aspire to be.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Know the why behind what you do. When I got into nursing school, the mentality wasn’t, "I need to pass this test so I can get the grade," it was, "I need to learn about diabetes so that I can help someone." So knowing the why behind what you do allows you to chase that goal. You can’t just do something just because. If you understand what you’re doing and why you want to achieve it, then the only limiting factor after that is how much heart you have. It becomes pure, and you can begin to build a solid ground for what you’re about to do in your professional life with reason.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I really want to throw myself into the water and just sink or swim by working in an emergency room or intensive care unit, just because I want to learn as much as I can. But I’ve noticed that I really love kids from all of the clinicals that I’ve done here. Once I’ve had my fill of all the action of being in the ER, I’m pretty sure I’ll end up in pediatrics hanging out with all the kiddos.

First-gen ASU grad pursues passion for pediatric nursing


This is a kicker

Hannah Moulton Belec

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2019 commencement.

First-generation Arizona State University student Anjelica Yapura is graduating with a degree in nursing from the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus and hopes to work in pediatric nursing after graduation. Yapura, who moved to Phoenix when she was 7 years old from Live Oak, California, knew she wanted to work with children after seeing her mom teach at a preschool while growing up.

Yapura joined the TRIO program the second semester of her sophomore year and now works as a tutor there. The TRIO program helps first-generation college students, low-income students, students with disabilities and veterans in their pursuit of a college degree. She tutors students on nursing-related courses but doesn’t limit herself to that.

“Anything that they come up to me with, I’ll try to help them as much as I can,” Yapura said.

Yapura’s motivation through college was “making my parents proud.” She loved seeing their faces light up when she told them the success she was having in school. Yapura is the youngest of her siblings but the first of them to go to college. She has even inspired her older sister to go back to school and enroll in nursing courses.

Yapura spoke to ASU Now about her journey studying nursing and what’s ahead for her after graduation.

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you finally realized you wanted to study the field that you majored in?

Answer: So my first two years I was in Barrett, and I was a part of this club called Barrett Student Nurses. To get us used to what type of options were around us, they would take us to different hospitals and give us a tour. One of the tours we had was at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. I just remember going around and seeing how each unit was because they had us go through the whole building and talk to some nurses. It really made me more interested in what I was going to do as I started the actual nursing program, since we don’t start until our junior year.

I didn’t really figure out that I wanted to be a nurse until my senior year of high school. I knew I wanted to be in the medical field but I didn’t know exactly what part until the beginning of my senior year.

Q: What’s something that you’ve learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: I think the biggest thing that I learned was that it’s OK to ask for help. I think that especially for a lot of first-generation students, it’s very hard to ask for help because we’re always used to doing things on our own.

So when things got difficult, it was hard for me to ask someone, “Hey, I need help on my end” or “Maybe you could help me with this?” It was very hard for me to do that, and I didn’t really learn how to do that until my junior year of college. That’s something that I wish I knew to get used to in the beginning because before, even if I was struggling, I still tried to pull through. It didn’t used to really bother me — to the point where I was feeling overwhelmed or where I needed to go get someone to help me.

The biggest person I turned to was my best friend who I met freshman year. We went to camp for nursing. So I went to him first. Then I went to Rafael — my boss through TRIO. We have a very close relationship.

Q: Why did you go to ASU?

A: The biggest thing is that it was more affordable. They gave me the most scholarships, specifically for my degree program.

It’s also very close to where I live. I live in the West Side of Phoenix so at most 25-30 minutes by freeway, so if I wanted to see my mom I could always come and visit her. It wasn’t too far to the point where I couldn’t visit. My mom is a big part of my life so I didn’t want to feel more homesick than I needed to be.

Q: What plans do you have after graduation?

A: So after graduation, (nursing majors) have to start studying for our certification. Before we start applying for any jobs, we have to study and show that we passed our certification. So that’s the biggest thing for me.

I’m doing my internship at Maricopa Medical Center in their pediatric acute unit and would love to work there, but their unit isn’t hiring anyone at the moment. So they said if I was still interested, I could work through one of their other units in one of their other departments and move up and apply when there’s a position open. I really enjoy working with kids a lot. I’ve already worked six shifts with them, and it made me realize that this is what I really want to do.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: My freshman year Human Event teacher, Dr. Matthew Sandoval. It was his first year teaching at ASU too and his first time teaching Human Event, because he used to teach at UCLA.

Basically, he knew that I was one of the only people who was first-gen in my class. He told me if it starts feeling hard, just remember where you come from. Because sometimes you don’t realize that it takes a lot more than others to get here but it shouldn’t stop you. He knows how hard it is for a lot of first-gens to get to where they are. He said, “Sometimes remembering what you’re doing this for will help to push you to keep going.”

Q: What’s your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: My favorite is actually the TRIO office. Even when I’m not working there, I’m always there. You can do homework there, but you can also just hang out and talk to your coworkers or even other students who come in.

Usually students who come in are your friends because you refer them to the program and they apply, so a lot of my friends are in the program. And so by just being there we’ll do homework together, or we’ll have potlucks and eat there, or all go out to lunch together. It’s a very big community for us.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I think the biggest thing would be access to health care. When I was (studying abroad) in Peru this summer, we were able to help out with a community, and we got to help out at one of their clinics.

I thought it was really interesting how most villages would only have one clinic within a vicinity. And if certain villages didn’t have access to a clinic, they would walk or travel all the way to that certain clinic just to get any health care services. That made me realize, obviously, how fortunate I am that there are so many health care facilities within my vicinity.

Some people really need something and they can’t access it or have to go through long, long portions of transportation just to get there. I feel that that’s something that if I could, I would try to influence, and not just in the United States but in other countries as well, where they can have more access to health care — but more affordable access to health care.

Bunny Kastenbaum poses with Mari Poledna, the recipient of the scholarship created to honor the Kastenbaum family.

First Kastenbaum Family Scholarship recipient ready to influence simulation


This is a kicker

Receiving a scholarship is always a special experience, receiving a scholarship created to honor a pioneer in the field is next-level.

This is the happy situation Mari Poledna found herself in after learning she’d been selected as the first recipient of the Kastenbaum Family Scholarship.

“I’m just so thankful. It’s a wonderful feeling to not only be recognized for my interest in advancing simulation but to be understood and supported by someone like Professor Kastenbaum is really amazing,” Poledna said.

If the scholarship name sounds familiar, it should.  

After announcing her retirement from ASU’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation in 2018 Professor Beatrice “Bunny” Kastenbaum’s colleagues wanted to continue to honor her legacy as a nurse educator and simulation-learning innovator. 

Establishing a scholarship was the perfect solution. After all, Bunny spent 50 years teaching nursing students and she’s one of the reasons the college began using simulation. 

Bunny and Ruth Brooks, the lab director at the time, worked together to establish simulation learning experiences in the college. 

“As nursing became more complex it was important to create opportunities to practice advanced decision-making skills.  Student lab experiences moved from bed-making to making critical judgments about seriously ill patients in a safe place,” Bunny said.

And it was also a way to recognize Bunny’s husband, Robert Kastenbaum, who not only supported and encouraged her throughout her career, but was a Professor at ASU and well-known in his own right. They both have made significant contributions to the academic community and beyond.

Because of her foresight and willingness to experiment with the latest technology, simulation became an integral part of nursing education at Edson College. 

“It was always something that we were striving to do, to integrate it into the curriculum and then separate it out into its own experiential courses,” said Bunny.

The scholarship is meant to provide support to nurse educators as they pursue experiential learning opportunities. 

It’s a welcome boost for Poledna, who is pursuing a Nursing and Healthcare Innovation, PhD

A nurse educator herself, Poledna is a full-time faculty member at Scottsdale Community College, she also works as a critical care nurse for Banner’s Tele-Health ICU and has a family of her own to take care of. 

“Simulation is my passion and I hope I can advance the science and the knowledge and bring some practical education as well,” she said. 

Poledna and Bunny met each other for the first time in the fall of 2019 over lunch, but the casual observer would have thought they’d been friends for years. The conversation was easy and engaging. 

The pair talked about the way things used to be and the exciting advancements in nursing education that Bunny’s been a part of as well as the research that Poledna’s doing.

“I see how much nursing has changed, and medicine has changed and I try to bring that into simulation. I’m very interested in developing simulations that will help stimulate critical thinking and clinical judgment and patient safety,” said Poledna.

Also in attendance at that lunch meeting was Margaret Calacci, Director of the Grace Center for Innovation in Nursing Education. As part of her expansive role in the college, she oversees the simulation curriculum and shared some of the reasons why it’s such a key piece of the nursing program.

PhD student Mari Poledna poses for a photo with Margaret Calacci and Bunny Kastenbaum

From left to right: Margaret Calacci, Mari Poledna and Bunny Kastenbaum



“Students aren’t able to do some of the skills and the nursing pieces in a clinical setting because of legalities, so simulation provides such a rich supplement and I think that's really where we are making huge headway. Every student can care for a patient with a common health concern such as diabetes or a less common one like a serious burn. 

After they wrapped up at lunch, the conversation continued with a tour of the Grace Center on the Downtown Phoenix campus. It was Poledna’s first time in the facility but it likely won’t be her last.

Just as this won’t be the last student or patient Bunny’s incredible career touches.

“When Bunny was retiring we were trying to figure out how many patients she has affected through her years of education,” Calacci said.

If you consider she taught at least 60 students each semester for 35 plus years and if each one of those students has gone on to treat between 500 - 1,000 patients, that’s potentially more than 3.5 million people she has personally affected.

“And it’s still going. It’s amazing!” Calacci said.

If you are interested in contributing to the Kastenbaum Family Scholarship or creating a scholarship for Edson College students please contact

ASU, Phoenix Children’s Hospital team up for pediatric-focused acute care program


This is a kicker

Amanda Goodman

Editor’s note: This is the second Q&A in a two-part series about how ASU's Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation and Phoenix Children's Hospital are working together to prepare students for a career in pediatric nursing and to address a looming shortfall of nurses in Arizona and across the U.S.

It’s been an exciting year for Arizona State University’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation and Phoenix Children’s Hospital as the two innovative organizations have expanded their partnership. Through this collaboration, they’ve been able to create opportunities to enhance the student experience in the field of pediatrics and develop some solid programs to address a looming nurse shortage, notably in specialty areas.

Holly Michael was among the first students to enroll in the Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and certificate program for graduate-level nursing students after it launched last fall.

“I was already working in the pediatric intensive care unit at Phoenix Children’s when I heard about this program. I have a huge passion for working with acutely ill children, so it sparked my interest,” she said.

To get a better idea of what the Acute Care Pediatric DNP is all about and how students identify this pathway, ASU Now spoke with Michael as well as Judy Karshmer, dean of Edson College, and Julie Bowman, chief nursing officer at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

Question: First, can you explain the various levels of training and areas of scope for nurse practitioners?

Julie Bowman: This is an important question, from a legal perspective, because many students don’t realize there are several different nurse practitioner tracks, and there’s not much crossover between them. To ensure they end up in the right Advance Practice Nursing program, students should determine the area in which they want to work. Their options are many, but for purposes of this article and pediatrics, their options are Family Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, or Pediatric Nurse Practitioner-Acute Care, and by scope of practice, legally different. For example, a Family Nurse Practitioner provides for a wide array of common illnesses and injuries, with ongoing, family-centered primary care to adults and children who are medically stable. A nurse who earns the Acute Care Pediatric DNP will be trained specifically for children with acute — or, more severe or sudden — medical needs, but that training won’t translate to adults.

Judy Karshmer: Pediatric Nurse Practitioners first evolved in a primary care setting, but over time, they began to seek out specialized training to handle more complex problems and treatment intervention. Acute Care DNP programs began popping up, but they were geared toward adult care. Our partnership with Phoenix Children’s is designed expressly for students who want to work with children who have acute care needs.

We expect the role of the NP to continue to evolve as patients’ needs shift and the health care provider landscape changes. Because enrollment in medical schools is not keeping pace with demands, the shortfall of general practice physicians is looming. We expect the NP to take on a larger role in the provider model and anticipate more Doctor of Nursing Practice degree programs in specialty areas. It’s an especially attractive option in Arizona, because the Arizona State Board of Nursing allows nurse practitioners to practice independently.

, Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation

Dean Judy Karshmer

Q: What does the Acute Care Pediatric DNP program entail?

Karshmer: The curriculum focuses on creating a framework for developmentally supportive, family-centered, culturally-appropriate advanced-practice nursing. It is intended to prepare students upon graduation to care for infants and children with unstable chronic, complex, acute and life-threatening illnesses. 

In addition to DNP-level coursework and clinical hours, students in this program complete a major intervention project in their third year of study. They identify an issue in patient care, conduct ongoing research and implement a solution within a department. Their insights and research are integrated into Phoenix Children’s care model.

This program also provides students an opportunity to learn nurse management and improve pediatric care on a broader scale in one of America’s fastest-growing cities.

Q: How did this idea of creating an Acute Care Pediatric DNP degree first come about?  

Karshmer: The program is a direct response to a community need. A partnership between our college and a world-class health system is exactly how you advance education for our students, improve care for patients and boost the cachet of both institutions. We are able to make this work by having an equal, focused investment in our state’s future nurses.

In addition to the Acute Care Pediatric DNP curriculum, ASU and Phoenix Children’s worked together to launch a Dedicated Education Unit program that gives undergraduate nursing students additional time at the patient bedside and ensures they’re workforce-ready.

Bowman: For Phoenix Children’s, there were two primary reasons to launch this program. Three years ago, we began working with a consultant to help us refine our care delivery approach and ensure we were maximizing the skills of our nurse practitioners to top of license. Like many other health systems, we were faced with a highly diverse pediatric patient population and long wait times in some of our specialized service areas. Today, our NPs practice more at the top of their license. They are able to see their own patients and formulate individualized care plans within the area covered by their education, ongoing training and legal scope of practice.

As part of earning their degree, Acute Care Pediatric DNP students conduct a research project for a certain area of the health system and implement clinical or operational improvements as a direct result of their research. Their knowledge and capability enhance our patients’ access to high-quality, cost-effective care with overwhelmingly positive outcomes.

Our second reason for launching this new degree was the opportunity to partner with ASU. With their entrepreneurial culture and the strong reputation of Edson College, we knew ASU was the best choice for expanding nursing education here in Arizona.

Q: Can you describe the need for this type of nursing specialty education here in Arizona?

Karshmer: It’s impossible to overstate our need for specialty nursing education. Phoenix is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. Our pediatric population is flourishing, as are the medical needs of Arizona’s kids. And at the same time, we’re facing a nationwide shortage of nurses and nurse practitioners.

, chief nursing officer Phoenix Children's Hospital

Julie Bowman

Bowman: In planning for the future, Phoenix Children’s knew we would need more advanced practice providers in trauma, the emergency department and critical care. This program helps fill that pipeline with expertly trained clinicians who can provide this care.

This program is also a response to our growth in the East Valley, an area of the Valley that has seen extreme growth, especially in young families. Students currently in the program are in their second of three years of study, and will earn their Acute Care Pediatric DNP degrees next year when Phoenix Children’s opens its hospital at Mercy Gilbert.

Karshmer: The program also helps address health care costs. The ideal provider model for acutely ill patients includes a mix of physician specialists and NPs. Surgeons can focus on surgery while NPs handle postoperative care. It’s a perfect and more cost-effective balance of their skills.

Over time, the goal is for more pediatric nurses to pursue their NP degree to ensure the right balance of expertise.

Q: What can students look forward to with this program?

Karshmer: It’s the only program of its kind in the Southwest — perhaps in the nation. Students are trained by expert instructors in a top nursing school, Edson College and gain clinical experience at a top hospital, Phoenix Children’s. And through their intervention project, they will make a real difference for kids in their care.

Bowman: Students are immersed in evidence-based practice and get hands-on training while identifying and solving problems, conducting their own research projects and taking that research from bench to bedside. They’re in the driver’s seat in advancing patient care. There is a sense of excellence with the program at ASU.

Q: As a DNP nursing student who was early to join this program, why did you decide to pursue this specialty?

Holly Michael: I was working as a clinical nurse in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Phoenix Children's Hospital when I heard about this opportunity. My heart is in pediatrics, and more specifically acutely ill children, so it appealed to me.

The program had the unique potential to help me meet my career goals and stay in Arizona. I would have the option to meet with professors in person, attend immersions and have procedure days in the lab. Beyond all this, I have a special connection with ASU — I received my undergraduate degree there. With two very reputable institutions partnering together, I felt confident in my decision. Once the application process opened, I applied and began just a few weeks later. I am currently in my second year of the program. 

, Acute Care Pediatric DNP Student

Holly Michael

Q: Can you share what you like about the program and courses you have taken so far?

Michael: I enjoy many different portions of the program. I took a great physiology course last fall which set a strong foundation and helped me gain a greater knowledge of the physiologic processes of the body. The acute care didactic courses and the acute care clinical course are also ones I particularly appreciated, along with a leadership course I took last fall. They gave me an improved sense of direction in this field, and the ability to present myself as a leader among clinical teams. As a result, I have leadership techniques to put into action as an advanced practice registered nurse — someone who must give strategic direction, deliver solutions and devise plans.

Q: Are you looking forward to the DNP project?

Michael: Every DNP program requires students to complete fieldwork in an area of interest and identify a problem, issue or gap in that area. Following identification, the DNP student works closely with stakeholders, providers and other staff to develop a project design and an evidence-based plan. The last steps are to implement, evaluate and disseminate the results.

The project is a major portion of our last half of the program. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed undertaking an effort like this. Luckily, ASU offers abundant support, and with that, I am excited about this portion of the curriculum.  From my understanding, there are few schools offering this level of resources for DNP students.

I began the initial stages of the DNP project this fall. As of now, I am interested in working closely with the neurocritical care team, observing pediatric traumatic brain injury management. This project is very important, not only to DNP students but to the clinical department and its patient community.

Q: What are your plans once you complete your program?

Michael: Once I graduate and pass my board exam, I would love to work in and be a part of the pediatric intensive care unit, neurocritical care or trauma. I am in the beginning stages of my clinical experience in acute care, so I will continue to keep an open mind on all of the possible opportunities ahead.

ASU Online Student Claudia Becerril poses in her nursing school scrubs. The ASU alumna is enrolled in the CEP, a unique program where she completes her hands-on clinical work at a community college - while at the same time taking baccalaureate-level coursework online at ASU.

ASU alumna returns to college with a new purpose


This is a kicker

The path to finding your true passion looks different for everyone. For Claudia Becerril, it began with an interest in health and a desire to help.

She found a way to combine those two things when she attended Arizona State University the first time, majoring in Global Health and Psychology.

“As part of my program, I studied abroad in Guatemala and became interested in diabetes research and education. Later on, as part of the Honors College Experience, I was privileged to travel to Venice, Italy to present on Health and Quality of Life at the International Society for the Quality of Life Studies,” Becerril said. 

During the course of her undergraduate experience, her enthusiasm for public health work and the overall wellbeing of communities only continued to grow. She interned at the ASU Obesity Solutions Initiative and worked at the ASU America Reads programs.

“In these programs, I learned about the effect that one’s nutrition, physical activity, and socioeconomic status can have on our health, and how both nutrition and academic education can make such a large impact. It was amazing to see the effect someone like me could make on the lives of others,” explained Becerril. 

The Barrett Honors student went on to graduate and start work but quickly realized something was off.

“I wanted to be able to make a bigger difference, and have more participation within a care team. So when I was thinking about this I realized that all of the things I was interested in while doing my undergrad, I can do as a nurse and that’s when it all clicked,” she said.

Back to school

Her aha moment led her to the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation Concurrent Enrollment Program, which was the best fit for her. The program is unique because Becerril will complete her hands-on clinical work at a community college - while at the same time taking baccalaureate-level coursework completely online at ASU to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. 

This isn’t her first experience with ASU Online, but it is her first time taking exclusively online classes for a program.

“I’m familiar with the setup of online courses at ASU, and I really like the support that I’ve been able to receive. The online success coaching program makes a big difference,” she said.

In addition, Becerril says the expectations of each class are clearly shared as are the due dates for all of the assignments right upfront. 

Helping to make her feel even more comfortable, the fact that professors make themselves available to students, even more so she says than in her previous experience taking classes online.

Connecting IRL

But don’t let the online platform’s ease of use fool you. It is still a rigorous curriculum on top of her traditional nursing school courses at the community college. Add to that the fact that Becerril works full-time and is trying to balance the other aspects of her life and it can easily become overwhelming.

“There are days where it does feel like a lot. The one thing that has been very helpful is that there are other students going through the same thing. So remembering that I’m not alone and knowing that I have such an amazing support system with my family has been huge.”

In fact, she says connecting with her classmates in the program has been a great relief. From casually chatting about the various assignments to sharing the feelings they’re all going through, she says it has all made a difference.

Within the program, there’s some empathy as well. Becerril says her professors online are cognizant of the fact that this is not an easy path they’re on.

“They acknowledge nursing school is very challenging and intense and there is a level of understanding that some of us are working as well. So, the constant communication is reassuring because I never have to wonder when something is due or what is expected of me.”

This frees up her time to focus on learning, something Becerril is especially grateful for. 

“I was raised by a single mom, who brought my brother and me here from Mexico. So being able to pursue my dream of attaining an education hasn’t always been easy but it’s something I’m extremely devoted to.”

Ultimately, Becerril says she wants to earn the “credentials and credibility” to provide bedside care along with treatment and education to all different kinds of patients.

Family caregiver research seeks to lighten the load


This is a kicker

Amanda Goodman

An Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia diagnosis impacts more than just the person receiving it. According to data from the Alzheimer’s Association, 16.1 million Americans provide unpaid care for people living with the disease and most of those caregivers are family members.

It’s a role almost all step into without any medical, direct care, or care coordination background — and as a result, they feel ill-prepared. That, coupled with the financial and emotional toll of taking care of a loved one with Alzheimer’s, can lead to incredibly stressful situations.

Efforts to alleviate some of those caregiver stressors through research-based initiatives are well underway at Arizona State University’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation

And thanks in part to the transformative gift from Charlene Edson and her late husband, J. Orin Edson, there is added support to translate emerging evidence-based approaches and investigate new methods focused on improving the quality of life of people with dementia and their family caregivers. 

David Coon, Edson College associate dean of research and director of the new Center for Innovation in Healthy and Resilient Aging, has developed a number of interventions over the years for Alzheimer’s and related dementia patients and their family caregivers.

Later this month he’ll emcee and present at the Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium Public Conference, which seeks to connect patients, caregivers and family members with resources and research.

We spoke with him to get a better understanding of the current state of research around family caregiving, to learn what has been successful and to find out which areas need additional attention.

Question: What does caregiver research encompass, and why is it necessary that we research it? 

, Edson College associate dean of research and director, Center for Innovation in Healthy and Resilient Aging

David Coon

Answer: Caregiver research encompasses the whole journey from the first sign of symptoms, to diagnosis, to care and the end of life. What we’re interested in is developing skill-building interventions for caregivers to manage stress, stay connected with others and handle behavioral problems, which can vary across individuals and the course of the disease. We’re also looking at ways to communicate more effectively all around. Part of that communication element puts emphasis on the early-stage individual, so really discussing and then documenting quality care values in order to hear and honor their wishes.

This research is necessary because depending on what the source, as great as 50% of caregivers are clinically depressed. They can experience anxiety and frustration while at the same time feeling guilty that they still just don’t do enough or do it “right”. 

Additionally, we know that caregiving can be socially isolating, as you focus more and more on assisting, you have less and less time for anything or anyone else.

Research in this area raises the issue of the importance of identifying ways to intervene that can impact key caregiver outcomes. 

Q: Is there a sense of urgency around this work?

A: Yes, age is the biggest risk factor for Alzheimer's and related dementias, and we know that our society is aging. In fact, the Census Bureau is projecting that in 2035 there will be more people over the age of 65 than under the age of 18, a first for this country.

In Arizona, we have the fifth-largest aging population in the United States, and between now and 2025, we are projected to be the state with the greatest increase in the proportion of people living with dementia in America.

These numbers are worth noting because the vast majority of people living with dementia will be cared for at home by a family caregiver who is typically a spouse, adult child, sibling or friend who is considered family. This is why it is critically important that we continue identifying evidenced-based programs to support caregivers, so they can stay healthy.

At the same time, our role as educators at Edson College comes into play as well because we need to continue developing a well-trained workforce interested in engaging with older adults and caregivers. 

Q: What are some of the positive findings from the interventions you’ve developed and studied in the past?

A: Clearly, evidence-based interventions directed at caregivers can work. One of the programs my colleagues and I developed is called CarePRO, Caring Partners Reaching Out, and the Alzheimer’s Association has deployed it across the Southwest with good success. CarePRO is group-based, and it teaches caregivers self-care skills and strategies to reduce their stressors and related distress while enhancing positive coping and emotional well-being. 

Known outcomes include a reduction in stress, depression, other negative mood states, and improved self-efficacy, which can help caregivers manage behavior problems of their loved ones. Plus, the group format helps to reduce social isolation, and caregivers can support one another in the strategies they learn and practice. Caregivers often enter the program overwhelmed with their situations. We repeatedly get positive feedback, and some participants have even said CarePRO “saved my life”. 

Another one of our programs with very promising results from the pilot project is EPIC, which is in the clinical trial phase right now supported by funding from NIH’s National Institute on Aging. This is different from CarePRO because it involves both the early-stage individual and their care partner with a focus on hearing the voice of the person living with the disease. The goal is to map out a care plan for the future, and it combines group sessions, breakouts and individualized sessions for early-stage and care partner dyads. It’s an especially important approach because there are very few evidence-based programs developed specifically to assist early-stage people and their caregivers. 

Q: Are there areas of caregiver research that still need more attention? 

A: There is still much to do in many ways, particularly in terms of more work in the early stages and in the very late stages, including for caregivers who have placed their loved ones in a long-term-care facility and at the end of life to help caregivers cope with grief and bereavement.

Something else worth exploring is the appropriate mix of high-tech and high-touch interventions. When we talk about high-touch, we mean interventions that are in-person and allow for interaction with the individual. High-tech, among other things, can involve assistive devices, smart homes, apps and the like. Trying to find the right blend of these approaches is important so that we can assist versus annoy or disconnect family caregivers from supportive others. Yes, we still have a lot more work to do.

ASU Professor Kelly Cue Davis receives prestigious MERIT Award


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Amanda Goodman

Joining rare company, Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation Associate Professor Kelly Cue Davis has received a Method to Extend Research in Time (MERIT) Award.

Davis is one of just three Arizona State University researchers to earn this prestigious award since 1985. 

The award from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) is for her research grant “Men’s Sexual Risk Behaviors: Alcohol, Sexual Aggression, and Emotional Factors.” 

“I am honored and delighted to have been selected by NIH to receive a MERIT award in support of my research program,” Davis said. “My aim is to advance our understanding of the role of alcohol in sexual risk behaviors by investigating the mechanisms underlying alcohol-involved sexual risk in both consensual and nonconsensual sexual situations. The receipt of this award will enable me to extend this line of research, which I hope will ultimately benefit young men and women’s sexual health and well-being.” 

The MERIT award provides investigators more time to focus on their research by eliminating the associated burdens with competitive grant applications. The competition for NIH-funded R01 equivalent research projects remains high with an ever-increasing number of applications received by NIH each year. 

Researchers cannot apply for a MERIT award. Instead, they are identified during the regular review process of competitive research grant applications.  

David Coon, Edson College associate dean of research, says the aim of the award is to support investigators whose research skills and productivity are "distinctly superior" and who are highly likely to continue to perform in an outstanding manner.

“Dr. Davis’s body of work speaks for itself. She is a phenomenal investigator and we could not be more thrilled that her research is being recognized and supported at such a high level. It’s a fantastic achievement,” Coon said.

According to the NIAAA, in fiscal year 2018, less than 6% of NIAA-funded investigators were selected to receive MERIT Awards, highlighting the rareness of this opportunity. 

ASU Global Sport Institute launches new 'body' of research


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Emma Greguska

Without the human body, sport as we know it would not exist. This year, the Global Sport Institute at Arizona State University has made it its mission to explore that relationship from a variety of angles as diverse as adaptive sport, gender identity and representation, body image, mental health and genetic testing.

At a luncheon on the Tempe campus Aug. 29, Scott Brooks, director of research at the institute, announced the theme of this year as “Sport and the Body.”

Brooks told the crowd he hopes to see the institute expand and collaborate more across disciplines to gain exciting perspectives and fresh insights.

Since its launch in 2017, the Global Sport Institute has also explored the future of sport and sport and race as research themes.

In line with this year’s focus on sport and the body, the institute will be hosting “Sport For Every Body: Celebrating Family Health and Fitness” along with Ability360 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 28, at the Ability360 Sports and Fitness Center at 5031 E. Washington St. in Phoenix.

In recognition of National Family Health and Fitness Day, the free public event will feature tutorials and trials of family-friendly adaptive sports activities — such as Zumba, wheelchair rugby and basketball, and a rock-climbing wall — in addition to talks from professional athletes and information about community resources.

men using wheelchairs while playing rugby

Wheelchair rugby is just one of the activities attendees of “Sport For Every Body: Celebrating Family Health and Fitness” can participate in. The event is co-hosted by ASU's Global Sport Institute and Ability 360. Photo by Ben Moffat/ASU Now

Ability is one of the topics researchers at the Global Sport Institute will be investigating over the next 12 months. At the luncheon in August, Brooks led a panel of researchers in discussing some of the other projects in the works:

Charles Adler, a neurologist at Mayo Clinic, is conducting research on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). He hopes to find a biomarker for the neurodegenerative disease to aid in diagnosis and treatment options. Currently, CTE only be identified postmortem via autopsy.

Robert Turner, assistant professor of neurology in the Department of Clinical Research and Leadership at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Science, is also conducting research related to concussion. Turner is looking at how athletes who have had repeated head trauma age over time, whether there is a link to Alzheimer’s disease, how it affects their sleep and risk and resilience factors.

Siddhartha Angadi, assistant professor at ASU’s College of Health Solutions, is researching how hormone therapy affects the cardiovascular health and performance of transgender athletes. Early findings have shown an increased risk of stroke and heart attack. A documentary about Angadi’s work focusing on the male-to-female transition of Lauren, a runner, is expected to be completed in about a year.

Mary Margaret Fonow, a professor of women and gender studies in ASU’s School of Social Transformation, is researching the labor movement in sport, particularly as it relates to women. She describes sport as a site of both pleasure and pain for women and wants to look at the implications of such issues as pay inequality, sexual assault and homophobia.

Josh Beaumont, a College of Health Solutions graduate student in exercise and nutritional sciences, is currently at work on a three-year research project investigating concussion reporting and the role everyone from teammates to coaches to managers play in that.

Alaina Zanin, an assistant professor at ASU’s Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, is collaborating with Beaumont on the concussion reporting project, focusing on how sports injuries are disclosed and managed in highly bureaucratic organizations. Zanin is also interested in identity as it relates to girls and women in sport, studying the grieving athlete's experience when they can no longer play as a result of injury.

Madelyn Hunter, a College of Health Solutions undergraduate in medical studies, was a student athlete in lacrosse before she tore her ACL and underwent meniscus surgery. Hunter went through the grieving process Zanin is concerned with, feeling the loss of camaraderie and identity that came with her sport. She plans to research best practices for managing the resulting anxiety and depression through diet.

Top photo courtesy Pixabay

Edson College creates new opportunities for students to gain a global perspective


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Amanda Goodman

A trip abroad wasn’t part of the summer plan for Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation students Jasmine Dahdal and Zoe Zimmerman, until it was. 

The pair of senior nursing majors were recruited to apply for the Sichuan University Immersion Program by Edson College Clinical Assistant Professor and Global Health Collaboratory Assistant Director Aliria Muñoz Rascón  

“Thanks to recent connections and trips to China by Edson College senior leadership, we were told about this great opportunity and were especially interested in letting our students know about it and supporting them through the process of applying and participating,” Muñoz Rascón said. 

The two-week-long program sent Dahdal and Zimmerman more than 7,000 miles from Arizona to Chengdu, China, for a unique and in-depth experience. 

“Sichuan University brings students from all over the world to get immersed in their culture, in their ways of life and the major they're a part of. We were a part of the nursing group so we learned how they practice through visits to their hospitals and conversations with nurses and educators,” Dahdal said.

Beyond the hospital walls, the students were able to explore and observe Chinese culture and customs up close. Both of them took advantage of the free time in their schedule to visit the sights and soak up all that Chengdu has to offer. 

Jasmine Dahdal poses in Chengdu, China

Jasmine Dahdal sightseeing in Chengdu, China, over the summer. Photo courtesy of Jasmine Dahdal.

Still, it was the time spent in the hospital and with their future nurse peers that stuck out as the highlight of the trip for both women. 

“I liked seeing how different it was. We went to several different units and it was fascinating. Even just looking at the equipment — overall it’s similar to what we have here but it was cool to see the differences and similarities,” Zimmerman said. 

Dahdal said what came into focus for her was the singular thread that connects all nurses, no matter the difference in practice, language or even technology. 

“Seeing the nurses there and how caring they are toward their patients, it’s, in general, the same here, the way that the nurses see their patients, the way they treat their patients, the way they love their job and the way they put so much effort into taking care of each person,” she said. 

Those takeaways are just the most recent examples of why Edson College is diligently working to expand its footprint abroad. In fact, the college created a new unit called the Global Health Collaboratory earlier this year to develop global collegiate partnerships, expand certificate programs to nontraditional students and grow international student and faculty exchange opportunities.

Not only does international exposure open students’ eyes in the short term, it lays the groundwork for their future practice as they draw on these experiences to inform their day-to-day interactions in the health care industry.  

Edson College

Clinical Assistant Professor Aliria Muñoz Rascón

“I think it’s important to provide our students with opportunities to see the world of health care through a different lens. It broadens their perspectives on what it means to be a nurse or health care provider and can help improve their cultural humility and cultural competence. But even beyond the health aspect, these experiences also help students learn about themselves. It forces them to sometimes take a step back and realize their worldview isn’t the only one and may not translate in different environments,” Muñoz Rascón said. 

So the Global Health Collaboratory has been pursuing ways to ensure that even more students have the chance to interact and learn from cultures beyond their own. 

The next step for the college is to connect with undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in international health at an event later this month. The Edson Global Citizens Interest Group will meet from 6 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26 in Health North Room 110. 

On the agenda is an explanation of the various global opportunities and partnerships the college already has, plus a look ahead to some of the exciting things in development. 

Also, attendees can expect an honest dialogue about some of the current challenges that limit a student’s ability to participate in global programs.

“We recognize that some of these current international offerings like study abroad are not always feasible for every student; the cost can be a big barrier. Our aim is to be creative in coming up with opportunities so we can meet a lot of different needs for all students in Edson College,” Muñoz Rascón said. 

This trip was a gamechanger for both Dahdal and Zimmerman and what helped make it a reality was the fact that the cost was covered. So they’re on board with the college’s goal to make the type of experience afforded to them a reality for future students.

“The more cultural experiences you have, the better, because you never know who you are going to come across in the hospital or wherever you're practicing. People live different lives and think differently than you — so that exposure helps you treat them better,” Dahdal said.

“They teach us that you need to be culturally competent as a nurse, but it's hard to be culturally competent to your full potential unless you’ve actually experienced other people’s cultures. I mean, we can sit through lectures but learning and reading about something in a textbook is so different than seeing it and actually experiencing it,” Zimmerman said. 

RSVP for the Edson Global Citizens Interest Group meetingRefreshments will be provided.

Entrepreneurs prep for sustainable food businesses at ASU


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Emma Greguska

What the food industry needs now is more players in a circular food economy — one that improves rather than degrades the environment.

ASU School of Sustainability Professor Arnim Wiek proclaimed this to a rapt group of about 20 on a recent Wednesday night at the HEALab entrepreneurial space on the Downtown Phoenix campus where they had gathered to participate in Prepped, a free, early-stage food business accelerator program designed for ventures owned by women and underrepresented minorities.

Founded in 2016 as a collaborative effort between Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation and the College of Health Solutions, Prepped welcomed a new partner into the mix this semester with the addition of the School of Sustainability.

The school’s inclusion in the program felt like a natural move, said Ji Mi Choi, associate vice president of Knowledge Enterprise Development at Arizona State University.

“Entrepreneurship and Innovation is always looking for ways to uphold ASU’s design aspirations,” she said. “Prepped already does a good job of valuing entrepreneurship, leveraging our place and being socially embedded. And since sustainability is such a key throughput in all things we do in the university, it just made sense that it should become a core aspect of Prepped.”

The program is geared toward owners of emerging food businesses that are beyond the idea stage, in revenue and seeking the tools to scale. Now, in addition to the already established curriculum that includes food costing and financial literacy, small business marketing and communication strategies, and permits and licensing, participants of Prepped are learning green business operations so that sustainability is built into their company from the start.

Prepped holds weekly classes each fall and spring, allows for interactive peer learning and provides financial support and one-on-one mentorship with industry experts.

During a recent class taught by Wiek, who contributed largely to the development of the new sustainability-centric curriculum, participants learned about food sourcing — local, seasonal, organic and fair trade.

“We’re trying to teach food economy, not just food enterprise,” said Wiek, who also serves as director of the Sustainable Food Economy Lab. “We want Prepped to be an accelerator of the sustainable food economy, which is slowly emerging across the state.”

That evening, he and guest lecturer Kristen Osgood, program manager for the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Service, shared a variety of helpful tools with participants, including a seasonal availability guide and a sourcing template that can be used to identify green, local sources for ingredients.

The benefit of green, local sourcing is a factor some participants already know well. Hedda Fay, co-owner of Masa’s, a Prescott, Arizona, purveyor of homemade baked goods, attested that not only do some farmers markets require vendors’ products to contain a certain percentage of Arizona ingredients, but “if your packaging is plastic, don’t even bother showing up.”

She doesn’t mind abiding by those standards, though.

“For me, that’s important,” Fay said. “When you can tell a customer, ‘This is from (a local farm),’ or, ‘This is pesticide-free,’ it makes a difference.”

According to Osgood, Fay’s claim isn’t just anecdotal.

“Purpose-driven companies that align their business practices with their values often outperform ones that don’t,” she said. “People are tired of companies that are trashing the planet. They want to buy from companies that share their values.”

Since participating in Prepped last spring, Irene Arellano of Cantaguas has taken that to heart. (Though the School of Sustainability only became an official partner this semester, Wiek and other Prepped instructors began testing out the new sustainability curriculum on Arellano’s cohort.)

Cantaguas offers the traditional Mexican beverages known as aguas frescas, which blend water, fruits and vegetables. Before Prepped, Arellano and co-owner Elva Covarrubias mostly bought their ingredients at grocery stores and didn’t re-use their waste. Today, they source as much as possible from local growers, compost their waste and are in the process of switching to compostable materials for their packaging.

And they’ve seen business improve: They went from selling at one farmers market to selling at several, and have even expanded to catering events, with a couple of weddings already under their belt. What’s more, a couple of food truck vendors they became acquainted with through Prepped now carry their products.

“The sustainability lessons were a big eye-opener, because I don’t think we realized what we can actually do,” Arellano said. “We can compost all the fruits and veggies in our own garden, or other companies can do that for us. And we’re so much more aware of our community and what we can do to help one another.”

Later this month, Arellano and several ASU experts will be participating in Owning It, a traveling two-day intensive workshop for women with up-and-coming food businesses. Owning It is an extension of the James Beard Foundation’s Impact Programs, which aim to establish a more sustainable food system through education, advocacy and thought leadership.

This year, Phoenix was chosen as one of three locations to host the workshop due in large part to the work of such program participants as local chefs Sasha Raj of 24 Carrots and Danielle Leoni of The Breadfruit and Rum Bar — both of whom have served as mentors for Prepped.

While a curriculum is set and James Beard Foundation coordinates, they rely heavily on the locale's chefs to recommend other women to lead the daily courses and corresponding pitch competition.

This year, Venture Devils mentor Stephanie Sims, Entrepreneurship and Innovation’s director of community entrepreneurship Alicia Marseille, Prepped program coordinator Natalie Morris and Prepped mentor and owner of Phoenix coffee shop Fair Trade Café Stephanie Vasquez will all be playing a role in the event, bringing their varying expertise to the business owners in attendance.

The annual Prepped Showcase celebrating the accomplishments of the program’s fifth and sixth cohorts will take place Friday, Oct. 18, at the A. E. England Building on the Downtown Phoenix campus. The free event runs from 5 to 8 p.m.

Current Prepped participants Cesar and Erika Rodriguez, the husband-and-wife team behind Taqueria El Sol, are looking forward to serving up their eponymous El Sol tacos at next year’s showcase. For them, owning their own food truck business is the realization of a 10-year-long dream. They say sustainability is something they wanted to incorporate into their business “since Day 1.”

“Now that we’re here and we have these resources,” Cesar said, “we can guide our business in that direction even more.”

Infographic on stats of the Prepped food entrepreneurship program at ASU

Top photo: Prepped participant Erika Rodriquez (left) of Glendale food truck business Taqueria El Sol serves up some carne asada during class on Sept. 11. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Diversifying healthy aging


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Emma Greguska

Roughly 5.8 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease, and by 2050, that number is expected to increase to roughly 14 million. Over that time, the population with the largest projected increase in instances of the disease are Hispanic Americans, underscoring the need to address taboos and misconceptions and spread knowledge and resources within that community.

Last week, the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute and Arizona State University’s recently established Center for Innovation in Healthy and Resilient Aging partnered to host the first-ever Hispanics and Alzheimer’s Disease Conference at the Banner Estrella Medical Center in Phoenix.

headshot of ASU Professor

David Coon

“While the Center for Innovation in Healthy and Resilient Aging is not focused solely on Alzheimer’s disease, it is dedicated to improving the quality of life of older adults through education, prevention, care and research,” said David Coon, director of the center, which is housed in ASU’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation. “We’re happy and excited to partner with Banner to reach out to the Hispanic community, who have been underserved in this area.”

Aside from increasing awareness, the other main goal of the conference was to educate the community about the importance of participating in clinical trials.

“At Banner, we have noticed there is a dire need to diversify our clinical trials,” said Daniel Viramontes Apodaca, clinical research coordinator with the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute. “So this initiative is part of our year of diversity, where we’re putting an emphasis on diversity in Alzheimer’s awareness.”

At the conference, Alzheimer's experts from Banner Health, ASU and the greater Phoenix area led simultaneous panels and discussions in both Spanish and English for a crowd of about 120 community members, many of whom were caregivers themselves.

Edward Quinones, a 72-year-old Vietnam veteran, attended the conference Friday at the behest of his daughter, in hopes of learning more about caregiving resources and clinical trials. Quinones’ wife has been diagnosed with dementia, and he is in the process of being diagnosed himself.

“I don’t think there’s enough talk about it (in the Hispanic community),” Quinones said. “My understanding was always that it was just a part of getting older, just a part of life.”

That was one of many misconceptions addressed in a panel discussion titled “Fact or Fiction: The Truth about Alzheimer’s Disease,” led in Spanish by Claudia Fernandez of Hospice of the Valley and in English by Heather Mulder, outreach program senior manager at Banner Alzheimer’s Institute.

Other myths busted by the panel:

  • Forgetting what you ate for lunch is a normal part of aging: This is false because normal aging results in lapses in long-term memory while Alzheimer’s damages the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for short-term memory.
  • Men are affected more by Alzheimer’s: This is false because roughly two-thirds of women are affected by the disease while only about one-third of men are. The assumption used to be that this was because women lived longer, but recent findings indicate it may have something to do with how hormonal changes women experience during menopause affect their brains.
  • Supplements help boost memory: This is false because supplements are not regulated by the FDA in the same way pharmaceutical drugs are, so there is no hard research to prove they boost memory. One of the best ways to boost memory is through mental exercise, such as games and hobbies, but the best mental exercise is to learn something new.

The discussion also covered the 10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s, risk factors, lifestyle factors and hope for the future.

Risk factors are something people have no control over, such as genetics and age, with age being the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s. At the age of 65, chances of developing the disease are about 1 in 8. Those chances double every five years, reaching nearly 50-50 by the age of 85. By the age of 95, however, the risk begins to drop off.

Lifestyle factors are something we do have control over, such as diet and health. Hispanics have a much higher rate — about two times higher — of developing Alzheimer’s than other populations because of higher incidences of diseases that affect the heart among the community. The good news is that following a healthy lifestyle plan to avoid such diseases drops the risk for Alzheimer’s considerably.

While about 80% of clinical trials are delayed or fail because of a lack of participants, much of the hope for the future lies in what doctors and scientists have been able to discover through that kind of research, highlighting the great need in that area.

“Your life does not end because you’ve been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s,” said Berta Carbajal, a research specialist at the Edson College and co-founder of the Promotores HOPE (Helping Other Promotores Excel) Network who led a discussion about caregiver concerns. “But culturally, it’s like we shut off, we go into denial. That’s why we want to be able to open up these doors of communication and talk about those fears and educate people about the resources and research opportunities available to them.”

Top photo: Attendees at the Banner Alzheimer's Insititute Hispanics and Alzheimer’s Disease Conference on Friday hold up paddles to indicate whether they think a statement about Alzheimer's disease is fact or fiction. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

MHI Alumna Jaclyn Pederson

Learning to embrace failure helped MHI alumna succeed


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It’s the f word so many of us are afraid offailure. That used to be the case for Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation alumna Jaclyn Pederson as well until she discovered not only is it okay to fail, it’s also inevitable. 

The 2012 Master of Healthcare Innovation graduate is currently the senior director of programs and strategic initiatives at the nonprofit Feeding Matters in Phoenix, Arizona where she advocates on behalf of families who have children with feeding disorders.

“We’re working to create a world in which children with pediatric feeding disorders thrive,” Pederson said. “I oversee the system changes that we are working to create in regards to improved education, improved advocacy efforts and research for this disorder.” 

In her role, Pederson relies heavily on the skills and knowledge she gained through her coursework and experience in the MHI program. Some of those tools include mind mapping, looking at things from a systems standpoint and discovering different ways to approach problems in order to make changes. 

But perhaps the most significant takeaway was a shift in her perspective about failure. She learned to not only become comfortable with it but also recognize failures for what they actually are, opportunities to grow.           

“There isn’t really a model to follow to change the system for pediatric feeding disorder and because of that we’re inventing new things all the time and we need to make sure it’s really making an impact. For us that means constant evaluation, that’s consistent feedback loops and that’s recognizing if something doesn’t work that we need to take a step back and move forward in a different direction. Sometimes nonprofits, especially, can be very nervous about that but because of my background in MHI, failure is okay. It just means we have more work to do.”

That awareness has helped Pederson be bold. Whether it’s leading workgroups to influence significant change to create a more equitable system for children with PFD or forging new strategic partnerships with professional organizations to help raise the profile of the disorder. She’s now at a place where the ‘f’ word she associates with the most is fearlessness.

ASU mourns the loss of J. Orin Edson, philanthropist and entrepreneur


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Michelle Stermole

J. Orin Edson built his first boat when he was just a kid boating around Lake Washington.

After a stint in the Army during the Korean War, Edson pursued his boating interest in his garage and started a small company that he eventually built up into Bayliner Marine Corp. Four decades later, he sold the largest manufacturer of luxury boats.

Edson died Aug. 27 at the age of 87, but his name and legacy live on at Arizona State University.

Edson — who developed a luxury boat company on his desire, talent and keen entrepreneurial sense — made a gift to ASU to help future generations of students do the same thing. In 2005, Edson gave ASU $5.4 million to create the Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative.

The gift formed an endowment that gives ASU students the opportunity to pursue their creative and business goals by providing seed money to help them along in their entrepreneurial quests. The awards are for any type of business — ranging from high-tech for-profit startups to nonprofit public-sector ventures. The endowed initiative was designed to spur innovative thought and entrepreneurial spirit in ASU students by providing them the means to pursue their business ideas.

“Orin Edson represented the quintessential entrepreneur, a man who applied his talent, creativity and intellectual curiosity to his life’s passion and became a leader in every sense of the word,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “Orin embraced the challenges and fulfillment in entrepreneurship and philanthropy and through his gifts — both tangible and intangible — empowered ASU students and researchers to bring their game-changing visions to life. Sybil and I will miss his friendship.”

The Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative set the standard for entrepreneurial programs nationwide by providing students with the knowledge, skills and real-world experiences for entrepreneurial marketplace success.

The gift geared toward entrepreneurship was just the beginning of his generosity to ASU. Edson and his wife, Charlene, made a $50 million gift that was announced in March and split evenly among two programs with a focus on health care. The gift renamed the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation and established The Grace Center for Innovation in Nursing Education (named for Charlene’s mother, who was a nurse) to enhance education and training for nurses and caregivers. The other half of the gift benefited the Biodesign Institute for research on causes and cures of dementia, as well as tools to manage the disease. 

Sybil Francis, president and CEO of the Center for the Future of Arizona and standing co-chair and co-founder of the ASU Foundation's Women & Philanthropy, worked closely with the Edsons. She and husband Crow have known the Edsons for more than 15 years.

“Orin was a wonderful friend to me and to Michael, and we will miss him very much,” Francis said. “We were honored by the trust and confidence he placed in us and by his belief in the mission and impact of Arizona State University. Along with his wife, Charlene, his inspired and generous gift to ASU is transforming the university’s impact in carrying out its commitment to caring for the communities it serves.”

The research and education made possible by the Edsons' gifts to ASU will help others for generations to come.

“The generosity of Orin Edson not only helped students pursue their dreams, but also advanced ASU by providing real-world experiences to our students,” said ASU Foundation CEO Gretchen Buhlig. “Orin’s contributions to our university were indispensable and will be remembered for years to come. In all, the Edsons have donated more than $65 million to ASU.”

Edson is survived by his wife and two sons.

ASU professors share their advice for your best school year yet


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Deanna Dent

ASU faculty members are pretty smart — and we don't just mean being experts on carbon capture, space exploration or Shakespeare and race.

Here, they share their advice for students on making the most of the new school year. Students, feel free to take notes — this may or may not be on the final.

Video by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

• Need to find your professor? Search ASU's iSearch directory

Top image: Clinical Associate Professor Dawn Augusta of ASU's Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

Generosity to ASU climbs to new heights in 2019


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Michelle Stermole

Sun Devil supporters bolstered scholarships, medical advancements, professorships and research opportunities as part of a banner fundraising year for the ASU Foundation.

Nikki Hinshaw is one of more than 7,400 students who benefited from private scholarship support through the foundation to advance her learning opportunities. She received the Craig and Barbara Barrett Political Science Scholarship, which enabled her to study abroad and complete an internship in Washington, D.C., as she works toward dual degrees in political science and communication.

Without scholarships, she would not have been able to engage in these learning experiences that require additional expenses including travel and lodging, she told ASU Now in February.

“I hope that (with the experiences), I’m able to make a bigger impact on my community and give back to others someday as well,” Hinshaw said.

This spirit of generosity from donors is what enabled the ASU Foundation to set a fundraising record for the fifth consecutive year. More than 101,500 individuals, corporations and foundations donated $413.7 million in fiscal year 2019, a 65% increase from fiscal year 2018. Of those, 25,520 were new donors.

“Our donors’ generosity provides life-changing experiences for our students and allows ASU to realize its aspirations as a world-class research university,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “ASU would not be the university it is today without the support of those who believe in the power of education to transform lives and our society and commit their resources to make that happen.”

While many students received scholarships, many even donated to scholarships to aid other students.

A group of 42 donors, half of which are current students, worked together to establish the newly endowed James Madison Scholarship that will aid a second- or third-year full-time law student in the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law who is also a member of the Federalist Society. In addition to creating new scholarships for law students, the scholarship encouraged 36 first-time donors to give to ASU students.

“We are tremendously grateful for the support given to us this fiscal year, money donated to support ASU’s vision for what higher education can and should be,” ASU Foundation CEO Gretchen Buhlig said. “Every gift is important, whether it’s $10, $100 or thousands of dollars. It all makes a tremendous impact on our students, faculty and the community.” 

Private support funded a variety of initiatives and programs that will transform the university and community. 

Community-based businesses that benefited from private support include food truck and catering small businesses owned by women and underrepresented groups. They have access to Prepped, a free early-stage food business incubator, through a collaboration with Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation and support from the College of Health Solutions. An anonymous donor invested in this opportunity to ensure the incubator had the staff and funding needed to help businesses. 

Students in the School of Earth and Space Exploration were able to send their payloads — including live bees — into space thanks to donors Cathy and Peter Swan. The students involved with this project traveled to west Texas in May to watch the launch and used remote acoustic sensing technology to record the bees’ vibrations, pressures and orientation in space. 

“When we launched Campaign ASU 2020 we had six core objectives — several of which focused on students — and we’ve had tremendous success in that area,” Buhlig said. “In the last year it has been really exciting to see a dramatic increase in gifts to support our faculty who are core to this institution.” 

Faculty not only benefited from private support, but also contributed to a culture of philanthropy. Nearly 2,700 faculty and staff members donated to Campaign ASU 2020 last fiscal year.


Video by Joel Farias

Three transformational gifts received in the past year are intended to revolutionize medical discoveries, expand dementia research, further nursing education to offset the nursing shortage and revitalize Maryvale and other Arizona communities.

Leo and Annette Beus donated $10 million toward the Beus Compact X-ray Free Electron Laser (CXFEL) Lab at ASU’s Biodesign Institute. The lab will house a CXFEL laser, which is a first-of-its-kind X-ray technology. Worldwide, there are only five X-ray Free Electron Lasers, and researchers often have to wait as much as a year to use them. ASU’s compact version may provide accessibility that can lead to faster research and discovery for medicine, renewable energy and the computer industry.  

Charlene and J. Orin Edson donated $50 million to be split between the ASU Biodesign Institute and the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation. The money is earmarked for the university’s multidisciplinary dementia research and to increase nursing education. 

Mike and Cindy Watts donated $30 million to advance the prosperity of Arizona communities such as Maryvale, where the Wattses grew up. Through a collaboration between community leaders and the university, the gift will enable embedded community services, strengthen entrepreneurial efforts and increase community engagement through the renamed Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

“Private support is critically important to Arizona State University because it enables solutions to problems that can transform lives and improve communities,” Buhlig said. “Private support enables opportunities for growth, innovation and excellence for our students and faculty.” 

Campaign ASU 2020 was publicly launched in January 2016 to raise the long-term fundraising capacity of the university and focuses on six priorities including student access and excellence; student success; the academic enterprise; discovery, creativity and innovation; enriching our communities; and Sun Devil competitiveness. The fundraising campaign is in its final year.

Learn more about supporting ASU.

Top photo: ASU Foundation staff express their gratitude on Sun Devil Giving Day — a day for ASU community members to designate what university areas they want their donations to support. 

ASU professor's solar-powered library is transforming global education


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Mary Beth Faller

In just five years, an Arizona State University student engineering project has grown into a global humanitarian mission that is now poised to transform the way health care is delivered.

SolarSPELL began when Laura Hosman, an associate professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society, challenged her engineering students to create a solar-powered library that would fit into a backpack. Now the initiative has distributed hundreds of digital libraries filled with educational resources to communities in nine countries that have limited or no internet connectivity.

“Over half the world’s population has never connected to the internet and has no internet access,” said Hosman, the co-founder and director of SolarSPELL, which stands for solar powered educational learning library.

And when there is internet, it’s not like in Western countries.

“They don’t have unlimited access. It’s slow, it’s on their phone and they pay for it by the byte.”

In those places, people don’t waste their few precious moments of connectivity on surfing the web.

“They use it for communication with loved ones,” said Hosman, who also is an associate professor in The Polytechnic School in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and a senior sustainability scientist in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability.

So they don’t even realize all of the educational opportunity that’s available online.

Laura Hosman giving a demo of the SolarSPELL library to Mayen M. Achiek, associate professor of surgery at the University of Juba. Photo by Hakim Monykuer Awuok

The genius of SolarSPELL is the incredibly simple and inexpensive design — the parts cost less than $200. It works this way: Each weatherproof, portable case, which fits into a backpack, includes a small solar panel and a voltage regulator that plugs into a battery that powers a Raspberry Pi microcomputer. A micro digital memory card plugs into the microcomputer. The card contains all of the digital library content and some code that allows it to be accessed by any type of browser. The device creates a Wi-Fi hot spot, so no electricity or internet connection is needed. Students then connect any Wi-Fi capable device, such as smartphones, tablets or laptops, to access and download the content. Some of the SolarSPELL devices include the tablets too.

The true value of SolarSPELL is the carefully curated content. Each memory card holds reading and math tutorials, science projects, health information or English lessons that are chosen specifically for each location. The content can be provided by the local community, drawn from open-source text and videos that are available for free on the internet or taken from textbooks that are used with permission.

When it started, the SolarSPELL devices distributed mostly primary and secondary school lessons, but then the program expanded to include other kinds of education.

• In the spring, Education for Humanity, an ASU initiative that provides higher education to refugee communities, started using SolarSPELL to deliver an agribusiness course to people in Uganda.

• In June, Tonto Creek Camp near Payson became SolarSPELL’s first Arizona implementation site with the official pilot launch of the AZ Natural Resources library. The young campers used their smartphones to access educational modules and outdoor STEM-related activities at the camp, which has limited internet access. Plans are underway for more SolarSPELL projects in remote areas of Arizona.

• Earlier this month, the SolarSPELL team traveled to South Sudan to open a new teacher-training center in Juba, the largest city, and also to discuss how to distribute health care information via the devices.

Heather Ross, a clinical assistant professor in the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, was on the team that went to South Sudan, a country that was created in 2011 and has struggled with poverty and violence. Because the country has so few resources, there is no culture of practicing evidence-based medical care, she said. While medical guidelines exist, there is no way to distribute them to practitioners in the field, said Ross, who also is affiliated with the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and the Global Security Initiative.

“But South Sudan is the newest country in the world, so there is not a longstanding culture of ‘this is the way we always do things.’ There’s willingness to change,” she said.

“And they saw that SolarSPELL is a solution to getting the guidelines out to the field and getting the people in the field trained. So our project in the next 12 months is building that medical library.”

Making the content relevant to the local community is crucial. For example, medical guidelines say that for a slow heartbeat, a pacemaker should be implanted.

“But there is no way to get a pacemaker in South Sudan,” Ross said, so the content must reflect that.

ASU undergraduates and doctor of nursing practice students will be researching the best way to compile a medical library, finding the actual medical content and creating modules instructing people how to find and use the content.

Last year, teams of ASU nursing students visited the small Pacific island nation of Vanuatu to deliver specially curated health content to remote villages. One student realized that people there don’t have access to high blood pressure medicine, Ross said. So the student created a video describing why it’s important to watch salt intake and to exercise and quit smoking. She measured the community members’ blood pressure and found that it decreased four weeks after watching her video.

That’s why working directly in the field is a key component to SolarSPELL. Because the security situation in South Sudan is fragile, students did not accompany the SolarSPELL team earlier this month, but students have gone to other sites, including Tonga and Rwanda.

The SolarSPELL model is “train the trainers.” At each location, the SolarSPELL team trains teachers to teach with the libraries. Feedback and revision are important parts of the process, and during the recent trip to South Sudan, where the first devices were delivered a year ago in a pilot program, the teachers asked for updated textbooks and modules to help them navigate the content, according to Bruce Baikie, the co-founder and technical lead of SolarSPELL and adjunct faculty in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society.

The initiative is finding support.

“There was a surprise announcement during the Juba ceremony that the U.S. Embassy in South Sudan will pay for SolarSPELL to go into four schools,” Baikie said. That funding will cover the cost of the devices, teacher training, follow-up support and evaluation.

SolarSPELL also works closely with Peace Corps volunteers, who are already embedded into local communities. In August, the SolarSPELL team will take ASU students to Fiji, where they’ll roll out lessons on climate change to Peace Corps volunteers who work in remote areas, he said.The Fiji project came at the request of the Peace Corps director there, Hosman said.

“He told me that all the volunteers are teaching about nutrition and healthy living, but what they really need is information about climate change because half the people are living in villages that are already affected and the volunteers don’t know what to tell them,” she said.

“They needed content that was actionable and local to Fiji, and that’s exactly what we’re all about.”

As SolarSPELL expands, it needs more students. This summer, six interns are working full time on creating and curating content. This fall, engineering students will work on revising the portable case because the size of the tablets has changed. The program also is a good fit for students who are looking for applied projects or capstones, Hosman said. Every semester, there's a one-day session at the Polytechnic campus for volunteers to build the devices. And, of course, working in the field is invaluable.

“Going into the field, they not only see their classroom work come to fruition, but it also changes their lives in what they thought they could accomplish,” Hosman said.

“If they can already make a positive change in the world while they’re students, imagine what they can do with the rest of their lives.”

Top image: A student at Gabat Primary School in Juba, South Sudan, connects to the SolarSPELL library. Photo by Laura Hosman

And they called it puppy love


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Katherine Reedy

Editor's note: July 3 marked the start of "the dog days of summer," the most sweltering days of the year. (For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, anyway.) To help you make it through, ASU Now is talking to experts from around the university about everything dog, from stars to language to man's best friend. Look for new stories every week through Aug. 9.

The first person to suggest that dogs could be more than just “man’s best friend” was psychologist Boris Levinson, who in the 1960s introduced the concept of animals for use in therapy.

His discovery came when he observed the calming effects that his dog Jingles had on a young patient who was struggling through a therapy session. When Jingles entered the room, the child relaxed, became more willing to participate and their communication improved.

Through that experience Levinson came to understand what any dog owner intuitively knows — that a dog’s presence has power.

And while his idea of animals serving a therapeutic purpose was initially met with resistance, today it isn’t surprising to see a professional pup accompanying a colleague at the office or sitting with a nervous passenger on a plane.

Even ASU faculty and staff have gotten on board with the idea.

Nika Gueci, executive director for university engagement at the Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience, and Craig Thatcher, senior associate dean and professor in the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, have introduced dogs to their workplace through an annual event during either fall or spring semesters called “Puppies in the Park.” And while the puppers involved aren’t officially therapy dogs, they still have plenty to offer participants.

ASU Now spoke with Gueci and Thatcher to learn more about Puppies in the Park and to discuss the myriad ways dogs enhance our lives.

Question: How is the Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience working with dogs?

Craig Thatcher

Thatcher: In 2017, the Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience launched an annual program called “Puppies in the Park,” in partnership with the Arizona Humane Society (AHS). The AHS brings adoptable puppies to the park in downtown Phoenix to interact with students, faculty and staff. 

Gueci: This event is definitely a favorite of the students and ours.

As a team full of animal lovers, we share a great passion about the mutual benefits of the human-animal connection. We want to share the joyous connection and mindful state each of us have felt around our animal friends.

Students come up on their way to and from classes and see puppies they can hold and play with, and they light up. Many seem to arrive stressed but they all leave smiling and excited. Some teachers even bring their whole class down for a few minutes of shared happiness!

Q: Why are we so attached to our dogs?


Nika Gueci

Gueci: The human-dog connection is a mutually beneficial one. Our symbiotic relationship goes back hundreds of years, when dogs adapted to become domesticated and we adapted to living side by side with them.

Dogs tend to be very loyal and loving animals. Interactions with pets increase the release of neurochemicals that assist in relaxation and feelings of joy, empathy and compassion.

Thatcher: Dogs can sense emotions and differentiate between good and bad ones. Spending time with a dog can reduce stress and combat loneliness, and also decrease depression and anxiety. They increase our sense of self-esteem and well-being and provide unconditional love. They express empathy and can calm people down when they are feeling agitated.

Q: What happens to our bodies when we are around a friendly dog?

Thatcher: Spending time with dogs lowers blood pressure, relaxes muscle tension, reduces stress hormones such as cortisol and improves mood and happiness by changing brain chemistry. 

Living with a dog can improve cardiovascular health and increase physical activity, which can lower cholesterol and impact obesity. Walking a dog can motivate you to go to parks, beaches, woods and other green spaces. Experiencing nature can provide positive impacts to health.

Q: What are the mental and emotional benefits of spending time with dogs?

Gueci: Some mental health conditions and their symptoms can be alleviated with support from an animal companion. Studies have shown that dogs decrease levels of depression, loneliness, stress and anxiety. More so, people viewing themselves as isolated or (who) feel they have been frequently stigmatized desire and appreciate the nonjudgmental connection and acceptance they receive from their pets.

These benefits are perceived to be because dogs are capable, even more so than any of our closer relatives in the animal kingdom, of interpreting human behavior and emotion, and are able to communicate with us in a variety of ways.

Thatcher: A psychological benefit of interacting with a dog is the opportunity it provides to be more mindful and to focus on the present moment, since dogs have a natural capacity to open up to each moment as it unfolds.

Videos courtesy of Jamie Ell


Let's get Sirius: Dog days of summer begin with star alignment

What we really get from loving dogs, a psychologist explains

Linguistics experts know what's up, dog

Edson College partners with Thunderbird to boost innovation leadership skills for health care executives


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Amanda Goodman

Building on years of successful executive education for health care professionals, the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation is adding a new global education partner for the Executive Fellowship in Innovation Health Leadership (EFIHL) — Thunderbird School of Global Management.  

“Health care is a global issue, so partnering with Thunderbird and leveraging its footprint is very exciting for us,” said Rick Hall, senior director of health innovation for Edson College. “The fellowship participants will benefit from Thunderbird content, and the recruiting of international participants will mutually benefit the health care executives from every sector.”

The fellowship recruits health care executives from around the world to take part in a one-year cohort that includes three-day immersive experiences in four cities around the United States. Throughout the year, participants work to build a tool kit empowering them to create innovative environments within their home organizations.

Industry partners for the program include two leading health care leadership membership organizations, the American Organization of Nurse Leaders and the American Association for Physician Leadership. The addition of the Thunderbird School of Global Management enhances the fellowship curriculum by adding courses developed by world-class management faculty and leveraging the global footprint of the school to attract health care leaders from many parts of the world.

“Few industries have higher stakes for getting innovation right,” said Tom Hunsaker, associate dean of innovation for Thunderbird School of Global Management. “This partnership between Edson and Thunderbird places these health care executives at the forefront of leading-edge innovation models and practices — globally.”

Adding to the content modules delivered in cohort immersions, participants will take courses in systems thinking and advanced concepts of innovation from Edson’s Master of Healthcare Innovation as well as disruptive innovation and leadership courses developed from Thunderbird’s Master of Global Management.

An interdisciplinary initiative, the fellowship attracts chief nursing officers, physicians, clinical psychologists and nonclinician business leaders from hospital systems, nonprofit organizations and higher education institutions.

This year the fellows will be traveling to Boston, Phoenix, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., for the immersive experiences. Some of the sites visited in previous fellowship years have included Google Headquarters, Cambridge Innovation Center, IDEO, Blue Cross Blue Shield Innovation Center, MIT’s Media Lab, Garfield Innovation Center and the Translational Genomics Research Institute.

Although space is limited, there are still spots available for the fall cohort, which begins in October. 

Nurse and ASU graduate student taps university resources to launch health care idea


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Amanda Goodman

Ramona Ramadas is on a roll. In the last year, the Arizona State University Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation graduate student has participated in several pitch competitions, winning more than $60,000 to help bring her health care startup to life.

Her business idea focuses on serving individuals who struggle to get the personalized care they desperately need due to homelessness, incarceration, addiction or lack of insurance.  

To address this widespread problem, Ramadas created New Trails Navigators, which connects at-risk folks with peer health navigators who are uniquely qualified to guide them toward sustainable health and wellness.   

“Our peers understand these problems because they've overcome the same issues. They can establish rapport with struggling patients, identify a more whole-person set of needs, and provide support when and where the patient needs it most,” Ramadas said.

With a background in nursing and software development, Ramadas said she has never been short on ideas for tackling some of the more frustrating aspects of health care. But she was lacking something else.

“I didn’t really have a great framework for bringing my ideas to life. So when I was looking for programs to take my career to the next level, I chose the Master of Healthcare Innovation program because it provided that structure. I love the seven pillars of innovation, and I felt like it was a natural fit for me.”

Another perk is that the Master of Healthcare Innovation program is online, and Ramadas lives in Washington.

Once in the program, she was encouraged to pursue some of the concepts she was coming up with by Rick Hall, senior director of Health Innovation Programs in the Edson College.

“ASU has long supported all students with entrepreneurial aspirations,” Hall said. “While some online students might assume it’s difficult to tap into ASU’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation support remotely, Ramona embraced every opportunity to seek funding and mentorship through the HEALab, Venture Devils and more. Despite living outside of Arizona, Ramona has engaged every resource available for her venture, and she’s recognizing success because of it.”

That success started when Ramadas entered her first funding competition, which was the Alliance for the American Dream, an initiative of Schmidt Futures.

Ramadas was one of a handful of finalists selected to receive $50,000 in funding to help refine her idea.

“This program showcases some of the strongest ideas to improve lives in Arizona.  ASU and several other universities across the country have been participating in this program to improve communities across the country,” she said.

In addition, Ramadas was chosen to be part of Venture Devils. She participated in her first pitch competition through that program in November 2018 and won $7,500 from the Pakis Social Innovation Challenge.

She was also selected out of a large number of applicants to present as a finalist at the first ever "Nurse Pitch" competition at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference in Florida. Her pitch earned her third place and $2,500.

“It was an honor to be selected for this program! I love any opportunity to build relationships with my fellow nurses, and I am very proud to be a nurse. We are natural innovators. ASU has known this for a long time. I am happy that HIMSS and the American Nurses Association put a formal program in place to showcase nursing innovation.”

Most recently, she participated in round two of the Pakis Social Innovation Challenge on Demo Day, pitching her idea to a group of potential investors. That was in April; she ended up winning $2,500.

Each of these opportunities has bolstered her pitching skills, helped her clarify her idea and allowed Ramadas to continue to invest in her business.

“Our successful fundraising has allowed us to not only build an early prototype for New Trails, but we've also been able to secure Innovation Partner status with a program serving the Medicaid population in Washington,” Ramadas said.

Next steps include building out the components of the platform, developing and creating training for the peer navigators, possibly designing a phone app and more.

There’s still a lot to do, but Ramadas is up to the task and feels like the momentum from all of her fundraising is helping to propel things in the right direction and at the right pace.

For her fellow nurses and health care providers, Ramadas offers this insight when it comes to pursuing their own potential business ventures.  

“Keep the patient at the front of your thoughts. What do they want? What do they need?  What are their barriers to success? Keeping the patient in your vision is the most important thing you can do. Innovation should come from what you see and hear, not only what sounds exciting in technology or entrepreneurship today.”

Community connections lead to invaluable opportunities for ASU nursing students


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Amanda Goodman

Health wasn’t something Maza Wasi ever thought about. But the young resident of Crossroads Flower, a licensed substance abuse treatment center in Phoenix, says she’s starting to become more interested in it.

“I’m here to change my life and have a better life one day instead of doing drugs,” Wasi said.

Helping to introduce her to elements of self-care and overall wellness were eight students from Arizona State University’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

The cohort was at the Crossroads facility last week hosting a health fair for the residents who all are working toward recovery. It was the culmination of serious hard work on the students' part that spanned two semesters, and it paid off.

“Seeing this and having the students explain it to me was great because I learn by seeing,” Wasi said.

Over the course of the afternoon, Wasi and more than a dozen other residents stopped in to visit with the students and learn about each of the subjects, which were specifically chosen for the women.

“We focused on four topics; exercise, nutrition, sexual health and community beautification," said senior nursing student Randy Wagman. "We felt that these really targeted those areas that maybe Crossroads wasn’t focusing on. So we are looking at providing additional resources and information which could help them succeed here and maybe remaining sober going forward."

This event came about through community-health focused nursing courses. Students who take these interprofessional classes are tasked with identifying a group in the community who would benefit from additional education and resources around disease prevention and health promotion.

Thanks in large part to Edson College connections the cohort was able to partner and work with Crossroads — which doesn’t just open its doors to anyone — to create and host this health fair for current residents.

“ASU does provide unique opportunities in Phoenix. The relationships ASU has with not-for-profits and other organizations are great because they allow us to be able to go to these facilities and see how we can help and what we can do as nursing students,” Wagman said.

These health fairs also give students the opportunity to interact with people of all different ages, backgrounds and health levels while focusing on the education aspect of nursing versus just the clinical component.

Or as Wagman put it, it’s a return to the root of nursing, and it's quite rewarding.

“The basis of nursing is to promote health and prevent disease and really that begins with the community and doing community-centered interventions and that’s where prevention begins as well. So thanks to this class, we get to see what we need to do to get those prevention measures out there to keep people healthier.”

The women of Crossroads who attended the health fair offered high praise for the students' efforts to make the event interactive, informative and for taking an interest in Crossroads to begin with.

“What they’re doing is important and it's helping the community. It’s giving back, paying it forward I would say. I appreciate them coming out, they’ve been awesome,” said Crossroads resident Stephanie (last name withheld).

“This is amazing and it makes me feel like they do care about others. You know this is beyond just a school project,” Wasi said.

Serving with pride, ASU nursing alumna opens up about her career as a VA nurse and shares what she says is the greatest honor in life


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Persistent, positive and practical. Those are the immediate adjectives that come to mind after interviewing Jaime Buchholz for this alumni spotlight piece.

“I got three rejection letters before I got into nursing school,” she said.

For most people, one or two letters would be enough to call it quits a third would definitely signal the end of the road, but not for Buchholz.

The Gilbert, Arizona native stayed true to her dream and as fate would have it, got into the summer accelerated program at the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation at ASU which meant almost all of her clinicals were at the Phoenix VA Hospital.   

“During my last semester I got the externship at the VA so I was paid and I got hands-on nursing experience in between my clinical days, which got me hired that following October to become a nurse at the VA where I’ve been ever since!”

That was nearly 6 years ago. Buchholz graduated with her BSN from Edson College in August 2013.

Since then, she’s gone on to earn her Master’s of Science in nursing and started working with ASU students during their clinicals at the VA but has no plans to pursue teaching full time at this point.

“I always love when students come to my unit but I am not ready to leave the bedside yet. I thoroughly enjoy my patients and the connections I make with them and their families.”

Those connections have become an integral part of her work. Buchholz’s patient population is known for their toughness which can make it hard for them to be forthcoming.

So, she’s learned to meet their reluctance with a positive approach, making it a point to get to know all of her patients.

“Who wants to tell the 27-year-old girl that there’s blood in their stool? It’s embarrassing.  But when we sit and talk and we bond they’re more likely to tell me stuff, especially veterans who can be stubborn and hesitant to admit they’re uncomfortable or having a problem.”

Taking that extra time with patients and opening up the lines of communication - no matter how awkward the topic - has been a game changer.

Her outlook and technique make Buchholz standout but it’s this next thing that truly sets her apart.

Like many medical professionals, she has witnessed death up close, it is an inevitable part of the job. As a result of her experiences, she’s developed a reverence for the end of life and come to a pretty compelling conclusion.

“There is no greater honor than giving someone their last bath, whether that is before or after they pass. I have seen our nation's heroes at their most vulnerable and have been a part of their last moments on this earth, and I am thankful for each of those moments.”

It’s such a beautiful sentiment and perspective about a topic that is often met with fear and avoidance.

Full disclosure, Buchholz didn’t start out with this outlook. She’s had her fair share of ups and downs, hard lessons learned and worry-filled nights especially early-on in her career.

“I was most scared for my first code, so when we did what we could and they left us to go to the ICU, that’s a very scary moment where you play that ‘what could I have done differently, did I do something wrong?’ Those are the moments you wonder what could I have done.”

She says finding an outlet and processing what’s happened are key in order to move on. For her that includes talking to friends, snuggling with her adorable dog Sulley, watching Disney movies and sometimes having ice cream for dinner.

Jaime Buchholz, Edson College Alumna

“These conversations are tough, and I know some nurses who don’t like to talk about death at all.”

Her advice for new alumni and current students, “understand your triggers. If death is a hard thing for you, don’t take your first job in a hospice facility because while embracing your discomfort can help you grow, you don’t want to be miserable and kill your soul. Understand your limits and grow to them.”

Impact of the Charlene and Orin Edson Endowment


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ASU’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation is the recipient of a gift from Charlene and Orin Edson in the amount of $25 million. This generous endowment will transform our college’s ability to:

  • Improve the quality of care for patients with dementia and cognitive impairment and their family caregivers
  • Prepare the nation’s best nurses
  • Deploy “nurse scientists” throughout the nation who are master caregivers and clinician researchers ready to serve as experts and innovators in their field.

An investment of this scale will dramatically impact care and treatment for individuals with dementia and cognitive impairment and their caregivers. In recognition of this generosity, it is our honor to rename our college the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

Additional named opportunities with this investment include:

  • The Grace Center for Innovation in Nursing Education (named for Charlene’s mother): A critical resource that will advance academic-practice partnerships and test emerging models of nurse training. Funds will support outreach and seed funding with an emphasis on partnerships, student learning, and high quality care.
  • Edson Named Translational Nursing Science Program: An academic program to recruit postdoctoral nursing fellows.
  • Edson Named Chair in Dementia Translational Nursing Science: The chair will be a prominent nurse scientist working on the cutting edge of interventions to improve resiliency and promote healthy lifestyle for patients with dementia, and strategies to promote positive outcomes for family caregivers.
  • Edson Named Chair in Simulation Science: The chair will help establish ASU as a national leader in the preparation of next generation educators who use and advance simulation.
  • Edson Named Director for Nursing Academic-Practice Partnerships: The Director will work to increase collaboration with university practice partners, in turn helping to meet our ambitious goal to increase the number of new nurses prepared at ASU.
  • Edson Named Scholarship to support students pursuing the joint geriatric Nurse Practitioner (NP)/PhD degree.

As part of our mission, there is a need for new research and technology in the field of nursing, especially as related to cognitive impairment and dementia. With support from the Edsons we look forward to new offerings including:

  • Master of Science in Simulation.
  • Nurse Practitioner/PhD Program.
  • Master of Science in Nursing option targeting non-nurse college graduates who want to become Registered Nurses.
  • Center for Innovation in Healthy and Resilient Aging which will provide structure for the college’s work on aging and dementia-related diseases.
  • Expanded academic-practice partnerships.

Taken together, all of these efforts have the potential to completely transform treatment and care for patients with dementia, while also preparing nurses for successful and impactful careers. In the near term, we expect to produce a minimum of 200 new highly-trained and qualified nurses each year over current graduation rates. Ultimately, it is our hope that solutions on our campus will be applied and scaled to all current partners and additional partners across the nation and world.

At the same time, the establishment of new centers and degree programs will add to the long list of resources that have made ASU the number one school for innovation for the last four years in a row, solidifying our reputation for excellence across all disciplines.

Mayo Clinic and ASU MedTech Accelerator's first cohort gets expert insights and industry knowledge


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Emma Greguska

An interlocking breathing tube that prevents death by accidental removal. An app that provides peace of mind concerning your sexual health. A wearable health-monitoring device that tracks movement in real time to expedite healing and prevent further wrist injuries.

These are just a few of the novel ideas coming out of the Mayo Clinic and ASU MedTech Accelerator, a collaboration between Mayo Clinic and Arizona State University designed specifically to provide early-stage medical device and health care technology companies with personalized business development plans and collaborative opportunities to accelerate go-to-market and investment possibilities.

The program began accepting applications back in January and held its official launch April 22 at Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, where the six companies chosen to participate in the first cohort presented their elevator pitches to a room full of Mayo and ASU personnel.

“Those of you who know about ASU know that we’re the No. 1 university in innovation in the country. So to be partnering with the No. 1 hospital to collaborate on medical innovation is very exciting for us,” Rick Hall — the program’s co-managing partner of the accelerator and ASU Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation clinical professor — said before introducing the participants.

The event also served to kick off the accelerator’s two-week immersion program, in which participants spent 10 days immersed in the ASU and Mayo Clinic ecosystems, learning directly from subject matter experts about such topics as human-centered design, FDA regulation and reimbursement strategy. In addition, each afternoon, participants had time to meet with mentors to identify potential collaborators. 

“One of the key differentiators of the Mayo Clinic and ASU MedTech Accelerator is its extensive access to experts and focus on business development; participants interacted with 60 mentors and experts on average during a two-week immersion”, said Timmeko Love, Mayo Clinic’s co-managing partner of the accelerator.

In total, the accelerator will last six–12 months, depending on the unique development plan for each participant, with incentives offered to participants to stay and work in Arizona. Of the companies in the inaugural cohort, one is local to the Valley, two hail from Canada and three are based in U.S. cities from San Francisco to Highlands Ranch, Colorado.

April 25 was designated as “Community Day.” Participants gathered that afternoon at Galvanize, a tech-focused coworking space in downtown Phoenix, to network and hear from a panel of leaders from the greater Phoenix startup ecosystem — including Christie Kerner, StartupAZ Foundation director of venture development; Brad Halvorsen, Flinn Foundation executive vice president; and Darryn Jones, Greater Phoenix Economic Council vice president of emerging technologies.

The panel, which was organized and moderated by Love, shared invaluable advice and industry knowledge specific to the Phoenix area, such as the ease of attracting talent and the supportive entrepreneurial culture.

“Companies can start here, but they can also scale here,” Jones assured the participants.

Life365, a digital health remote patient-monitoring company, is one of three companies that cohort member Kent Dicks has founded in the Phoenix area.

An ASU alumnus, Dicks was blunt about why he thinks the Valley is a great place for startups. Not only is it a supportive environment, it’s cheaper than other startup cities and “if you want media attention, you can fight (for it) with 500 people in the Bay Area or 10 people in Arizona,” he said.

Elyse Blazevich, COO and CFO of Securisyn Medical, was impressed with the access the accelerator afforded her team in such a short time.

“We’ve been here less than a week and already the doors that have been opened to us to some of the world’s best and brightest is incredible,” she said.

Securisyn Medical hopes to reduce the incidence of unplanned extubation — the accidental removal of a breathing tube — with the world’s first integrated tube stabilization system that utilizes an interlocking design to ensure the tube doesn’t slip out.

Every year in the United States, unplanned extubation causes 33,000 preventable deaths.

“If you don’t have an airway, you don’t have a patient,” Blazevich said.

President and CTO of BioInteractive Technologies Gautam Sadarangani got into the biomedical space after losing 150 pounds in college with the help of a wearable health monitor. His company’s take on the technology, a wristband called TENZR, seeks to empower the roughly 20 million people in North America who suffer from RSI (repetitive strain injury) in their wrists and hands by tracking movement in real time and relaying the information to a physician who can suggest therapies and better track a patient’s progress and adherence to recommendations.

BioInteractive Technologies is currently based in Canada, but Sadarangani said the company wouldn’t rule out the possibility of expansion in the Valley.

“We’ve been extremely impressed with the ecosystem here, the access to talent and the significant amount of venture capital,” he said.

The Mayo Clinic and ASU MedTech Accelerator will soon start accepting applications for the next two-week immersion program, to take place in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The complete list of spring 2019 participants

BioInteractive Technologies: TENZR
Lukas-Karim Merhi, CEO, and Gautam Sadarangani, CTO
TENZR, a patent-pending wristband that detects the use of the hand, helps people that have suffered from a hand injury regain the use of their hand faster and more effectively.

Pascal Zuta, CEO
GYANT offers a suite of asynchronous virtual-care solutions that allows health care providers to increase patient satisfaction scores, reduce costs and aid the health care workforce via point-of-care solutions.

Pierre-Alexandre Fournier, CEO
Hexoskin offers a line of smart clothes that incorporate body sensors into comfortable garments for precise health tracking.

Kent Dicks, CEO
Life365 is a digital health infrastructure development and solution delivery company that provides software for patients to remotely interface with physicians.

Ken Mayer, founder and CEO
SAFE leverages digital technology to provide a virtual health care platform and provider network that empowers patients to consult with sexual health specialists, find and book STD testing and access a trusted source for clinical information.

Securisyn Medical
Elyse Blazevich, COO and CFO, and Mark Bruning, president and CEO
Securisyn Medical hopes to reduce the incidence of unplanned extubation with a tube stabilization system that utilizes an interlocking design to ensure the tube doesn’t slip out.

Top photo: Elyse Blazevich and Mark Bruning (right) executives with Securisyn Medical from the Denver area, talk with Rahul Rao of Desert Platforms medical device consultancy at the ASU/Mayo MedTech Accelerator's Community Day on April 25 at the Galvanize coworking space in downtown Phoenix. Securisyn is taking its tracheal intubation device through the FDA approval process and is hoping to begin testing on living subjects very soon. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

ASU, Phoenix Children’s collaborate to launch pediatric-specific nursing programs


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Amanda Goodman

Editor’s note: This Q&A is the first in a two-part series about how ASU's Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation and Phoenix Children's Hospital are working together to prepare students for a career in pediatric nursing and to address a looming shortfall of nurses in Arizona and across the U.S.

An expansion of the partnership between Arizona State University’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation and Phoenix Children’s is creating new opportunities for ASU students and filling the pipeline with workforce-ready nurses specializing in pediatric care.

So far, the two institutions have created a first-of-its-kind pediatric Dedicated Education Unit (DEU) for pre-licensure nursing students and collaborated on the development of the Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and Certificate Program curriculum for graduate-level nursing students.

The DNP program launched in fall 2018. The DEU began this spring with an inaugural cohort of 8 students. Jessica Wald was part of that group.

“For those of us in the DEU program, we felt a greater sense of accountability and responsibility for our patients. For example, we were all assigned our own computer logins, so we did patient charting under our own names,” Wald said.

Which is exactly the point. The DEU is a competitive program structured to give students additional pediatric-focused clinical hours at the patient bedside at Phoenix Children’s. Nursing students apply for the program — which is an elective course — their junior year. This specialized training helps develop nurses who are confident and comfortable in their ability to care for young patients.

We spoke with Wald, Edson College Dean Judy Karshmer and Phoenix Children’s Chief Nursing Officer Julie Bowman to learn more about how the unit works and the benefits for all involved.

Question: How is the DEU different from what other nursing colleges offer?

Karshmer: The pediatric DEU is the first and only program of its kind. Our team traveled to Oregon to see a DEU in action, and then we worked hand-in-hand with Phoenix Children’s to design it especially for pediatrics. In addition to their traditional nursing coursework, DEU students receive focused hours with pediatric patients. Another unique thing is that students are paired up with a nurse preceptor for six full nursing shifts, giving them valuable clinical experience earlier in their education. They’re also learning to collaborate with patients and physicians, communicate in an age-appropriate way with young patients and empathize with parents on their hardest days. These students are better prepared for the “Transition to Practice” program they must complete toward the end of their degree. They’re already in a clinical mindset and are learning to think like a nurse.

Judith Karshmer

Dean Judy Karshmer

Q: How does this partnership help meet the needs of patients in Arizona?

Karshmer: We are bracing for a shortfall of nurses across the country, but the shortage is expected to hit Arizona the hardest. By 2025, Arizona’s nurse shortage will exceed 28,000, with the biggest gaps in highly specialized areas like neonatal intensive care.

ASU’s partnership with Phoenix Children’s is part of an ongoing effort to prepare well-trained, workforce-ready graduates. Programs like the DEU and Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner DNP provide our students with meaningful clinical experiences while also arming them with the skills they need to provide care in a highly specialized area of nursing. Students will be better prepared to meet patients’ needs, now and in the future. For organizations like Phoenix Children’s, nurses with this level of experience are invaluable.

Q: Why is there a need for this elective program?

Bowman: The DEU was designed to give nursing students an opportunity to work directly with Phoenix Children’s nurse preceptors and to be part of patients’ care teams. Unlike typical preceptorships, they’re not just shadowing — they’re taking an active role in patient care. They’re spending more time at the patient bedside, honing their skills and learning what it means to care for a child and his or her family.

We just finished the first semester of the DEU program. While we were confident in the program’s design, this first semester was more successful than we ever imagined. The experience of truly participating in patient care was incredibly meaningful for our student nurses as well as the care teams. Students gained confidence, expanded their clinical competence and learned how to work with care teams.

Julie Bowman

Chief Nursing Officer Julie Bowman

Q: Why is it important for nursing students to receive pediatric-specific training?

Bowman: In pediatric care, many of our patients may be fighting chronic or life-threatening conditions like childhood cancer or a congenital heart defect. These kids need highly specialized care from clinicians across numerous medical specialties. The typical new graduate is not as prepared to provide the high-tech — and often highly complex — care our patients and their families need. At Phoenix Children’s, our nursing staff must be adept in performing day-to-day nursing skills, but, more importantly, they have to know how to think critically, to problem-solve and to manage challenging situations.

In previous years, nurses spent hundreds of hours in orientation when hired at Phoenix Children’s. The required orientation time was reduced once nursing students began enrolling in our Transition to Practice (TTP) program, which gives more than 130 hours at the patient bedside in a student’s last semester of their degree. Now, ASU students who complete the DEU — 72 hours of focused clinical time — are afforded more than 200 hours of total clinical time between the two pediatric-specific nursing programs before graduation. Nurses with this level of specialized training won’t need as much time in orientation.

Q: How is the DEU different from your other clinical experiences?

Wald: In other clinical experiences, I felt more like an observer or assistant helping nurses care for “their” patients. As part of the DEU, we inserted PIVs [peripheral intravenous line], NG [nasogastric] tubes and Foley catheters, gave oral and IV medications and did blood draws off of peripheral and central lines, changed central line dressings and performed blood product/factor administration. These are skills that our classmates from ASU and students from other nursing colleges aren’t normally able to perform at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. For me, it speaks to Edson College and Phoenix Children’s belief in us as students, as well as the amazing training and mentorship we received from the nurses at the hospital.

Q: What was your most valuable experience during your DEU?

Wald: I can say with 100% confidence that for all eight of us in the DEU program, every part of the experience was incredibly valuable. If I have to choose one thing, it’s this: On our last day of the DEU, we were given the opportunity to take on two to three patients on our own. Our DEU nurses were there to answer questions, provide access to the medication room and review our action and charting, but all patient and family interaction, assessment, delegation, etc., was our responsibility. It was a chance to really dive into our strengths and weaknesses. I have not seen anything like this implemented in any program other than the DEU, and that made the experience priceless.

Q: What do you look forward to as you prepare to do the Transition to Practice part of your nursing degree?

Wald: I think all of us are most excited to fulfill our dream of working with children. The only reason we weren’t more saddened by leaving Phoenix Children’s on our last day of the DEU was the hope that we would get to come back very soon for our TTP experience. Each one of us has a story behind our drive and passion for pediatric nursing, and the chance to work with similarly minded professionals is something that is impossible to pass up.

$1M-plus grant to College of Health Solutions targets maternal and child nutrition


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Emma Greguska

You are what you eat. But first, you are what your mother eats. And it wasn’t that long ago when no one blinked an eye at a pregnant woman sipping a cocktail. Nowadays, a growing body of research suggests that what women eat while they’re pregnant can affect their child’s health across their entire lifespan.

Despite this knowledge, there is still a dearth of well-trained health care professionals in the field of maternal and child nutrition, especially in the Western United States, said Meg Bruening, associate professor in Arizona State University's College of Health Solutions. 

It’s why she jumped at the chance to apply for a grant from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau to bring the Translational Training, Education and Leadership Program in MCH Nutrition and Childhood Obesity Prevention, otherwise known as The TRANSCEND Program, to ASU.

“There aren't a lot of experts in maternal and child nutrition,” said Bruening, a former trainee during her graduate years at the University of Minnesota who now serves as director of the program at ASU. “And nutrition during early life — although I feel like it's never too late to make behavior change — predicts health outcomes and prevents chronic disease later on in life.”

The $1 million-plus grant will provide funding for five years to support College of Health Solutions graduate students interested in maternal and child health as it relates to nutrition. Funding began last July and is currently supporting seven trainees at ASU — two doctoral students and five master’s students. Six more slots will be available this fall for students enrolled in a College of Health Solutions graduate program.

The TRANSCEND Program has been around for more than two decades, and besides ASU, it is being funded at seven other sites across the nation: Tulane University; University of Minnesota; University of California, Los Angeles; University of California, Berkeley; University of Tennessee; University of Alabama at Birmingham; and Baylor College of Medicine.

group photo of ASU College of Health Solutions professor Meg Bruening and seven ASU students in the TRANSCEND maternal and child nutrition program

ASU College of Health Solutions Associate Professor Meg Bruening (far left) with the first cohort of ASU TRANSCEND Program students. Photo courtesy of College of Health Solutions

All the sites work closely together with the goal of preparing graduate students to be leaders in the field of maternal and child health and nutrition. Trainees interact through a peer network in which they hold monthly calls to discuss shared projects and interests, and take turns blogging about their experiences online. They also get together for an annual meeting. This year’s took place in Washington, D.C., where trainees attended talks, networked and made a visit to the Hill for a policy-themed day.

The program aims to train students in 14 core competencies that include leadership; family-centered care; and policy and advocacy, among others. At ASU, the College of Health Solutions administers those core competencies through two new courses and a research project for which students are matched with a faculty member from disciplines across ASU who are focusing on maternal and child nutrition.

“The idea is to provide training across the translational spectrum,” Bruening said.

As far as student outcomes, by the end of the first year, students will have a research manuscript ready to submit for publication in academic journals, and travel will be provided for them to present their research at national conferences. Over the course of the program, they will also prepare a two-minute mock testimony they will present to legislators and experts in the field and gain experience working on a policy brief.

In addition to the student training component of the program, there is a continuing education component, in which faculty at the College of Health Solutions provide training to current professionals in the field, as well as a technical assistance component, in which college faculty provide assistance to state agencies and local health departments.

man crouching in a gym watching as torso of person in foreground jogs past

Exercise and nutritional sciences doctoral student Armando Pena cheers on kids participating in a diabetes prevention program geared toward Latino youth. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

One thing the TRANSCEND Program is eager to address is a lack of representation in maternal and child health and nutrition.

“We need more diversity in the field to better impact health outcomes,” Bruening said.

To that end, there is an effort to recruit students from underrepresented communities and to focus their research on vulnerable populations.

Exercise and nutritional sciences doctoral student Armando Pena grew up in Somerton, a city near Yuma, Arizona, only a few miles from the U.S.-Mexico border that is roughly 97% Hispanic. He’s working with Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation Associate Professor Gabriel Shaibi to research behavioral interventions for obese Latino youth at risk for diabetes.

Before he applied to be a part of the TRANSCEND Program, Pena did most of his academic work in lab settings.

“I wanted to find a way to apply my clinical lab skills in the real world,” he said. “This helps me meet my academic goals of pursing research and science, and it also helps me reach my more personal goals of helping my community.”

While his work as a master’s student focused mostly on adults, Pena says the TRANSCEND Program opened his eyes to a whole new field of possibilities. In particular, a lecture on breastfeeding left a deep impact on him, causing him to shift his focus to mother-to-infant health outcomes.

“If it weren’t for this program, I probably wouldn’t have the career path that I have now,” he said.

woman smiling as she hands a tablet to another woman in a library setting

Nutrition master’s student Emily Masek passes out tablets for parents in a nutrition education program to take surveys. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Nutrition master’s student Emily Masek had a similar realization through her work with a substance abuse prevention and nutrition education program targeted at parents of middle-school children.

“I've never really worked with an adolescent population, before but this has really informed me about how important adolescence is for starting to build those good health behaviors,” she said.

The curriculum for the program was adapted from one that focused solely on substance abuse prevention to one that includes nutrition education, with the idea being that parents take what they learn and teach it to their children.

Under the guidance of College of Health Solutions Associate Professor Sonia Vega Lopez, Masek and others are measuring the effectiveness of the program through dietary questionnaires given to both the parents and their children. They also perform home visits to collect other data such as height, weight and blood values.

“A lot of existing intervention models either directly impact the kids or directly impact the parents,” overlooking the opportunity that leveraging the parent-child connection provides to empower parents to continue to educate and be a knowledge resource their children, even after the intervention is complete, Masek said.

In the future, Bruening is looking to build a partnership with a similar program at the University of Arizona called Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (ArizonaLEND), which is a leadership training program that prepares the next generation of policy makers, faculty, clinicians and researchers to lead the maternal and child health workforce.

There are also plans to develop an online fellowship program for existing professionals in maternal and child health leadership.

Overall, the TRANSCEND Program at ASU is a win-win for students and the community alike, Bruening said: “The program provides hands-on experiential learning so that the students can understand and have exposure to what the community is facing when they try to intervene around nutrition-related issues. It also provides the leadership training for them to be able to dive in right away once they graduate and help move the needle faster.”

Top photo courtesy of Pixabay

SAGE project at ASU brings garden curriculum to Valley campuses


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Amanda Goodman

Who doesn’t love a garden? Turning the soil and planting seeds or seedlings just so, then watering and witnessing subtle, then significant growth over time. It is a gratifying experience that, if done right, can lead to tasty ones.

Of course, there are also plenty of literal lessons to be learned in the process, which is part of the reason why gardens have become so popular in schools in the United States.

According to data provided by the United States Department of Agriculture, in 2017 there were gardens at more than 7,000 schools nationwide.

Professor Rebecca Lee from Arizona State University's Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation is adding to that number. She’s the principal investigator of a research program currently underway in the Phoenix area called Sustainability via Active Garden Education or SAGE.

“SAGE was developed to help early care and education centers meet national physical activity, nutrition and education standards. So, the primary goal of SAGE is to help kids be more physically active and learn about fruits and veggies while they are at their early care and education center,” Lee said.

Lee and her team work with early care and education centers in underserved areas of the Valley. In order for a center to be part of SAGE, they must be Child and Adult Care Food Program eligible.

Although starting a school garden is extremely beneficial, maintaining it beyond the initial planting cycle can be tough for schools. We spoke with Lee to dig a little deeper into this growing movement and to learn how a protocol like SAGE can help schools sustain their efforts.

Question: What are some of the benefits of having a garden program in early child care and education settings?

Answer: First, we know that this is the optimal stage in a child’s development for them to create physical activity and healthy eating habits. So exposing these young minds to the benefits of consistent physical activity and consuming fresh fruits and vegetables at a young age can have a lifelong impact.

Second, studies have shown gardens provide kids hands-on experience with science concepts, which can lay the groundwork for more advanced learning later on. In the SAGE program, kids learn about all the different elements plants need to grow: soil, sun, water, etc. Our current and past SAGE teachers tell us the children are able to connect the dots between a healthy garden and a healthy body, understanding that they too need proper nutrition, physical activity and water every day to grow big and strong.

Third, kids who get daily physical activity are more focused, which can translate to better behavior overall as well as improved grades and school attendance.

Professor , Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation

Rebecca Lee

Q: Why is it important for schools to maintain garden programs?

A: In addition to everything above, introducing kids to gardens is an effective way to help them learn where food comes from. That link is especially important now because as food technology has improved, some of the connection of how the food gets from the farm to the table has been lost. Garden programs help to rebuild that connection.

Q: What are some of the reasons centers do not continue to keep up their gardens?

A: Many early care and education centers are really excited about having gardens, but we found that in cases where they were not maintained, lack of a maintenance strategy or interest were the primary reasons. Even though gardens are not expensive, they require consistent attention and planning by school staff. A few of the locations we worked with (about 25%) in SAGE were not able to overcome those obstacles. Centers that are able to designate a garden champion and implement a maintenance schedule into their daily school routine usually have the most success.

Q: How can SAGE help increase the sustainability of garden projects?

A: At the beginning of the SAGE programs the team provides teacher training, helps to build a garden on site, as well as ongoing technical support. Midway through the program, we complete a booster session to help teachers and schools with anything that they might be missing to help implement the curriculum and garden. Then, toward the end of the SAGE formal programming, we link teachers and directors to our experts who serve on our community advisory board. These are local experts and master gardeners who have connections to resources the schools may need to sustain their gardens.   

Q: How can someone get involved in SAGE?

A: We are presently looking for early care and education centers for our SAGE fall 2019 cohort. Interested centers should contact our project director, Hector Valdez, for more information at 602-496-2011 or visit our website

InvestU event brings ASU students, entrepreneurs and investors together for advancement


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Michelle Stermole

An innovative idea, the right pitch and an affiliation with Arizona State University may be the winning combination for two companies participating in the InvestU pitch event on May 20.

Surf Entertainment is focused on customizing passengers’ ride share experiences, while EndoVantage is assisting surgeons with complex procedures. Both companies must persuade accredited investors to invest money and resources in their ventures in a format similar to the show "Shark Tank."

"Phoenix is one of the fastest-growing cities and ASU is the most innovative university,” said Robby Choueiri, associate director of ventures and investments for Arizona State University Enterprise Partners. “There are a limited number of funding options in Arizona during a company’s early stages. We’re building a community entrepreneurial ecosystem to introduce capital and resources, which leads to growth, job creation and more innovation.”

Eli Chmouni, founder and chief executive officer of Surf Entertainment, is excited to showcase his company at the pitch event that provides hands-on learning for ASU students who assist with selecting the companies and researching them for the investors. 

“I’m an ASU grad, and I’ve been teaching at ASU for eight years,” Chmouni said. “With Surf we’ve been going beyond Arizona for funding. It’s very exciting to pitch and raise funds locally. It’s a nice endorsement stamp and kind of cool to pitch in front of the ASU (community).”

Chmouni earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from ASU and teaches entrepreneurship classes in the W. P. Carey School of Business. Previously, he taught engineering classes in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Surf is Chmouni’s fourth startup and provides free in-car information and entertainment for Lyft and Uber passengers using a tablet mounted to the back of the passenger headrest. The platform launched in Phoenix in March 2018 and operates in nine other markets. It is meant to be similar to in-flight entertainment and is customized by time of day to offer news, streaming music, funny videos and a list of nearby dining options. Brands and businesses can promote themselves through advertising on the tablets, and drivers earn revenue when passengers use the tablets, which are installed in the cars at no charge to the drivers. 

The other company vying for an investment and relationship with investors is EndoVantage. The company provides a tool for surgeons to use 3D modeling and visualization to simulate treatment options and insertion methods for stents and other devices in patients with aneurysms. The goals are to reduce patients’ risks and improve outcomes. The technology is already being used at Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale. EndoVantage’s technology was developed by ASU engineers. Robert Green, president and CEO of the company is an academic associate and venture mentor at ASU, Brian Chong is the chief medical officer of the company and associate medical director of development at Mayo Clinic, which works closely with ASU. Haithem Babiker, EndoVantage’s chief technology officer, earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering, master’s degree in biomedical engineering and a doctorate of philosophy in biomedical engineering all from ASU.

InvestU was formed by Arizona State University Enterprise Partners and the former Thunderbird Angel Network to provide funding opportunities for companies that need a financial boost as they scale their companies. The first InvestU pitch event was held in March with two ASU faculty-affiliated companies: CYR3CON and Breezing. Both companies matched with investors from the event and are working on deals.

Paulo Shakarian, CEO of CYR3CON, was grateful to raise funds for his cybersecurity firm where he lives and works after traveling to several other U.S. cities to meet with investors.

“It means a lot to have it all be a single ecosystem,” Shakarian said. “If you look around the country at other hubs like Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, Boston, New York and Denver, all of these places have the right technology, an innovative university, entrepreneurs and capital. You need all of those things together in one place. It makes it easier to move quickly.”

Shakarian is an ASU Fulton Entrepreneurial Assistant Professor in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and specializes in artificial intelligence and cybersecurity, which led to his company’s development in conjunction with ASU.

The other firm to match with investors in March was Breezing, which measures metabolism over time using a mobile metabolism tracker and a breathalyzer with biosensors, enabling users to implement a personalized diet and exercise plan to improve their metabolism. Breezing is being used to combat obesity, Type 2 diabetes and maintain healthy weight gain during pregnancy.

Andrew Steele, CEO of Breezing and a member of the board of advisers for the HEALab at the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, said the InvestU event has enabled Breezing to advance to the next level. That means commercially launching a second generation tracker that will be used with physicians to help patients with obesity and other medical conditions and obtaining FDA approval for additional medical uses.

Breezing’s chemical sensor technology was developed by researchers in the ASU Biodesign Institute before it evolved into the ASU spin-off company.

To participate in an InvestU pitch event, business leaders must apply and have a connection to ASU as an alumni or faculty through the firm’s board members or executives, and the business must be at the revenue-generating stage of growth or show compelling traction. Company representatives pitch to an advisory board, and ASU students conduct company research about the startups for the investors. During the pitch event, the students present their research findings and the company representatives pitch their companies. Then investors express their interest in investing and conduct their own diligence in the following few weeks. No final deals are made at the event.

Companies participating in InvestU have customers and are looking to raise between $100,000 and $2 million, Choueiri said. Additionally, they are looking to build relationships through investors’ connections, enter new markets and acquire additional customers.

Investors must be accredited and typically have an affinity to ASU as donors, faculty, staff, alumni or their family members.

This event is open to the public.

If you go:

When: 5:30 to 8 p.m. Monday, May 20 

Where: ASU Fulton Center, Sixth Floor, Lincoln Room, 300 E. University Drive, Tempe


The best photos from spring 2019 convocations


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Editor's note: ASU Now will be updating this story all week with additional photos from the university's various convocations.

Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions

Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

School for the Future of Innovation in Society

Thunderbird School of Global Management

W. P. Carey School of Business

Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation

Barrett, The Honors College

Great mortarboards

Top photo: ASU graduates make their way into Wells Fargo Arena for the Barrett, The Honors College convocation at Wells Fargo Arena on May 4, 2019. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Making global connections through nursing and health innovation programs


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Amanda Goodman

Looking to expand its international footprint, the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation at Arizona State University has created a new unit the Global Health Collaboratory.

The collaboratory’s mission is bold: to develop global collegiate partnerships, expand certificate programs to nontraditional students and grow international student and faculty exchange opportunities.

And that’s just the beginning.

Led by Edson College Senior Associate Dean Craig Thatcher, preliminary work to identify potential global collegiate partners is already underway. This spring, Thatcher visited China as part of a 10-day ASU delegation trip that included Kay Faris, senior associate dean of the W. P. Carey School of Business, and Angela Zhao, senior project manager with the Office of the Provost to meet with deans and administrators at several universities there.

“I think there are opportunities for academic partnerships and to recruit more international students interested in health and health care,” said Thatcher. “There are also research opportunities with these universities, too, so I believe there’s a lot of potential mutual benefits for Edson College to be in China.”

The four universities Thatcher toured were:

  • Capital Medical University.

  • Xi’an Jiaotong University.

  • Sichuan University.

  • Xinhua College of Sun Yat-sen University.

He said each institution offers collaborative opportunities and they were all equally open to the higher-level nursing curricula and overall health education expertise Edson College can provide.

“I made this visit as an exploratory step. Next up is to decide what Edson College wants to do with each of these universities and then develop specific agreements to advance what would be best for all involved,” Thatcher said.

As a result of this trip, Edson College will be hosting 22 undergraduate students from Sichuan University on the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus in July to participate in the Global Health Innovators Program, which Thatcher and his team developed specifically for the participants. The program will focus on entrepreneurship and innovation in health and health care, cultural exploration and English language experiences for the students.

In addition to China, Edson College is also actively pursuing programs and partnership opportunities in Vietnam, Honduras and Kenya.

“We want to provide intercultural experiences for domestic students while also giving international students exposure to our culture and health care practices,” said collaboratory Senior Director Amy Fitzgerald. “Our goal is to further the practice of nursing and health care worldwide.”

Closer to home, the unit is also beginning to foster relationships with fellow university partners like Thunderbird School of Global Management and the Graduate College in order to maximize local resources and expertise, especially in the areas of global health management and innovation.  

Ultimately, the collaboratory will help Edson College better respond to the universal demand for advanced level nursing and health education.

“Our new unit aligns with the university’s goals related to global engagement, and while we’ve done some of this work in the past, we want to be more proactive and strategic going forward,” Thatcher said.

Community collaboration at heart of diabetes prevention program's success


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Emma Greguska

Early one spring evening in a bright green workout room at a YMCA in west Phoenix, a petite woman stands at the head of a group of parents and their children demonstrating jump squats.

Her small frame belies the respect she commands as she shouts, “Rapido!” and they promptly comply. Far from a taskmaster, though, Maria Isabel is all smiles and easy laughter, cheering her pupils on and at times literally taking them by the hand and grinding it out alongside them.

She knows how challenging it can seem when you’re starting at the beginning, a novice hiker staring up the daunting mountain climb toward a healthier lifestyle, and it’s not just your health at stake but your children’s. She knows because she was in the same position two years ago when a routine doctor visit revealed that her son Esteban was pre-diabetic and subsequent tests revealed that so was she.

Running exercise at YMCA

Community leader Maria Isabel (right) and Mirella Torres during the exercise portion of the ¡Viva Maryvale! program at the Watts Family Maryvale YMCA on Feb. 20. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Isabel is a longtime resident of Maryvale, a predominately Hispanic community of roughly 215,000 in the West Valley where obesity and Type 2 diabetes are highly prevalent. But thanks to the disease prevention program her doctor referred her to, she and her son are no longer at risk. What’s more, Isabel is now a facilitator of the program, a product of need-inspired collaboration between researchers at Arizona State University and strategic community partnerships.

As a researcher at ASU’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, Associate Professor Gabriel Shaibi examines obesity-related health in high-risk and vulnerable populations with the goal of developing and implementing sustainable, community-based models of disease prevention. So when he discovered a team at St. Vincent De Paul was already hard at work on just such a program, he saw an opportunity to join forces — ASU would bring the research prowess to ensure the program worked, and St. Vincent De Paul would bring the connection to the community that would ensure the program lasted.

They dubbed the project ¡Viva Maryvale!

“It made sense to bring the research to the community where it can have the biggest impact,” Shaibi said.

He and his team at ASU’s Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention published their initial findings from the two-year-long project earlier this year in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. The results were significant from a clinical standpoint, showing lowered risk for diabetes and increased physical activity among the participants.

And there were other positive outcomes — namely, both program participants and community partners, which expanded to include the Watts Family Maryvale YMCA and the Mountain Park Health Center, have continued on with the program, embracing it fully and volunteering their time to facilitate it, even though the project funding has ended.

According to Shaibi, the sustainability of the program relies heavily on two things: cooperation between community partners and people like Isabel who can not only personally vouch for it but who are already embedded in the community and have their trust. To that end, it is an essential function of the program to identify and train participants to be facilitators.

“After going through the program myself, I have a better idea of what I need to do and how to do it, and that's one of the things that I transmit to the families,” Isabel said.

As the first participant-turned-facilitator, she has certainly made an impression.

“She is a natural leader and an inspiration to us all,” Shaibi said. “In terms of her progress, she is actually way ahead of us when it comes to ideas for growing the program and increasing its impact. She truly represents the future of our work, and we look forward to learning from her.”

Maria Silva, manager of St. Vincent De Paul’s Family Wellness Program, helmed the organization’s community-based disease prevention program before it became a part of the Viva Maryvale project and continues to lead nutrition education classes for it now. She emphasized the difference it makes when a program is delivered from within the community rather than without.

“Maria Isabel creates a really great rapport with the families,” Silva said. “She understands how they feel, so she’s able to bring a different perspective than what we have and really connect with them on a different level.”

maria silva and maria isabel

Maria Silva (left), manager of St. Vincent De Paul’s Family Wellness Program, and ¡Viva Maryvale! facilitator Maria Isabel have become good friends after working together and now help provide support for new families in the program. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now 

Isabel even initiated a successful group chat using the WhatsApp messaging platform so that each cohort could communicate easily and check in on each other’s progress over the course of the 12-week program. Silva was able to observe the participants’ eager engagement as they shared photos of themselves at the gym and recipes for post-workout smoothies.

The most recent cohort celebrated their completion of the program with a potluck party in early April, where they brought dishes inspired by what they learned in the nutrition classes. That curriculum, along with lessons on health and self-esteem, were provided by St. Vincent De Paul. The space where they learned and sweated for 12 weeks was provided by the YMCA. Referrals from the Mountain Park Health Center were the reason they were all there in the first place. And ASU research provided the data that proved it all works.

“This project demonstrates the potential for collaborative research to set the stage for sustainable health promotion programming, particularly when it is grounded in the local community,” Shaibi said. “We hope our work can be leveraged to inform evidenced-based policies and reimbursement mechanisms that will support wide-scale diabetes prevention programs across the state.”

Top photo: Gladis Frias hugs her kids, Jesus and Maria Jose, during the exercise portion of the ¡Viva Maryvale! program at the Watts Family Maryvale YMCA. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Community health grad a ‘leader among her peers’


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Courtney McCune

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2019 commencement.

Leadership has been a through line of Alise Townsend’s Sun Devil experience.

While pursuing her community health degree from Arizona State University's Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, she also devoted a great deal of her time to extracurriculars focused on leadership, service and philanthropy.

Her involvement has included Well Devil Coalition, Black African Coalition, National Panhellenic Council and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. 

She also served as a student coordinator for the Sun Devil Fitness Complex at the Downtown Phoenix campus, where she focused on wellness and health education. 

Courtney Spivak-Smith, associate director of Sun Devil Fitness, said Townsend’s commitment to the Sun Devil Fitness Complex and Educational Outreach and Student Services has been “above and beyond.”

“She is a leader among her peers and an asset to every team she is on,” Spivak-Smith said.

While working with Sun Devil Fitness, Townsend helped improve her fellow students’ lives through her passion for health and leadership.

“I have loved being able to make a difference in my community,” she said.

After graduation, she will pursue a nursing degree, fulfilling the call toward the profession she discovered during her freshman year at ASU and continuing her path of leadership in the health and wellness field.

Townsend spoke to ASU Now about why she chose ASU, what she learned here and her advice for fellow Sun Devils. 

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: My freshman year in ASU 101, I found that my call was nursing and not being a pediatrician. I am a very hands-on person and I spoke with my ASU 101 coordinator and she helped me reach my decision. I am so grateful that she helped me.

Q. What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A. I learned that if you want something to change in your life you have to make that change and no one will do it for you.

Q. Why did you choose ASU?

A. I chose ASU because I visited my sister and I felt this was a place I could belong.

Q. Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A. (Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation instructor) Samantha Calvin.

Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A. Keep trying, it does not matter if you change your major once or 12 times. You are here for a reason and you have a purpose.

Q. What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life? 

A. The Sun Devil Fitness Center.

Q. What are your plans after graduation?

A. I plan to apply to nursing school, complete my internship in the Education Programs at Planned Parenthood, and I plan to continue working at my current job.

Q. If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A. I would solve the problem of people not having full autonomy over their bodies.

The future of health to have new home


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Emma Greguska

A giant, grinning inflatable Sparky marked the spot Thursday morning on a soon-to-be-bustling-with-construction dirt lot where Arizona State University and Mayo Clinic broke ground on the new Health Futures Center, a 150,000-square-foot building that will feature a MedTech Accelerator, biomedical engineering and informatics research labs, nursing programs and an innovative education zone.

Several present at the event remarked that the move was a long time coming in the university and Mayo Clinic’s 16-plus-year relationship.

ASU President Michael Crow addressed a crowd that included city officials and university leadership, saying the new facility, just steps away from Mayo Clinic’s north Phoenix campus, is like “a 150,000-square-foot flag” announcing the institutions’ shared vision to accomplish three things:

• Reinforce the notion that a university is an institution capable of assembling expertise and knowledge-creation assets in many places where they can make the greatest impact.

• Further foster a relationship between ASU and Mayo Clinic that leads to better solutions, outcomes and learning environments through intensified research, clinical expansion and development of innovative clinical approaches to medicine and health care.

• Serve as a catalyst for a concentration of new-age thinkers and new types of institutions thinking about health futures. 

“We think that the two of us together can be the corpus or the center or the anchor of what could evolve to be something that hasn't yet developed in this country and hasn't yet developed anywhere in the world, and that is the broadest focused health futures place,” Crow said.

ASU and Mayo Clinic formalized their relationship in 2016 with the announcement of the Mayo Clinic and Arizona State University Alliance for Health Care. Over the years, the nation’s most innovative university and the world leader in patient care and research have partnered on programs that range from nursing to medical imaging to regenerative and rehabilitative medicine to wearable biosensors.

"This will be a hub of life science innovation that will not only benefit ASU students and researchers but truly the patients of the future."
—President and CEO of Mayo Clinic Gianrico Farrugia

They have also worked together on dual degree programs, a nursing education program, research projects, more than 80 joint faculty appointments and numerous joint intellectual property disclosures.

The new facility, scheduled to open in late 2020, will be owned and operated by the university and will connect to Mayo Clinic via a desert pathway. It is the first of several buildings planned to dot the surrounding landscape in the coming years and represents a cooperative effort not only of Mayo Clinic and ASU, but of the city of Phoenix and state of Arizona, as well. 

ASU leases the property from the Arizona State Land Trust; the city of Phoenix will provide funding for infrastructure improvements and ASU will construct the building, which is budgeted at $80 million. The debt service for the building will be funded primarily from the research infrastructure fund established in 2017 by Gov. Doug Ducey and the state Legislature.

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, who served on the City Council when the ASU-Mayo Clinic alliance was first approved, expressed her belief Thursday that the partnership is an economic engine for the city. She noted that Phoenix expects to see $3.5 billion in capital investment over the next two years — compared with Houston, another large Southwestern city, which expects to see only $1.5 billion — and an additional 4.4 million square feet of advanced facilities, creating more than 7,000 jobs. 

“We do feel like, at the city of Phoenix, part of our role is to make sure there's the space and financial support for the great things that ASU, Mayo and others are doing,” Gallego said.  

“We were proud financial partners when Mayo moved forward with proton beam therapy, and we enjoyed working with Dr. Crow and others to grow campuses throughout the city of Phoenix. … When we have that type of leadership, our No. 1 ranked hospital and our No. 1 ranked university for innovation working together, anything can happen in the city of Phoenix.”

One example of the type of innovative collaborations happening through the Mayo-ASU alliance is the recently launched MedTech Accelerator, a program that provides medical device and health care IT early-stage companies with personalized business development plans. Once construction of the new building is complete, it will be housed on the second floor, helping entrepreneurs accelerate to market and investment opportunities.

President and CEO of Mayo Clinic Gianrico Farrugia also shared remarks with the crowd on Thursday. He assured them that the health care industry is in a state of disruption and transformation, and that those in the field must begin to think differently if they are to better serve the health of the community, calling ASU an “ideal partner” in that endeavor.

“Mayo Clinic and ASU share a vision,” Farrugia said. “It's a vision to create a collaborative environment of expertise right here in the Valley. And this place will be a destination for students, for entrepreneurs, for biomedical professionals. They will come to us from everywhere in the region and, indeed, from around the world. This will be a hub of life science innovation that will not only benefit ASU students and researchers but truly the patients of the future.”

Top photo: Shovels feature the ASU pitchfork logo at the ceremonial groundbreaking of the 150,000-square-foot first building of the ASU Health Futures Center, adjacent to the Mayo Clinic in north Phoenix, on Thursday. The collaborative center will provide educational and research facilities, biomedical engineering and informatics research labs and opportunities for partnerships with private industry. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Musician finds her university groove in integrative health program


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Amanda Goodman

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2019 commencement

Schooled in music, Carol Mas skipped college to travel the world pursuing her musical passions. A triple threat; singer, songwriter and guitar player, Mas was living her dream.

In 2002, after decades in the industry and years on the road, Mas found herself needed at home. She would first become her aunt’s caregiver then later her mother’s, both were living with Alzheimer’s Disease.

During her musical hiatus, Mas said she developed pain in her hands.

“I started having problems with arthritis and went on disability and was very unhappy because I’m not one to sit idly by and let time just roll on,” Mas said.

Hoping to help her get out of her funk, Mas’s husband suggested she “go to college.” By this point, they were living in Pearce, Arizona. So she started looking into programs and came across the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation’s Bachelor of Science in integrative health.

“I’ve always had an interest in health but from a holistic point of view,” Mas said.

With no previous college credits, Mas enrolled in Cochise Community College to earn the prerequisites needed to transfer to the baccalaureate program at Edson College. It’s an experience that changed her.

“By the time I was enrolled at ASU I was like a different person. I never thought I would be attending college and much less attending it online and it wasn’t as tricky as I thought it would be. It came naturally for me.”

Now, at 63, Mas is preparing to graduate with her bachelor’s degree.

“When I was younger, I remember my mom giving me a picture of her father, my grandfather, graduating from law school when he was 72! So I always had this picture and thought 'Wow, he looked so proud and what a wonderful thing to not stop growing.' I might have problems with my hands but I’ve done it. You’re never too told to go to college.”

Her passion for learning and her dedication to the program helped her earn the distinction of Outstanding Graduate. We spoke with Mas about her time at ASU and her plans for after graduation.

Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

Answer: The most profound change for me is in the way I see myself. I have much more self-confidence than when I first started school. For me, getting a degree was the missing piece in my life. I now feel qualified to speak about a number of topics that I was always interested in, but never quite had the expertise to discuss. It’s a wonderful feeling of accomplishment and I am deeply proud of myself that I had the drive to persevere and finish my degree.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: There have been so many great professors and I have learned important lessons from each and every one of them. One professor that stands out to me is Dawn Augusta because she always had the most inspiring feedback to offer when grading assignments. She was very uplifting and made you want to aim higher.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Don’t drop out. It is worth the struggle to finish because there is no better feeling than to have stuck it out through the hard times. I once broke a cereal bowl during a chemistry assignment that I became particularly frustrated with. I was a sophomore and this marked a turning point for me in how I learned to handle my frustration. I never did anything like that again, but I will certainly think of it at graduation and the many steps forward I have taken since then.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: Eventually, I would like to continue my education and earn a master’s degree in medical nutrition. After graduation, however, I would like to think of ways in which my education can help the people in my community. I am on the local elementary/middle school board. We are a very rural school district and I have some ideas around educating parents and children about nutrition, maybe offering lectures at the school or even cooking classes. I live in what is considered a food desert, so another idea I have is to perhaps start a food co-op or a community garden. Whatever I end up doing, I feel that it is important for me to serve my community in some way. These are the ways in which we can truly have an impact on the world around us, and make it a better place in which to live. It begins with us and then spreads out to those around us, like a ripple; one small action can generate a series of bigger ones, so we have a lot of responsibility in the way we chose to live our lives.

New ASU center confronts the silver tsunami


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Emma Greguska

If one thing was clear Wednesday afternoon at the launch of the Arizona State University Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation’s Center for Innovation in Healthy and Resilient Aging, it was this: The silver tsunami is here.

“It's been crashing around us for a very long time and it keeps growing,” said David Coon, associate dean of research at the Edson College and director of the new center.

This is something Coon has been keenly aware of since he first joined ASU and began lobbying for such a center back in 2004. ASU Executive Vice President and University Provost Mark Searle was on board from the beginning, and the pair began drafting a plan of action. Then the bottom dropped out of the economy and their plans were put on hold for 15 years.

The launch of the center comes just one month after Charlene and J. Orin Edson made a $50 million gift to ASU — half to the Edson College and half to the Biodesign Institute — in support of the university’s groundbreaking, multidisciplinary research on dementia and to enhance education and training for nurses and caregivers.

“We’re really appreciative of the Edson family for their very generous and substantial donation to help ensure this college thrives long into the future, and part of their interest is synergistic with the creation of this center,” Searle said.

karshmer, searle and coon

From left: Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation Dean Judith Karshmer, ASU Executive Vice President and Provost Mark Searle and Associate Dean, Professor and Center Director David Coon talk with one of the college's students before the launch of the new Center for Innovation in Healthy and Resilient Aging on April 24. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now 

The Center for Innovation in Healthy and Resilient Aging was formed from the merger of two ABOR-approved centers housed at the Edson College, the Center for Healthy Outcomes in Aging and the Hartford Center for Gerontological Nursing Excellence, and will leverage their existing activities and accomplishments for its foundation.

The center’s mission will be to advance transdisciplinary research that helps solve challenges in aging from the individual to the policy level by connecting faculty, students and community partners in biomedical research, clinical studies and behavioral interventions.

Coon, a member of the Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium, has decades of experience in age-related research and community engagement, from behavioral interventions that utilize music to hosting public talks and teaching classes on the subject. Earlier this month, he received the David Besst Award from the Arizona Caregiver Coalition for his contributions to improving family caregiving.

“He is infectious when it comes to his passion around this work and his desire to make sure that it's inclusive of both ASU and the community,” Edson College Dean Judith Karshmer said.

At Wednesday’s launch event, Coon listed some alarming statistics that underscore the urgency of the need for research and education in aging:

• As soon as 2030, for the first time in America’s history, there will be more people over the age of 65 than under the age of 18.

• Arizona has the fourth fastest growing aging population in the nation, and the proportion of that population that is growing the most rapidly is those aged 80-plus, what researchers call “the oldest old,” a population they know the least about.

• Arizona is No. 1 in the nation for proportional increases in instances of Alzheimer’s and dementia between now and 2025.

• Alzheimer’s is now the fourth leading cause of death in the state of Arizona.

“One only has to look at Japan to see what happens to a country completely unprepared for the demography that has overwhelmed them,” said Searle, whose own scholarly work has focused on aging, looking at how to preserve older adults’ independence. “They are now a country that is so top heavy in terms of age — well over 22% are over 65 — that they don't know what to do.

“It's my hope that this center can engage very broadly across the disciplines to engage that subject in meaningful and substantial ways and that they build relationships with the center for neurodegenerative disease in Biodesign so that we can really be thinking about these things in as holistic a way as we possibly can.”

Also at Wednesday’s event, Coon named the center’s first three teams of faculty scholars and their research projects:

• Narayanan Krishnamurthi, assisant professor in the Edson College; Pavan Turaga, associate professor in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering and the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering; and Daniel Peterson, assistant professor in the College of Health Solutions for their project titled, "Towards real-time fall risk assessment in Parkinson’s disease by continuous monitoring of free-living activities."

• Cheryl Der Ananian, associate professor in the College of Health Solutions; Sonia Vega-Lopez, associate professor in the College of Health Solutions; and Hyunsun Oh, assistant professor in the School of Social Work for their project titled, "Evaluating the effectiveness of the Diabetes Prevention Program – Group Lifestyle Balance (DPP – GLB) in individuals with prediabetes and arthritis."

• Wenlong Zhang, assistant professor in the Polytechnic School at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering; Erin Chiou, assistant professor in the Polytechnic School at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering; and Karen Marek, Bernita “B” Steffl Professor of Geriatric Nursing in the Edson College for their project titled, "Understanding fall risks and mobility independence in older adults with smart shoes."

The Center for Innovation in Healthy and Resilient Aging is still accepting applications for faculty fellow or affiliate status and will be waiving its requirements for prior active involvement in the center through the rest of the spring 2019 semester.

“The truth of the matter is we can be resilient even at the end of life,” Coon said. “(The center) is going to help us launch a national venture in aging. … We can lead the nation here.”

Top photo: David Coon, associate dean, professor and Center for Innovation in Healthy and Resilient Aging director speaks at the launch of the new center at Health North, on the Downtown Phoenix campus on April 24. The center will be located within the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation and will advance research to help understand and solve challenges in aging. Coon said, "Aging: If it's not your issue, it will be." Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

ASU pursuing deeper veterans' wellness engagement


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Jerry Gonzalez

Arizona State University representatives from across campuses attended a symposium April 17–18 in Phoenix to gain insight into the veteran space, network with local and military veteran community leaders and gather ideas on how the university can help further.

ASU was a key sponsor of the Arizona Coalition for Military Families' 10th annual Statewide Symposium in Support of Service Members, Veterans and Their Families — a highly attended event that included White House representation and a national Department of Veterans Affairs lead.

The coalition serves as the programmatic arm for the Arizona Department of Veteran Services. 

“These are significant times as we look to improve the quality of life of every veteran in Arizona,” said ASU alumna Wanda Wright, director of the Arizona Department of Veterans' Services and a retired Air Force colonel.

Due to the Arizona Coalition for Military Families and the collective efforts of many other groups to support veterans, Arizona is unique.

“This kind of work does not happen in most other states,” Wright said. “We are unusual in the way we are able to work together to influence the veteran echo system to manifest goodness for servicemembers, veterans and their families.”

ASU’s interest in the veteran echo system is twofold, supporting student veterans on campus and those out in the communities, plus driving innovative research and curriculum opportunities. The school’s military-affiliated student population grows each year, and currently hovers at well over 8,000 with continued growth expected. The university also owns comprehensive tools and resources to socially embed with public agencies that are on the front lines of veteran/military support.

One of ASU’s colleges with a significant number of student veterans is the College of Health Solutions. The college is aware of the unique challenges veterans face when they transition out of the military and onto campus. Its counselors, some of whom are also veterans, are there to assist.  

“We are trying to understand the veteran experience,” symposium attendee and College of Health Solutions Dean Deborah Helitzer said. “And how their education at the College of Health Solutions can be enhanced by thinking about their situation from a more holistic perspective. We recognize that the veteran students come from a team environment to the university where they are individual learners. We believe our collaborative, experiential approach to education will be effective for veterans who are interested in careers in health.”

The college engaged with the VA to look at different areas where new collaboration may be possible, the dean said. Both ASU’s College of Heath Solutions and Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation participated in strategic working sessions with the Phoenix VA Medical Center in January.

One of the key Arizona Coalition for Military Families programs College of Health Solutions faculty and students are engaged in is “Be Connected.” Launched in 2017, Be Connected is a collaboration between public and private stakeholders in Arizona aiming toward “upstream” suicide prevention in the veteran community.

“Right now Be Connected is a responsive model,” said Nicola Winkle, coalition project director. “You call, the team answers. You need help, it is provided. What we’ll be adding to complement this responsive approach is a proactive approach where we actively seek out and connect to segments of our military veteran and family population.”

Transitioning Be Connected to a proactive model requires data for focusing efforts, Winkle said. Data can prove what works, show how training and support increases intervention and reveal risk and protective factors of the military population. It can also help identify vulnerable populations within veteran communities with higher risk and lower protective factors.  

The symposium featured two days of programming and 11 learning tracks “all focused on increasing knowledge, skills and abilities for serving and supporting the military, veteran and family population.” The Pat Tillman Veterans Center hosted a roundtable discussion on building a veteran-supportive college campus, Veterans Upward Bound reps provided on-site resources throughout the event and ASU’s School of Social Work, a unit within the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, conducted a mindfulness and meditation session.

ASU participants also included around 25 faculty and staff from ASU’s Educational Outreach and Student Services, Enterprise Marketing Hub, Office of Government and Community Engagement, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Office of the President, Flag Officer Council, the Public Service Academy, and affiliate ASU Research Enterprise.

Top photo: Attendees of the Arizona Coalition for Military Families' 10th annual Statewide Symposium in Support of Service Members, Veterans and Their Families mingle at the exhibitor fair in Phoenix on April 16. Photo by Jerry Gonzalez/ASU

Award honors ASU associate dean for dedication to family caregiving


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Amanda Goodman

Championing the need for research, programs and support for caregivers has been a passion of David Coon’s for more than three decades.

Recently, those efforts were honored in an especially meaningful way by the Arizona Caregiver Coalition.

On March 21, the Arizona State University Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation associate dean of research and professor was presented with the David Besst Award at the Arizona Capitol.

“It means the world to me because this award is of the people, and it's in memory of a close colleague and friend who shared the same fight: to help us find better ways forward for family caregivers particularly through the development of evidence-based programs,” said Coon.

The Arizona Caregiver Coalition is a nonprofit that supports and advocates for family caregivers across the state to improve their quality of life. According to their criteria, this award is given to an individual who has “made significant contributions in family caregiving.”

It not only honors the awardees but as the name suggests, it also honors Besst — who was a caregiver himself — for his untiring work to establish resources and respite for family caregivers.

“I want to dedicate this award back to all the family caregivers, the coalition and my sister and brother because they are doing the lion’s share of caregiving in my own family.”
— David Coon, Edson College associate dean of research and professor 

Executive Director of the Coalition Jutta Ulrich says the award was created two years ago after Besst’s passing. Given their aligned goals and close relationship, Ulrich says she was ecstatic to learn Coon was selected as the 2019 recipient.

“David and David, they became really fast friends and it was a good match because they supported each other. David Coon with his academic background and David Besst from the state’s side, they were a good match to get important things done,” she said.

Many of those accomplishments were read aloud during the award presentation. The list was long, and it featured two programs in particular that have had an especially positive effect on improving the lives of family caregivers. 

One was CarePRO, a group-based and coach-call intervention that teaches caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s and related dementias self-care skills and strategies to reduce their stressors and related distress while enhancing positive coping and emotional well-being.

Another was EPIC, which involves both the people in the early stage of dementia and their care partners with a focus on hearing the voice of the person living with the disease to learn skills and map out a care plan together.

During his acceptance speech, Coon was quick to redirect the spotlight, offering that he did not and could not have gotten here on his own.

“It always takes you back a little bit hearing a list of accolades like that because what’s not represented are all the people that are there with you as you move programs forward, including all the family caregivers and older adults with chronic illnesses that served as participants in our research projects to help us build the interventions and evaluate them. Also, there’s all the staff and co-investigators that have been with me on that journey. So it's a little overwhelming to hear,” Coon said.

“I want to dedicate this award back to all the family caregivers, the coalition and my sister and brother because they are doing the lion’s share of caregiving in my own family,” Coon added.

Like the award’s namesake and his good friend, Coon was drawn to this field through personal experience. That exposure helped inform what has since become his life’s work, and if you ask him, he’ll tell you there’s still a lot to do.

“We need to make sure that programs and services that we know work are available, but it's not just about making them available, it's making them accessible and it's making sure that they are acceptable,” he said.

A first for their families


This is a kicker

Mary Beth Faller

After 10 years, three changes of major and two children, Ashley Pitman graduated from college this week — the first in her family to earn a degree.

Like many first-generation students, her journey took a bit longer, but she knows that she’s secured a future for herself and her family with her bachelor’s of nursing degree from Arizona State University.

“One of the main reasons I did it is because I think each generation of family should improve themselves and strive for higher achievements,” the Navy veteran said. “Even having two kids in the middle of it, I still did it.

“I don’t think my kids will have an excuse to not go to college now.”

Pitman is part of a growing number of first-generation students accepted to and graduating from ASU, part of the university’s mission to expand access.

In the fall 2017 semester, 22,070 students — including first-time freshmen and transfers — were the first in their families to go to college. That's 26 percent of the total enrolled student population, compared with 18 percent a decade ago. And their graduation rate is on the rise.

First-generation students can face unique challenges in navigating the complex world of higher education, but graduation is critically important as Arizona tries to increase the number of degree-holding residents as a way to draw business and boost the state’s economy.

A degree makes an enormous difference. College graduates not only have lower rates of unemployment than non-degree-holders, they also earn an average $17,500 more per year than high school graduates. Graduates are also more likely to vote and to live a healthier lifestyle.

ASU has committed to removing barriers to higher education and to supporting first-generation students with specialized coaching, which improves the odds that they’ll persist in their studies and graduate.

“We’ve proven that ASU’s vision is possible,” said Kevin Correa, associate director of ASU’s First-Year Success Center.

“We can be committed to both access and excellence at the same time. Those things are not mutually exclusive.” 

first gen

Sustainability doctoral graduate Michael Sieng (left) and Navy veteran and nursing graduate Ashley Pitman (right) stand with their families, of whom they are the first university graduates.

A blessing and a burden

ASU has supported students through its First-Year Success Center coaching program for several years, but two years ago, the university launched Game Changers, an initiative specifically focused on first-generation freshmen. These students get one-on-one counseling from older peer coaches, many of whom also are first-generation students, along with group events and advice on building practical skills, like time management and how to email a professor.

Game Changers validates the students’ experiences, according to Marisel Herrera, director of ASU’s First-Year Success Center.

“It’s the identity of ‘first.’ What happens when you’re the first in anything? There’s a huge learning curve because you have experiences that those around you have not had,” she said.

Students learn not only practical information specific to ASU, like how to work the meal plan, but they meet a community of people like them.

“We have faculty who were first-generation students come and give talks,” Correa said. “They become role models for the students to relate to and aspire to.”

Beyond practical advice, Game Changers recognizes the unique pressures that first-generation students face, Herrera said.

“You can be this awesome student, academically qualified, living the dream that you and your family have worked so hard for, but you still feel somehow like you don’t belong or you have to prove yourself in ways different from others,” she said.

Even with family support, there can be stresses.

“You have a great deal of expectation from those around you, including your family and your community, to succeed — which is a blessing and a burden,” Herrera said.

“So many times we see students who are doing great but they’re dealing with a level of stress that’s pretty high because this is not just about them and their 18-year-old world. This is: ‘I need to make my family proud.’ ”

Herrera said the Game Changer coaches approach the first-generation students’ experiences as positives, not negatives.

“We talk about them being trailblazers. We congratulate them for being courageous pioneers for their family. We celebrate the experience and ask them to reflect on it,” she said.

Game Changers coaches also push the freshmen to maximize their college careers with leadership positions, undergraduate research, study abroad or entrepreneurship.

“We want them to elevate their vision of themselves,” Herrera said.

The intense one-on-one help is unusual, and colleges from around the country call Herrera to ask about the model.

“For ASU to be the largest university in the nation and to offer such personalized support is unheard of,” she said. “We’ve demonstrated that you can care deeply at scale.”

Time for a culture change

When a family launches someone into college, that student often supports those who follow.

Tomy Gates graduated with a degree in community sports management this week, and his twin brother, Tommy Gates, will earn his degree in tourism development and management in May.

“We were pushed to graduate from high school, but college was never spoken of in our house,” Tomy Gates said.

The two eventually enrolled in community college in their home state of California, and then Tomy Gates transferred to ASU.

“He helped me with everything,” Tommy Gates said of his brother. “He transferred first. He said, ‘This is what you need to do. This is how it will work. It’s a load you can carry, and I know you can do it.’ I’ve been looking up to him since I got here.”

The two, who live together while attending classes on the Downtown Phoenix campus, said that even though they were never encouraged, they knew they wanted degrees.

“It’s time for a culture change, and that’s what we wanted to do,” Tommy Gates said.

“We knew we could do it. We weren’t pushed to be doctors, but we knew we had the skills to graduate and change everything around us and make a better environment.”

Laura Samora was the first in her family to get a degree when she graduated from ASU in 2009, and this week, she watched her husband, Frank Samora, also a first-generation student, earn his degree in kinesiology.

“With us it’s really been a team effort with his working full time and going to school full time,” she said. “It’s been incredible to see all the personal growth in him, and the finish is almost bittersweet.”

Frank Samora, who’s a Marine Corps veteran, said his wife “got him over the finish line” and that he bonded with other first-generation students.

“We helped each other to reduce the anxiety. ‘First time you, first time me,’ ” he said.

Young people whose parents did not finish college are less likely to enroll in higher education right after high school. So for many, the journey to a degree is a long one.

Stacey Lynch earned her psychology degree from ASU Online this week, 20 years after graduating from high school. Along the way, she married and had seven children.

“My parents never encouraged me to go to college,” she said. “They said, ‘Find a good man to support you and have his babies.’ ”

Lynch worked for several years before enrolling in a community college in her home state of California.

“It was really hard because I did it all by myself. A lot of people have financial support and the backing of their parents, and I didn’t have that,” she said.

She had to work up the courage to apply to ASU Online two years ago and didn’t even tell her husband until a week after she was accepted.

“I told him, ‘I really want to finish this,’ ” said Lynch, whose children range in age from 18 years old to 4 months.

Her husband, Joe Lynch, is starting a master’s program in ASU Online this spring.

“She inspired me. It was so hard, and she did so much homework and she had a baby in her senior year,” he said, adding that their son and six daughters all will attend college.

Stacey Lynch, who will begin the master’s of social work program through ASU Online next fall, said that her degree means she’ll always have the ability to provide for her family.

“It’s changed my life.”

Net neutrality: ASU expert on how the FCC vote could affect you


This is a kicker

Katherine Reedy

On Dec. 14, the Federal Communications Commission will vote on whether to eliminate net neutrality. To better understand the consequences of this vote, ASU Now spoke with Heather Ross, clinical assistant professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and College of Nursing and Health Innovation at Arizona State University. Ross detailed the potential negative consequences for consumers, students, political campaigns and healthcare.

Question: Practically speaking, how will eliminating net neutrality affect the average American? Will people notice a change in their internet speed or cost?

Heather Ross

Answer: From a practical perspective, eliminating net neutrality will transform the current internet from an information superhighway where all the lanes travel at the same speed to a road with many different lanes, including high-speed lanes that are limited to certain users, and low-speed lanes that everyone else can use. Eliminating net neutrality will put internet service providers (ISPs) like AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and Charter in charge of which websites can use which lanes. Keep in mind that the rules governing the internet and net neutrality are written in the Communications Act of 1934, long before the internet existed (or superhighways, for that matter).

Most people will notice some changes in their internet speed for some sites, depending on their ISP. For example, in a hypothetical case, Comcast could choose to put its own proprietary video streaming service in a high-speed lane but place Netflix in a lower-speed lane that results in interrupted video quality. In a real-life case, in 2012 (prior to the net-neutrality regulations of 2015) Verizon limited the use of the iPhone's FaceTime video calling service on certain cellular plans. In this hypothetical case, Comcast could charge its customers an additional fee to stream Netflix at a higher speed. In the real-life AT&T case from 2012, cellular FaceTime video calling was only available on higher-cost cellular plans.

Q: How could college students who are completing their education online be affected by a loss of net neutrality?

A: ASU joins many other universities around the world in offering online educational opportunities so that students can start, continue and complete their education at all levels, wherever they happen to live or whatever their life circumstances. Personally, I have had the privilege of teaching students who are actively deployed in the military, who have kept up with their education by using online resources. For online students, a slow-down in internet speeds or even blockage of certain sites can impede their ability to access videos, audio recordings, live-streamed lectures and interactive discussions that make online learning feasible and effective. In effect, losing net neutrality has the potential to limit or restrict the content that online students can access, which can slow down their ability to learn and complete their coursework. 

Q: Over the last decade, political campaigns have increasingly relied on the internet to connect with voters. Would candidates and campaigns need to adjust their strategy if net neutrality is eliminated?

A: Many political candidates worry that if net neutrality is eliminated, ISPs may target political communications and websites for internet speed slowdowns or restrictions. Some candidates fear that slowdowns could be targeted along political party lines, and therefore disadvantage one party's ability to communicate with voters effectively. If net neutrality is eliminated, candidates, campaigns, political activists and organizations may need to find other grassroots ways to connect with voters. For example, so-called old-fashioned methods of direct mail and telephones may return to prominence in political messaging. In addition, never count out the power of innovating new types of communication systems to replace the role that the internet currently plays. (Disclosure: I am a candidate for U.S. Congress in 2018.)

Q: Recently, healthcare organizations have expressed concern over the potential loss of net neutrality. How might the elimination of net neutrality impact healthcare providers, patients, research and innovation?

A: Healthcare today revolves around the internet for the use of electronic medical records (EMRs) that were mandated by the federal government in the HITECH Act and the ACA. Today, nearly 90 percent of medical practices use an electronic medical record. Internet speed slowdowns could impact healthcare providers' efficiency in the hospital and the clinic, or force healthcare providers to pay more to their ISP to ensure that their EMRs function at a higher speed.

Beyond medical records, many people use internet-connected medical devices for a range of medical conditions including diabetes and heart rhythm disorders. For some people, internet-connected medical devices provide critical information and treatment to keep them alive. If net neutrality is eliminated, patients like these may run the risk of a slowdown in communication speed for their critical health information. For some people, like someone with dangerously low blood sugar or someone who is having an abnormal heart rhythm that puts them at risk for a stroke, slower internet speeds could raise their risk of a worsened or dangerous health outcome that could have been prevented with faster internet-based communication, whether directly to the patient or to their healthcare provider.

Finally, many health researchers work in teams located all over the world that rely on sharing vast sums of complex data over the internet. Restrictions or slowdowns in data may hamper research and innovation progress for universities, nonprofits and corporations by increasing the costs of data communication in both time and money.

ASU freshmen showcase original solutions to real-world health problems


This is a kicker

Emma Greguska

Hundreds of Arizona State University students crowded the courtyard between the Health North and South buildings Friday afternoon in downtown Phoenix. On display were posters they’d worked on all semester, with titles like “One Nation under Opioids,” “Abuse at Geriatric Homes” and “HIV Accessibility in Nigeria.”

Tough issues for any undergrad to tackle but especially for a freshman, which all of them were. The posters were the culmination of a semester-long endeavor for their ASU 101 course called the Health Innovation Project.

Friday’s event, the Health Innovation Exhibition, was the College of Nursing and Health Innovation students' chance to showcase an original solution to a real-world problem within the health care industry.

Nancy Kiernan, senior director of academic services and ASU 101 instructor for the college, said the exhibition began three years ago as a way to “start infusing the innovation process as early as freshman year.”

“It’s really about getting them to think of themselves as problem solvers and critical thinkers,” she said.

ASU 101 instructors at CONHI start early in the semester introducing students to the step-by-step process by which innovative solutions are arrived at. First, students identify a health care problem to address, which can be a challenging process in itself.

Nursing freshman Rebecca Farias, whose team settled on “Prevention of Depression Through the Classroom,” said it took them a while to narrow down their topic. They started with the idea to address depression in general, then whittled it down to a particular stressor — in this case, depression caused by the transition from high school to college — then began to think of ways to prevent it.

“Some students struggle with the big picture,” Kiernan said. “This gets them to think about how to take a large-scale problem and work collaboratively with a team and meet deadlines to make an impact.”

Farias’ team’s solution was to send ASU students to talk to high school students about their own experiences and what to expect — a college-prep talk focused more on the social and emotional aspects rather than the brass tacks of financials and grades.

“We really had to think about all aspects of the problem to make the solution a reality,” Farias said.

In addition to encouraging students to think differently about how to address problems in their field, the project also teaches them basic research skills that no doubt come in handy later in their academic careers and beyond.

Community health freshman Nikkalaus Cheever said learning how to use the ASU Library’s online catalogue of scholarly articles was invaluable when researching statistics on homelessness for his team’s project, since sources of information need to be credible.

This was the first year in the exhibition’s three-year history in which a winner was named: “Lack of Comprehensive Sexual Education in Schools,” created by nursing freshmen Alena Britt and Ashley Pinkerton and community health freshmen Grace Lillibridge and Grace Smith.

Britt said the inspiration for the project came from the team’s realization that she was the only one among them who had received any sort of thorough sex education before college. Pointing to a map on their poster that featured a map of the United States showing which states require sex ed — a gross minority — Britt said, “It’s easy to see why the U.S. has the highest teen pregnancy rate.”

Her team’s solution was to implement a sex ed game via a smartphone app in schools across the country. The game would be similar to The Sims, where players have an avatar and make choices about what actions to take, like whether or not to use birth control when you decide to engage in sexual activity. Based on their choice, the app will display facts such as types of birth control, where you can get it and whether your insurance will cover it.

In second place was “Stopping STI’s One Sun Devil at a Time,” and in third was “Preventing Childhood Drowning.” All three teams were invited to utilize the resources of the newly opened HEALab, a health- and wellness-centric entrepreneurship lab on the Downtown Phoenix campus.

Director of HEALab Rick Hall congratulated the winners and encouraged them to use the lab to help take their product or service to market.

Britt said her team will definitely be doing that.

“Hopefully [with the help of HEALab], we’ll be able to actually get this out there and eventually every state will require sex ed,” she said.

Top photo: Community health freshman Naphia Morris presents her group's work on the prevention of depression through the classroom during the Health Innovation Exhibition on Friday on the Downtown Phoenix campus. The College of Nursing and Health Innovation's ASU 101 freshmen created research projects with solutions to real-world projects. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Integrative health grad finds calling through ASU's unique degree offering


This is a kicker

Emma Greguska

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2017 commencement. See more graduates here.

With a name that means “light,” it seems fitting that integrative health senior Alina Thomas will be pursuing a career in holistic health when she graduates from Arizona State University's College of Nursing and Health Innovation this December.

The San Francisco Bay Area native said it is her mission to “spread light to others” as a personal development or wellness coach, mentor, motivational speaker and health blogger.

“I aspire to be like a female Mister Rogers for adults,” Thomas said.

She didn’t always know that, though. The path to her vocation had some turns — she started out as a nursing major — and some bumps along the way, including a personal battle with depression.

After developing an independent interest in a more natural, holistic approach to health and wellness, she discovered ASU offered an integrative health degree.

“It seemed like a hand-crafted fit for me,” she said.

“The program educates students on a range of mind-body therapies, and I quickly realized that it’s truly one of the most unique programs in the country. … Studying integrative health honestly changed my life.”

Before Thomas graduates, she took some time to reflect on her experience at ASU.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: I was actually originally a nursing major at ASU. During one of my first clinical rotations, I was feeding an elderly veteran patient who could barely speak and was in so much pain but kept thanking God with the words he could put together. I was almost moved to tears even as I was carrying out a basic nursing skill like feeding. That moment is representative of my realization that I could not handle seeing people suffering like that while in a very skills-based position, and I had also been facing depression for years at that point. I then decided to explore another major. During college, I had developed a deeper connection to faith, exercise, healthy eating, organic products, etc. So when I discovered that ASU offered a program like integrative health, it seemed like a hand-crafted fit for me, and then I officially made the switch. 

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or that changed your perspective?

A: As the College of Nursing and Health Innovation provided me with a genuine community of care, I learned that I'm not a grade-point average but a human being who is perfectly imperfect. My insecurity used to come from feeling different from my peers as a sensitive old soul, but now that's where my confidence comes from. 

Q: What did you love about your degree program?

A: As an integrative health major who personally prefers more natural, holistic routes toward wellness, I have absolutely loved learning how we can introduce complementary and alternative medicine into the mainstream. I am passionate about fitness, spirituality, mindfulness, holistic nutrition, etc. Anyone who knows me knows that health is my life, especially holistic health — which honors both our minds and bodies. The program educates students on a range of mind-body therapies, and I quickly realized that it’s truly one of the most unique programs in the country, because most health-related programs at a four-year university simply focus on physical health. However, I've learned that our body responds to our thoughts and our thoughts are shaped by our bodies. Moreover, I’ve learned about the importance of taking preventive health measures and how amazing lifestyle changes like diet and exercise can be. Studying integrative health honestly changed my life. Some of my first courses were on stress management and public speaking, and through courses like those, I learned real-life skills. I wasn’t just learning scientific facts or formulas. I learned about mindfulness, meditation, how to live in the moment and be present. I learned how to be!

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Always remember that you've survived 100 percent of your bad days and will continue to, with a mind-set of resilience.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: I gained more appreciation for my mind and body through the Downtown campus’ Sun Devil Fitness Complex (and it’s perhaps one of the most beautiful gyms in the area). The SDFC is also really where my holistic fitness journey took off.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I'd like to gain field experience and eventually pursue graduate school. I envision myself as a personal-development or wellness coach, mentor, motivational speaker and health blogger. I aspire to be like a female Mister Rogers for adults. One of my goals is also to give a TED Talk.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would absolutely apply the funds to making mental-health services available and free for students in elementary, junior high and high schools — from access to licensed professional counselors to meditation teachers. In the same way we provide physical education classes in schools, I would like to see daily meditation sessions in classes across the world. Ultimately, our growth as adults stems from our discoveries as youth.

Top photo: ASU integrative health senior Alina Thomas stands in front of the fountain between the Mercado B and C buildings at ASU's Downtown Phoenix campus, where she spent much of her time as an undergrad. Photo by Charle Leight/ASU Now

ASU diabetes prevention research sees promising results


This is a kicker

Amanda Goodman

This November, in recognition of National Diabetes Month, there are dozens of Arizona families who can say they are not only more aware of the disease but actively working to combat it thanks to researchers at Arizona State University's College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

A two-year research project titled "¡Viva Maryvale!" focused on developing a sustainable diabetes prevention program for high-risk communities. After the data was collected and analyzed, the results are encouraging.

The study was conducted by researchers from the College of Nursing and Health Innovation’s Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, under Gabriel Shaibi, principal investigator and center director. The researchers also partnered with several local agencies in order to successfully carry out the project.

“Our goal was to test the acceptability, feasibility and efficacy of a family-focused diabetes prevention program for Latino families,” said Erica Soltero, a postdoctoral fellow with the center.

Initial results indicate success in all three areas.

On the efficacy side, they saw a modest decrease in risk factors for diabetes but a significant decrease in body fat percentage for adults. Additionally, they saw quality of life improve quite a bit.

For youth, they saw body fat decrease and a significant increase in quality of life.

High-risk population

A total of 58 families living in the Maryvale community of Phoenix enrolled in "Viva" during the two-year period.

The geographical study area was selected for a number of reasons. 

The community of 215,000 residents is predominately Hispanic (76 percent), according to information from the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Soltero says research shows Latinos are significantly more insulin-resistant and exhibit higher rates of prediabetes and diabetes. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control estimates up to 50 percent of Latino children will develop type 2 diabetes in their lifetime.

Those statistics coupled with Maryvale’s own data showed that diabetes prevention interventions were definitely needed.

“Maryvale has a higher rate of mortality from diabetes as compared to the state rate of mortality from diabetes, so it’s definitely a high-need, high-risk area with limited resources,” Soltero said.

Finding families

They identified participants by partnering with Mountain Park Health Center’s Maryvale clinic, just one of several community-based organizations involved in the project.

Soltero says they were looking for children between the ages of 8 and 12 who were obese but who had not yet been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Thanks to Mountain Park, they were able to connect with both children and parents who were at high-risk.

“They have just really championed this project,” Soletro said. Researchers were able to work closely with the doctors, promotoras and the integrative health department at Mountain Park.

Once children were identified by their doctors as possible candidates, they were invited to participate; their parents were asked to join the program, too. In order for a child to be involved, a parent had to sign up with them.

That’s exactly how one mom found out about "Viva" — her 12-year-old son Esteban’s doctor recommended the study. Communicating through a translator, she agreed to share their experience but because of privacy agreements related to the study can only be identified as Esteban’s mom.

“My son turned out to be overweight and prediabetic with cholesterol; I have also had high cholesterol,” she said, adding, “I do whatever needs to be done to improve the health of my son.”

The study

"Viva" was no walk in the park. Each family has to commit to the 12-week program, which included exercising and attending nutrition education and overall wellness classes.

Participants were required to exercise three times a week for an hour each. Thanks to a partnership with Valley of the Sun YMCA they were able to work out close to home at the Maryvale branch.

“It’s colorful, bilingual and the staff reflects the community; they lend their expertise in fitness instruction,” Soltero said. “Each class is led by a YMCA facilitator.”

For Esteban and his mom, going to a gym was a new and at first intimidating experience. She said initially they were shy and the activities were really tiring, but she refused to quit because she wanted to set a good example.

“I would tell him I was not tired because I did not want him to think that if I could not do it, he couldn’t either. I would continue on as if nothing hurt me, even if I was tired,” she said.

The nutrition education classes were led by registered dietitians and health educators from St. Vincent de Paul’s Family Wellness Program, another integral partner in this study.

“They have developed a wonderful curriculum that incorporates not only nutrition education, everything from carbs and fats but also some wellness components that talk about self-esteem,” Soltero said.

The Arizona Department of Health Services was the primary funder of "Viva," but Soltero says they did so much more. They were actively involved every step of the way, helping with the vision of the program and offering guidance for implementation.  


Esteban’s mom said she lost 22 pounds while participating in "Viva" and her son brought his risk down and is no longer pre-diabetic.

Now that the study is over, she says they are maintaining their new healthy lifestyle in the food choices they make, how they prepare meals and also by staying active.

“He has not gained weight, and we continue to go to the gym the three days of the week that we used to,” she said.

In addition to seeing improvements in the health outcomes of participants mentioned early on, "Viva" also helped 35 uninsured parents establish care with Mountain Park Health Center.

Soltero said based on the data they’ve gathered, the program also passed the acceptability and feasibility test, thanks in part to the fact that it was a culturally grounded program developed with Latino family values in mind.

A key component of the positive outcomes had a lot to do with the community partners.

“We were able to do more together than any one entity could do on its own, and that’s the power of 'Viva,' ” said Soltero.

Next steps

Given the initial findings, Soltero says they would like to continue "Viva," with a larger number of participants, which would require additional funding.

Last month, Soltero along with her research study colleagues presented their data to the Arizona Department of Health Services, opening the door to discuss future funding.

Long term, the goal is sustainability outside of grants, which could include working with policymakers to institutionalize "Viva" and looking into making it a billable service through insurance.

For Soltero, there was one thing that came to light during the course of this two-year study that really stuck with her about the importance of what they were doing.

“The fact that they were either prediabetic or type 2 and didn't know it, I think that struck me because the first question that pops in my mind is, when were they going to find out and would it have been too late, or what would have happened?” she said. “This study really helped them bring it to light.”

Mayo Clinic, ASU collaborate to seed and accelerate research


This is a kicker

Kelsey Wharton

In Silicon Valley, investors flock to back potentially disruptive new technology and apps — even if they are still in development. But the funding landscape is a little different for health research. Although novel ideas have great potential to radically improve health care and medicine, funding agencies usually choose to fund well-established research. This can be a barrier for researchers with new ideas.

Together, Arizona State University and Mayo Clinic are addressing this challenge and giving promising novel research the momentum it needs with an annual award of seed grants and acceleration grants.

For 14 years, the Mayo Clinic and ASU seed grant program has been funding — or seeding — new research collaborations between ASU and Mayo Clinic researchers aimed at improving patient care. By launching novel research on a small scale, researchers have been able to attract funding needed for larger studies and are making significant impact in their fields of study.

For example, since 2005 the Mayo Clinic and ASU seed grants have translated into 57 externally funded projects worth approximately $30.5 million. Seed grant recipients have also shared their knowledge through more than 25 journal publications and by mentoring student researchers.

This year, the eight teams selected for seed funding will tackle research ranging from hand rehabilitation after stroke to better diagnostics for obesity-associated liver disease. Each team includes a researcher at ASU and at Mayo Clinic and draws on the strengths of each institution.

“Together ASU and Mayo Clinic are addressing critical issues in health and medicine by leveraging clinical expertise and a commitment to use-inspired, innovative research," said Cheryl Conrad, professor and assistant vice president of research development of ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development. "In addition to attracting significant external funding, seed grant teams go on to submit patents, publish in top journals and improve outcomes for patients. All of this work makes an impact on human health and our economic well-being.” 

“Research drives everything we do for our patients," said Hugo E. Vargas, medical director of Mayo Clinic’s Office of Clinical Research in Arizona. "The long-standing tradition of the seed grant awards allows Mayo Clinic and ASU researchers and physician-scientists to work together to find answers to unmet patient needs, with the ultimate goal of advancing care for our patients. These awards also help to highlight the strong relationship that exists between Mayo Clinic and ASU.” 

The 2018 seed grant projects and lead investigators are:

“Developing nanotechnique-based diagnostics for obesity-associated liver disease using circulating hepatocyte-derived extracellular vesicle biomarkers,” Yung Chang, professor, School of Life Sciences, ASU; Harmeet Malhi, MBBS, gastroenterology and hepatology, Mayo Clinic

“Clinical application of telomere length calculations for early detection of premalignant colon lesions and colorectal cancer,” Wayne Frasc, professor, School of Life Sciences, ASU; Lisa Boardman, MD, gastroenterology and hepatology, Mayo Clinic

“Development of bioactive, stable secretin agonists for the potential treatment of obesity and diabetes: first-in-class therapeutics for critical clinical problems,” Giovanna Ghirlanda, professor, School of Molecular Sciences, ASU; Lawrence Miller, MD, gastroenterology and hepatology, Mayo Clinic

“Identification and rapid quantification of myeloma cell-specific extracellular vesicles,” Ye Hu, associate professor, Biodesign Institute, ASU; Diane Jelinek, PhD, immunology, Mayo Clinic

“Real-time feedback training to improve gait and posture in people with Parkinson's disease,” Narayanan Krishnamurthi, assistant professor, College of Nursing and Health Innovation, ASU; Erika Driver-Dunckley, MD, Department of Neurology, Mayo Clinic

“Dual-task perturbation training: A novel intervention for fall prevention in people with Parkinson’s disease,” Daniel Peterson, assistant professor, School of Nutrition and Health Promotion, ASU; Shyamal Mehta, MD, PhD, Department of Neurology, Mayo Clinic

“Patient-centered exploration and innovation to understand and ease the burden of dialysis,” Kathleen Pine, assistant professor, School for the Science of Health Care Delivery, ASU; Victor Montori, MD, endocrinology, Mayo Clinic.

“Impaired hand function after stroke: A pilot study of hand dysfunction in stroke with pure motor or sensorimotor deficits and implications for hand functional rehabilitation post stroke,” Marco Santello, professor, School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering, ASU; Maria Aguilar, MD, neurology, Mayo Clinic.

ASU and Mayo Clinic also collaborate to award an annual acceleration grant. This award targets a Mayo Clinic-ASU research project with established pilot data that is poised for high-impact and high-yield in the science of health care delivery. The award selection and funding is a collaboration between the Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Center for the Science of Healthcare Delivery at Mayo Clinic and the Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development.

This year, the acceleration grant recipients will focus on improving type 1 diabetes treatment. Currently, type 1 diabetes interventions like blood glucose monitoring, food intake and insulin administration are based on a “one size fits all” approach and patients often struggle to adhere to the complex self-management.

"Our goal is to use informatics to deliver personalized interventions to improve the treatment of diabetes patients, and receiving the acceleration grant is making this possible. We are excited about the opportunity to help Mayo Clinic patients effectively manage their diabetes,” said Adela Grando, assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Informatics.

Grando and co-investigator Bithika Thompson, Department of Endocrinology at Mayo Clinic, received the 2018 acceleration grant to address challenges of type 1 diabetes treatment. Previously, the team received federal funding for a pilot study, and the acceleration grant will enable them to build on and expand their research. 

Learn more about past seed grant recipients and about the Mayo Clinic and Arizona State University Alliance for Health Care.

If you are an ASU researcher, sign up to receive notifications about funding opportunities.

ASU women's basketball hosts third annual Heart Health Awareness game


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Emma Greguska

Up until the moment Becca Tobin’s heart stopped for seven minutes in an airport food court two years ago, there had been no signs that there was anything wrong with her. Fortunately, the former ASU women’s basketball star survived her ordeal, surpassing doctors’ predictions and going on to play professionally overseas.

Tobin’s total lack of warning is typical of most women, said ASU Clinical Assistant Professor and cardiac nurse Heather Ross.

“Women don’t always have the same kind of symptoms as men,” Ross said. “Unfortunately that translates a lot of the time to women not getting those clues that something is wrong until it’s too late.”

To help share that and more invaluable knowledge, ASU women’s basketball will host its third annual Heart Health Awareness Game on Saturday, Nov. 18, at Wells Fargo Arena. A Heart Healthy expo featuring free samples of healthy local cuisine and fitness assessments will take place outside the arena beginning two hours before the 2 p.m. game time.

Head Coach Charli Turner said that considering how the team has personally been affected by heart health issues — another former player, Aubrey Johnson, lost her 15-year-old brother to heart failure in 2006, and Turner’s own husband lives with heart disease — partnering with the American Heart Association to host the awareness game seemed like a no-brainer.

“For all of those reasons this has just really hit home for our ASU family,” she said. “And we feel like it’s our obligation because of the platform we have to give back within our community.”

Volunteers from ASU’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation, College of Health Solutions and Sun Devil Fitness Complex, as well as community partners including Dignity Health and the American Heart Association, will be on hand to give blood pressure and cholesterol checks, CPR training and more.

“Taste of Tempe” will feature healthy food samples from more than a dozen local restaurants and grocery stores, such as Outback Steakhouse, Red Robin, Jimmy John’s, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.

Attendees are of course encouraged to stay for the game following the expo, which will include a heart health awareness-themed halftime, complete with activities and giveaways.

women's basketball team and coach cheering

ASU women's basketball Head Coach Charli Turner (center) during a 2010 game against University of Oregon. The ASU team, which at the time included Becca Tobin (not pictured), defeated Oregon 73-68. Photo by Tom Story

“In our small way here, we’re trying to educate and have a fun event,” Turner said.

Despite a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found deaths from heart disease are on the decline, it is still the No. 1 killer of women, Ross said.

Ross researches wearable heart-health-tracking devices that can alert a patient that something is wrong before they begin to experience symptoms, hopefully preventing adverse reactions. She presumes the CDC’s findings about the decline in deaths from heart disease may be related to an increase in smoking bans and the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

“When they banned smoking in public places in the UK years ago, they saw a significant drop in heart attack rates,” Ross said. “And rates of sudden cardiac death in the U.S. dropped quite a bit in the years since the ACA was passed. What that makes us think is that people are getting checkups and preventative care, and are better able to take care of chronic health conditions because they have insurance.”

Still, the New York Times reported just this week that new guidelines for high blood pressure mean millions of Americans will need to change their lifestyles or begin taking medication. The news underscores the pervasiveness of heart health issues and the need for diligence where they are concerned.

RELATED: Q&A on the new blood pressure guidelines

The No. 1 cause of heart disease, Ross said, is smoking. Other factors that put people at risk include having diabetes and being post-menopausal.

Unfortunately, though, there are cases where one’s lifestyle or stage in life don’t contribute to causing the disease. Ross specializes in electrical arrhythmia, a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. A related condition, atrial fibrillation, is also common in women and can cause strokes.

“It’s important to realize that a lot of things go along with heart disease, including risk of stroke,” Ross said.

As far as prevention goes, she recommends partaking in regular exercise, eating a balanced diet and not smoking.

“There’s a lot of data that suggests that a Mediterranean diet that really focuses on veggies, whole grains, fruits and lean meats can be cardio-protective,” she said. “One of the tips we give patients when they go grocery shopping is to stick to the edges (of the store),” where healthier foods tend to be located.

In addition to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and balanced diet, Turner suggests dealing with stress through practices like yoga and mindfulness.

“Behavior change is really, really hard,” said Turner, whose master’s thesis focused on lifestyle changes in relation to heart disease. “But I think the biggest thing to realize [about heart disease] is that you can prevent it.”

ASU professor explains new blood pressure guidelines


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Amanda Goodman

A lot of people learned this week that they have high blood pressure after new guidelines were released lowering the definition of hypertension.

The changes come from the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association as part of their scientific guidelines for prevention, detection, evaluation and management of high blood pressure in adults.

As a result of the new guidelines, nearly half of the U.S. adult population (46 percent) now qualify as having high blood pressure, according to the ACC, but the biggest increase is expected among people under the age of 45.

Arizona State Univeristy College of Nursing and Health Innovation Clinical Professor Heather Ross specializes in cardiovascular care; here she provides details on what the change means and things you can do to decrease your risk. As always, before making any diet or lifestyle changes it is important to consult your health-care provider.

Question: Can you explain in simple terms what the new blood pressure guidelines mean for people and how it might affect them?

Answer: The new blood pressure guidelines mean that more adults technically have high blood pressure. For most people, this means making lifestyle changes like eating a healthier or lower-salt diet, exercising more or losing weight. For some people, it may mean taking medication to keep their blood pressure in a healthy range. However, most people will be able to treat their high blood pressure with lifestyle changes.

Q: Why were the guidelines changed?

A: The guidelines were changed because large population studies found that blood pressures above 120/80 put people at a statistically higher risk of having cardiovascular disease including chest pain, heart attack, heart failure, stroke, peripheral arterial disease or abdominal aortic aneurysm. All of these conditions can cause long-term health problems or even be life-threatening. Therefore, the best approach is to prevent them from ever happening by keeping blood pressure in a safer, lower range. 

Many people are confused when a change like this happens, especially when it means that a health number like blood pressure changes. For years, we have told people that 120/80 is a perfect blood pressure, and all of a sudden 120/80 is too high. The reason for the change is that researchers are constantly learning new things about our health based on ongoing studies of large groups of people, using new technologies that give us a better understanding of how health measurements change over time. Therefore, we try to incorporate these new scientific findings into health-care recommendations for people.

, PhD, DNP

Heather Ross

Q: Will this mean more and especially younger people will require medication for hypertension?

A: For most people, lifestyle changes alone will be enough to keep blood pressure in a healthy range. Compared to the old guidelines, just a few more people are likely to need to take medications for high blood pressure. However, people who are prescribed medications for high blood pressure should continue to take them, even when their blood pressures are back to being in a healthy range. Blood pressure medication isn't like an antibiotic that you'd take for an infection and stop taking after the infection goes away. For most people, high blood pressure is a lifelong condition and blood pressure medication is necessary long-term to keep the blood pressure in a healthy range and prevent any more serious heart or artery problems from developing.

Q: What are some of the things people can do to decrease their risk under the new lower definition of high blood pressure?

A: For many people, eating a healthier diet that is lower in salt will go a long way to lowering their blood pressure. Some people may also need to lose weight with a combination of diet and exercise. For people with high blood pressure, it is never a good idea to go on a crash diet or take diet pills to lose weight; that could actually be dangerous. Of course, moderate cardiovascular exercise for 30 minutes five days per week is a great idea for just about everyone, whether you have high blood pressure or not.

Q: Is this a wake-up call for American’s to pay more attention to heart health in general?

A: Yes, absolutely. Heart disease is still the No. 1 killer of men and women in America. Taking steps to keep your blood pressure at a safe, lower level can help to prevent developing more dangerous heart conditions in the long run.

ASU nursing alum creates online community to fight pediatric misinformation


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Amanda Goodman

A passion for accurate and accessible medical information led Arizona State University College of Nursing and Health Innovation alumna Danielle Stringer to come up with a unique solution.

The pediatric nurse practitioner found that her patients' parents were often turning to the internet in order to get questions answered outside the exam room. The problem was that a lot of what they came across online was inaccurate, contradictory or both.

“I honestly thought the best way to fix the confusion my parents were suffering while reading blogs online was to simply start writing the truth and publishing it myself,” Stringer said.

That’s how was born.

The content on the site, which has had well over 2 million readers, is timely, easy to understand and reliable.

ASU nursing alum Danielle Stringer launched to provide parents with accurate, accessible information outside the exam room.

“It has always been founded with the vision of delivering pediatric, evidence-based medicine to parents in a highly accessible format online,” Stringer said.

The name of her website was inspired by her own journey — Stringer became a nurse when she was still a kid herself.

Stringer started taking college classes when she was only 12 years old, first at community college and later transferring to ASU as a teenager.

In 2009, she graduated from ASU's College of Nursing with her BSN at just 17. A year later, she completed her MSN and became a board-certified pediatric nurse practitioner, earning the distinction of youngest nurse practitioner in the country at 18.

“I knew I wanted to be a nurse, and I didn’t see any reason to wait,” said Stringer, who live in metro Phoenix.

One of her nursing professors, Therese Speer, said Stringer was a standout student but it had nothing to do with her age.

“She was an extremely hard worker who challenged herself in everything she did, and she loved every minute of learning. Her patients and families are very blessed to have such a dedicated and caring provider,” Speer said. “I am so proud of her.”

Now, seven years into her career, Stringer is about the same age as most of the parents she works with. She says she can relate to the stage of life the parents are in, adding that it has been an asset in more ways than one in her practice.

“This has allowed me to be highly innovative with my perspective on pediatrics and the development of online pediatric education,” she said.

“She was not one to accept things as they were, but always asked why, what if, could we and how about,” 
— ASU Professor Therese Speer

The success of the website inspired another creation.

This summer, Stringer added to her online repertoire creating the KidNurse community, a private Facebook group specifically for moms and medical professionals.

Stringer said the idea behind the private group is to further community and relationships for readers of KidNurse.

“Members are welcome to ask basic pediatric questions and get feedback and encouragement from moms and nurses that have likely been through the exact same thing,” she said.

Even though she has reached success in launching her health-care solutions, Stringer said that doesn’t mean the process was always easy.

Early-on in her career she encountered some serious pushback. First, to the idea of sharing so much information online, and also to her use of social media to reach parents.

Stringer was not expecting that kind of resistance.

“I was surprised to find the amount of health-care providers that are stuck in their ways," she said. "Sometimes innovation makes people uncomfortable."

Stringer said she is grateful for her foundation at ASU, which prepares students to face these challenges by promoting and encouraging innovation. She said that helped her persevere.

Her advice to others is to be prepared for that struggle and don’t give up.

“Resistance to innovative ideas doesn’t mean that innovation isn’t necessary, it just means you’ll have to passionately advocate for it,” Stringer said. “We are at a time in our nation when cutting-edge health-care solutions are desperately needed. Our patients need it. So just be ready to fight for it.”

Top photo: Danielle Stringer interacts with a patient.

ASU prof to share tools with Alzheimer's caregivers at upcoming conference


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Emma Greguska

Of the more than 5 million people in America living with Alzheimer’s disease, roughly 80 percent are cared for at home. Aside from memory loss, caregivers can expect to encounter symptoms that include agitation, paranoia and sometimes even physical aggression — all in addition to round-the-clock care that includes meal preparation, bathing, doctor’s visits and more.

Caregiver burnout is rampant.

“It can be really, really challenging, and Alzheimer’s often occurs over a good number of years,” said David Coon, associate dean and professor at Arizona State University’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation. “People [provide in-home care] because they love the individual; this is someone important to them. But that doesn’t mean it comes without associated stressors, challenges and difficulties.”

David Coon

As November is both National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Caregiver Awareness Month, Coon will be speaking about tools caregivers can use to better deal with the challenges associated with the disease at the 2017 Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium Public Conference, taking place from 8 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 9, at the East Valley Institute of Technology in Mesa.

The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Attendees will have the chance to meet with other caregivers and patients in an interactive forum that shares current information and ongoing advances in the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s.

“It’s an opportunity to learn more about what’s going on right in their backyard and what might be available to them that would be really helpful in this journey,” Coon said.

Established in 1998, the Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium is a statewide collaboration in Alzheimer’s disease research. ASU is one of the consortium’s seven member institutions, which also include Barrow Neurological Institute, Mayo Clinic Arizona and Banner Sun Health Research Institute, among others.

For more than two decades, Coon has been researching effective therapies to allow patients with chronic illnesses and their families and caregivers maintain quality of life. Regina Ralston met Coon when he was presenting at a CarePRO class, where he teaches those therapies and other skills.

Ralston had been a long-distance caregiver for her mother for 10 years, and a 24/7 caregiver for her husband for seven — both had Alzheimer’s. She now works as the director of community relations for About Seniors, an elder-care placement agency, facilitating Parkinson’s caregiver support groups.

“In my experience, there were not a lot of people doing research on caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients,” Ralston said. “It was awesome to see someone dedicating their time to caregivers.”

Some of the best advice she got from Coon was to make sure to take time out for herself every day, even if it was only five minutes, and to stay socially connected, whether through friends, family or support groups, as caregivers often become isolated.

“It’s a little bit like when you’re on an airplane, and they tell you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first,” Coon said. “As hard as that is to hear, if you don’t find ways to take care of yourself, you may become unable to take care of your loved one.”

He’s currently working on a program called EPIC (Early-stage Partners in Care), in which patients in the early stages of Alzheimer’s map out a future care plan with their families and caregivers, noting their values and preferences so they can be taken into account when they’re no longer able to give their input. The project was successful in local pilot trials and has received funding from the National Health Institute to scale statewide and into Nevada.

Coon has also researched behavioral interventions for Alzheimer’s patients. Through his “Music & Memory” project, he has been able to show that exposure to music can impact patients’ mood and behavior for the better.

“What I try to do with the interventions I design is maintain quality of life for both the caregiver and the patient,” he said. “Some people say, isn’t it depressing? I have to say it’s not. If you meet the people, the families that are dedicated to working together to help someone on this journey … It’s really very inspiring. It’s the essence of humanity.”

Top photo courtesy of

$7 million NIH grant funds ASU center on minority health


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Paul Atkinson

A $7 million grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), of the National Institutes of Health, will fund a specialized research “Center for Excellence” at Arizona State University to improve the health of minority populations.

The five-year grant will advance the work of the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center, part of the School of Social Work in the College of Public Services and Community Solutions on the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus.

The transdisciplinary center brings together researchers from social work, nutrition, health and sociology to advance programs aimed at reducing chronic disease, with a particular focus on minority populations of the Southwest.

“For many years our research has focused on the social and cultural determinants of health — everything that is nonmedical. But our cultural beliefs also have an impact on biological components of health and what we believe to be an illness or a cure. Do we exercise, diet, drink?” said Flavio Marsiglia, principal investigator of the funded award, Regents' Professor at the School of Social Work and director of the Global Center for Applied Health Research. “With this funding, we can take a more holistic approach integrating sociocultural and biological factors to improve health disparities.”

The Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center is one of 12 Centers of Excellence nationwide funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.

“We need strong collaborations and research based upon asking the right questions in specific areas," said NIMHD Director Dr. Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable. "The Centers of Excellence are poised to emphasize scientific inquiry that will promote health equity.”

Flavio Marsiglia

Regents' Professor Flavio Marsiglia is principal investigator of a new specialized Center of Excellence at ASU focused on a comprehensive look at reducing health disparities.

The grant funds two main research projects, a development program for new faculty and researchers and an outreach component to maximize the impact of the new transdisciplinary center. The two research projects target youth and family behaviors associated with obesity-related disease and substance-abuse disorders. Findings will guide the design and testing of effective interventions that can improve the health of young people by strengthening the protective factors related to family, social and cultural influences and by weakening the risk factors.

“Our goal is to follow up now with young adults who were adolescents to examine long-term sustainability in changes in health outcomes and how the trajectory of those changes may be influenced by home and community environments,” said Gabe Shaibi, an associate professor in the College of Nursing and Health Innovation and a principal investigator of one of the research center’s projects. “We want to better understand how to integrate these contextual factors into health promotion, disease prevention interventions.”

ASU researchers will expand upon an existing program that empowers parents to promote substance-use prevention for their seventh-grade children. By also incorporating content about healthy eating, they can assess if parents can simultaneously and positively impact two health behaviors, nutrition and substance use.

“Because of the central role of the family in the Latino community, we propose that parenting programs that address multiple conditions can more effectively prevent, reduce and eventually help eliminate health disparities among Latino youth,” said Sonia Vega Lopez, a principal investigator and associate professor of nutrition at the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion in the College of Health Solutions.

The grant includes an outreach component by the School of Social Work to translate the knowledge gained by the studies and pilot projects into policy and best practices with stakeholders.

“We look forward to communicating the evidence-based findings from this research,” said James Herbert Williams, a principal investigator, and director of the School of Social Work. “Sharing best practices is vital to improving the health of our communities.”

Stephen Kulis

National Institutes of Health grant funding will also be used to establish an Investigator Development Core that will allow early-career faculty and postdocs involved in health-disparities research to advance their careers by conducting their own related research.

“We expect to have three pilot projects funded every year or more for each of the five years,” said Stephen Kulis, a principal investigator and professor at the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “Our objective is to not only generate new ideas and health disparities research but also to develop the next generation of health-disparities researchers.”

$50 million gift supports dementia research, education


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Emma Greguska

Dementia is a health issue that touches everyone, from the person afflicted to their friends and family to the individuals providing their care. As the aging population continues to grow, the number of people who become susceptible to the condition increases every day, underscoring the urgent need for more well-trained caregivers and better treatments.

This spring, Charlene and J. Orin Edson made a $50 million gift to Arizona State University, to be split evenly between the College of Nursing and Health Innovation and the Biodesign Institute in support of the university’s groundbreaking, multidisciplinary research on dementia, and to enhance education and training for nurses and caregivers.

“The Edson family’s generous gift helps to position ASU as a leader in tackling one of the most challenging health issues of our time,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “Our belief is that it will serve as an example of how investing in research for the common good makes possible new breakthroughs, better outcomes and faster progress on a whole host of important problems facing society.”

Gretchen Buhlig, CEO of the ASU Foundation, says the $25 million gift to the College of Nursing and Health Innovation will rename it the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation. “The gift will also create The Grace Center for Innovation in Nursing Education (named for Charlene’s mother),” Buhlig added. The $25 million gift to the Biodesign Institute will include the creation of The Charlene and J. Orin Edson Initiative for Dementia Care and Solutions.

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU Now

“The Edsons’ wisdom in giving broadly to impact deeply is illustrated in further funding of new programs, faculty appointments, scholarships and more,” Buhlig said. “The Edsons have made an impact that will resonate for generations.”

The Edsons said they were proud to partner with ASU to find solutions for diseases of the brain.

“We believe in ASU’s interdisciplinary, collaborative approach to finding solutions,” the family said in a statement. “We look forward to new discoveries and solutions to better the quality of life for people affected by brain disease and the heartache of those that love them.”

Sybil Francis, president and CEO of the Center for the Future of Arizona and standing co-chair and founder of Women and Philanthropy, worked closely with the Edson family — whom she and husband Crow have known for 15 years — to secure the gift.

She called the gift, one of the largest ASU has ever received, “transformational.”

“Beyond that, it really speaks to ASU's mission of social embeddedness and taking care of our communities through the university,” Francis said, adding, “When families make decisions to invest, especially at this level, it's really about having faith in the institution.”

simulation and learning resource center

The Simulation and Learning Resource Center at the Mercado on the Downtown Phoenix campus provides a clinical simulation experience to future nurses and caregivers. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Dementia is the term used to describe the disabling impairment of memory and thinking. Just as there are many forms of cancer, there are many forms of dementia, with Alzheimer’s being the most common.

“It takes a devastating toll on the affected person and an underappreciated toll on family caregivers,” said University Professor of neuroscience Eric Reiman. “So this fight against Alzheimer’s and dementia is a passion for us.”

Reiman also serves as director of the Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium and chief executive officer at Banner Research.

In 2017, the ASU-Banner Neurodegenerative Disease Research Center was established. Today, it lives on the fifth floor of the Biodesign C building, opened in September 2018. The interdisciplinary collaborative of researchers is poised to become one of the world’s largest teams of translational neuroscientists in the fight against Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.

At Biodesign, the gift will continue to fuel the institute’s two-pronged research approach to tackling dementia: one, to identify the causes and work toward a cure, and two, to develop tools for managing the disease.

biodesign lab

Researchers work in a lab at the Biodesign C building on the Tempe campus. Photo by Nick Merrick

It will also help to secure a program director and postdoctoral research fellows, supply seed funding for new experimental projects and establish an annual meeting to bring leading international experts in the field to ASU for discussion and collaboration.

Initial collaboration will begin within the university, though — Biodesign and the Edson College will be creating a program to encourage transdisciplinary inquiry that takes research findings from the bench to the bedside.

“We want to work with them because they're on the front lines,” said Biodesign Institute Executive Director Joshua LaBaer. “It's the nurses who actually do a lot of the patient care, and they have the best understanding of what the needs are.”

Edson College Dean Judith Karshmer called it “another beautiful opportunity for disparate units at ASU to come together.”

“We get to come together to do some things that ordinarily, we probably wouldn't have done,” she said. “And I think that a focus on both ends of this sort of continuum from prevention to treatment … is what a university like ASU should be doing, not one or the other.”

Judith karshmer

Judith Karshmer is the dean of the newly renamed Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

The Grace Center for Innovation in Nursing Education will set up shop in the Mercado A building on the Downtown Phoenix campus, where the Simulation and Learning Resources lab is housed. There, the gift will help advance research on simulation as a way to prepare nurses and other health care providers for careers in the field.

Karshmer hopes a portrait of its namesake, who was also a nurse, will inspire the next generation of nurses to pay it forward in the future.

In a stroke of serendipitous timing, Edson College will also soon be launching a center focused on healthy and resilient aging, to be led by the college’s associate dean of research, David Coon, that will advance capacity-building research opportunities with established community partners.

In addition, a new master’s degree entry program for college graduates from an array of disciplines will feature two-year-long academic practice partnerships in which students gain clinical experience working alongside professional health care providers across the Valley, and a dual PhD/DNP degree will prepare students as “nurse scientists” who have both practice and research capabilities in the area of cognitive impairment, dementia and family caregiving.

Current Edson College PhD student Abi Gomez is looking forward to all the new opportunities. She works as a research technician with Coon, investigating coping techniques for early-onset dementia patients.

Gomez has wanted to work in health care since high school and has studied in many countries, which gave her a chance to see how different cultures address the aging process.

“This will give us more scholarships and more grants to continue producing evidence-based practice … and work toward (solving) this global challenge,” she said.

Top photos: The Biodesign C building on the Tempe campus and the Mercado on the Downtown Phoenix campus, which will house The Grace Center for Innovation in Nursing Education. The Biodesign Institute and the Edson College of Nursing and Health Solutions will each receive $25 million from the Edson family to promote interdisciplinary dementia treatment and cure research. Photos by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

US News ranks ASU's disaster management program top in nation


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Scott Seckel

Floods, fires, earthquakes and hurricanes. An Arizona State University graduate program sending professionals into the teeth of disasters was ranked the top in the nation this week by U.S. News and World Report, ahead of George Mason University, Naval Postgraduate School and Columbia.

And the Center for Emergency Management and Homeland Security did it just five years after it was created.

“It’s nice to be No. 1,” said Don Siegel, director of the School of Public Affairs, where the center is housed. “It’s an amazing achievement, and we offer a tremendous array of programs in that space.”

The center fuses academics, research and real-world experience to meet disasters and emergencies, respond to them, manage them and recover from them, in both the private and public sectors. It also educates and trains public management professionals.

The No. 1 ranking leads a strong showing of competitive graduate programs around ASU, including several others in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions: Information technology management rose to second, ahead of Georgia Institute of Technology and Syracuse University; and urban policy moved up to fourth, ahead of Harvard, the University of Chicago and UCLA.

Elsewhere around ASU, the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, College of Nursing and Health Innovation, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and the W. P. Carey School of Business all saw graduate programs with improved rankings. See the full list at U.S. News and World Report's education website.

Managing crises and security is one of the fastest-growing job categories in both public and private sectors, according to Siegel. “There are tremendous job opportunities there,” he said.

Emergency management director is a job category not only in government agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but in large plants and facilities, and at private-sector companies like engineering, procurement and construction company Kellogg, Brown & Root.

“We see this as a growing field, and that’s why we offer so many programs,” Siegel said. “This is a growing area in government, but also in industry.”

Brian Gerber, an associate professor at the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, directs the program.

“We have a wide range of interesting people who go through the program,” Gerber said. Of three recent grads, one works for the Secret Service, another is the emergency manager for Maricopa County, and the third is the emergency planner for a Middle Eastern country’s national health system, Gerber said.

The college is also ranked third in the country for local government management. Most of ASU’s grad students in the field end up as city managers or assistant city managers.

“We train a lot of city managers,” Siegel said. “A lot of them are engaged in this, so they need to know this. It’s a very important part of their job. Not as much in a city like Phoenix, but in places like Florida, where they have all kinds of hurricanes and floods and have to deal with the response to that. ... We also place people in positions like compliance manager — very high salaries in these fields. ... It’s not just limited to the public sector.”

The vast majority of emergency management students are already working professionals. It’s a degree that’s oriented to early- or mid-career folks, Gerber said. The Emergency Management and Homeland Security degree is available online.

Part of the program’s meteoric success arises from the faculty, who are a mixture of various professors in the schools, along with a heavy component of faculty associates who are practitioners.

“That’s intentional,” Gerber said. “This being a professional degree, it’s important you have a blend of practitioner experience combined with an academic perspective that offers a different type of rigor useful to the students.”

Professor Eric Welch has done important research on how transportation departments manage extreme weather events. Associate Professor Yushim Kim has explored public health issues related to emergency management. Research Professor Melanie Gall is a hazards geographer studying the interaction between natural hazards and society. Her expertise lies in risk metrics (e.g., disaster losses, indices, risk assessments), hazard mitigation and climate-change adaptation planning as well as environmental modeling.

“The central strength of the program is that it’s an inherently interdisciplinary program precisely because policy and management issues in homeland security are inherently interdisciplinary in nature,” Gerber said. “When a disaster strikes, all types of professional disciplines are involved in response and recovery — really all phases of an emergency or disaster incident involves everyone from police and fire to public health to public works to transportation and the traditional emergency management office. We have all that expertise in the college, so the program really reflects that.”

Getting the program to the top of its game in such a short time took a lot of effort, said Siân Mooney, associate dean for Interdisciplinary Programs and Initiatives at Watts College.

“I am excited that we are No. 1 after only five years!" Mooney said. "This rank reflects the hard work and dedication of our faculty, and our commitment to engage community partners and students. The Watts College at ASU truly supports high-quality, interdisciplinary experiences that prepare our students for meaningful careers.”

Top photo: The Rim Fire in the Stanislaus National Forest near in California in August 2013. Photo courtesy of U.S. Forest Service/Wikipedia Commons

ASU nursing students partner with Special Olympics of Arizona for inclusive health fair


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Amanda Goodman

It’s the Friday before spring break and tucked down the bustling hallway of the Sun Devil Fitness Complex are more than a dozen students from Arizona State University's College of Nursing and Health Innovation hard at work.

The group, led by Clinical Professor Cheryl Schmidt, is immersed in the health fair they put together for the Special Olympics of Arizona’s 2019 state basketball and cheer competition, which was being held at ASU for the first time.

“We have 20 nursing students and three faculty here volunteering their time; none of them are getting class credit for this, and they’re doing it just before spring break. It’s great to see this,” Schmidt said.

As soon as the athletes enter the room, they’re greeted before making their way through several interactive stations that all serve a specific health promotion purpose. The activities and information are focused around four main pillars of wellness: emotional, nutritional, physical and social.

“I like it! I’m bringing more people from my team to do the activities,” Frances Taylor said.

Taylor, 47, is from Tucson, and it’s her third year competing in the statewide tournament. Not surprisingly, her favorite stop at the health fair had to do with physical wellness; she’s a basketball player, after all.

“I like doing the exercise. You have to roll the dice and see what exercise you get, then roll the other dice and see how many you have to do,” Taylor said.

As part of the Bachelor of Science in Nursing curriculum, students are required to organize and host at least one community health fair. That experience proved extremely helpful when it came time to put together this event. 

“The nursing students themselves really took the lead on it. So we talked about topics and activities that we wanted to do, and then they’ve been the manpower behind it and I just helped bring in the equipment,” said Amanda Metcalf, Special Olympics of Arizona health programs manager.

, Senior BSN student

Kieley Hicks

Senior Bachelor of Science in Nursing student Kieley Hicks worked with Special Olympics for a class project in the past. It was an experience she really enjoyed, so she was more than happy to take on the student leadership role to recruit for this event and help plan it.

“It was actually very easy; we got a ton of volunteers right away and from younger students too,” Hicks said.

Through the process of planning the fair, the student volunteers also got a lesson on inclusive health from Metcalf and her team.

“It’s a movement of making sure people with or without disabilities are getting the same opportunity and access to health care and treatment and also making sure current providers and future providers, like the student nurses here, are welcoming our athletes into their clinics,” Metcalf said.

This was the first time many of the nursing students have worked with individuals who have intellectual disabilities, but it will likely not be their last.

“Learning how to interact with different populations is going to be beneficial for me in the clinical setting because we’re going to have a whole diverse set of patients that we’ll be working with and we have to be able to communicate accurately with everyone,” said senior Bachelor of Science in Nursing student Randy Wagman.  

In addition to learning about diverse populations, this is also a chance for these future nurses to interact with people who are healthy and athletic. Schmidt says students in the nursing program spend a lot of time in acute care settings where the focus is on illness and treatment.

For Hicks, the chance to step outside of the hospital through volunteer opportunities like this is a welcome change of pace.

“I really like working in the community setting a lot because we can focus more on the preventative measures and just educating people on how to be healthy so that way they don’t get to the point where they have to go to the hospital. So it's awesome to see them at their healthy states and how we can keep pushing to keep them at their best,” Hicks said.

While the students are running the show, help is close by. Schmidt, who has been a nurse educator for decades, works along with two other faculty members, Debra Hagler and Kim Day, to keep an eye on things. But they keep their distance unless needed.

“We’re watching. When the students are doing blood pressures, the board of nursing requires pre-licensure, non-RNs to have a faculty member available if someone has an abnormal reading. If that happens, we’ll check it again and if it's still high we might refer them down the hall (to the physician) or recommend they go see their care provider,” Schmidt said.

Overall the fair was a hit. Not only was the nursing student participation on point but the athlete turnout was pretty spectacular as well, much better Metcalf says than in years past.

Learn more about volunteer opportunities with Special Olympics Arizona.

Providing hope in the form of health empowerment


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Emma Greguska

By the time Berta Carbajal found herself in a conference room, shoulder-to-shoulder with state legislators, members of a city council and heads of the Valley of the Sun United Way, she had decades of experience as a community health worker, had co-founded and later single-handedly run a network to educate and connect other such “promotores” — as they are called in Spanish — across the Valley, and was serving as a research specialist at Arizona State University’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation, where she worked under the supervision of Professor David Coon to recruit local residents for research studies.

But she never thought of herself as a power player. So she was still a bit hesitant when she was asked to attend the meeting to lend her opinion about a Valley of the Sun United Way community health initiative.

The initiative was focused on addressing food insecurity in a low-income neighborhood in Phoenix. It had been underway for about a year but wasn’t yielding many results, hence the meeting to reassess their approach.

“I remember listening to everybody, and my turn came to introduce myself, and I said, ‘I have a question: How many residents are here?’” Carbajal recalled. There were none. “So I said, ‘OK, thank you.’ And I sat down. Because the bottom line is that it's not going to work (without input from the community).”

The folks at Valley of the Sun United Way took her point and ran with it. They asked Carbajal and Coon to officially partner with them and implement the promotor model — in which members of the community, both professional health care workers and volunteers, are trained to be resources and advocates for their communities’ health — in their outreach programs.

That was three years ago. Just last week, the Promotores HOPE (Helping Other Promotores Excel) Network held its second annual Dia Del Promotor, a day full of workshops, panel discussions and networking opportunities geared toward supplying promotores with the best resources and most up-to-date information to disseminate among their communities.

More than 100 promotores were in attendance, a mark of the significant growth the HOPE Network has seen over the past few years.

Esther Villa, a resident of south Phoenix, has been a promotor for five years now. In addition to providing information about ESL and GED classes to her community, she spends Saturdays working in the community garden and encouraging others to participate and learn to eat healthier.

“Sometimes organizations don't know exactly what the community needs, so promotores can help because we live in the area, so we see the problems (firsthand),” she said.

Carbajal co-founded the network about a decade ago but was never able to secure reliable funding until partnering with VSUW. For years, she ran the whole operation in her free time because she saw how important it was and how much the communities relied on promotores for health information.

coon and Carbajal

Professor David Coon and Berta Carbajal address the attendees at the second annual Dia del Promotor. Photo by Emma Greguska/ASU Now

“Berta embodies the essence of the promotor,” said Coon, a long-time supporter of the network who also serves as associate dean of research at the College of Nursing and Health Innovation. “She is a lifelong promotor who learned at the feet of her grandmother and her mother. And we need more like her because this work is critically important.

“These are people that are of the community, in the community, connected to the community. They really are a lifeline for the community. They help bridge the gaps that exist between people and a variety of different services.”

Last December, Carbajal celebrated 42 new promotores’ completion of the three-day training program. After their training, Carbajal and other HOPE Network volunteers continue to meet with the promotores to make sure they’re on track.

“The ones that graduated yesterday, I already told them they have homework,” Carbajal said.

At their next meeting, they’ll need to present Carbajal with a list of their communities’ needs — such as health insurance accessibility, domestic violence, immigration issues and mental health — which they will have obtained from going out into the neighborhoods and connecting and talking with residents. Then, they prioritize the needs, and a plan on how to address those needs is set in motion.

Community health work is something that runs in Carbajal’s blood. As a child, she recalls her mother and grandmother being the “go-to” people in the neighborhood.

“This is how I describe the promotor community model: They're community members that are the go-to people,” Carbajal said. “I was little and I remember neighbors coming to Doña Regina, my grandmother, because they knew they could trust her.”

Later, her mother took over that mantle. In one particularly harrowing memory, Carbajal was in the kitchen with her mother, who was teaching her how to make tortillas. A sudden banging on the door stopped them in their tracks, and her mother rushed to let the woman crying at the door inside.

Her husband had hit her, the woman told Carbajal’s mother. And it wasn’t long before he showed up at the door demanding his wife come home.

Carbajal remembers that her mother still held the rolling pin from their tortilla-making when she opened the door and spoke to him. But there was to be no more violence that night; Doña Sylvia, as her mother was known, told the man to leave, and he listened. Once things had settled down, she helped the woman find a safe place to stay and advised her not to go back to her husband.

“They respected her, they knew she could be trusted,” Carbajal said of her mother. “If somebody was unemployed and they needed a food box, she could connect them with how to get one, or she would take it to them herself. So I learned from the best.”

Top photo: More than 100 promotores gathered for the second annual HOPE Conference. Photo by Emma Greguska/ASU Now

Fulbright award will send ASU professor to Mexico for mobile health research


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Amanda Goodman

For the second time in her career, Arizona State University College of Nursing and Health Innovation Professor Rebecca Lee has been awarded a prestigious Fulbright Scholar Grant.

Upon finding out about her rare accomplishment, she said she was “flabbergasted.”

“When I started investigating whether this was the right program for me, the Fulbright counselors told me that it was very competitive for a first-time award (the Core Scholars Award), but practically unheard of for people to receive a second award, and never to the same country. I decided to go for it anyway, and I was really just agog that I received it a second time,” Lee said.

The grant will allow her to travel to Mexico to build on her previous research around obesity and Type 2 diabetes, which has become a major problem there, so much so that it required national intervention.

“The past administration under President Enrique Peña Nieto created a national policy to deploy funding and support to each of the Mexican states to improve health care, behaviors and environments to stem this epidemic,” Lee said.

Her project will explore the capacity for implementing mobile health technologies in the country. She’ll be working with her colleagues from the National Institute of Public Health of Mexico.

The end goal is to use the information collected to create clear recommendations to help guide future mobile health programming and policy and ultimately improve health outcomes for the Mexican people.

Lee says she’s incredibly grateful for this opportunity to combine her passion for policy with her research on physical activity, obesity and diabetes in Mexico.

Her colleagues and peers in the college are just as delighted for her.

“This is a significant accomplishment and we are so thrilled for Dr. Lee and at the thought of the positive impact this important work will have on our neighbors to the south and beyond,” said Judith Karshmer, dean of the College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

The Fulbright Scholar Program “aims to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.” It is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government.

According to the organization, more than 380,000 “Fulbrighters” have participated in the program since its inception in 1946. It is a distinguished group of alumni including Nobel laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners, MacArthur Fellows and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients.

New research identifies best exercise times for adjusting body's internal clock


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Amanda Goodman

Everyone needs sleep, but that doesn’t mean it comes easy for everyone — especially when your natural sleep cycle is disrupted, throwing off your internal clock.

New research, though, offers hope for people looking to adjust more easily to unique bedtimes associated with jet lag, shift work or military deployments.

ASU College of Nursing and Health Innovation Professor Shawn Youngstedt and his co-authors Jeffrey Elliott and Daniel Kripke wanted to expand on previous research that had shown exercising can cause changes to the body clock or circadian rhythm.

“We know that it can affect the internal clock, but there was never a clear understanding of what time of day exercise causes delays and when exercise advances the body clock. Without knowing this information, it is more difficult to help people who have body-clock disturbances,” he said.

So their study, outlined in an article just published in the Journal of Physiology, sought to narrow down the time of day you should work out for the desired adjustment.

Their results found:

  • Exercise at 7 a.m. or between 1 and 4 p.m. advanced the body clock, which would help people start activities earlier the next day.

  • Exercise between 7 and 10 p.m. delayed the body clock, which would help people shift their peak performance later the next day.

  • Exercise between 1 and 4 a.m. or at 10 a.m. had little effect on the body clock.

We asked Youngstedt to walk us through the study, the findings and to put the challenges of body-clock disruption in perspective.

Question: What makes this study unique?

Answer: This was the first study to examine exercise at eight different times of the day or night in a large enough number of subjects (101 subjects) to show clearly when exercise advances the body clock and when it delays the body clock. This was also the first study to compare women vs. men and older adults vs. young adults. No differences were found in how exercise shifts the body clock by age or sex.


Shawn Youngstedt

Q: What are some of the common disruptors to one's internal body clock?

A: Shift work and jet lag are common disruptors. Having a light on, even a cellphone light, at night can delay the body clock, making it harder to get up in the morning. Not getting enough outdoor light or physical activity are also disruptors.

Q: What can happen if you experience those disruptors?

A: In the short term, these disruptors often lead to sleep disturbance, impaired mood and alertness, and increased risk of accidents. Jet lag also commonly leads to digestion problems. Shift work is associated with a high risk of cancer. Indeed, shift work is now considered a carcinogenic behavior. It is also associated with cardiovascular disease, depression, diabetes and obesity.

Q: How significant a problem is this?

A: About 20 percent of the world's population are shift workers, and millions of air travelers suffer from jet lag annually. Social jet lag, which is associated with sleeping later and longer on weekends than on school or work days, also seems to be becoming more prevalent. Delayed sleep phase is particularly common in adolescents and young adults and commonly leads to loss of sleep during the week.

Q: What’s the potential impact of your study’s findings?

A: We think there will be more exploration of exercise for shifting the body clock in real-world situations.

Q: Are there plans to further the research?

A: We hope to look at dose-response effects. Our study used one hour of moderately intense exercise. It will be helpful to know if similar effects are shown with lighter-intensity exercise or shorter exercise. Maybe slowly strolling around the Louvre for a few hours would produce the same or greater effects, which would be helpful to know for travelers. Another thing we would like to explore is combining exercise with bright light and melatonin. Now that we know the best time for causing shifts for all of these stimuli, we might be able to travel across 12 time zones and be adjusted in just a few days.

Meet the 2018-19 outstanding faculty mentors


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The Graduate College Outstanding Faculty Mentor Awards bring attention to a crucial component of graduate education — the many hours faculty invest in nurturing and developing the academic identities and technical acumen of graduate students and postdoctoral scholars outside the classroom or lab.

Being a mentor is much more than being a professor. A mentor works diligently to guide students through their early years as a student, teaching them the cultural intricacies of their academic colleges and helping them navigate the larger professional and scholarly communities so they can form long-lasting relationships with colleagues. Some mentors also offer socio-emotional support, bolster students’ self-esteem and help them navigate work/life balance. These are no easy tasks.

Every year, the Graduate College recognizes these efforts and awards outstanding graduate faculty for their service in mentoring graduate students and postdoctoral scholars at ASU. The 2018-19 awards were presented to Linda Luecken, outstanding doctoral mentor; Anca Delgado, outstanding master’s mentor; Barbara Klimek, outstanding instructional faculty mentor; and Gabriel Q. Shaibi, outstanding postdoctoral mentor.

Deborah Clarke, vice provost for academic personnel, opened the 31st annual Graduate College Outstanding Faculty Mentor Awards ceremony.

“When you’re floundering, surrounded by messages that you’re not good enough, to have somebody step in and tell you, ‘Yes, you are smart,’ and ‘You can do this,’ means more than we can convey. If someone is there for you when you really need it, you never forget it,” Clarke said.

Completing graduate school takes persistence and perseverance. Graduate students often become discouraged, comparing themselves to their peers and suffering from impostor syndrome. A great mentor is able to both teach and inspire students to believe in themselves.

The Outstanding Faculty Mentor Awards reception is a great venue for recognition and also serves as a mirror in which faculty can reflect upon their own mentoring philosophies and learn from others. In addition to Clarke’s remarks, the reception was highlighted by brief but poignant statements by each of the award recipients in which they reflected on their own mentoring journeys, philosophies and student success stories.

“This event demonstrates that ASU places an extremely high value on mentorship,” said Shaibi. “Honoring faculty for their contributions in the area of mentorship is an additional mechanism by which the Graduate College displays its commitment to supporting the success of graduate students and postdocs.”

All award recipients said that the most rewarding part of receiving the award was that the nominations came from graduate students and postdoctoral scholars themselves.

“I was thrilled to learn I had won the award,” said Luecken. “It means so much that it came from my students.”

Delgado echoed the sentiment.

“This award has and will continue to have the most profound meaning for me because it was initiated by my students,” she said. “They are the reason why I became a faculty (member). I am beyond grateful for their support and the support of ASU in this beginning stage of my career.”

For Klimek, the fulfillment of her mentoring relationships — watching graduate students grow and succeed — is a reward in and of itself.

“Mentoring energizes me,” she said. “The most rewarding thing about being a mentor is seeing my mentees go their own way and achieving not only their educational goals but their social and personal goals.”

About the recipients

Read the mentoring philosophies of awardees at the Outstanding Faculty Mentor Awards webpage.

2018-19 Outstanding Doctoral Mentor — Linda Luecken

Luecken is a professor in the Department of Psychology and the associate dean of faculty in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Since 2000, she has been a member of the clinical psychology faculty at ASU. Her research interests include health psychology, women’s perinatal health, the impact of early life adversity on the development of cardiovascular and hormonal stress responses and cultural and environmental influences on children’s obesity risk.

2018-19 Outstanding Master’s Mentor — Anca Delgado

Delgado is an assistant professor of environmental engineering in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment and a faculty member of the Biodesign Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology. Her expertise is in bioremediation processes and environmental biotechnologies that combine microbial catalysts and chemical oxidants and reductants. Delgado researches microbial processes that sequester and transform carbon and chlorine compounds to remove contaminants and improve soil and groundwater quality.

2018-19 Outstanding Instructional Faculty Mentor — Barbara Klimek

Klimek is a clinical associate professor and Master of Social Work coordinator at the School of Social Work. She is the director of the Office of Global Social Work, senior sustainability scientist with the Global Institute of Sustainability, affiliate faculty of the Master of Social Justice and Human Rights program at ASU and affiliate faculty of the Melikian Center. Klimek engages in research related to issues of cultural diversity, social justice for refugees and immigrants, community development and international social work.

2018-19 Outstanding Postdoctoral Mentor — Gabriel Shaibi

Shaibi is an associate professor and Southwest Borderlands Scholar at the College of Nursing and Health Innovation. His research focuses on understanding and preventing obesity-related health disparities among Latino youth and families. Shaibi’s work spans the translational spectrum and includes collaborations with a transdisciplinary team of researchers, clinicians and community partners to improve health equity among vulnerable and underserved populations. In addition to his research, Shaibi directs the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at ASU, is the research director for the Division of Endocrinology and Diabetes at Phoenix Children’s Hospital and is an associate editor for the journal Obesity.

MORE: Learn about the Outstanding Faculty Mentor Awards, including evaluation criteria, nomination processes and timelines

Downtown Phoenix campus opens doors to excitement


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The fun kept rolling Saturday with the second of Arizona State University's Open Door events, where members of the community were invited to check out the exciting work being done by the schools and units of the Downtown Phoenix campus.

Visitors to the campus learned about drone piloting, had a chance to hold a sheep brain, crafted origami cats, got hearing screenings, saw a Van de Graaff generator in action and uncovered the wonders of DNA.

If you missed out, don't worry: There are two more free Open Door events:

  • West campus: 1–5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16
  • Tempe campus: 1–6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23

Read more about what's in store at each campus here, including information on the free app that can help visitors map out the activities they want to visit. Get free tickets in advance online. 

Video by Dana Lewandowski/ASU

Check ASU Now after each event for photo galleries and video.

More: Open Door at the Polytechnic campus

Top photo: Marcos Hernandez tries his hand at a gong at Health North during the 2019 Downtown Phoenix campus Open Door on Feb. 9. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Mindfulness: Put your heart into it


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Katherine Reedy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for Americans, taking more lives each year than all cancers combined.

According to a new report from the American Heart Association, an estimated 103 million Americans have high blood pressure — that’s nearly half the adult population. High blood pressure can lead to heart attack, heart failure or stroke.

Fortunately, many heart-related diseases are preventable with lifestyle changes. In addition to proper diet and exercise, engaging in mindfulness activities like meditation and yoga can help to reduce stress, manage emotions and lower blood pressure.

In recognition of February being American Heart Month, ASU Now spoke with Teri Pipe, chief well-being officer and founding director of the Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience at Arizona State University, to learn how practicing mindfulness can be part of a heart-healthy lifestyle.

Question: What is mindfulness and how is it practiced?

Teri Pipe

Answer: Mindfulness is a focused, intentional presence. It is a very natural state of being present, though in today's world of constant interruption, mindfulness may feel somewhat unfamiliar at first.

There are many ways to practice mindfulness. Practices include such things as breath meditation — often done with the eyes closed in a still, relaxed-but-dignified posture focusing on the breath — body scan, mindful walking, yoga, mindful eating and mindful communication.

When the attention wanders, the practice is to bring the focus back to the object of attention. Done repeatedly, because the mind naturally wanders repeatedly, the act of refocusing can become quite calming and centering.

Q: How can practicing mindfulness support overall heart health?

A: Practicing mindfulness often has the physiological effects of lowering blood pressure and pulse, decreasing emotional over-reactivity, and creating an overall relaxed, calm-yet-awake way of interacting with life experiences.

The act of deepening and slowing the breath stimulates the vagus nerve, which winds throughout many areas of the body. The vagus nerve interfaces with the parasympathetic nervous system and helps control the heart, lungs and digestive tract. In this way, mindfulness can lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate.

There is some preliminary research that indicates mindfulness practices may also help regulate the insulin response, which is important in diabetes prevention: Diabetes and cardiovascular disease are often linked. These cardiovascular effects can be helpful in preventing heart disease, especially when practiced regularly. Mindfulness may also help with healthy sleep/rest patterns and help promote healing.

An important added benefit of regular mindfulness practice is that it often helps with emotional regulation. Individuals learn to respond to their environments (including pressures from school, work, relationships, traffic, deadlines, etc.) with a sense of focused attention and productive decision-making rather that becoming overly reactive. This cycle tends to support a healthier response to stress, actually promoting resilience in the face of adversity.

The opposite — becoming overly emotional, reactive and frenetic — is counterproductive and often contributes to anxiety, high blood pressure, sleep problems, pounding pulse and an overall sense of unease. 

Q: What specific mindfulness practices are most effective for reducing stress, lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk for heart disease?

A: In short, the best mindfulness practice is the one that appeals to the individual and that can be integrated most easily into his or her current lifestyle. For some people, this can be a quiet 10- to 30-minute silent or guided meditation. For others, mindful movement such as mindful walking, yoga, qigong or tai chi may be appealing.

The main thing is to train the mind to be in the moment. With training, this calmer, more centered focus is brought to more and more of the person's life, resulting in a more responsive, rather than reactive, way of interacting with life.

Cardiovascular benefits can be experienced during the formal practice of mindfulness, but over time those benefits will extend to other parts of the day as the individual experiences the emotional regulation that comes with regular mindfulness practice.

Again, the main idea is to choose mindfulness practices that appeal enough to become part of the individual's daily routine, just like healthy eating and physical activity.

Q: How does mindfulness work in conjunction with other strategies people may be using to improve their heart health, such as diet, exercise and medication? Can mindfulness be as effective as these more traditional strategies?  

A: Mindfulness is a very effective practice, especially when used in conjunction with healthy eating, physical activity and medication, if needed. There is an additive effect when these lifestyle behaviors are used together, not only for health promotion and disease prevention, but actually for the reversal of cardiac risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and triglycerides and high blood sugar. Mindfulness does not have any harmful “interactions” with medication or food so it can be used by most people if they show an interest and willingness to practice.

Individuals should work with their health care team to make sure they are creating a lifestyle that supports cardiac health. This is especially true if they have cardiovascular risk factors or a personal history of cardiovascular disease. 

Top photo courtesy of

'Health Care Without Walls' talk underscores robust suite of community health initiatives


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Emma Greguska

Community-based care is ASU nursing Professor Gerri Lamb’s jam.

Straight out of college, she became a visiting nurse in New York City, where her conviction in the health care approach was solidified.

“In the visiting-nurse service, everything takes place in the community,” Lamb said. “You visit people in their homes, and you see how most of health care happens in the home and the community. For me, it was the beginning of a very deep belief that that’s where health care needed to be delivered.”

It should come as no surprise, then, that when Lamb found herself in the audience at a 2018 conference, the words of Susan Dentzer, president and CEO of the Network for Excellence in Health Innovation (NEHI), describing an actual plan to shift the axis of the American health care system into community settings had her rapt.

“We’ve been saying health care will move out of the hospital and into the community for years,” Lamb said. “Susan Dentzer is serious about it. She has the vision — and the detail with real-world examples. Imagine making health care more accessible using all kinds of technology from telemedicine to AI to drones.”

Lamb pounced on the opportunity and invited Dentzer to share that vision with students at Arizona State University’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

Health Care Without Walls: What It Means for Practice, Education and Training” will take place at 3 p.m. Friday at the Health North Auditorium on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus. Presented by ASU’s Center for Advancing Interprofessional Practice, Education and Research (CAIPER), the event is free and open the public; registration is required.

man and woman talking to audience members at community health event

From left: Study participant Jennifer Hernandez; Allison Williams, program manager of research at the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention; and Associate Professor Gabriel Shaibi talk with a community member during an event to discuss the results of their community-based diabetes intervention on the Downtown Phoenix campus on March 15, 2018. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

As Lamb said, the need for a shift to community-based care isn’t news to those in the field — least of all those preparing students for the future of health care at the College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

“We’ve been predicting that things are moving to the community probably for over 20 years, and we’re seeing it happening now,” said Associate Dean and Clinical Professor Katherine Kenny.

Appropriately, the philosophy is already deeply embedded in the college’s curriculum. College of Nursing and Health Innovation students accumulate 1,000 hours of clinical preparation over two years during their undergraduate years. While some of those hours are gained in more traditional acute-care settings, they also include practical experience in the community providing care at homeless shelters, federal health clinics and other such facilities that cater to underserved populations.

Doctor of nursing students accumulate their 1,000 hours over the course of a program that involves hands-on care for patients living at home, receiving care at federally funded clinics or living in rural areas. And students on the integrative health degree track focus on treating each patient holistically, learning firsthand from community health care professionals as varied as acupuncturists to counselors.

“The U.S. is looking at the health of other countries compared to ours and realizing that community-based care, including health promotion and prevention, is really where our health system should be moving to, knowing there will always be chronic diseases and other health issues that require acute care and hospitalization,” Kenny said.

man talking and pointing to notes on a whiteboard while a woman listens

Erin Washbon meets with the director of the HEALab, Rick Hall, at the September 2017 soft launch of the entrepreneurial space. The startup incubator is geared toward health and wellness students on the Downtown Phoenix campus but is open to students of any major, as well as faculty, staff, alumni and the general public. Photo by Anya Magnuson/ASU Now

Beginning this year, the college is floating an ambitious goal for every one of their students to have an interprofessional community-based experience during their education. And there’s certainly no shortage of opportunities.

The Student Health Outreach for Wellness (SHOW) initiative is the perfect example. The tri-university, student-run service-learning program serves such vulnerable populations as those experiencing homelessness, those from low-income communities and those recovering from substance use.

With an emphasis on interprofessional health care delivery, SHOW welcomes students from all disciplines — including nursing, psychology and social work — to provide more holistic care to patients.

On the research side of things, the projects coming out of the College of Nursing and Health Innovation share cross-disciplinary and community-focused commitments. They run the gamut from diabetes interventions that partner with the local YMCA to music-based interprofessional interventions for aging adults.

“What I see a lot of folks doing across ASU is working together to understand a problem or phenomena, and then designing interventions to address those problems and challenges,” said David Coon, College of Nursing and Health Innovation associate dean of research. “They’re working together to make change by transforming society, breaking down the walls of where health care is delivered.

“Many times,” he added, “that takes both innovation and entrepreneurship.”

To that end, the HEALab (Health Entrepreneurship Accelerator Lab) was launched in September 2017 to serve as an incubator for health- and wellness-centric businesses and products.

“What Susan Dentzer is talking about is closely aligned with our priorities at ASU,” Lamb said. “The message of health care without walls is about social embeddedness, research that is relevant to the community and the application of innovation and technology; it’s really transformative and has huge implications for how we educate students, how we collaborate with clinical partners and how we use technology across ASU.

“She’s connecting so many things we’re already doing and putting them together in a very doable, important model of health care for the future.”

Top photo: ASU doctoral student in advanced nursing practice Reena Pathak asks her patient questions during their morning meeting at the Student Health and Outreach Wellness clinic at Crossroads residential and outpatient substance-abuse treatment program in Phoenix. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

'Angels' forever change the lives of ASU scholarship recipients


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Mary Beth Faller

Going to college is all about making connections — to professors, mentors and new friends. The Sun Devil Family Association has created a new kind of connection, as scholarship winners get to meet the “angels” who helped pay for their tuition to Arizona State University.

“I think what ASU does with education is superior, and I want to make sure that every child has a chance to get an education. It’s important to me,” said Junette West, a donor who met the student she funded on Monday.

West shook hands and posed for photographs with freshm