CHHS Explores Cancer Challenges

One of the areas of research that crosses every school within the college is cancer. Various schools within the college are working to improve treatment for cancer patients, identify and eliminate disparities in treatment, to reduce the impact of cancer, and to help caregivers of all types provide the best care possible for cancer patients.

Dr. Caroline Thompson and Steven Zamora.
Dr. Caroline Thompson and Steven Zamora.

One area of interest is why some groups of people seem to get different types of cancer at different rates. School of Public Health graduate student Steven Zamora teamed up with assistant professor Caroline Thompson to take a deeper look at the mortality rates from cancer within Hispanic groups. Zamora was motived partly by his own heritage and Thompson was already looking into the disparities within ethnic groups, so this was a natural partnership.

Generally, when people are categorized by race and ethnicity, Hispanics are treated as one group. However, there are several different subgroups within the Hispanic community. Zamora wondered if there were differences in cancer mortality among those from South America, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Cuba. Using national data on cancer deaths, his research found that, yes, there were very different results based on national origin.

Thompson and Zamora’s research found that Mexican American and Puerto Rican American men are dying at twice the rate of non-Hispanic Caucasian men from stomach and liver cancers. Cuban Americans, on the other hand, tended to reflect the trends for non-Hispanics for stomach and liver cancers, but had a much higher rate of lung cancer deaths.

Zamora’s research also confirmed the “Hispanic Paradox” found in other research. Aside from stomach and liver cancers, Hispanic Americans had better outcomes and lower mortality rates than non-Hispanic Caucasian for all other types of cancer. This, despite often having lower socio-economic status, less access to health care, and other risk factors for health care disparities, such as language barriers. Zamora notes, “We don’t understand this yet, but it’s not limited to cancer mortality. There is a health advantage for Hispanics that we can’t explain. It’s not equal among all Hispanic groups and it decreases the longer each group has been in the United States.” This is obviously an area for further research.

Thompson has done similar research among Asian American populations. She looked at the rates of screening for cervical, colorectal, and breast cancer and found that there were several differences among cultural groups as well as differences between those of Asian heritage vs. Caucasians. Perhaps not surprisingly, those who spoke English well were more likely to be up-to-date on these screenings, as were those enrolled in online healthcare portals. She also found that it was important that people had a good relationship with their doctors, and that patients with a same sex doctor-patient pairing or a doctor who spoke the patient’s preferred language were much more likely to attend cancer screening.

Thompson notes that, for this type of research to be meaningful, the questions of ethnicity and national origin must be accurate. In turn, this requires accurate census data and is one reason for working diligently to ensure that each census accurately reflects the population. Census data is used widely in research, as well as for political purposes.

Around the college, other types of cancer research are taking place. Not surprisingly, the School of Public Health has the most faculty research around various areas of cancer. Many of these research studies are done in collaboration with UCSD and members of their medical school faculty. Dr. Tianying Wu, a molecular and nutritional epidemiologist, recently received a grant from the California Tobacco Research Foundation to examine the impact of past and secondhand smoking, along with diet and other factors, on breast cancer recurrence. Fellow faculty member Dr. Eunha Hoh will also be participating in this project.

Dr. Melody Schiaffino is studying healthcare delivery to diverse aging populations being treated for cancer. She is studying organizational and doctor-patient communication and societal factors to identify cancer risk factors and inform interventions that can improve intermediate treatment and overall survival outcomes. Her colleague, Dr. Elva Arredondo, studies disparities in the care cancer patients receive, as well as the cultural influences and psychosocial mediators that impact preventive practices such as cervical cancer screening, physical activity, and diet among underserved groups. In the School of Social Work, Dr. Eunjeong Ko is also looking at racial and ethnic disparities in relation to accessing health care, including cancer screenings and treatment.

Another Public Health faculty member, Dr. Humberto Parada, is an integrative cancer epidemiologist specializing in the epidemiology of breast cancer. His research aims to identify environmental, behavioral, and genetic factors that influence the development and progression of breast cancer and understand these associations within the context of health disparities.

Dr. Ignatius Nip is working with collaborators at UCSD on a project to evaluate speech and swallowing outcomes following radiation therapy for oral and pharyngeal cancer. His colleague in the School of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, Dr. Laura Dreisbach Hawe, is studying how chemotherapy cancer treatments may impact a patient’s hearing — perhaps before other side effects are observed.

In the School of Nursing, new faculty member Dr. Savitri Singh-Carlson is focusing on cancer survivorship and follow-up care, palliative care, and advanced care planning in light of the global burden of cancer while being informed by the social determinants of health, especially in the Asian community. She is also working to advance oncology nursing education with an emphasis on safe standards of practice within low to middle income countries.

School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences professor Dr. Mee Young Hong’s research goal is to determine whether dietary fish oil is protective against early stage colon cancer, as well as to understand the impact of phytochemicals in colon cancer.

Finally, the college’s work on cancer through the SDSU/UCSD Cancer Center Comprehensive Partnership grant is continuing. This collaborative effort received $13M in funding over five years. This year Dr. Hala Madanat, from Public Health, and Dr. Richard Cripps, from the College of Sciences, will be leading this effort to look at many aspects of cancer treatment.



Message from the Development Office

We Will Always Need Your Help!

Rebecca WilliamsonA new school year is just starting at SDSU and already the excitement is notable all around campus. There are so many exciting things happening it is impossible to list them all. Each issue of the Pulse newsletter can highlight only a few of the programs, research endeavors, outstanding students and wonderful faculty and staff in our college. You can always find out more about all of the excitement at SDSU by visiting the NewsCenter. You can even subscribe so you get information delivered to your inbox on a regular basis.

Each of the programs and research areas described here, and the many more around the college, need support to succeed. The State of California only covers about 15% of the cost of operating the university, the rest of the budget comes from student tuition and fees, research grants and contracts, and from philanthropy. Our students pay a reasonable tuition but many of them still depend on financial aid to be able to access a college education. While some of this aid comes from government sources, much of it comes from generous donors who want to support students toward their goals.

Research too depends on a variety of funding sources. Some is funded primarily through large government grant sources, such as the National Institute of Health. Grants of this type are increasingly difficult to win and do not always cover all of the diverse areas of research our faculty would like to pursue. Private foundations and individual philanthropy make up the difference.

CHHS operates several community-based clinics and programs, such as the Speech-Language Clinic and the Adaptive Fitness Clinic. These programs benefit members of the San Diego community who receive access to high-quality, low-cost services, as well as our students who receive invaluable hands-on experience. They too are dependent on individual donors to continue to provide these wonderful opportunities.

We look to you, our alumni and friends, to help with these endeavors if possible. All gifts, regardless of size, help us provide an outstanding education for our students, research for a better future, and community services for San Diegans. Small annual gifts, larger donations, and estate gifts all provide invaluable support for the college, its students, the university, and the wider community. If you can help, please contact any member of the development team – we are here to help make your giving as easy as possible!

To learn about the giving possibilities within CHHS, go to or

Letter from the Dean

Hello SDSU Alumni and Friends –

Steve HookerI just celebrated my one-year anniversary as Dean of the College of Health and Human Services. Over the past 12+ months I have witnessed many accomplishments and actions by students, staff, faculty and alumni that have amazed, but not surprised me. The caliber of people currently and previously associated with our college is second to none. As I reflect upon the superb qualities of those people, it makes me extremely proud to be the Dean, but also reminds me of the great responsibility that I have to live up to their expectations and abilities. In essence, to do all that I can to help them to be successful as what they do daily makes me look very good. Let me tell you about one of these outstanding people.

Christopher Thomas just graduated from SDSU this past May with a BS in Kinesiology (Fitness Specialist) and a minor in Leadership Development. Chris also served as President of Associate Students (AS) this past year, an organization that represents nearly 35,000 SDSU students and manages an annual budget of about $30 million. I personally observed Chris in many high-level university functions rubbing shoulders with university administrators, donors, and fellow students, and at times addressing large audiences such as during commencement. I was constantly impressed with Chris’ mature, cheerful, and charitable personality. The theme of his service as AS President was ‘heartfelt leadership’. In several venues, I heard the story about his relationship with his mom who passed away far too early, and the impact she made in his life. I must say, I got choked up and teary eyed every time. Despite that unfortunate circumstance, Chris has chosen to use that as motivation to not only succeed in his life, but to make a positive difference in the lives of others. It was my honor to get to know Chris, and I was so proud to tell others that he was a major in our college. Now, we are proud to claim him as a CHHS alumnus as he pursues a graduate degree!

I use Chris as an example of hundreds of students in our college I was able to meet this past year. They are outstanding in so many ways. They seem to be much more mature, savvy, and socially engaged than prior generations of students that I know. They focus hard on their studies, seek out research and learning experience opportunities, put in many hours of community service, and work to support themselves and others.

This brings me to what I want each reader of this message to consider. CHHS has many opportunities to contribute to programs that support our undergraduate and graduate students. There are discipline-specific scholarships and fellowships, the CHHS Dean’s fund, various program funds (e.g., Adaptive Fitness Clinic, Adapted Athletic Program, Study Abroad), and endowed faculty chairs and professorships designed to financially assist students and substantially enhance their educational experience.

I encourage you to consider an affordable gift to one of the multiple opportunities we offer. Every dollar will be carefully allocated to aid students like Chris who are overcoming personal hardships in pursuit of a meaningful education, future gainful employment, and, like most of us in the health and human services arena, helping others to overcome their hardships and realize their potential.

Best regards,

steve hooker signature
Steven Hooker, Dean




Outstanding Aztecs

SDSU Adapted Athletics Celebrates Its First Year

SDSU Adapted Athletics is proud to announce that in only its first year and in its very first collegiate event, the program’s wheelchair tennis team earned 2nd Place at the 2019 USTA Wheelchair Tennis Collegiate National Championships.

Wheelchair Tennis PlayerSan Diego State University Adapted Athletics was created to provide student-athletes with disabilities the opportunity to excel in athletics and academics at the collegiate level. Started in 2018 as the first competitive, collegiate adapted athletics program in the state of California, SDSU Adapted Athletics is housed in the School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences. SDSU Adapted Athletics currently offers training and support for student-athletes in ambulatory track and field, and wheelchair tennis. Future plans include programs in men’s and women’s wheelchair basketball, wheelchair track, and aquatic sports such as surfing and paddling. The program is headed by SDSU alumnus and former Paralympian Ahkeel Whitehead. He noted, “There’s a lot of people that are starting to be more aware that these athletes exist, that these sports exist and that we’re here to represent Team USA.”

The program started because there are more than 30,000 high school-aged student-athletes with disabilities and thousands of disabled veterans under the age of 35. For those who want to pursue a college degree and achieve their athletic goals, only a few U.S. universities provide adapted athletics programs. A group of students started working toward the goal of creating a program at SDSU several years ago and are thrilled that the program is now an official part of SDSU and, in its first year, achieved several successes. It is the first program in California and just one of 14 in the country created for adaptive athletes to compete at the collegiate level.

Michelle CrossMichelle Cross, a second-year SDSU student and track and field athlete, recently competed at the Desert Challenge in Arizona where she finished first in her age group in both the 100m and 200m sprint events, and earned a personal record for the 100m. “I was a little overwhelmed at first — but honestly, I’ve competed with able-bodied or regular athletes in high school, so it was still about the same. At first I was a little bit scared, but I did fine and I love it,” Cross said. She was among just 20 adaptive athletes who qualified for the 2019 Track and Field World Junior Championship team in Nottwil, Switzerland. At that event, she competed in the 100- and 200-yard dashes finishing 7th and 6th in her races. Cross also competed in the 2019 Parapan American Games in Lima, Peru finishing 5th in the 100m and 4th in the 200m. Two incoming students who will join the SDSU Adapted Athletics track and field team this fall are former high school All-Americans, Amanda Malawski and Mikayla Chandler. Cross is looking forward to the opportunities she sees for the years ahead to bring more awareness to adaptive athletics at SDSU and abroad. “I feel very honored to do it, especially because it’s obviously new and I love how people get to come out and express themselves,” she said.

For more information on SDSU’s Adaptive Athletics program, visit

Congratulations to Dr. Tracy Love-Geffen — This Year’s Alumni Association Faculty Honoree!

Dr. Tracy Love-Geffen, Director of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, is the recipient of the 2019-2020 Alumni Association Award for Outstanding Faculty Contributions to the university.

Dr. Adela de la Torre wrote, “Please accept my sincere appreciation for your commitment to teaching and scholarship. Your work and dedication are benefiting our students, the future global citizens, compassionate leaders and ethical innovators who will impact the world. “

Dr. Love joined the faculty at SDSU in 2005 and was appointed as the Director of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences in 2017. Her research includes work with adult stroke survivors with resulting aphasia, children with specific language impairment and those diagnosed on the autism spectrum.

Thank you Dr. Larry Verity

After serving SDSU for 35 years, first as a professor in Exercise and Nutritional Sciences, then as the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Interim Dean for two years, Dr. Larry Verity is retiring. Although, like many retired faculty, he will continue with a part-time schedule of key service assignments. All of the administrators, faculty, staff and students thank him for his dedicated service!

Barbara GouldBarbara Gould Helps Keep CHHS Running Smoothly, Especially at Commencement

Barbara Gould has faithfully served CHHS for 23 years. She started working in the gerontology department in 1996 and then moved into the dean’s office in 1997. She is the budget analyst who works with state funds to ensure that the college has what it needs. As she says, “I like to spend money.” Her other major responsibility is organizing and running commencement each year. She says this is her favorite part of her job and she is always so proud to see the students receive their degrees. This year, she made sure that 1,203 people received their diplomas in front of 8,200 audience members in just two and a half hours. Quite an organizational feat! Not everyone attends graduation, so the college awarded 1,100 undergraduate degrees, 302 master’s degrees and 61 doctorates for a total of 1,463.

Outside of work, Barbara is a major NASCAR fan, hosting watch parties and going to tracks as much as possible. She also enjoys spending time with her two cats and doing volunteer work at her church. She laughs that it doesn’t seem like a very likely hobby to most people, but then she points out neither was her previous career – managing professional boxers.

Barbara was born at Mercy Hospital and has lived in San Diego her entire life. She is looking forward to having more time for her hobbies and volunteer work when she retires, although she isn’t sure when exactly that will be.

School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences

Concerns About Specialization in Youth Sports

In recent years, many involved in youth sports have noticed the trend that young athletes are specializing in a single sport at an ever-younger age. However, little research exists on what impact this might have on these athletes, as well as how sports programs impact the wider community. ENS professor Dr. Eric Post is providing some data on the impact of sport specialization in youth.

Eric PostWhy do students end up specializing in sports so much earlier than used to be common? Parents in Post’s study noted that they were aware of the increased risk for injury, but they still felt pressured to have their children specialize in a specific sport, often well before the end of elementary school. Post has been researching why parents are feeling the need to have their children specialize in sports so early. Some of the reasons that Post identified include:

  • All parents want their children to be successful. They see celebrity athletes who specialized in a specific sport, such as Tiger Woods with golf, and want their children to have the same success.
  • In many neighborhoods, children need to be involved in sports teams to have opportunities for physical play. As more children are involved in organized sports, there are far fewer casual neighborhood opportunities for pick-up games of any type. The pressure on schools for more academic classroom instructional time often limits time for sports and even recess during the school day.
  • Children’s sports organizations often don’t support students playing a variety of sports. The increased use of elite club teams means that children are playing their sport throughout the year, rather than during a specific season. This makes it difficult to participate in more than one sport because of the high demands on the athlete’s time, as well as the high cost of participation.
  • The competition for college athletic scholarships is fierce and families want their children to have the best chance to stand out. Parents frequently over-estimate the chances of receiving these scholarships, and the $15 billion-a-year youth sports industry does little to raise awareness of the unlikelihood of getting a scholarship.
Eric Post appearing on KUSI to talk about youth sports safety.
Eric Post appearing on KUSI to talk about youth sports safety.

Most coaches, however, would like to see their athletes sample different sports before specializing, and note that many elite athletes tried many different sports as children. In addition to the increased risk of injury and burnout for individual children, Post also sees a risk on a community or societal level. With the advent of so many elite club teams, families with fewer resources to dedicate to children’s sports are left out. These children have fewer options for sports play and are often less physically active overall. The increase in pay-to-play youth sports leagues has also resulted in fewer school-based sports activities, further widening this gap. These could be significant factors in the increase in childhood obesity rates and the poor health consequences associated with it.

If youth sports specialization results in greater injuries for the young athletes and fewer opportunities for many children, can the situation be changed? Post advocates for great community awareness and increased opportunities for all children to enjoy sports. He would like to see children’s sports organizations offer more options for multi-sport participation and less expensive sports options. He would love to see professional athletes push for these changes as well. Now that his research has shed some light on parental attitudes towards sports specialization, he is hoping to turn his attention to finding new structures and options for healthier sports participation by a greater number of children.

How Do We Help Those With Food Insecurity?

Amanda McClainDr. Amanda McClain is an Assistant Professor who joined SDSU in the Fall of 2018. She is using a variety of research methods to study community nutrition and food insecurity (when a household is uncertain about having enough healthy, safe, and culturally-appropriate food) within a wider community context. She aims to develop interventions that address food insecurity and healthy diets to promote better health outcomes (e.g. reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes) for entire communities. Her research fits into the one of the larger research specialties that cross many areas of CHHS – disparities in health and health care within various communities.

McClain observes that some communities have better health outcomes than others, even as they face similar challenges to health brought about by low incomes and lower socio-economic status. How is it, she wonders, that communities that face similar challenges to accessing affordable, healthy foods have differing degrees of health? Are there distinct human, social, or culture influences to food security, and subsequently health?

McClain is looking for answers to these questions by studying the available resources that can protect against food insecurity in different households, how these households interact with community resources, and the impact of food assistance programs on food security and diet. She notes that food security is more than just, “Is there healthy food that is available and affordable?” There is also the questions of, “Is the food that is available culturally-appropriate and can it be obtained without losing one’s dignity?”

McClain is also examining how stress plays into this equation. Individuals, particularly parents, often feel extreme stress if their family is faced with food insecurity – no one wants to see their children go hungry. How does that stress impact the mental and physical health of those experiencing it?

McClain is looking at what resources are, or should be, available in the community and how those resources can be leveraged to benefit as many families as possible. In some communities, she has seen that existing resources are better utilized than in others. How are communities using their resources to expand and strengthen the safety net for more people? These are all questions that McClain is seeking to answer, so that successful strategies can be more widely disseminated and better health can be achieved for more people.

School of Public Health

Giving a Photovoice to Those Who Are Homeless

Faculty researcher Dr. Jerel Calzo and his team wanted a fresh way to see and understand San Diego’s response to the recent Hepatitis A crisis, from the eyes of those caught in the middle of it – people experiencing homelessness. Specifically they wanted to concentrate on transitional-aged youth (young adults aged 18-25). He and co-investigator Dr. Jennifer Felner received a university grant to better understand these individuals’ experiences with homelessness. To give the community a voice, they used a community-based research methodology called Photovoice. They collaborated with two community members who had experienced homelessness—Daniel Kirkland and Hunter Call—and were assisted by a SDSU student research team consisting of: Saanjh Boyani, Amanda Farr, Talia Kieu, Ethan Lopez, Andrew Stieber, Cameron Wadstrom, Carrisa Wijaya, and Sally Windisch. Together, the research team, which called themselves Action4healthSD, took tours of the city, taking photos as they went and engaged in a critical analysis of how the public health response to Hep A impacted the health of people experiencing homelessness.

While they started out trying to understand the response to the Hep A crisis, they quickly realized that this was a symptom of a larger problem. They ended up taking a much broader view, looking at the question “What are the barriers to health among transitional-aged youth experiencing homelessness and how do we overcome those barriers?”

Two bins -- an unlocked garbage bin and a locked recycling bin.
Description: Two bins — an unlocked garbage bin and a locked recycling bin. Analysis: We took this photo because it suggested to us that anyone can have access to garbage but that people who might make money of the recycling need to stay out. This was a symbol of stigmatizing those who may need access to things they can sell to survive.
“This is symbolic of who should be protected and how a community can be clean, by not promoting helping those who are poor and/or homeless.”

Each day they went out in search of answers to some basic questions, such as “Where do people go to meet hygiene needs?” or “Where do people go to feel safe?” They took photos of the community and then used a systematic analysis method called SHOWed. This method asks the questions: “What do we See here?”; “What is really Happening here?”; “How does this relate to Our lives?”; “Why does this problem, concern or strength exist?”; “What can we Do about it?”

In addition to the photography and analysis, they also interviewed persons experiencing homelessness, as well as service providers, county officials, and other experts. This resulted in several central and consistent themes. They shared their conclusions in community forums, asking for feedback and responses. These forums were well attended by members of the community, including those who were experiencing homelessness, policy makers, service providers, academicians, and members of the media.

The themes they identified were:

    • Stigma plays an important role in shaping the day-to-day life of people experiencing homelessness. For example, people experiencing homelessness were frequently viewed as transmitters of disease rather than people with complex lives and needs. In addition, social discourse and policies concerning people experiencing homelessness (e.g., media coverage, signage) reinforced an “us vs. them” dynamic in neighborhoods where people experiencing homelessness reside.
Sign posted outside of the 7/11 on University Avenue in Hillcrest Analysis: The sign requests that people say “no to panhandlers” as a way to keep the store and local community “safe and clean.” The language in the sign stigmatizes those experiencing homelessness, while also putting onus of responsibility to act on individuals rather addressing these things at a structural level.
Description: Sign posted outside of the 7/11 on University Avenue in Hillcrest Analysis: The sign requests that people say “no to panhandlers” as a way to keep the store and local community “safe and clean.” The language in the sign stigmatizes those experiencing homelessness, while also putting onus of responsibility to act on individuals rather addressing these things at a structural level.
“They are stigmatizing the homeless to be dangerous and dirty.” “This sounds like signs that say ‘don’t feed the birds.’”
    • The data collected via Photovoice and follow-up discussions suggests that the Hep A outbreak was the symptom of largerissues, such as insufficient services and resources, especially the lack of housing and public restroom facilities. In addition, community members indicated that the public health response did little to improve the everyday lives of those experiencing homelessness, which could help prevent outbreaks of Hep A and other infectious diseases in the future.
    • Resources contain and constrain. Services are concentrated in a small geographic section of the city and the schedule for those services is often difficult to navigate. This creates a situation where individuals who are homeless spend their days trying to obtain basic resources, leaving little time to resolve issues that contribute to homelessness in the first place (such as pursing housing or employment security). There is a great need for more resources with fewer restrictions, particularly for transitional-aged youth, who are at risk for entering a cycle of chronic homelessness.
    • Criminalization and over-policing were common. The team observed heavy police presence in areas where people experiencing homelessness concentrate due to resource availability. Public signage also suggested that those loitering in many public places would be cited, leaving people few opportunities to sit and relax without fear of being ticketed or arrested.

The research team also presented recommendations for service providers and for individual and institutional policy changes, such as partnering with transitional-aged youth and other populations experiencing homelessness when studying or designing policies to address homelessness. The team also recommended increasing access to clean and well-maintained public restrooms and handwashing stations.

Now that the research has concluded, the team is looking at its next steps. They have identified some areas they would like to conduct further research, such as the “housing first” models as a way to reduce homelessness. They are also eager to present their findings to the wider community to help everyone understand some of the barriers those who are homeless face and how the city, the county, service providers, and the wider community can help. They welcome invitations to present their research and discuss their findings and can be contacted at or by visiting

School of Nursing

Student Conference Addressing Burnout is a Huge Success

Burnout is a constant threat for nurses. Their job can be both emotionally and physically taxing, with the added stress of requiring shifts at all times of day and night. Even student nurses can feel the strain of difficult course work and clinical rotations. Nursing student Annika Daphne Bilog wanted to help her fellow students, as well as nursing alumni, cope with the possibility of burnout, before it was too late. She had the vision of a conference to address burnout issues in 2016 and, through hard work and supportive fellow students, faculty and others, was able to make this a reality in April.

Flyer for Rekindling from BurnoutThanks to the sponsorship of the Student Nurses Association and the Gamma Gamma Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International, the Rekindling from Burnout: Addressing Moral Distress and Coping Mechanisms conference was held on campus on April 13. Attendees and faculty all declared it a success.

Dr. Judy Davidson, a nurse scientist at UCSD and Linda Lobbestael, a nurse and artist, provided the opening address of “Keeping Burnout at Bay”. Breakout sessions included: “Exploring Moral Distress” lead by Paula Goodman-Crews, Medical Bioethics Director at Kaiser Permanente); “Thriving at Work” with Dr. Patricia Geist-Martin, SDSU School of Communication professor; “Moral Distress Awareness and Approaches” with Angela Karakachian, Duquesne University nursing lecturer; and “Resiliency in Healthcare and Interventions” led by Lisa Concilio, SDSU School of Nursing lecturer followed the opening session. After lunch, a panel discussion included all of the presenters, and a presentation by organizer Annika Daphne Bilog closed the day.

The event was organized by the SDSU Student Nurses Association, with Bilog chairing the event. Other students in leadership roles were Dee Dee Micare (coordinator), Mikhail Adan (marketing), Mary Cruz Meraz-Leyva (communication), Leah Rojas (fundraising) and Vyanna Ma (outreach). In addition to the Gamma Gamma chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International, other sponsors were the San Diego Association of Nurse California Leaders, SDSU Associated Students and the SDSU School of Nursing.

Bilog wants to thank her committee for all of their hard work to put on the event, as well as Dr. Judy Davidson and Marlene Ruiz for serving as advisors. Ruiz is an alumna from the School of Nursing and a recent retiree from Kaiser Permanente who frequently volunteers her time to assist with student activities.

Bilog notes, “As an undergraduate student, I did not think that my vision of creating a conference would ever come true. But through a lot of support and encouragement, it did!” She continued to say, “I would like to thank SDSU Student Nurses Association for allowing me to create a platform to speak about relevant issues in our healthcare system today. Finally, I would like to thank Dr. Philip Greiner for leading me to the right resources to make this conference come to life.”

Nursing Alums Honored for their work in their communities

Carol Bojorquez recently earned her master’s degree in Nursing Leadership from SDSU, after earning her BSN from the University of Phoenix and starting her studies at SDSU Imperial Valley College. She was recently honored as an inspirational leader and awarded one of the 2019 Iron Awards from the Sure Helpline Crisis Center in Imperial Valley. Bojorquez has pursued her nursing career at Pioneers Memorial healthcare district, serving as an emergency department charge nurse and department educator before becoming the Quality Director, where she leads a team dedicated to providing safe, high quality health care to families in the Imperial Valley. She also provides victim advocate training for Sure Helpline and the Naval Air Facility nearby.

Mark Anthony Carlos was honored as a First Generation Student Spotlight Student at the University of California, San Francisco’s graduate nursing program this summer. He is a recent graduate of the SDSU nursing program in Imperial Valley and specifically wanted to thank Dr. Helina Hoyt for her mentorship and support in his educational journey. He says, “It means a lot to represent my family and the Hispanic community as First Gen. My grandparents and parents worked in the fields as farmworkers and my uncles and aunts have worked in construction, housekeeping, and other laborious jobs. I hope to help give back to my roots and provide the healthcare that my family lacked growing up. My passions are in helping the underserved and vulnerable populations. I am sincerely grateful to the mentors in my undergrad that have helped be where I am today. Eventually, I hope to teach and one day do the same for others who grew up like me.”

Continued Work Helping Caregivers for the Elderly

Dr. Greiner recently received a second round of funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration for the Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Project. The project eceived $3.75 million over five years to expand the model developed in San Diego County to Imperial County, with new primary care partners. These new partners include Family Health Centers of San Diego, Clinicas de Salud del Pueblo in Imperial County, San Ysidro Health as well as San Diego PACE, St. Paul’s PACE, and the new PACE Program at Family Health Centers of San Diego.

The project offers workforce training across the spectrum from health care professionals and social workers, to family caregivers, and includes student stipends and cross-disciplinary collaboration to build an integrated geriatric system of care.

School of Social Work

Second Binational Conference Sells Out

The School of Social Work held its second Binational Social Work Conference in May. This year’s topic was Refugees, Asylees & Social Work on the U.S./Mexico Border. The event was held at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park. Attendance was so strong that the organizers had to declare the event sold out and it was livestreamed to accommodate everyone who wanted to participate.

The conference was organized to mobilize and inform a binational community of students and social workers about the current socio-political and mental health issues of asylees and refugees on the U.S./Mexico border in order to protect and expand human rights, create effective binational collaborations, and showcase binational internships and opportunities at SDSU.

The planning committee for the Binational Conference working on plans for continued engagement
The planning committee for the Binational Conference working on plans for continued engagement.

The event kicked off with an opening keynote by Dr. Maria Zúñiga, a SDSU social work professor. She has worked extensively with communities in the U.S./Mexico border region as well as Mexican transnational and domestic migrants and their families in Mexico. Her ongoing research is designed to understand and improve health care engagement, patient and clinician communication, and care continuity among Latinos, including persons living with HIV and/or tuberculosis, and persons impacted by substance abuse. Dr. Zúñiga is currently developing new interdisciplinary collaborations with colleagues in the U.S. and Brazil.

The event continued with screenings of short films by Kayla Mulholland, Adriana Trujillo, Marlene “Mo” Morris, and Paloma Martinez. Mulholland is a visual anthropologist and associate clinical social worker in the San Diego-Tijuana region, as well as an SDSU alumna. She has worked with migrant communities in San Francisco, Barcelona, San Diego and Tijuana for over 10 years. Trujillo is a film director and producer, based in Tijuana, Mexico. Her artistic practice combines production and research in audiovisual media with an emphasis on hybrid forms of contemporary cinema, experimental video and archival material. Morris is the founder of Galewind Films and an award-winning documentary filmmaker. Her debut feature documentary, A New Color: The Art of Being Edythe Boone, premiered at the 2015 Mill Valley Film Festival and was broadcast nationally on public television’s America ReFramed series. Ten years as an immigration attorney and decades of experience as a mediator and social justice organizer provide her a special insight into immigration reform. Martinez is an award winning non-fiction filmmaker from Houston, Texas where she got her start as a labor organizer. Her short documentaries has been broadcast nationally on PBS and featured in The Guardian and The New York Times Op-Docs.

Following the films, there were two panel discussions. The first featured attorney Kate Clark, Director of Immigration Services and lead immigration Attorney at Jewish Family Service of San Diego and founder of the SD Rapid Response Network; attorney Nicole Ramos, Director of the Border Rights Project of Al Otro Lado, a binational legal services organization; social worker Mary Galvan of Instituto Madre Assunta, and Dr. Aida Silva of Universidad Autónoma de Baja California. The second panel featured social worker Rachel Mahoney of Survivors of Torture, International; social worker Claudia Gonzalez, a binational clinical social worker and SDSU alumna; SDSU social work professor Dr. David Engstrom, whose research focuses on immigration policy and services to immigrants and refugees; and SDSU MSW social work student April Moo. She was born and raised in a refugee camp in Thailand and came to the U.S. as a refugee in 2015.

The event concluded with a reception and a chance for informal conversation. The event was so fulfilling and invigorating that the planning committee decided to open it up to others. Moving forward the committee plans to host quarterly gatherings for current SDSU School of Social Work students, alumni and students and professionals from Tijuana, Rosarito and Ensenada to discuss current binational/international issues and possible collaborations.

School of Speech, Language, & Hearing Sciences

Changing Two Lives With One Clinic

Chelsie Saunders is very excited to be starting her second year in the SLHS master’s program for speech-language pathology. After she completes her degree this year, she plans on a career working in the school system to help children develop the language skills they need.She points out that not being able to be understood when you answer playground questions like, “What’s your name? How old are you? Do you want to play?” is a severe handicap for a young child. She should know because she watched her son Marlin go through it.

Chelsie and Marlin about the time he started therapy
Chelsie and Marlin about the time he started therapy.

Marlin was very slow to develop speech, and was not speaking by 18 months, when most children have developed clear words. By the time he was two years old, his speech was still unintelligible, so his parents sought treatment. A speech-language pathologist at Rady Children’s Hospital confirmed a speech delay and recommended therapy. However, because there was not a physical deformity responsible for his lack of clear speech, the family’s insurance would not cover the cost. Faced with an out-of-pocket cost of more than $600 a month for weekly group therapy sessions, they reluctantly decided they had to find a different route. They spent the next six months researching other ways to get Marlin the therapy he needed. In the meantime, Marlin found it difficult to interact with his peers.

Chelsie stumbled upon the SDSU Speech-Language Clinic. At that time, the clinic operated on a sliding fee scale, so it was an affordable option. (Since then, the Speech-Language Clinic has transitioned to a donation-based system and welcomes all donations.) Marlin was able to have an entire semester’s worth of twice-weekly one-on-one therapy for less than a single month’s cost at Rady Children’s Hospital. In only one semester the little boy’s speech became much clearer, though this is faster than is typical. Marlin worked with a student therapist, supervised by a licensed clinician. Chelsie watched through the window as her son and his therapist played “games” that delighted Marlin and helped correct his speech. These sessions, coupled with parent coaching and Chelsie’s ability to integrate her newly learned strategies with every day activities, supported Marlin’s quick response to therapy. Chelsie noted that, “He always clapped his hands when I said we were going to therapy. He had so much fun each time.”

The semester’s worth of therapy turned out to be life changing for both Marlin and his mother. As Chelsie watched Marlin’s progress, she knew she wanted to be able to help other children in the same way. She felt called to help other children overcome speech difficulties and gain the confidence to interact with the world. Unfortunately, she had not had the opportunity to pursue her own education at that point, so it was not going to be an easy goal to accomplish.

Marlin finished his therapy in June. By September, Chelsie had enrolled in community college to get her associates degree. Then she transferred to SDSU, where she completed her bachelor’s degree while achieving straight A’s. Now, Chelsie is almost done with her master’s degree and can finally see “light at the end of the tunnel.”

Marlin and ChelsieMarlin is now a bright seven year old who is doing well in school and the family has grown to include a beautiful four-year-old daughter. Marlin is attending a dual language Spanish/English immersion school since he has relatives that live in Mexico. His speech is clear in both languages!

As part of the master’s program, Chelsie is now providing speech-language therapy to children just like Marlin and those with more complex needs. In fact, last year her therapy room was the same room where she watched Marlin. She says that, “memories wash over me every time I open the door.” She has been working as part of the Puede! project, which is training both speech-language pathology and school psychology students to collaboratively work with Dual Language and English Learner students with high needs. The project is funded through an interdisciplinary training grant from the Department of Education and headed by Dr. Sonja Pruitt-Lord (SLHS) and Carol Robinson and Jennica Paz (School Psychology).

Chelsie is looking forward to finishing her education and starting a career working with children in schools. She continues to be inspired by Marlin and the transformation she saw in him through the SDSU Speech-Language Clinic.