SMU Students Debate Policy Solutions to Firearm Suicide

Undergraduate students in a new public health course at SMU are honing their persuasive speaking abilities in a series of formal debates about ongoing public health issues. 

Judges and two teams from the first debate in the Pandemics class
Judges and two of the teams participating in a debate on policies to reduce firearm suicide.

Students in the new SMU course Pandemics! The Science of Disease Spread, Prevention, and Control have spent the last several weeks learning about the basics of public health research design and constraints faced by the public health field. Now, they’re putting that knowledge to use in a series of debates judged by panels of experts.  

Earlier this week, students in the course faced off over whether focusing on introducing additional gun control measures or focusing on increasing access to mental health care would be the preferable policy approach to reducing firearm suicides in the United States. While weighing the potential impact of each family of policies, students introduced criteria including political feasibility, effectiveness, cost, and risk. The judges ultimately favored teams who outlined specific policy plans and demonstrated that they could effectively respond to their opponents’ points. Out of the three debates between six teams of students, two “mental health” teams and one “gun control” team emerged victorious. 

SMU Professor of Global Health Eric G. Bing, the creator of Pandemics, took inspiration from his popular course Creating Impact in Global & Public Health, which also includes formal debates. Bing said he hopes that the debates in both courses will help his students become better advocates and critical thinkers.  

Interested in learning more about the Center for Global Health Impact? Visit our website, email us at globalhealthimpact@smu.edu and engage with us on Twitter.

Researchers Begin Phase II of Meditation Study

Innovative research on meditation and mindfulness continues at SMU

Lead by Dr. Eric G. Bing, professor of global health in the Department of Applied Physiology & Wellness in the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education & Human Development and in the Department of Anthropology in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, a team of researchers from the Institute for Leadership Impact is conducting innovative research on meditation and mindfulness.

 

SMU Meditation study flyer

Students from SMU and eighteen other universities participated in the first phase of the study, which investigated the use of meditation as a tool for reducing college students’ stress during the coronavirus pandemic. The study examined the effectiveness of motivational coaching as a strategy for improving formation of meditation habits and increasing the effects of meditation on participants’ well-being.  Dr. Wen Huang, a Postdoctoral fellow in the Simmons School of Education & Human Development, and Megan Brown, a graduate student in the Department of Anthropology, are leading the analysis of data from this phase of the study.

Recruitment for the second phase of the study is underway, and SMU undergraduate and graduate students currently in the Dallas-Fort Worth area are invited to sign up.  Phase II will focus on different methods for building a meditation habit.  Participants will learn to meditate daily using an app, meditating for 9-20 minute a day for one month from the convenience of their own home.  For more information on enrolling in the study, contact Kaitlyn Contreras at kcontreras@smu.edu.

Interested in learning more about the Center for Global Health Impact? Visit our website, email us at globalhealthimpact@smu.edu and engage with us on Twitter.

Applications for Pandemics Course at SMU Now Open

In light of the era-defining COVID-19 pandemic, SMU epidemiologist Dr. Eric G. Bing has created a new undergraduate course focused solely on international diseases and how we can combat them. Pandemics! The Science of Disease Spread, Prevention, and Control (APSM/ANTH/MNO 4344), which kicks off in Spring 2021, will give SMU students the basic tools they need to understand the many factors that drive disease spread and how local and global communities can combat it.  

The interdisciplinary course will offer an interactive, participatory overview of epidemiological principles, using real-world infectious and social pandemics as a backdrop. Through a series of case studies, guest speakers, discussions, and live debates, students will study pandemics, evaluate epidemiological research, and develop evidence-based pandemic response strategies.  

To understand and combat pandemics, epidemiologists think outside the box, using insights from diverse academic disciplines. Therefore, students from all academic disciplines are encouraged to apply, and no background in health is required. The course is a capstone for the Health & Society major.  

Participation in the course is by instructor consent only; submit an application to join the course here or learn more on the course flyer.  

Interested in learning more about the Center for Global Health Impact? Visit our website, email us at globalhealthimpact@smu.edu and engage with us on Twitter.

The Center’s 2019-2020 Media Highlights

During the 2019-2020 academic year and the following summer, SMU Center for Global Health Impact projects, researchers, and students were featured many times in local and national media reporting.

Though it was punctuated by a pandemic that pushed the Center for Global Health Impact to reorient much of its programming, the 2019-2020 academic year and the following summer offered the Center’s projects, researchers, and students many opportunities for media exposure. Highlights included…

Leading on COVID-19

With the rise of COVID-19, Center Director Eric G. Bing – a trained physician and epidemiologist – was called upon to participate in several media interviews about the spread of the virus and about mitigation strategies. Over the spring, Bing made several national appearances on CBS News, in which he recommended wearing face coverings and ramping up testing. He was later interviewed by the Dallas Observer for articles on the importance of face coverings and taking a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available.

Additional information and guidance on COVID-19 is available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

Public Health in the Classroom

When COVID-19 forced SMU to make classes virtual in March, Bing restructured his Creating Impact in Global & Public Health course to use the developing pandemic as a real-time example. The course traditionally culminates in the Battle to Save Lives case competition, which was reoriented to focus on mitigating the spread of COVID-19 on college campuses. Two student teams from the class applied for RevTech Ventures grants to implement their solutions, and NTX Inno reported that both teams won grants.

Breaking New Ground in Medical Education

As the Center’s research in virtual reality surgery simulation expanded, many local and regional publications took interest in the project. Before the end of 2019, publications including D Magazine, KERA News, WFAA ABC 8, Park Cities People, and The Dallas Morning News had published stories that focused on or mentioned the Center’s virtual reality work. Project team members anticipate continued media attention as the project enters a new phase focused on postpartum hemorrhage treatment.

Selected Student and Alumni Spotlights

Khris Beeson ‘20, who took Creating Impact in Global & Public Health in 2020 and became a Global Health Intern after graduating, was featured in a July 2020 Dallas Morning News piece about her collaboration with Bing.

Kaitlyn Contreras-Castro ‘20, who has served as a research assistant at the Center since 2018 and has taken Creating Impact in Global & Public Health, was featured by SMU in Fall 2019.

Dominique Earland ‘17, who took Creating Impact in Global & Public Health during her time at SMU, is now pursuing a medical degree at the University of Minnesota. In March 2020, Earland was interviewed by Phi Beta Kappa about her path to medical school.

Interested in learning more about our work? Visit our website, email us at globalhealthimpact@smu.edu and engage with us on Twitter.

Experts: Face Coverings Key to Combating Pandemic in Dallas

As transmission of SARS-CoV-2 continues in the Dallas region, experts say that face coverings worn over the nose and mouth are an essential tool for keeping the virus at bay. 

Face Mask

Several months into the coronavirus pandemic, local public health experts continue to emphasize that Dallasites can help save lives by wearing a face covering in public areas. In an interview with the Dallas Observer, SMU Center for Global Health Impact Director Dr. Eric G. Bing joined three other North Texas physicians in encouraging people to wear face coverings. Bing acknowledged that wearing a face covering may feel awkward, but emphasized that it is a small sacrifice to protect the Dallas community.  

Southern Methodist University, has also emphasized the importance of face coverings as part of their Mustang Strong campus health strategy. At SMU, face coverings are required in all public indoor spaces and in other situations when six feet of social distancing is not possible. This strategy was designed to be consistent with the latest public health guidance from Dallas County, which mandates face coverings for county employees and most members of the general public when they are in public spaces or workplaces that preclude six feet of social distancing from others.  

Additional information and guidance on COVID-19 is available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. 

Interested in learning more about our work? Visit our website, email us at globalhealthimpact@smu.edu and engage with us on Twitter.

Center for Global Health Impact and Institute for Leadership Impact Release Joint 2019-2020 Report

The Center for Global Health Impact and the Institute for Leadership Impact, both headquartered at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, have released a joint impact report for the 2019-2020 academic year.

The report focuses on how the two programs are helping to build better leaders in health, education, and other fields. Topics covered in the report include:

  • Ongoing virtual reality surgical simulation research
  • Ongoing meditation research
  • Global & public health training at SMU
  • The Battle to Save Lives public health case competition
  • Consulting on COVID-19 mitigation
  • The District Leadership Fellows program
  • Local and national media appearances
  • Future projects and growth prospects

Read the new report here and read the previous reports of the Center here and the Institute here.

Interested in learning more about our work? Visit our website, email us at globalhealthimpact@smu.edu and engage with us on Twitter.

SMU Researchers Create Low-cost Virtual Reality Training to Improve Care during Labor and Delivery

SMU researchers receive funding from Wellcome Trust to develop low cost virtual reality training to help improve skills to surgically manage postpartum hemorrhage.  Such training may not only reduce time and cost to train providers but reduce risk of COVID-19 transmission by reducing face-to-face interactions during surgical training.

 

COVID-19 has created complex challenges and opportunities in teaching and learning, including how medical providers are trained to perform complex medical procedures.  An international team of researchers from King’s College London, Southern Methodist University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and the University of Zambia is developing techniques to train surgeons using low cost eLearning tools and Virtual Reality which can help improve the acquisition of knowledge and skills without patient contact.1,2

The multidisciplinary team has been awarded a Wellcome Trust research grant to build and field test a virtual reality training platform for the surgical management of postpartum hemorrhage.  The team at SMU is led by Dr. Eric G. Bing, Professor of Global Health in the Departments of Applied Physiology & Wellness and Anthropology and Dr. Anthony Cuevas, Assistant Dean for Technology & Innovation and Clinical Professor in the Department of Teaching & Learning.

Researchers from SMU and UNC Chapel Hill developing a VR simulation.
Researchers from SMU and UNC Chapel Hill developing a VR simulation.

Surgery is one of the most crucial domains of global medicine, yet most low- and middle-income countries have stark deficits in both the absolute numbers of surgeons and their level of expertise to perform complex surgical procedures. Of the many types of emergency surgical interventions, some of the most crucial and complex are those required to manage obstetrical hemorrhage, the world’s most common cause of maternal death. Funding from the Wellcome Trust will enable researchers to build and field test the first general affordable obstetrical virtual reality simulator training platform for the surgical management of obstetrical hemorrhage. The innovative training platform, once built, will integrate the latest advances in virtual reality technology with traditional hands-on training and can be easily and affordably delivered within low and middle-income contexts. The application of an enhanced learning platform will rapidly build surgical capacity and capability for complex surgical procedures, some of which are life-saving, and increase access to a level of care that is very difficult for most women residing in these environments to obtain.

This research will build upon a low-cost Virtual Reality Surgery Simulator developed by many members of the current team.

Interested in learning more about our work? Visit our website, email us at globalhealthimpact@smu.edu and engage with us on Twitter.

SMU Epidemiologist Discusses Challenges for Reopening on CBS

[The coronavirus] doesn’t care about politics. It only understands its biology. If we don’t begin to think like the virus, people will die.

 

In interviews that aired nationally on April 29 and May 7, and May 28 Dr. Eric G. Bing spoke with CBS News correspondent Omar Villafranca about Texas’ response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and about public health challenges faced by reopening communities across the United States.

Bing, a physician and epidemiologist who teaches public health at Southern Methodist University, observed in his April 29 interview on CBS This Morning that “it’s important to have more tests so we know the rate of infection, so we have a good baseline. Without that baseline, we’re kind of shooting in the dark.” Noting that Texas’ rates of testing at the time of the interview were too low for public health experts to have a good idea of how many people in the state were infected, Bing cautioned that Texas leaders need to begin thinking more about the way the virus spreads if they hope to minimize COVID-19 deaths.

In his second CBS This Morning interview on May 7, Bing pointed out that the rate of new confirmed COVID-19 cases was rising as Texas began to allow certain kinds of businesses to reopen. “The land mines are planted,” he said, “and as we begin to walk around, we’re gonna step on them.” Bing went on to express concerns that Americans are no longer adhering to social distancing guidelines as well, and that this will likely contribute to an even faster spread of the virus as formal restrictions are lifted.

As part of a May 28 segment on CBS Evening News, Bing highlighted the critical importance of wearing masks as communities and states continue to pursue reopening measures, comparing wearing a mask to wearing a seat belt: “You don’t put your seat belt on when you’re six feet from the other car, you put your seat belt on when you get in the car. . . . The same thing goes for the masks.”

Additional information and guidance on COVID-19 is available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

Interested in learning more about our work? Visit our website, email us at globalhealthimpact@smu.edu and engage with us on Twitter.

COVID-19 Mindfulness Meditation Study

Mental health is an important factor during and after a global pandemic.

Meditation Study Flyer

SMU Engaged Learning scholar and Institute for Leadership Impact Research Assistant Kaitlyn Contreras Castro is studying meditation and meditation coaching for her Engaged Learning project.

Meditation is a relaxation technique that has been shown to aid well-being if practiced regularly. College students experience high levels of stress, even more so during the COVID-19 pandemic and recession. An obstacle to committing to meditative practices is the difficulty in committing time and attention to acquire effective mindfulness skills. The purpose of this investigation is to determine if mobile mindfulness applications are associated with stress reduction if enhanced with brief weekly electronic meditation coaching and if any benefits are maintained over time. This research is especially important during a global pandemic which brings increased external stress factors to students.

Kaitlyn is working with Dr. Eric G. Bing, Institute for Leadership Impact Director and professor of global health in the Department of Applied Physiology & Wellness in the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education & Human Development and in the Department of Anthropology in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, and Claire Trotter, Ph.D. student in the Department of Applied Physiology and Wellness.  Enrollment in this study has now ended.

Interested in learning more about our work? Visit our website, email us at globalhealthimpact@smu.edu and engage with us on Twitter.

SMU Students Virtually Present Pandemic Solutions before University Officials, Audience of Hundreds

At the largest Battle to Save Lives in the event’s six-year history, student proposals drew positive reviews from key SMU officials.

GPH Case Competition

On April 30, over two hundred people tuned in to watch SMU’s sixth annual Battle to Save Lives, which featured five teams of students from SMU professor Eric G. Bing’s Creating Impact in Global & Public Health course presenting strategies for combating COVID-19 on college and university campuses. Attendees included SMU alums, current students, faculty, staff, university officials, and observers from all over the country; Dr. Bing remarked, “though we’re virtual, it’s our largest [Battle to Save Lives] ever, so I’m happy about that.”

 

The event unfolded before a panel of judges including Peter K. Moore (Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs ad interim), K.C. Mmeje (Vice President for Student Affairs), Janille Smith-Colin (Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering), and Jennifer Burr Altabef (a community leader and former attorney). The judges awarded the win to Team A, including students Ben De Leon, Noelle Gushard, Jaxen Howell, Grace McKeehan, and Lauren Welch, who presented a proposal called “The Armed Forces Against COVID-19.” However, each of the five teams were voted second place or higher by at least one of the judges or the audience. Dr. Moore, who is co-chairing the President’s Task Force for a Healthy Opening Fall 2020 with Dr. Mmeje, was inspired by the students and told them that the task force would be drawing on ideas from every team to help SMU reopen safely.

You can read more about the event in a previous blog post.

Interested in learning more about our work? Visit our website, email us at globalhealthimpact@smu.edu and engage with us on Twitter.