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College of Liberal and Fine Arts


From TX to DC: Nursing and Public Health Students Advocate for Environmental Health

April 15, 2015

When the opportunity arose for nursing and public health students to travel to the East Coast to learn more about the relationship between human health and the environment, one future nurse and UTSA Public Health student was inspired to apply.

Over winter break, student Ursula Solorzano joined UTHSCSA Assistant Professor Adelita G. Cantu, PhD, RN for an environmental health and nursing retreat in Virginia that culminated in a trip to Washington, DC. At the nation’s capital, Ursula along with Lisa Chang and Christine Gadbois two registered nurses, met with Massachusetts Democrat Senators Elizabeth Ann Warren and Ed Markey’s Climate Change staff along with Rhode Island’s Democrat Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and his Climate Change staff. They also visited the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to speak with Janet McCabe, the Acting Deputy Director for the Office of Air and Radiation. These meetings, arranged with the support of the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, were intended to show nurses’ support for actions that help reduce the effects of climate change.

But what does climate change have to do with nursing and human health? Ursula is currently studying this topic in her Public Health Internship with Dr. Cantu and her nursing students at the UTHSCSA School of Nursing.

“I didn’t know fracking was that much of an issue when it comes to climate change and the health of an individual, but with 353 chemicals from 944 products identified in use for fracking, and the percentage of harm that they are capable of doing to our body reaching all the way to 75% (for skin, eye, respiratory, and GI problems) people really need to realize that they have the power to stop this from continuing to exist in their state in order to prevent their effects from continuing to exist in their lifetime,” notes Ursula Solorzano.

“The predicted impacts of climate change are going to affect the health of not only individuals, but also whole communities. It is very important for nurses to know about this, in order to advocate for the health of their patients,” notes Tessa Toscano, an MSN-CNL student. “It is amazing how many ways a person’s health can be negatively affected. As the earth’s atmosphere heats up due to increasing amounts of greenhouse gases, the poor air quality leads to worsening asthma, while the captured heat leads to more frequent extreme weather events, longer allergy seasons, and warmer climates that disease-carrying vectors thrive in, contributing to Lyme disease and malaria. And, all of these consequences are already being seen as global warming worsens.”

“My family in the Philippines has been tragically affected by many more monsoons in recent years,” says Jaemie Abad, a senior BSN student.  “During the aftermath of many recent storms, my mother and I would make Costco runs for canned and nonperishable foods, and we would ship them over to the Philippines where basic food was in short supply.”   Island nations and low lying coastal regions, even in the U.S., are being threatened by rising sea levels and severe stormy weather – if this trend continues, whole island and coastal communities may be lost.

In addition, the increased frequency and intensity of fires and storms in the U.S. creates a number of challenges for the health care community as they treat injuries, aid displaced families, and address mental health symptoms arising from devastating weather events. Nurses have an active and evolving role in helping to prepare for and respond to disasters, and it is only natural for them to take part in addressing the causative factors of these events.

At the environmental health and nursing retreat, Ursula met with other young nurses and nursing students who were all part of a Young Nursing Leaders Initiative. In addition to studying the effects of climate change, she learned about how our nation’s failed chemical policies allow product manufacturers to formulate products with chemical compounds that are potentially hazardous to human health.  In her meeting on Capitol Hill, the office of Senators Warren and Markey became her ally by championing the reforming of our nation’s chemical policy laws in the interest of protecting public health.

By meeting with nursing leaders and learning about toxic chemicals used in health care settings specifically, Ursula learned a sense of the problem and how it could be possible to be a part of the solution by pushing for the “greening” of hospitals. Tessa, who is interested in being a neonatal intensive care (NICU) nurse, learned: “There are potentially toxic chemicals within the intravenous (IV) tubing used to give sick newborns their lifesaving fluids. There can also be toxic flame-retardant chemicals infused in hospitals’ mattresses and curtains, and even found in knitted infant caps. We need to take a closer look and apply scientific evidence as we choose products in hospitals, because sometimes the risks are greater than the benefits, especially for vulnerable patients like premature babies.”

In addition to advocating for safer and more responsible usage of chemicals in hospitals, another component of “greening” involves finding ways to reduce the hospital’s carbon dioxide emissions. In fact, hospitals in the U.S. are the second largest producers of CO2, a known greenhouse gas that contributes greatly to climate change. “As future nurses, we must know how to make greener choices, because it is in everyone’s best interest – the hospitals, our patients, and healthcare employees, including nurses,” declares Jaemie Abad. “Hospitals can save time, money, and precious resources by investing in ways to reduce their carbon footprints. Patients can enjoy a healthier world, where our air is easier to breathe, our water uncontaminated, and our land productive. Healthcare employees can feel confident knowing that they can practice safely in their work areas, and they can continue doing what they do best – impacting lives for the better.”

Education on environmental health and climate change has the potential to be expanded upon within UTSA Public Health curriculum, and framed as an emerging and unavoidable public health issue.

So what is the next step for UTSA’s new environmental and public health future nursing leader?  She feels empowered to speak to her fellow students, her patients, and her communities on the topic of climate change and its consequences on health.   She can imagine being part of a hospital’s “green team,” or even starting one when it does not exist.    And she realizes that climate change and inadequate chemical policies are having real impacts on human health; the optimal time for advocacy is now.

Ursula was also invited by the March of Dimes foundation to meet with Texas legislators and educate each legislator visited about health needs for children and mothers in Texas. The Texas legislators had several hundred new members, the new legislative members were learning about important issues in Texas, one of those being health issues. Ursula was there to advocate on three important topics; The Importance of the Texas Newborn Screening Program, The Importance of the Texas Birth Defects Registry, and on Improving Postpartum Health for Texas Women. Gladly each legislator visited, showed a continued support on his or her part for each cause.

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Dr. Christopher Ellison will lead the Southern Sociological Society

December 7, 2014

Dr. Christopher Ellison has been elected to the position of President of the Southern Sociological Society for the fiscal year 2016-2017 and the position of President Elect for the fiscal year 2015-2016.

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Video: Dr. Gabriel Acevedo Discusses His Research and Teaching

August 29, 2014

Dr. Gabriel Acevedo talks about his research on religion, health, and the perceptions of Islam in America.

Watch the video →

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Graduate Student and UTSA Football Player Brandon Guerrero Honored with Conference USA Scholarship

August 29, 2014

Courtesy: Jeff Huehn, UTSA Athletics

Courtesy: Jeff Huehn, UTSA Athletics

Sociology graduate student and UTSA football player Brandon Guerrero was one of 15 recipients of the $4,000 Jim Castañeda Postgraduate Scholarship Award.

Brandon put in two years as linebacker for the Roadrunners, graduating Summa Cum Laude with a major in sociology and a minor in communications. He is continuing at UTSA to pursue a master's in sociology.

Congratulations Brandon!  We're happy to have you in our master’s program!

Learn more about Brandon's award →

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Graduate Students Received Awards

April 30, 2014

Janeth Martinez received a 1st place award for her graduate research paper titled “The Importance of Social Support in a Four-
year College” at the 14th COLFA Annual Spring Research Conference, 2014. 

Richard Rodriguez received travel funds from COLFA to visit the Dallas food bank to support his internship at the San Antonio Food Bank.

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Sociology Students Accepted into Ph.D. Programs

March 30, 2013

The following students in our M.S. Graduate Program have been accepted into Ph.D. programs for Fall 2012:

Ahmet Fidan, University of Tennessee

Chao Lu, University of Oklahoma

Zhi Zhang, University of Nebraska, Lincoln

The following students in our M.S. Graduate Program have been accepted into Ph.D. programs for Fall 2013:

Jose Debora, Penn State University

Dogan Hatun, University of Nebraska, Lincoln

Ramazan Kilinc, Essex University

Andrea Ruiz, Penn State University

Sarah Shah, The University of Toronto

Murat Yilmaz, Baylor University

The following students in our M.S. Graduate Program have been accepted into Ph.D. programs for Fall 2014:

Haethan Abdul-Razaq, UTSA

Nagwa Alharbi, UAB

Hector Chapa, UTSA

Tom Moore, Vanderbilt University

Curtis Ogland, Duke University

Kenneth Vaughan, Baylor University

The following students in our M.S. Graduate Program have been accepted into Ph.D. programs for Fall 2015:

Noor Bitar, George Mason University

Carlos Casanova, Iowa State University

Jorge Gonzalez, the University of Ottawa

Janeth Martinez, UTSA

Sean Vina, Indiana University

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Dr. Ellison Will Head ASR

March 30, 2013

Dr. Christopher Ellison

Dr. Christopher Ellison

Dr. Christopher Ellison has been elected as the President of the Association for the Sociology of Religion (ASR), an international scholarly association that seeks to advance theory and research in the sociology of religion. Formed in 1938 as the American Catholic Sociological Society, ASR traces its roots to scholars in search of a hospitable place for both empirical study and social criticism animated by the social teachings of the church. Our 700+ members come from all continents of the world, and their interests and perspectives are just as diverse and global. The Association encourages and communicates research that ranges widely across the multiple themes and approaches in the study of religion, and is a focal point for comparative, historical and theoretical contributions to the field. In addition, the Association facilitates the sharing of members’ interests with sociologists in other associations and scholars of religion in other disciplines.

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New Faculty to Join Department

March 30, 2013

From left: Drs. Melinda Denton and Aida Ramos-Wada

From left: Drs. Melinda Denton and Aida Ramos-Wada

The department is very pleased to announce the hiring of Drs. Melinda Denton, and Aida Ramos-Wada. Both faculty will join the department in Fall 2013.

Dr. Denton will be joining us from Clemson University. Her research examines the intersection of religion and family life in the U.S. with a focus on the religious lives of adolescents. Her research interests lie in Family, Adolescence & Youth, Religion and culture.

Dr. Aida Ramos-Wada will be joining us from the University of Texas at Austin. Her research interests lie in the intersection of educational inequality, religion, and race (particularly Mexican American issues).

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