College of Health Solutions faculty collaborate with health community in fight against COVID-19

Several of the college's faculty presented at the fourth annual Arizona Wellbeing Commons conference Oct. 9

October 22, 2020

Faculty, students and staff from Arizona State University's College of Health Solutions joined with more than 300 members of the health community on Oct. 9 to address Arizona’s efforts in the fight against COVID-19 at the fourth annual Arizona Wellbeing Commons conference.

Several of the college's faculty led discussions at this year’s virtual event, which drew health care providers, researchers and educators from all parts of Arizona.   College of Health Solutions David Sklar (inset image at top right) presents at the fourth annual Arizona Wellbeing Commons conference Oct. 9. On stage is ASU's Joshua LaBaer (left) and journalist Jude LaCava. Photo by Andy DeLisle/ASU Download Full Image

Keynote speakers, reports and breakout sessions highlighted Arizona’s efforts to fight COVID-19  around the Arizona Wellbeing Commons’ seven areas of inquiry: 

  • Neurobiology, aging, dementias and movement disorders.

  • Cancer prevention, detection, management and treatment.

  • Viruses, immunity, microbiomes and infectious disease.

  • Nutrition, obesity, exercise and lifestyle.

  • Mental health, substance abuse, crime and behavior change.

  • Public health and health care services: law, policy and equity.

  • Culture, arts, design and humanities in health.

David Sklar, a physician, College of Health Solutions professor and senior adviser to the ASU provost, led the reporting and discussion in the public health and health care services area, or “swarm” as the areas are called for their flexible structure that allows busy health professionals to come and go as their schedules permit. Participants discussed how the medical situation has evolved since the pandemic began, noting the greater availability of personal protective equipment, although masks are still being reused, and more awareness in emergency rooms about COVID-19-related complications.

“We identified COVID-19 as a priority, but we wanted to make sure that public health also focuses on other public health issues such as climate change and vulnerable populations,” Sklar said, adding that many clinicians discussed their work on that front, including Sue Pepin, a clinical professor in the College of Health Solutions and managing director of health and clinical partnerships at ASU, who recently won a grant to examine the effect of COVID-19 on vulnerable groups.

Health Solutions professors Dorothy Sears and Stavros Kavouras led the nutrition, obesity, exercise and lifestyle swarm, emphasizing the importance of nutrition and exercise in preventing and managing chronic diseases, which evidence has shown make people more susceptible to COVID-19. They also led a breakout session where attendees shared interests and initiatives toward new collaborations in healthy lifestyle projects that reduce vulnerability to disease. Sears noted one promising initiative from Danielle Gilliam, a medical science liaison at the health care company Novo Nordisk, who discussed her efforts to include obesity care training in medical school curricula and national certification testing.

Leading one of the breakout sessions was Mara Aspinall, a Health Solutions professor of practice and co-founder of ASU’s biomedical diagnostics master’s degree program, the first degree of its kind in the U.S. Her group discussed the Arizona business community’s innovative response to COVID-19. “Many companies are working to improve conditions created by COVID-19 with technology solutions,” Aspinall said, citing an app created by the Tucson-based company Pyx Health to help improve the mental health of those experiencing loneliness due to isolation, a growing concern during the socially distanced COVID-19 era. 

Since its beginning in 2017, the Arizona Wellbeing Commons annual conference has brought together Arizona health professionals from academia, clinical practice and the business community for meaningful collaboration toward a healthier Arizona. While the focus was again the same, the current challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic brought greater urgency to this year’s conversations.

“COVID-19 has intensified the need for experts across disciplines to work together to improve the health of all Arizonans,'' said Deborah Helitzer, dean of the College of Health Solutions. “The Arizona Wellbeing Commons has been extremely successful in stimulating collaborative work like this, leading to real, actionable solutions that address the current health crisis as well as future challenges. While the challenges brought on by this pandemic are like none other we have faced, I remain positive and hopeful for a better, healthier future.”

Learn more about the results of the day’s events as well as details about the conference’s sessions and speakers.

Kelly Krause

Media and communications manager, College of Health Solutions

Entrepreneurship-focused engineering education unleashes potential

ASU's Chao Wang earns Engineering Unleashed Fellow award for hands-on, team-based, open-ended design projects

October 22, 2020

Chao Wang, a senior lecturer in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, has been named a 2020 Engineering Unleashed Fellow by the Kern Family Foundation

Engineering Unleashed is a community of more than 2,500 engineering faculty and staff at colleges and universities in the United States whose mission is to instill an entrepreneurial mindset in engineering graduates. Engineers who apply the engineering mindset create personal, economic and societal value through meaningful work. Neon sign that says "Entrepreneurial Mindset" The Entrepreneurial Mindset, also known as EM, championed by the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network, or KEEN, emphasizes curiosity, connections and creating value through engineering. Photo by Marco-Alexis Chaira/ASU Download Full Image

The Engineering Unleashed Fellow award recognizes Wang’s leadership in education and entrepreneurial engineering.

“I have more work to do to instill an entrepreneurial mindset in engineering students,” said Wang, who is a faculty member in the Fulton Schools Academic and Student Affairs unit. “I will continue to work on understanding student motivations and providing them with an engaging learning environment.”

Wang’s journey to be named a fellow started when she attended an Engineering Unleashed Faculty Development workshop, Motivation and Mindset, in August 2019 in Atlanta. These workshops draw in faculty members from across the country to work alongside peer coaches to develop and apply an entrepreneurial mindset in teaching, learning, research, industry and leadership roles. Projects developed in Engineering Unleashed Faculty Development workshops are published on the Engineering Unleashed website as “cards,” which are resources for other faculty and staff to explore and implement. 

Wang’s project, An Open Ended Design Project Promoting Autonomy in an Introduction to Engineering Course, focuses on the importance of hands-on, team-based, open-ended design projects in first-year engineering courses for student retention, skill development and a sense of community and success.

For example, students in the course are tasked with designing an automated solution for spaces such as a home, dorm, retail space, office space, restaurant, hospital, library or factory. Students' designs are expected to add economic, environmental and/or societal value. 

This type of project supports student autonomy and results in more positive student motivation than more constrained projects. Wang also found that having more choice and control has a dramatic positive impact on female engineering students.

Senior Lecturer Chao Wang

Since 2016, she has been using open-ended design projects to teach the entrepreneurial mindset to first-year engineering students in her Introduction to Engineering course.

"I have always been curious about the ‘right way’ of assigning open-ended design projects,” Wang said. “The faculty development workshop I attended confirmed my belief that giving students more autonomy leads to more positive motivations."

The workshop, she said, "also gave me the tools to quantitively measure student motivations in Introduction to Engineering. Understanding student motivations helped me formulate better open-ended design projects, and it also helps me with other curriculum improvements.”

Wang said students enjoy the freedom they're given in their design projects, and she has received feedback from students who say these projects are fun, personal and purposeful, and make engineering exciting.

Her open-ended design project card also won a second-place award in the 2020 American Society for Engineering Education Best Card Competition.

Wang was nominated for the Engineering Unleashed Fellow award by her peer coaches, and her application was recognized by an independent review committee from the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network, or KEEN, partner institutions.

As an Engineering Unleashed Fellow, Wang received a $10,000 grant and the opportunity to advance her current project, develop a new project, participate in conferences and share her work with the Engineering Unleashed community at a virtual event earlier this month.

Wang was one of 29 individuals across the U.S. named Engineering Unleashed Fellow in 2020, which represents approximately 10% of faculty development workshop attendees.

Monique Clement

Communications specialist, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering