UTC Scrappy Cupboard  

Are you a UTC student or know a UTC student that struggles with food insecurity? UTC’s Scrappy Cupboard was founded to address this issue. They provide emergency food assistance and referrals to all UTC students without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, pregnancy, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, physical or mental disability, or covered veteran status. Scrappy’s Cupboard can be found in the University Center through the Student Outreach and Support Services (SOS). You can schedule a time to pick up food online through their website. Scrappy’s also accepts donations so if you have any non-perishable, unexpired food items that you would like to contribute to the cupboard, please consider donating. Their website has information on how to drop off items and a list of items they are needing! More information can be found here!  

MPH and Community Partner Activity 

Throughout the year, students work alongside community partners around Chattanooga and surrounding areas. These projects can last anywhere from a semester to a full year. One project that we want to showcase is the work that was done with CEMPA. Two students Abigail Hunt and Lindsey Farrell, who just graduated with their MPH degree this May, wanted to improve and expand health care access among underserved communities in Hamilton County, Tennessee as well as expand the reach of CEMPA’s mobile clinic through mobile-specific marketing tools. They used GIS mapping to develop a health disparities map to determine the communities that need CEMPA’s mobile clinic the most. Results showed that residents who lived outside the metropolitan areas of Chattanoga have limited access to federally qualified health centers as well as face geographic barriers such as the distance to public health care services and lack of transportation. They provided recommendations to reduce geographic barriers to care and how to promote the mobile clinic and screening events with marketing materials.  

MPH Health Education Initiative in San Salvador, Bahamas  

Eight of our MPH students had the special opportunity to provide health education for the San Salvador, Bahamas community in May! They spent 10 days on the island conducting different activities and projects for the members that live there. The students were able to provide nutrition education and how to grow their own herbs to elementary school students, spoke to over 80 community members at their planting for prevention event and conducted water testing at various sites on the island! They were able to provide educational materials related to diabetes and heart disease as well as information on how to grow their own food at home to those that came to the community event! We are so proud of our students and look forward to continuing to provide services for the community of San Salvador! Thank you to UTC MPH Professor Dr. Dawn Ford for leading the charge and thank you to the Gerace Research Center for allowing us to stay on their campus in San Salvador!  

MPH Alumni Spotlight- Jaleesa Brumfield  

Jaleesa J. Brumfield has lived in Chattanooga since 2000 and considers herself a native. She holds an Associates of Liberal Arts from Chattanooga State Technical Community College, a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Community and Public Health from Middle Tennessee State University and Masters of Public Health from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and a host of public health related certifications. Jaleesa currently serves as the City of Chattanooga’s Community Forward Program Coordinator at Orchard Knob Middle School. Prior to joining the Community Forward team, she worked for the City of Chattanooga’s Office of Early Learning, where she served as Parent- Family Community Engagement Specialist. In addition, Jaleesa has worked in a host of organizations such as Erlanger Health Systems, Hamilton County Health Department, Hamilton County Department of Education and Girls Inc. of Chattanooga. She is also currently co leading Early Childhood Health Equity working group for Early Matters. In all of the positions she has served in she consistently had one common mission- to create systems that works for children and families. 

Jaleesa’s goal is to simply make the world a better place and models her life after Shirley Chisholm’s quote, “service is the rent you pay for living on this earth”. Over the years, she has developed a great passion in systems reconstruction and black maternal health. She has committed her life to assist in addressing disparities, social injustices and inequities related to public health. 

Fun Fact: Jaleesa was named after Jaleesa- Vinson on the popular late 80s sitcom A Different World. She was her dad’s favorite character. 

UTC MPH Program Collaboration with Blue Zones Project in Chattanooga  

This year, Chattanooga community members and organizations came together to jump start the Blue Zones Project initiative. This project is to help areas around the world live longer and healthier lives and Chattanooga wants to become the first city in Tennessee to take this on. UTC MPH was more than thrilled to lend a helping hand to jumpstarting this project. The first step is to hold a community wide event with key stakeholders and local community members to learn more about Blue Zones and what it would take to make this attainable in Chattanooga. This event was held on UTC’s campus and over 200 members were in attendance. Taking steps to better one’s health, reduce disparities and provide access to resources are goals for the Chattanooga Blue Zones Project. We want to make the healthy choice the easy choice. To learn more about this event and the Blue Zones Project, click on this link here!  

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Amir Alakaam  

Dr. Amir Alakaam is the MPH Program Director and Associate Professor UTC Department of Health and Human Performance. Dr. Alakaam has over six years of clinical experience as a Medical Doctor in family medicine and general surgery, and about eight years of teaching and research experience in nutrition and public health. He holds a PhD in Nutrition and Food Systems from the University of Southern Mississippi, an MS in Nutrition and Dietetics from Marywood University in Pennsylvania, and an MBChB in Medicine and General Surgery from the University of Baghdad. He is also a Fulbright Scholar (2010) and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (2019-present). Prior to coming to UTC, he was as Assistant Professor at the University of North Dakota (2016-2019), and a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Southern Mississippi (2015-2016). His research interests focus on using the concepts of the Socio-Ecological Model to address health and nutrition needs of marginal populations. He is also interested in the research related to breastfeeding’s policies and practices in the U.S. and eating habits of international students and immigrants in the U.S. Currently, he is working on research related to breastfeeding that aims to identify breastfeeding needs and determinants in Tennessee. Dr. Alakaam is also heavily involved in local community organizations. He is currently serving as a member of board of directors of Chattanooga Food Center, and he is the current Awards and Scholarship Chair and the upcoming President for Chattanooga Academy of Nutrition. As the MPH Program Director, Dr. Alakaam is aiming to develop a multicultural scholars’ program, aims to address the workforce deficit in underrepresented populations by increasing the number of students and graduates from these communities. 

Fun facts, Dr. Alakaam was born in Nouakchott, Mauritania and has four siblings who all live in different countries. 

PHSA Update: Public Health Week 2022 

This year, PHSA partnered with UTC’s Center for Student Wellbeing to provide campus with various events to promote healthy living and public health during National Public Health Week. This year’s theme was “Public Health Is Where You Are” so it was appropriate to bring public health to campus where our students are at! Every day during that week focuses on a different area related to health and wellbeing (racism, mental health, nutrition, climate change, accessibility, etc). Events at UTC included a tabling event on Chamberlain Plaza, helping with Scrappy’s Market, Collegiate Recovery Academy, Smash the Stigma of Mental Health Event where students threw balloons full of paint onto a canvas and an HIV Discussion with local community partner CEMPA. Being able to provide services and resources to students is very important and PHSA is happy to take part. We look forward to participating again in Public Health Week 2023!  

Community Partner Spotlight: The Bethlehem Center

Josh R. Singh is the Director of Strategy & Growth at the Bethlehem Center and the Owner of Chattanooga Fitness Club. Josh was born in New York, NY, and raised in Queens and on Long Island. After four years of undergrad out of state, he followed his then-relocating parents to Atlanta in 2009. He moved to the greater Chattanooga area in 2017. At the Bethlehem Center, Josh is responsible for developing strategy for the organization alongside the Executive Director and Board, fundraising, public speaking, strengthening community partnerships, and developing growth strategies for the organization. Prior to the Beth, Josh was the Director of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships with local education policy non-profit UnifiEd.  

Josh is also the owner of Chattanooga Fitness Club, a new group fitness and personal training facility opening June of 2022. Josh is excited to apply his background in sales, marketing, and operations to a business of his own, while retaining his responsibilities at the Bethlehem Center. Josh also recently graduated Leadership Chattanooga (Class of 2022) and was most recently named 20 Under 40 by Chattanooga Chatter Magazine/Times Free Press. He has earned degrees in Physics, Psychology, and Divinity, and lives in lower Red Bank with his beloved daughter – a 6 year old Staffordshire Bull Terrier named Topaz. 

Community Partner Spotlight: green|spaces

Michael Walton is the Executive Director of green|spaces, Chattanooga’s Sustainability Nonprofit. Michael grew up in Greeneville, Tennessee (upper northeast) received his professional architecture degree from UT Knoxville, and then practiced architecture in Washington DC for several years with a focus on sustainable design for social and environmental nonprofits before moving back to Tennessee to run green|spaces.  

green|spaces has a wide range of programs that impact public health. From large scale issues like climate change and the impact of systemic racism on air quality, water quality, and soil quality to small scale day-to-day challenges of indoor environmental quality and the impact of utility burden on the affordability of food, the programs at green|spaces help educate people, neighborhoods, businesses, nonprofits, developers, institutions, and governments about simple, effective, and affordable steps toward improving the planet, people, and prosperity; what they call the triple bottom line.  

One example is their work in asthma prevention through home improvement. green|spaces is working with Lifespring Community Health and the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative out of Baltimore to scale a pilot they conducted that uses money saved by reducing asthma emergency room and hospitalization rates to make home improvements that address the root causes of asthma attacks like mold, outside air leakage, and pest management.  

A fun fact about Michael is that he completed the Wonderland Trail in 2020, a 93 mile loop around Mt Ranier in Washington State with 22,000 feet of elevation! gain.  

Council on Education for Public Health Accreditation Announcement!

ATTENTION! In early September 2021, UTC Master of Public Health received accreditation notification from the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)! Having this accreditation showcases quality and continuous improvement in our higher education program through evaluation of institutional and programmatic outcomes. In October, the MPH Program was able to celebrate the accreditation with community partners, MPH alumni, faculty, staff and students. We would like to thank every person that has been involved with UTC’s Master of Public Health Program past and present! We are so delighted to be a CEPH Accredited MPH Program and look forward to continuing our relationship with CEPH.