PHSA involvement with the Center of Student Well Being and Hope House

This semester, The Public Health Student Association (PHSA) was involved in the #FreshCheck Virtual Scavenger Hunt put on by the Center of Student Well Being.  The hunt was centered around mental and physical health for college students. PHSA hosted the “Boost Booth”, a virtual booth discussing physical activity, participants heard from PHSA President, Taylor Moore and Secretary, Ashley Montgomery. PHSA was also represented during the Student Involvement Fair where Taylor Moore set up a socially-distanced table and provided information about PHSA and how to get involved.

PHSA also volunteered with a Hope House event this semester. The Hope House sets up every Thursday morning 9:30-11 to pack up and distribute food bags for individuals in the community who may be in need of a little extra help during this pandemic.  Students helped pack and sort food for food boxes that are distributed to students every week.

PHSA meets virtually every 4th Thursday of the month at 4pm where there is discussion about:

  • Current Public Health News in Our Community
  • Upcoming Volunteer Opportunities On and Off Campus
  • Public Health Guest Speakers

MPH Alumni Spotlight

MPH Alumni Zach Farley ‘20 was recently accepted and offered a full scholarship into University of Oregon’s Prevention Science PhD Program for the Fall of 2021. This will be a 4-year, research intensive degree program. Zach states, “The research interests I share with faculty members at University of Oregon is, in large-part, the reason I decided to accept the PhD position. Specifically, Dr. Liz Budd — my PhD advisor — and I share an interest in developing and implementing physical activity interventions for the youth and adolescent population. Dr. Budd has a dense background in working with and in community organizations (e.g. Boys & Girls Club) to implement health promotion initiatives, and I hope to be an asset in these endeavors.” Zach’s hope is to bring a new component to Dr. Budd’s research, which may turn into a future dissertation- to examine physical activity intervention strategies using social network analysis to enhance outcomes. When asked about Zach’s future with his PhD, he says, “I hope that this experience will permit me to develop into a researcher that contributes to the physical activity and healthy lifestyle literature-base while making a positive impact on communities, which is the most important outcome of research. More specifically, I would either like to secure a research position at a government institute or be hired on at an academic institution on tenure track where I will then conduct independent and collaborative research.” We wish Zach nothing but the best on his endeavors and cannot wait to see where his journey will lead. 

Educate! At Home Learning Support Collaboration

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Master of Public Health is pleased to share the collaboration between Hamilton County Schools, UTC School of Education, UTC Institute of Teaching and Learning and WTCI PBS with the “Educate! At Home Learning Support” Initiative. The primary focus of the Educate! Channel is to provide learning opportunities while children are at home during this pandemic. The content presented will be shown up to twelve hours a day reinforcing content that educators are providing for students during school. With COVID still surrounding us, it is important to continue educating our young people and providing them with educational equity efforts. MPH students and faculty will help support this channel by providing “brain break” segments with a main focus on healthy living segments such as nutrition, sleep, breathing exercises, physical activity options and many more. One of MPH’s second year students, Mary Ferris, has taken lead on this project with providing a plethora of healthy living content that will be presented to children and families in the Chattanooga community.

Career Advising Support

Are you unsure of what the future holds? Are there too many options to choose from and struggling to find your ultimate “dream” job? UTC’s Center for Career and Leadership is here to help! The goal is to provide UTC students and alumni with the confidence and skills to find your purpose, thrive in your career and contribute to your communities. There are many different services the Center offers such as leadership development sessions, resume building, interviewing prep, a career manual and a test that can help determine which career is right for you! They can be contacted by phone (423-425-4184) or email (

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Marissa McElrone

Dr. Marissa McElrone is an Assistant Professor in the MPH program at UTC in the Department of Health and Human Performance. She earned her PhD in Nutritional Sciences (emphasis in Community Nutrition) from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) and a BS in Nutritional Sciences from Pennsylvania State University. She also completed a dietetic internship while at UTK and holds Registered Dietitian Nutritionist credentials. Dr. McElrone’s research focuses on exploring and addressing cultural, socioecological, and behavioral factors related to disparities in food security and nutrition equity among diverse, marginalized and under-resourced populations (e.g. refugees, immigrants, low-income communities) through community-based interventions and policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) change approaches aimed to promote healthful food access. She is currently working on collaborative community projects with the Chattanooga Area Food Bank and Neigh’tions (a refugee-serving nonprofit). In her free time, you can likely find Dr. McElrone mountain biking, paddling, trail running, or hiking around the Chattanooga area.

Launch of Public Health Alumni Association

Attention all UTC MPH Alumni!

The Public Health Alumni Association (PHAA) will launch Spring 2021! This association will serve as a resource for all alumni to gather, engage in professional networking opportunities, learn about jobs/fellowships, receive UTC MPH Program updates, and learn about community and professional development opportunities in your area! We want to continue to support MPH gradates and their journey in public health! Be on the lookout for more updates and information!

MPH Students Volunteer at Red Bank Food Pantry

Our first year students, Lindsey Farrell and Savannah Ward volunteered at the Red Bank Food Pantry helping provide meals to 300 families in the Chattanooga community. The Red Bank Food Pantry is housed within the Red Bank United Methodist Church. They host a food drive every first and third Thursday of the month from 4:30-6pm and are always looking for volunteers to help unload the food truck (Tuesdays), pack the bags (Wednesdays) and distribute the food (Thursdays). Masks are worn at all times and hand sanitizer and gloves are easily accessible and available. Those who are interested in volunteering, can sign up using this link that has descriptions of shifts and time slots that they are requesting help.

Community Spotlight: CEMPA-Donate Your Empty Laundry Bottles

CEMPA Community Care strives to help the community by providing care for those who are impacted by illnesses through support services, treatment, prevention and person-centered care. UTC’s MPH Program partners with CEMPA to help support their efforts through collaborations with faculty and students. CEMPA serves on the MPH’s External Advisory Board and as a member of the Community Engagement Committee. One program that CEMPA offers is a harm-reduction service called The Syringe Trade and Education Program of TN (STEP TN). STEP TN is creating opportunities for safe disposal of syringes, decreasing the spread of diseases, and promoting overdose prevention with the use of naloxone distribution in Chattanooga, TN. STEP TN needs the public’s help with donations of twist top empty laundry detergent bottles. The bottles will be used to safely secure syringes submitted for disposal. Please drop off your bottles at the CEMPA prevention building on 1042 East Third ST, or the1885 Grill Restaurant located on 3914 St. Elmo Ave.

Virtual Graduation Celebration

On May 12th, we honored the first UTC MPH program graduating class – the 2020 Pioneers! The virtual event included messages from our leadership, a keynote guest speaker, MPH faculty farewells, and an opportunity to highlight accomplishments and hear from each Pioneer.

Although the official UTC spring 2020 commencement ceremony was postponed until August 7, our graduates deserved a special moment to celebrate the attainment of their MPH degree. The program organized an online celebration via Zoom, which included messages from Dr. Valerie Rutledge, Dean of CHEPS, Dr. Marisa Colston, HHP Department Head, and keynote speaker Ms. Leslie Meehan, Director of Primary Prevention at the Tennessee Department of Health, who spoke on the importance of public health and chronic disease both during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. She encouraged graduates to go out and see the big picture, be a doer, and use their superpower of natural curiosity to provide public health solutions. She congratulated our students and made clear that there is no better time to graduate with an MPH and make public health shine! Following Ms. Meehan’s words, each MPH faculty member had the opportunity to reminisce, share inspiring and farewell messages to the cohort.

The evening culminated with honoring each Pioneer’s accolades and accomplishments throughout the two-year program. A power point slide was dedicated to each graduate, who were introduced by his/her faculty advisor. The slide included a photo of the graduate and a list of highlights (i.e., graduate/research assistantships, awards, leadership roles, community experiences) while in the MPH program. The graduates then had an opportunity to share their overall experiences and provide special shout out to their professors, family, and friends. 

The event concluded with a toast in which every attendee raised their glass and cheered for the 2020 Pioneers success  in Public Health! The UTC MPH Program is extremely proud of the inaugural class and we look forward to keeping in touch with our alumni and continue to highlight their achievements in the future!





Conducting Contact Tracing

To help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department collaborated with the MPH program to perform contact tracing on positive cases in Hamilton County. To date, 15 MPH students have contacted dozens of Hamilton County residents who have been exposed to a patient that tested positive for COVID-19.

Contact tracing is an essential disease control measure employed by local and state health departments for decades (CDC). The main goals of a contact tracer is to protect patient privacy, educate, support, refer, and monitor the health of potentially infected patients. To participate, volunteers must receive HIPAA and contact tracing training. Dr. Dawn Ford, Clinical Associate Professor in the MPH program, serves as the liaison between UTC and the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department in a county-wide contact tracing effort. To date, Dr. Ford has trained over 65 UTC students, staff, and faculty contact tracing volunteers. In addition to MPH students, students in the Graduate Athletic Training program, and pre-med undergraduate students have also been involved.

Among the trained volunteers, MPH students have been engaged in the contact tracer role for since April 3rd. This opportunity has allowed them first-hand experience in monitoring and data collection during the coronavirus pandemic. When a COVID-19 case is identified by the Health Department, a list of potential contacts are gathered and provided to Dr. Ford. Dr. Ford then assigns the list of contacts to volunteers, who are responsible for conducting an initial interview. After the initial interview, volunteers follow-up with the contacts through daily monitoring calls for up to 14 days. The daily monitoring calls ask about the contact’s health, tracking the development of any symptoms, and offering resources. The contacts are also sent quarantine letters.

Contact tracing is one of the most important recommended strategies for re-opening our society. Conducting adequate contact tracing to try to spot new cases and prevent transmission of COVID-19 is a pivotal public health task in our community. Therefore, increasing contact tracing capacity to continue to do this work will become increasingly more important in the coming months.

A few MPH student volunteers shared their overall experience in conducting contact tracing:

Brandon Denney, MPH 2021 Candidate

“One of the reasons I decided to pursue an MPH was to find meaningful work that had a direct impact in the community, and contact tracing has allowed me to do just that! It is a minor commitment, and all of the people I have reached out to have been friendly and understanding. I’m honored to work alongside my classmates and put our education into practice.”

Ryan Ledford, MPH 2021 Candidate

“I am excited to have the opportunity to help the community during this pandemic. Working with the contacts and the health department has been a rewarding experience!”

Rosie Loesser, MPH 2021 Candidate

“I am thankful for the opportunity to work with the Hamilton County Health Department to protect the public. As a public health student, I feel contact tracing is a perfect example of public health in action. It is a great feeling knowing we are making a difference in Hamilton County’s fight against COVID-19.”

The contact tracing efforts of our students has received a great deal of local media attention including the Chattanooga Times Free Press, UTC News, and Channel 12 News.

As a program, we are proud of our students, staff, and faculty involved in the contact tracing efforts in our community. Together, we look forward to continue to assist the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department in combating this public health pandemic