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Academic Update

Volume 10, Issue 8
April 23, 2020 

COVID-19 Updates for the SBMI Community

SBMI’s Executive Leadership continues to monitor the rapidly evolving public health emergency related to the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The school would like to thank our students, faculty and staff for the continued work and support during this challenging time. We understand that working or studying from home is not easy while we all juggle other unique obstacles and ever-changing circumstances. We thank each of you for your sacrifices, diligence, and patience as the health and safety of you and your family are paramount concerns.

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On Wed., April 22, SBMI announced that all summer 2020 courses will be taught online and no in-person classes will be offered during that semester. At this juncture, there is no final decision regarding the format of fall 2020 courses. Students with questions or concerns should contact the Office of Academic Affairs at [email protected].

SBMI employees whose job duties can be performed remotely are encouraged to continue telework until further notice. Please work with your supervisor to determine your status and ensure all department functions remain appropriately staffed. For information on working remotely and safe social distancing practices while working, visit the Faculty & Staff Updates page.

As a reminder, any students in need of counseling services during these unprecedented times, can contact the Student Counseling Services for telemedicine services. Please visit the Student Counseling website for more information:

We encourage all students, faculty and staff to visit the SBMI COVID-19 website for updates each day:

UTHealth Town Hall on April 28

UTHealth President Giuseppe N. Colasurdo, MD and university executive leadership will host a live stream Town Hall on Tues. April 28 at 2 PM. During the Town Hall, the UTHealth Community will get important updates about COVID-19. We encourage all students, faculty and staff to participate, if possible.

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The stream can be accessed at Town Hall. To join the Town Hall, click the provided link and you will be prompted to enter your UTHealth email address. At that point, you will receive an email for verification purposes that includes a link to enter the live steam. For optimal streaming, disconnect from VPN.

Available Meeting Platforms

As social distancing practices continue, we want to remind the SBMI Community of all available meeting platforms and software. If you have IT questions regarding these platforms, please email [email protected].


UTHealth Cisco WebEx is now available for video and audio collaboration. UTHealth students, faculty and staff can now use this technology, free of charge, to schedule interactive online meetings for groups between two to 1,000 people. Meetings are not limited to those within the university. You can access WebEx using a web browser (, mobile device or the WebEx desktop application. You will need to use your UTHealth email address and password to log in.

WebEx can also be used to host an event open to the public. You can ask people to register for the event.

UTHealth students, faculty and staff also have access to these WebEx tools:

  • WebEx Meeting Center - for basic online meetings and collaboration
  • WebEx Event Center - for large, structured online events and seminars
  • WebEx Training Center - the virtual, online classroom

Microsoft Teams

UTHealth Microsoft Teams speeds up communication via Teams chat and allows for collaboration between team members who are working remotely. Team members are limited to UTHealth students, faculty and staff only. If you need a Team to be created, please send a request to [email protected] with a team name (in the format of SBMI-team name) and email of Team members.

You can access Microsoft Teams using a web browser (, mobile device, or the Teams application that can be installed on your UTHealth computer. You will need to use your UTHealth email address and password to log in. The getting started guide is available online.


GoToMeeting is another online meeting similar to WebEx. GoToMeeting will require an individual license. If you need a license, please contact the Distance Education Team at [email protected]. GoToMeeting can be access at GoToMeeting.

SBMI Bragging Points

Members of the SBMI Community have recently achieved noteworthy accomplishments. We want to recognize and applaud their endeavors.

  • The University of Texas Health Intelligence Platform (UT-HIP) is coordinated by staff here at SBMI. The team is currently working on visualizing confirmed COVID-19 cases via a new dashboard. Salsawit Shifarraw is the dashboard creator and a data scientist with UT-HIP. She is continuously adding new content each day.
  • Associate Professor Xiaoqian Jiang, PhD and Associate Professor and Associate Dean for Student, Faculty, and Community Affairs Amy Franklin, PhD were recently awarded a COVID-19 research grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Drs. Jiang and Franklin plan to use the funds to develop techniques and a mobile application called REACT. The app will provide real-time contact tracing and risk monitoring via privacy-enhanced tracking of users’ locations and symptoms.
  • Kirk Roberts, PhD, an assistant professor, is participating in a new U.S. government sponsored project to support the development of search engines for research that will help in the fight against COVID-19. Visit the UTHealth newsroom for more information.
  • Associate Dean for Academic and Curricular Affairs & Professor Susan H. Fenton, PhD co-authored a newly published article. It offers best practices to increase the HIM professional’s understanding of the clinical and administrative data collected and reported for a COVID-19 episode.
  • Professor Dean Sittig, PhD co-authored an article that was recently published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research. The title of the article is “Leveraging Eye Tracking to Prioritize Relevant Medical Record Data: Comparative Machine Learning Study.”
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  • Astrid Manuel, a PhD student at SBMI, was recently named a fellow in the National Library of Medicine (NLM) Training Program in Biomedical Informatics and Data Science. The timeline for her fellowship is July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021 and her project title is “Innovating Drug Repositioning Strategies for Drug Targets Linked Between Multiple Sclerosis and Blood Cancers.” Professor Zhongming Zhao, PhD and Assistant Professor Assaf Gottlieb, PhD serve as her fellowship mentors.
  • An article co-authored by Assistant Professor Juliana Brixey, PhD was published recently. The article is titled “Disturbance during emergency department work - A concept analysis” and was featured in the International Emerging Nursing journal at the end of March.


  • Professor Dean Sittig, PhD, was interviewed by Reuters Health about whether sharing medical record notes with patients could be beneficial. The story ran in M.D./alert.


Important Dates

Apr. 27-May 1 Final Exams/Evaluations
May 15 Summer 2020 regular registration closes in MyUTH
May 18 First class day of summer (all SBMI courses are 12W)
May 25 Memorial Day - University is closed

SBMI LogoOffice of Academic Affairs
7000 Fannin, Ste. 650 Houston, TX
Phone: 713-500-3591
Email: [email protected]

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