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GET PHIT Consortium reaches first year milestone

One year after UTHealth Houston was awarded a nearly $10 million grant, the Gaining Equity in Training for Public Health Informatics and Technology (GET PHIT) Consortium project is thriving. The goal of GET PHIT is to train and educate students and professionals in communities across the state. This gives trainees proficiency in public health informatics for academic and career advancement.

“Within our first year, the GET PHIT program has absolutely flourished,” noted Susan Fenton, PhD, associate professor and associate dean of academic and curricular affairs at SBMI. “Our team has launched all training components of the project and we continue to enhance these offerings for the future.”

The program, which is led by UTHealth Houston’s School of Biomedical Informatics (SBMI) and UTHealth School of Public Health (SPH), includes educational bootcamps, student internships, professional development courses, and curriculum delivery. Partner institutions within the GET PHIT Consortium include Huston-Tillotson University, Prairie View A&M University, Texas A&M International University, Texas Tech University Health Science Center, the University of Texas at Arlington, the University of Texas at El Paso, the University of Texas Permian Basin, and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

One of the first GET PHIT training components, student bootcamps, launched this summer. Between May and July of 2022, 95 students participated in various bootcamps. The in-person sessions were hosted at University of Texas Permian Basin, Texas A&M International University, and Huston-Tillotson University. One bootcamp was also hosted online. Participants gave positive feedback stating that the bootcamps help students “communicate with others at a professional level, learn about public health informatics, and make better connections amongst other students and professors.”

As the GET PHIT team prepares for 2023, next year’s bootcamps will be hosted both virtual and at these institutions: Prairie View A&M University, Texas Tech University Health Science Center, the University of Texas at Arlington, and the University of Texas at El Paso.

During the summer semester, the GET PHIT internship program was also started. The internship program averages almost 50 applicants in the fall and spring semesters and nearly 100 applicants for the summer semester. “At a time when paid opportunities seem scarce for students trying to cover the costs of school and getting their basic needs met, this opportunity provides them with paid training and skill development in a growing field,” stated Kim Baker, DrPH, assistant dean of practice and assistant professor at SPH.

Between summer and fall 2022, 48 students participated in projects at various GET PHIT internship sites including the Houston Food Bank, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Dallas County Health and Human Services, Brownsville Public Health, and more.

“Students are gaining valuable, hands-on training in public health informatics including learning skills like data management, data cleaning, data visualization and data validation,” noted GET PHIT Program Manager Michele Stanton who oversees the internship placement. “We hope the internship program continues to offer career placement and expands the number of professionals from underrepresented groups trained in public health informatics and technology.”

During fall 2022, the professional development courses went live. To date, fifty participants have registered for the Introduction to Public Health Informatics professional development course. Future courses will cover subjects like health equity, epidemiology, public health analytics, and health data science. The courses are offered at no charge for the duration of the GET PHIT grant (until September 2025) and Continuing Education certificates will also be awarded upon completion of each unit.

Curriculum delivery is the final GET PHIT student education deliverable and execution of this component recently began. Each partner institution is preparing for a review of the curriculum so content can be added to their existing courses. Future curriculum plans include topics across 16 high-level areas of focus.

Program Coordinator Megan Crossan facilitates operations for the GET PHIT program and is optimistic about its future. “We have many engaging opportunities lined up for 2023 and beyond. I look forward to continuing to partner with the members of the consortium as we help the students and professionals prepare for the future of public health informatics.”

To learn more about the GET PHIT program and its wide range of offerings, please visit https://www.uth.edu/get-phit/.

Chelsea Overstreet

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