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UTEP students trained in public health informatics thanks to $10M grant

A $10 million grant from the U.S Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of the National Co-ordinator for Health Information Technology will allow students to be trained for careers in public health informatics. UTEP will join the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Biomedical informatics and School of Public Health. Photo courtesy of UTEP Marketing and Communications.

UTEP students will be trained for careers in public health informatics thanks to a new $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), according to a news release from UTEP Marketing and Communications.

The nine-institution collaboration, “Gaining Equity in Training for Public Health Informatics and Technology” (GET PHIT), is part of ONC’s Public Health Informatics & Technolog y Workforce Development Program (PHIT Workforce Program) which aims to strengthen U.S. public health information technology efforts and increase representation of underrepresented communities within the public health IT workforce.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), public health informatics is the systematic application of information, computer science, and technology to public health practice, research, and learning.

At UTEP, Amy Wagler, Ph.D., associate professor of mathematical sciences and director of UTEP’s Data Analytics Lab; Michael Pokojovy, Ph.D., assistant professor of mathematical sciences and computational science; and Christina Sobin, Ph.D., professor of public health sciences and director of UTEP’s Master of Public Health Program, will help lead the opportunity.

These faculty members will coordinate curriculum development and introduce students to important concepts through camps and internships, according to the news release. Their aim is to immerse students in topics subject to development of standards and clinical care guidelines that enhance electronic health records.

Wagler told UTEP Marking and Communications that one of the main challenges in health informatics is the underrepresentation of Hispanic, African American and Native American groups in both its workforce and in the patient data used for research.

“As a result, these groups have not experienced equity in contributing to or benefiting from advancements produced by informatics research,” Wagler said. “For UTEP, this presents a valuable opportunity.”

UTEP will be joining the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Biomedical Informatics and School of Public Health, leading the effort, alongside Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, and the minority-serving institutions of Huston-Tillotson University, Prairie View A&M University, Texas A&M International University, The University of Texas at Arlington, The University of Texas Permian Basin, and The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

The universities’ goal is to provide training, educational services and career development resources to about 1,900 students and professionals over a four-year period.

“Our students will be able to contribute to the development of easily accessible, real-time health data to address the health care challenges present in our region’s Hispanic population,” said Robert A. Kirken, Ph.D., dean of UTEP’s College of Science in the news release.

“Through this partnership, we will play a major role in how this public health informatics infrastructure will be delivered to communities.”

As part of the GET PHIT program, an interdisciplinary team of UTEP researchers will help coordinate a pair of two-week GET PHIT boot camps each summer from 2022 to 2025, to help a minimum of 125 students receive public health education. The bootcamp curriculum is a compilation of various training including an introduction to public health informatics, data standards, public health analytics, and public health surveillance.

In addition, according to UT Health Houston, each summer students accepted into the program will be supported by a stipend of $1,500. Stipends will be allocated on a first applied, first accepted basis.

Paid internships within health departments, nonprofits and health systems are also available for eligible students. The GET PHIT internship is a 160 hour part-time experience, where students also have the opportunity to receive a stipend ranging from $2,440 to $3,000 based on education and skill.

UTEP students interested in applying for public health informatics training opportunities can visit

Anahy Diaz is the multimedia editor may be reached at [email protected]; by_anahydiaz on Twitter and Instagram

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About the Contributor
Anahy Diaz
Anahy Diaz, is a bilingual Multimedia Journalism, Political Science and Chicano Studies student at The University of Texas at El Paso. She has helped lead The Prospector, as editor-in-chief, copy editor and multimedia editor by writing and creating news packages. Anahy currently works as an intern for NBC News Los Angeles, and has previously interned with NBC’s Today and Weekend Today. Anahy’s published work can also be seen in Borderzine, KERA News, KTEP, KTSM Channel 9 and KVIA Channel 7. As a first-generation college student, Anahy hopes to join the field of broadcast after graduation covering news, politics, and entertainment.
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UTEP students trained in public health informatics thanks to $10M grant