Health Sciences Department hosts two webinars at UAA

While many UAA students are out researching summer fun, the UAA Health Sciences Department is keeping the academic momentum going.

June 15 and 24, the department hosted separate webinars that highlighted recent medical research findings.

Because summer travel is both expensive and often difficult to plan around, the UAA Health Sciences department scheduled webinars rather than seminars. Dr. Janet Johnston, Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Sciences, explained the purpose of a webinar.

“The goal of doing a webinar is to reach health professionals and students across the state,” Johnston said. “As you know, travel is expensive and in the summer many people outside of Anchorage do not want to travel due to subsistence or other summer activities.”

Webinars are live seminars that are transmitted over the Internet, allowing participants around the globe to view.

Participants with microphones were able to engage by asking questions. There was also an ongoing chat in which all attendees could join in.

Using this structure, the UAA Health Sciences department put together a two part series for summer 2010. The first part, entitled “Comparative Effectiveness Research” (CER), was presented by Dr. Richard Windsor. Johnston hosted the second part of the series, called “Free Epidemiology.”

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Windsor is a professor at George Washington University, though he is also an appointed presidential professor at UAA. His presentation focused on CER, which researches treatment and intervention options for many different types of health conditions and compares their effectiveness.

Windsor introduced the webinar as, “sound clarification of the issues, answers and methods from my experiences as well as the experiences from thousands of other colleagues around the country, including Alaska.”

CER has received national attention, particularly from Washington D.C. as lawmakers attempt to improve health care costs. Congress has issued a mandate within the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act that called for a list of 100 Priority Topics within CER.
CER was also included in the recent healthcare bill signed into law by President Obama.

According to Windsor, the purpose of CER is to assist in making, “Informed decisions that will improve health care at both individual and population levels.”

Windsor provided specifics on an example of CER by looking at Smoking, Cessation and Reduction In Pregnancy Treatment (SCRIPT) research. Windsor presented his findings on SCRIPT in Alabama.

The goal was to evaluate types of counseling and intervention that are used in getting pregnant smokers to quit. Although the data was scientific and complex, Johnston believes the benefits of the webinar could be far reaching.

“People will benefit by learning more about how data and evidence is collected and used to make decisions,” he said.

There were 15 in-person attendees and 11 online attendees who participated in the first webinar.

The second part of the webinar series, “Free Epidemiology Resources,” was held on June 24 in the same manner as the first.

Johnston spent numerous hours preparing himself to conduct the webinar, which targeted health care professionals, but was also useful to students.

“I plan on showing people where on the web they can find useful free health data,” Johnston said. “It will also be useful to students who want to learn more about how to find health information on the web.”

The department has been steadily increasing their online presence. Both webinars were available online afterward for viewing.
In addition, they have added online courses for the fall semester, including HS A326, Introduction to Epidemiology, which will be taught by Johnston.

Another initiative in progress was putting their recent panel discussion on public health on their website.

The UAA Health Sciences department has been working hard all summer to keep staff, students and medical professionals informed. The efforts are valiant and much needed due to the continually shifting nature of health services.