Tag Archives: Public Health

TSU receives $2.3 million grant to combat maternal mortality

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) –  Tennessee State University is set to address the increasing death rate of new mothers across the state and the country with a grant $2.3 million from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The five-year grant will support the establishment of a research center dedicated to applied maternal health disparities research. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), maternal mortality rose from 861 maternal deaths in 2020 to 1,205 maternal deaths in 2021, a 40% overall increase.

 Dr. Wendelyn Inman, TSU’s Interim Public Health Program Director, addressed the urgent need for action as the United States has the highest rate of maternal deaths across the globe.

Interim Public Health Program Director Dr. Wendelyn Inman, right, discussing research on maternal mortality with second-year Master of Public Health student J’La Jenkins. (Photo courtesy of Tennessee State University)

“That should be unheard of,” Inman said. “Part of it is because we don’t have culturally competent providers. Providers aren’t sensitive to their needs.”

TSU has been allocated $483,400 of the HRSA grant for the first year. Inman, who is the principal investigator for the grant, noted the significance for underrepresented women, emphasizing the importance of being part of research from the beginning, rather than entering at a later stage, when it might be too late.

“That will make a big different to some women’s life, and some child who gets to keep their mother.”

The CDC is categorizing maternal mortality as death while pregnant or within 42 days of the end of pregnancy. This is irrespective of the duration and site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management, but not from accidental or incidental causes. Statistics from the World Health Organization, from 2021, revealed “the maternal mortality rate for non-Hispanic Black (subsequently, Black) women was 69.9 deaths per 100,000 live births, 2.6 times the rate for non-Hispanic White (subsequently, White) women (26.6.) Rates for Black women were significantly higher than rates for White and Hispanic women.”

TSU second-year Master of Public Health student J’La Jenkins believes cultural competency is important, even within her program.

 Dr. Wendelyn Inman

“Especially being a Black woman of childbearing age, knowing the importance of how high the rates of maternal mortality are among Black women that look like me,” Jenkins said. “It is important that we have TSU, which is in the heart of a Black community, to be the research center for this work.”

Jenkins added that receiving this grant enables TSU to increase the public health workforce representing underserved communities. She said the numbers are declining and that receiving this grant from HRSA shows the University’s commitment to turning those numbers around.

“Not only is this going to impact me, but generations after me. I was astonished at how the university is currently underfunded, but we are still able to be the house of this research center,” she said.

From 2017 to 2020, the State of Tennessee reported that 113 women died during pregnancy or within a year of pregnancy from causes related or aggravated by pregnancy. These pregnancy-related deaths accounted for 35% of all deaths during that period. A published report from the State also saw a 2.5% increase in birth related deaths for non-Hispanic Black women compared to their non-Hispanic White counterparts. Cardiovascular diseases, compounded by disparities, emerged as leading causes. TSU, along with 15 other HBCUs, received funding to establish research centers. Dr. Inman expressed the importance of involving the community in the research process to ensure a diverse and inclusive approach from the ground up. Inman said this research, alongside other HBCUs, will create research turned into interventions to help within the community.

Dr. Quincy Quick

“We are going to have research centers so we can train doctoral, master’s level, and undergraduate students to join the public health workforce and the health care workforce to make a difference from the inside out. HRSA knows that if we can get more African American providers out there, we will see better outcomes. This will also highlight the pivotal role it plays in addressing the root causes of maternal mortality.”

Dr. Quincy Quick, TSU’s Associate Vice President of Research and Sponsored Programs, stressed the grant’s significance.

“Receiving funding from HRSA at TSU will bolster our capacity and capabilities in public health research, specifically as it relates to maternal mortality rates,” he said.

“This is particularly significant given that the state of Tennessee has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country.”

Both Inman and Quick believe the HRSA grant, and HBCU maternal mortality research initiative will place underrepresented women at the forefront. Just as important, it positions TSU to provide groundbreaking research to address this health disparities and to train a diverse and inclusive public health workforce that can bring the meaningful change needed to save lives for the state of Tennessee and beyond.

TSU takes precautions to help campus combat extreme heat

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – With the hottest month ever recorded around the world now over, Tennessee State University says it plans to continue taking precautions to keep the campus community safe.  The University has been proactive all summer long in sharing important information on how to beat the sweltering heat. TSU health officials and emergency management staff say their efforts will remain the same for the month of August.  

 Dr. Wendelyn Inman, interim public health program director at TSU, stresses the importance of staying hydrated to combat extreme heat and associated illnesses like heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and severe dehydration.

In response to the summer heat, the university’s emergency management team takes proactive measures to ensure the well-being of those on campus, outdoor security workers and maintenance staff.

“For a physician, their patient is an individual. For public health, our patient is the community,” Inman says. “We want our community to have the best outcome when that heat wave is going on.”

 Inman reiterates that drinking more water, staying in shaded areas, and wearing sunscreen are preventive mechanisms to do while outdoors to lower the impact of unmitigated sunshine. She adds that proper ventilation and climate-controlled spaces are just as important when indoors.

 Considering what you eat, drink, and wear, even in 82-degree or above sunny weather, can serve as a preventative measure. Dr. Latasha Williams, assistant professor and director of didactic programs in dietetics, says listening to your body is also crucial.

 “Opt for lighter meals, consume electrolyte-replenishing beverages and listen to your body.”

The Joe W. Gilliam Football Camp is a non-contact football camp for boys and girls ages 12 – 18 that took place at TSU during the summer. (Photo courtesy Tennessee State University)

 Dr. Williams contends that, “by following these strategies, you can help maintain adequate food and nutrient intake during extreme heat while also supporting your body’s hydration needs and overall well-being.”

 “Heat exhaustion is a heat-related illness that occurs due to prolonged exposure to high temperatures and inadequate fluid intake,” Williams explains. Symptoms include fatigue, nausea, dizziness, and fainting. While heat stroke sets in as high body temperatures, altered mental state, hot dry skin, and nausea.

 TSU director of sports medicine, Trevor Searcy, spoke about how the athletic department also takes innovative measures to ensure the athletes’ safety and mitigate possible heat illness as the university offers several outdoor sports.

From a brand-new hydration station, to rescheduling training sessions to early mornings, Searcy said the university has resources, protocols and emergency action plans set for preventable measures. “We are required to test wet bulb (globe temperature), which is ambient air, temperature, and humidity every 30 minutes of outdoor activity,” Searcy said.

The brand new TSU Hydration Center consists of drinks, fans, and snacks, ensuring that the athletes stay hydrated on and off the field.

 He notes that the department is cautious about heat after reaching 80 degrees by giving more water breaks, carrying ice towels, cold IV fluids and taking off lower and upper body equipment for football.

 “If it’s hot outside and you notice an athlete is not sweating, that’s a flag to pull them aside,” he said. “After 90 degrees, it is advised to go in doors and our coaches are really receptive to that.”

 The TSU Hydration Center consists of drinks, fans, and snacks, ensuring that the athletes stay hydrated on and off the field.

Together, TSU experts are navigating through the scorching temperatures and continue to demonstrate preparedness to beat the heat in Tennessee.

Generally, caution should be taken if the heat index is over 77 degrees (Fahrenheit). Above 82 degrees is considered ‘extreme caution’ — heat-related illness is possible with long exposure. Over 85 is dangerous — heat illness is likely and heat stroke is possible, according to Healthline.com.

The TSU emergency management team passes out cold refreshing beverages to students as the country had experienced unprecedented
heatwaves this summer.

From a public health standpoint, Dr. Inman said it’s important to be mindful of those who are more at risk of heat related illnesses.

In response to the summer heat, the university’s emergency management team has been taking proactive measures to ensure the well-being of those on campus, outdoor security workers and maintenance staff. Click here to see the emergency team distributing beverages to those patrolling the campus and cutting the lawn to demonstrate their commitment to the welfare of the university personnel to beat the heat in Tennessee.

TSU to continue COVID safety protocols with surge in cases and fall semester coming soon  

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – The excitement of the upcoming fall semester at Tennessee State University will be coupled with concerns on managing the campus population due to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases across the country and in Tennessee.

University officials are optimistic based on the success of navigating through the pandemic over the last two years and are closely monitoring Davidson County and the City of Nashville.  

“We have put various protocols in place to assist individuals with safety to minimize the spread on campus,” said Dr. Curtis Johnson, associate vice president and chief of staff. “We will continue working with faculty and staff to have the necessary PPEs (personal protection equipment) available for students attending classes and for all offices.”  

TSU does not have a mask or vaccination mandate in place as outlined by state law, but university officials encourage campus family to wear masks, practice social distancing and to get vaccinated. (Photo: Aaron Grayson)

Recently, Davidson County had an uptick in confirmed COVID cases with an average of 2,842 cases within a seven day span, according to the state’s Department of Health. 

TSU does not have a mask or vaccination mandate in place as outlined by state law, but University officials strongly encourage the campus family to wear masks, practice social distancing and to get vaccinated and boosted.

Last year, the university even offered incentives, encouraging students, faculty and staff to get vaccinated by offering gift cards.

Dr. Wendelyn Inman, an infectious disease expert, professor and interim public health program director in the College of Health Sciences, is in support of the university safety protocols and recommend students to return immunized to keep COVID-19 case numbers low.  

“For people who need to, want to, and should wear a mask, they should wear them freely without question,” she said. “And people who aren’t immunized should get immunized.” 

Dr. Wendelyn Inman

Frank Stevenson, associate vice president of student affairs and dean of students, said the university will continue abiding by CDC protocol for the upcoming semester and will provide the COVID-19 vaccine to students at their requests. 

“We are asking all students to be both vaccinated and boosted,” he said, noting that students are required to report COVID-19 positive results to student affairs. “We know a whole lot more than we did two years ago,” Stevenson said. “And we feel good about being able to operate the campus in a safe environment.” 

Students who test positive for COVID-19 are placed in an area identified as IQ, or isolation and quarantine zone where they receive “round the clock” service, including a health professional, meal service delivered three times a day, laundry service, and medication if needed. 

Stevenson also encourages students to feel comfortable enough to continue taking online classes as an option as well. The university is currently offering discounts to students that take 100 percent of their classes online.   

All students, faculty and staff can get tested for COVID at the Campus Health Center. If you are experiencing coronavirus symptoms, contact the Campus Health Center at (615) 963-5291 or [email protected]. Students and faculty can visit the emergency management website to request supplies as needed at www.tnstate.edu/emergency/

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and eight doctoral degrees. TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee. With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

TSU Health Experts Urge Tennesseans To Get Flu Shot

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – If you’re still unsure about whether or not to get a flu shot, Tennessee State University researchers have a message for you: Stop thinking about it, and get one. This comes as the National Centers for Disease Control (CDC) observes the first week in December as National Influenza Week.

Dr. Wendelyn Inman, TSU Associate Professor of Public Health, Healthcare Administration and Health Sciences

“Most people think you get the flu, you just get sick, and you recover,” said Dr. Wendelyn Inman, TSU associate professor of Public Health, Healthcare Administration and Health Sciences. “That is true if you are relatively healthy. But it is important for us to be sure that, like in any group of people, most people are immunized so that the frail and fragile are not exposed to the flu and die from it.”

According to the CDC, people at high risk of developing flu-related complications include children younger than 5 (but especially children younger than 2 years old), adults 65 years of age and older, pregnant women, residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, and American Indians and Alaskan Natives.

One popular misconception, said Inman, who teaches Epidemiology on the undergraduate and graduate levels, is that individuals actually contract the flu as a result of taking the vaccination. She said suspicions about taking the flu shot persist because many people remain unaware that infectious diseases have an incubation period.

“Let’s say you went to a cocktail party, and you got exposed. Then you go to the pharmacist to get the prescription on Monday, and you have flu symptoms on Friday. You’re going to think you got the flu from the flu shot,” she said. “Well, actually you didn’t get the flu from getting the flu shot. You got it from someone else. It’s the timing.”

Dr. Ivan Davis, TSU director of Student Health Services

Dr. Ivan Davis, TSU director of Student Health Services, said one of the most dangerous consequences of not getting a flu shot is that it can lead to pneumonia. He said even if the vaccination does not have the same strain of the virus, taking it usually makes the illness much milder. Instead of being five to seven days and protracted, he said the illness is “shortened by several days.”

Davis said it takes about four weeks for the immunity from the shot to “kick-in.” He said people are unable to get the illness from the vaccine because it contains a dead virus.

“The vaccination uses the genome, the nucleus of the virus, so there is no way you can get the flu from the shot. It’s not a live virus,” he said. “Even if you come down with a different strain, it has been proven that because you have had the shot, your chance of having a real bad infection is lessened.”

The exact timing and duration of flu season can vary extending from October through May, but most peak between December and February, according to the CDC. In 2005, the agency designated the first full week in December to highlight the importance of continuing flu vaccination through the holiday season and beyond. This year the center recommends that only injectable flu vaccines be given.

Inman said the changing nature of the virus is another reason she stresses taking the flu shot.

“To me it’s too big of a gamble to take for your health because each year the virus changes and the severity is different. No one can verify that this is a mild version and not the killer version that swept through in 1918,” she added.

According to health experts, in 1918 the flu pandemic killed an estimated 500 million people worldwide including about 675,000 Americans.

“Any immunization keeps anything you catch from being as bad because it jumpstarts your immune system,” Inman said. “You’ll be safer and less sorry if you get the flu shot.”

The Tennessee Department of Health reports that the highest number of flu cases in Tennessee are typically recorded in January and February each year.

For more information about where you can get the flu shot in Tennessee, visit http://tn.gov/health/topic/localdepartments.


Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209

About Tennessee State University

With more than 8,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 25 master’s degree programs and seven doctoral degrees. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.