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Portrait of Thomas Hunt

Thomas Hunt

Associate Professor & Graduate Advisor, Department of Kinesiology and Health Education

Assistant Director for Academic Affairs, H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports

Thomas M. Hunt is recognized internationally for his research on the place of sport in global political affairs. He is an expert in the field and has appeared in outlets as varied as CNN International, Rolling Stone, and the Australian Broadcast Network. His book, Drug Games: The International Olympic Committee and the Politics of Doping, 1960–2008, is considered the seminal work on the subject. Hunt serves on the U.S. Olympic Committee’s advisory council for the U.S. Olympic Academy.

 

 

A mother and daughter walking through a city

The HIV/AIDS epidemic that started in the 1980s devastated populations around the world, reaching its peak in 2005. International awareness and research efforts have made strides to combat HIV, but the battle is far from over.

The rate of new HIV infections has significantly decreased from 130,400 new infections in 1985 to 39,393 new infections in 2015. While this is good news, there are still populations that are considered high risk for contracting HIV. Among these are low-income Black and Latina women who may not have sufficient resources to protect themselves from HIV infection.

A momentous development in the prevention of the spread of HIV has been the PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) prevention, a pill that can reduce the chance of contracting HIV by up to 99 percent. Although this medication has been available since 2012, access and awareness are still an issue.Photo of Liesl Nydegger

Liesl Nydegger, an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education, is working with local communities in Austin to help find effective interventions for Black and Latina women in high-risk environments for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV.

“There are obstacles such as housing, transportation, relationships, poverty, gentrification, and structural barriers that make it hard for women to focus on their sexual health,” says Nydegger. “If we can help with basic needs, that would decrease issues such as substance abuse or living with an abusive partner. These supports create positive effects that can trickle down into overall health improvements.”

Nydegger’s study involves a partnership with Austin’s local SafePlace, a shelter for people affected by domestic violence or sexual assault. By interviewing these individuals over three months, she will be able to find longitudinal stresses that contribute to poor health. This research phase will help to inform structural interventions that can be proposed to improve health in these groups. Nydegger is conducting this study alongside Kasey Claborn, an assistant professor in the Dell Medical School’s Department of Psychiatry.

Some of the women in the high-risk group that Nydegger studies have been survivors of childhood sexual abuse, which can have psychological impacts that make it hard for them to have healthy sexual relationships. These include relationships in which the woman was under 16 years old, and more than five years younger than her partner. The age difference creates a power differential that can be carried into adulthood, making it hard for women to negotiate condom use with their current partners.

Nydegger conducted similar interviews with women in Milwaukee and found that there was little awareness for options such as PrEP. “Although women were aware that STIs were prevalent in their community, they did not consider themselves as high-risk for HIV infection. Even more concerning, three of the four women interviewed reported that their doctors were unaware of PrEP,” says Nydegger.

“Advertisements and awareness campaigns for the PrEP option do exist, but they are most often targeted towards men who have sex with men. This group is considered higher-risk for contracting HIV than women, but women have certain vulnerabilities that make it difficult for them to protect themselves from infection.

Women who are in abusive or coercive relationships often do not have the option to negotiate condom use with their partners, which leaves them vulnerable to infection,” says Nydegger. “Options such as PrEP offer a discreet way for women to protect themselves.”

 

The winter Olympics may have wrapped up earlier this year, but charges of doping still reverberate.

With all of the scandals surrounding this year’s Winter Olympics, it’s hard to ignore the importance of ethics in sports. Between Russia being barred from the Olympics for doping and former U.S. gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar being sentenced for sexual abuse, news headlines have been rife with controversy.

But controversy and ethics in sports is not new.

Society tends to put professional athletes on a pedestal – casting them as idols and role models. In reality, professional sports can serve more as a mirror to society, but are not always held to the same standards. Tolga Ozyurtcu, a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education, says “In times like these, it is important to uphold ethical principles and not let a person’s reputation or fame downplay their actions. Although sports have numerous positive benefits, people should not ignore the bad when celebrating the good.”

Ozyurtcu addresses issues like these in his teaching. He cites many sports events and controversies of the past that still resonate with us today, such as:

He also teaches a course, Historical and Ethical Issues in Physical Culture and Sports, that helps undergraduate kinesiology and health education students consider these topics. It’s a course with value that extends beyond the realm of athletics. “We focus on the ethical decision-making process: how do we identify an issue as a matter of ethics, examine it, and find the courage to take action,” says Ozyurtcu.

His course uses historical events to examine ethical issues, and current events also shape much of the class discussion. The PyeongChang Winter Olympics, for example, provoked ethical conversations around:

  • competing for a nation you don’t reside in or have much connection to,
  • allowing children to try risky sports, such as luge or skeleton,
  • and gold-medalist Shaun White’s sexual harassment allegations.

Says Ozyurtcu, who welcomes anyone to contact him to attend one of his lectures, “These examples allow students to develop a process of reasoning that, hopefully, should translate into their careers and lives beyond the Forty Acres.”

Tolga Ozyurtcu instructing a class

Tolga Ozyurtcu instructing a class

Though the discussions in Ozyurtcu’s classes focus on sports and ethics, the concepts can be applied to other aspects of life. Ozyurtcu, therefore, tries to highlight the moral dilemmas that arise from justifying less than exemplary behavior in the pursuit of competitive success.

“An example I often use in class is based on youth sports, which we tend to justify because of non-sports benefits like discipline, integrity, teamwork, and leadership.  However, when we turn around and coach kids to do something such as deceiving a referee, we completely undermine our justifications. This may seem like a minor indiscretion, but the lessons we learn as children have outsized legacies in our lives,” says Ozyurtcu.

Although students may not have to deal with issues as grave as those that plagued the Winter Games, studying ethics can help them develop a process of reasoning that extends beyond their time in school.

It can be difficult for those with a fine motor disability to complete certain gestures. An undergraduate researcher is studying how different forces or force combinations may be more strenuous to conduct than others. By having volunteers perform specific motions, his research has the ability to assist physical therapists in demonstrating therapy processes to patients.

Pinching motor skills apparatus

Motor Skills Apparatus

Jacob Vines, senior Kinesiology and Health Education student, was awarded the Undergraduate Research Fellowship from the Office of Undergraduate Research for spring 2018. His novel exploratory project titled “Digit Force Magnitude and Inter-digit Force Coordination Effects on Performance of a Complex Low-Level Force Pinch” examines motor function in adults.

Inspiration for Research

While working in the Motor Coordination Lab led by Professor Lawrence Abraham, Vines was inspired to pursue this research after seeing the crossover between the research of hand and finger motor control and the process of rehabilitation of hand and finger injuries in physical therapy.

Research Overview

In his research project, volunteers perform a complex coordination task to determine the dexterity of right-handed adults aged 18 to 30 years with no known neurological or musculoskeletal disorders of the right hand or arm.

Photo of Jacob Vines

Jacob Vines

“The complex coordination task was to use the right thumb and index finger to move a cursor counterclockwise around a diamond shape that was placed in four locations on the computer screen (up/down/right/left). For this task, force with the index finger moved the cursor vertically and force with the thumb moved the cursor horizontally,” said Vines.

“The choice of doing the index finger and thumb is to imitate general fine motor control like unbuttoning a shirt, and the use of the diamond task is to have varying forces between the thumb and index finger, which occurs in everyday life activities,” said Vines. “By using different finger combinations or a different task, the result would change completely from the current study. It would also not be as applicable to everyday life activities.”

Advice for Students Pursuing Undergraduate Research

Vines credits the research with helping guide him in pursuing a professional career. He has been able to better understand the process of scientific research as he decides whether or not he wants to pursue physical therapy and research different physical therapy techniques.

He advises students who are interested in conducting research to “formally and confidently email different labs doing research that you find interesting. Also, talk to any professors who teach classes you enjoy and ask if they have any open undergraduate research positions.”

A casual conversation on a flight from back to Austin from Newark led to an appearance on the Dr. Oz Show for Tim Fleisher, a Ph.D. candidate in exercise science in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education.

On an episode set to air May 16, 2018, Fleisher shares his research and exercise techniques to ease lower back pain and strengthen abdominal muscles.

“I sat next to Dr. Oz on a flight on the way back from working with the Harvard swim team at their Ivy League championships.  He sat down next to me and we just started talking. I am the head of the BIO 446L anatomy lab, so I had my iPad that I teach from. He went to Harvard and his son is on the water polo team. We immediately hit it off and I pitched him on the idea of balloons to strengthen the abs. He loved it and here we are,” says Fleisher.

Fleisher does his research in the Neuromuscular Physiology Research Laboratory at The University of Texas at Austin. He focuses on neuromuscular recruitment strategies of the deep hip muscles in healthy individuals versus women with postpartum stress urinary incontinence. Fleisher is also a STOTT PILATES instructor trainer and licensed massage therapist that focuses on post rehabilitative and “prehabilitative” strategies to help people with movement impairments.

Fleisher says he got the idea for his research when he was working in Brazil as a certifier for Pilates instructors. He pitched the idea to Associate Professor Lisa Griffin, of the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education, and thus became a part of the program.

Fleisher’s appearance on the Dr. Oz show will be May 16, 2018, at 1 p.m. CST on Fox (Fox 7 KTBC in Austin). Fleisher has produced a full-length video that demonstrates the exercise he presents on the show.

 

What do you want your child to get from sports?

Leadership? Health benefits? The thrill of winning and the dignity of handling defeat with grace?

Think about what psychological and social skills you value and how those may correlate with success in all areas of life. How can you use sports to instill them? Don’t rely on coaches or other adults to do that for you.

Organized sports require your child to balance the immediate reward of a win and the delayed reward of a season-long championship pursuit. Sports can help kids face disappointment publicly and learn how to focus on process-oriented goals.

When the first question you ask your child after a game is “Did you win?” that shapes her psychological response to her performance.

If she’s a four-year-old chasing around the usual swarm of other kids on the soccer field, she doesn’t have the self-awareness, sport-related skills, or psychological development to make a clear impact on the outcome of that game. Yet you just framed how she interprets how you’re evaluating her performance in terms that are out of her control.

Instead, try asking her if she had fun, what she was proud of herself for doing, and one thing she thinks she could improve-–things that are process-oriented and generally under her control.

Matt Bowers helping his son climb a rock wall

Photo by Christina S. Murrey


Which sport should your daughter or son play and why?

As a caveat, so much of the answer to this question depends on the individual coach and the league, but some sports clearly foster different things than others.

Do you want a sport that produces better physiological and health outcomes? Try ultimate Frisbee or cross country.

Do you want a sport that could lead to lifelong participation? Go for tennis or golf.

Do you want a social environment with more peer-led, democratic social structures? Try skateboarding.

Do you want to instill an American rite of passage? Try baseball or softball.

This isn’t a plug for a specific sport, but rather an opportunity to think about what sports can deliver based on their nature, their design, and their implementation. Look for sports–and sport leagues–that align with your values and what you want emphasized in your child’s development.

Matt Bowers with his son at the climbing gym.Matt Bowers researches the management of systems for athlete and coach development. He also investigates the potential supplemental impact that non-organized sport settings—such as pick-up sports and video games—may have on these development systems. Drawing from a blend of quantitative, qualitative, and historical methodologies, his research focuses on leveraging this understanding of settings to influence the design and implementation of sport programs and policies that promote both elite performance and mass participation throughout the lifespan. 

Text messaging and phone calls make it easier for new moms in Quito, Ecuador, to care for their newborns and for themselves. Results from research conducted by a faculty member in UT’s Department of Kinesiology and Health Education (KHE) are driving new protocols for this population.

Julie Maslowsky is an assistant professor in the College of Education at The University of Texas at Austin. Her focus is health and health promotion for children and adolescents, in the U.S. and abroad. For 11 years, Maslowsky and her colleagues have conducted studies on ways to improve maternal and child health in Quito, in partnership with Ecuador’s Ministry of Public Health.

In an ongoing series of studies, the team has examined various processes, including the continuum of care before, during and after hospitalizations.

Photo of Julie Maslowsky

Julie Maslowsky

“We identified follow-up care as an opportunity to improve postpartum maternal and infant health,” she says. “Great care was taken in the hospital with patients and their needs but once they were discharged, new mothers didn’t have continuing support.”

The postpartum period is a key window of opportunity for health education. Various health issues may arise after mothers and newborns leave the hospital. For mothers, recovering from delivery, breastfeeding, postpartum depression, and accessing contraception are common concerns that arise. Mothers also need support in knowing what is normal and what is a serious health problem in their infant.

Maslowsky says, “We knew that mobile technology would be key to help solve these issues. More than 90 percent of adults in Ecuador have cell phones.” Maslowsky and her colleagues developed an intervention designed to support and educate new mothers via mobile phone.

The intervention had two parts. First, each mother received a phone call from a nurse 48 hours after she was discharged from the hospital. The nurse spent approximately 30 minutes talking with the mother and educating her about common postpartum concerns for mothers and their infants, including breastfeeding, family planning, safe sleeping, vaccines, fevers, and the newborn’s eating, sleeping and bowel habits.

After the brief educational session, the mother was then free to call or text the nurse any time during the next 30 days if she had a question or concern. In their most recent study, 178 women took part and were randomly assigned to the intervention or the control group.

The intervention produced significant improvements in health for mother and baby, which were measured when the baby was three months old. Compared to the control group, participants in the intervention group experienced positive outcomes:

  • Mothers were more likely to exclusively breastfeed their infants.
  • Newborns were less likely to have to go to a doctor for acute illnesses.
  • Women were more likely to bring newborns to well-baby visits.
  • Women used more effective forms of birth control, i.e. a long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) method rather than only a condom.

Maslowsky and her colleagues were thrilled with the results. “Our Ecuadorian collaborators are enthusiastic about the potential of this intervention to improve postpartum maternal and infant health,” Maslowsky said.

“We are planning the next phase of the study: universal implementation of this program for all new mothers in one of southern Quito’s health zones, which has a population of more than 400,000,” Maslowsky says.Group of people holding a Texas Longhorns flag

In 11 years, Maslowsky has traveled to Quito more than a dozen times. In a trip this spring, she was joined by Ric Bonnell, director of Global Health Programs in the Dell Medical School’s Department of Population Health program. They are exploring potential partnerships for Dell with Maslowsky’s program in Ecuador.

Maslowsky is one of many faculty in the College of Education whose research extends beyond the U.S. Read about the international projects changing the world in Mozambique, New Zealand, China and more.

Texas Education Abroad

What starts here changes the world. Explore the ways our students and faculty study around the globe.

Dr. Bartholomew's class in switzerland

Sport Psychology in Switzerland

Students from the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education and other UT departments studied in Lausanne, Switzerland, during the 2017 Maymester. Department Chair John Bartholomew taught a course on Sport Psychology at the University of Lausanne

Lausanne, Switzerland

Dr. Skerret with Scotland government officials

Allison Skerrett Informs Scotland Government

Associate Professor Allison Skerrett was chosen as a global scholar to address educational inequalities in Scotland. Skerrett researches how to better understand the educational needs and gifts of a multicultural student population.

Scotland, United Kingdom

Dr. Jim Hoffman with students in Mozambique

Jim Hoffman Extends Literacy in Africa

Since the late 1990s, James Hoffman has worked in South Africa, Malawi, and Mozambique on literacy projects and teacher education supported by different agencies including private foundations in South Africa, USAID and the Canadian government.  A professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, his work is part of a collaborative effort with faculty at UT San Antonio.

Mozambique, Africa

North Cooc photo

North Cooc Researches Special Needs Teacher Preparation

North Cooc conducts research at the OECD headquarters in Paris on special needs teacher preparedness, and the factors that may predict differences globally.

Paris, France

Faculty in Ecuador with a longhorns banner

Health Outcomes in Ecuador

For more than 10 years, Julie Maslowsky has conducted research in partnership with the Ministry of Health in Quito, Ecuador, to help improve health outcomes for women and babies. She is an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education.

Quito, Ecuador

Video conference with New Zealand University

Distance Learning in New Zealand

Mark O’Reilly, chair of the Department of Special Education, leads a collaboration with researchers at New Zealand’s Victoria Wellington University. He and students in the autism and developmental disabilities research group connect regularly through virtual conferencing.

Wellington, New Zealand

Pearl diver in Japan

Pearl Diving in Japan

Hirofumi Tanaka of the Kinesiology and Health Education Department traveled to Japan to research pearl divers, and the effect that diving has on their physiological attributes such as arterial stiffness.

Tsukuba, Japan

ESL in Guatemala study abroad

ESL in Guatemala

Faculty from the Bilingual/Bicultural Education and Cultural Studies in Education programs bring a group of UT students on study abroad program to Antigua, Guatemala, where students take classes and volunteer at ESL schools.

Antigua, Guatemala

Juarez Girls Rising book cover

Claudia Cervantes-Soon Publishes Book on Juarez Girls

Cervantes-Soon’s Juarez Girls Rising is told through the stories of 10 girls attending school in Ciudad de Juarez, Mexico. The book provides a counternarrative to stories of regional violence, focusing on agency and resistance students can gain from a school community.

Juarez, Mexico

Photo of Toni Falbo and graduate student Sophia Y. Hooper

Psychological Advantages for China’s Only Children

Research from Professor Toni Falbo and graduate student Sophia Y. Hooper shows that China’s only children are more likely to have educated parents and, though they do receive more resources, expectations and pressures placed upon them.

China

Photo of Ricardo Ainslie

Ricardo Ainslie Conducts Low-Income Needs Assessment in Mexico

Professor Ricardo Ainslie and a research team have created a comprehensive assessment of health needs, determinants, and resources in underserved areas of Puebla, Mexico.

Puebla, Mexico

Photo of Soyoung Park

Soyoung Park Looks at Mental Health in South Korea

Special Education Assistant Professor Soyoung Park is working with a research team to use qualitative research in helping shift the public mindset on mental health and suicide in South Korea.

South Korea

Photo of Kevin Cokley and Team Going to Ghana

Kevin Cokley Helps Mitigate Effects of Colorism in Ghana

Professor Kevin Cokley is working with a research team to identify and mitigate the negative effects of colorism in Ghana.

Ghana, West Africa

barbell in gym

Establishing a Fitness Center in Shanghai

Professors Xiaofen Keating and Louis Harrison, Jr. are establishing an American Fitness Center in Shanghai aiming to introduce U.S. fitness culture to the Chinese population.

Shanghai, China