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Health / Safety

New associate director brings depth to Master of Public Health program

September 12, 2011
by Paul Miller

Tracy Nelson's recent appointment as associate director of the Master of Public Health program in the Colorado School of Public Health may be new, but she brings considerable depth and experience to the program.

Tracy Nelson is the new associate director of the Master of Public Health program in the Colorado School of Public Health. Expertise without borders

Tracy Nelson has been involved with the School of Public Health since its inception in 2006 and will continue applying her expertise in epidemiology, public health issues, and teaching and mentoring students to the MPH program. The school includes CSU, Anschutz Medical Campus (AMC) at CU-Denver, and the University of Northern Colorado.

The school provides training, research, and community service to actively address public health issues including chronic disease, access to health care, environmental threats, emerging infectious diseases, and costly injuries. 

“Dr. Nelson was actively engaged in the planning and development of the MPH program at CSU,” says psychology Professor Lorann Stallones, director of CSU’s Graduate Degree Program in Public Health. “She has served on the Executive Committee representing the focus area in health and exercise science since we established the program. Her experience in that role makes her an ideal person to provide assistance and guidance as this successful program grows. I look forward to her insights to guide us into the future.”

Research ties in the region

“Her close research-related ties with faculty at AMC will benefit her new role as associate director,” says Gay Israel, professor, department head, and executive director of the Human Performance/Clinical Research Lab.

“One important project will be to work on increasing public health research dollars that we’re bringing into CSU and how we can do that jointly with the three institutions,” Nelson says. “I’m looking forward to working with UNC and AMC in that regard and to advance public health research in general.”

Health and Exercise Science Professor Tracy Nelson discusses attributes of fish oil and flax oil for a healthy heart.Nelson’s other duties will include academic issues related to curriculum, such as joint degree programs, and organizational issues related to CSU’s capacity to increase the number of MPH students.

Nelson, a CSU alumna who joined the Department of Health and Exercise Science in 1999, teaches an undergraduate Population Health and Disease Prevention course, which introduces students to epidemiology and public health. She also teaches a graduate Chronic Disease Epidemiology course. The department is in the College of Applied Human Sciences.

Professional standing

During her Ph.D. and post-doctoral training in epidemiology, she began a career studying cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes. She has been funded through the National Institutes of Health and is currently funded by the American Heart Association to use data from the San Luis Valley Diabetes Study (housed at AMC) to consider various hypotheses related to genetics, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes.

“As an epidemiologist, I study large populations to try and discover risk factors for disease,” Nelson says. “We look at factors such as age, race, and geographic distribution in hopes of learning more about how the environment and genes interact to cause chronic disease. Epidemiology is a complex and fascinating field.”

After graduating from CSU with a bachelor’s in sports medicine, she earned an MPH at the University of Northern Colorado and a Ph.D. in Biobehavioral Health at Penn State. She spent a year of post-doctoral training in cardiovascular epidemiology at the University of North Carolina before joining the faculty at CSU.