February 2012—Dr. Angela Prehn was awarded Walden University's Bernard L. Turner Award for supporting Dr. Christopher Hinnerichs, a 2011 PhD in Public Health graduate and the 2012 recipient of the Harold L. Hodgkinson Award, as his dissertation chair.

“When Chris approached me to be his dissertation chair, one thing that stood out was the detail he provided about his study,” Prehn says. “He clearly knew his subject matter and had a good idea about the research questions he wanted to ask. He had already done a lot of critical thinking about his topic area, which was impressive.”

With Prehn’s advice, Hinnerichs wrote his dissertation, Efficacy of Fixed Infrared Thermography for Identification of Subjects with Influenza like Illness, to address compelling questions about using infrared thermography for public health surveillance. Infrared thermography is a tool that measures heat. Dr. Hinnerichs’ research compared screened participants’ temperatures to laboratory diagnostics to confirm the presence or absence of influenza-like illness.

His research found that more than 85% of the people who were identified as being infected with an influenza-like illness were identified by the thermography screening as having a fever. He also found that thermography could differentiate between persons with and without fever more than 91% of the time. His findings show that infrared thermography has the potential to be a very accurate public health surveillance tool to detect infectious diseases like pandemic influenza.

“Dr. Hinnerichs’ research could have a global impact on public health,” Prehn explains. “If his findings hold true in other studies, there would be justification to consider including infrared thermography screening as part of regular public health surveillance efforts. Given that the threat of global pandemics is very real, adding infrared thermography to the surveillance ‘toolbox’ could allow for faster identification of infectious disease threats, a quicker public health response and ultimately lower morbidity and mortality both in the United States and abroad.”

Creating a Partnership

Prehn says that advising Hinnerichs was “deceptively easy.” “He had great self-motivation and determination,” she explains. She provided guidance that ensured his literature review was pointed and provided encouragement and support to help him meet deadlines and successfully complete his dissertation.

She also appreciated that he wasn’t afraid to challenge her questions or interpret conclusions from another point of view. “We had great scholarly conversations, and I look forward to continuing them as we move into preparing his dissertation research for publication in peer-reviewed journals,” Prehn says. “There is no doubt that his study will be a valuable addition to the public health surveillance literature.”

Bernard L. Turner Award

The award is bestowed annually upon the faculty chair of the dissertation committee of the recipient of the Harold L. Hodgkinson Award and honors the unique contributions to American higher education of Bernard L. Turner, chairman of the board (emeritus) and founding president of Walden University. An innovator in graduate-level distance education for professionals, Mr. Turner’s lifetime concerns for critical thinking and social change have left an indelible mark on the Walden curriculum. A passionate advocate of educational equality of opportunity and social justice, he made the Walden dream a reality through his persistence and dedication.

Read about past recipients of the Bernard L. Turner Award

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