News Archive

Two CHAD Interns featured in AHS Newsletter!

Author: Maria Bohri

Published Date:June 30, 2015

Nathaniel Leonardi and Maria Bohri were featured in the recent Summer edition of the AHS Newsletter. Nathaniel, a 2015 graduate from Interdisciplinary-Health Sciences, is highlighted for his achievements during his time as an undergraduate in Applied Health Sciences. Maria, a rising senior in Community Health, is featured for her involvement in a service-learning course this past semester, working on health and sanitation issues in rural populations in India. Both students have demonstrated their passion for health in their time thus far in the College of AHS.

Read the entire Newsletter here:

Published Date: June 30, 2015

AHS Faculty Featured in Inside Illinois-cognitive flexibility

Author: Maria Bohri

Published Date:June 23, 2015

AHS Faculty Featured in Inside Illinois for associations in consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids and cognitive flexibility in older adults.

Dr. Aron Barbey, a neuroscience, psychology, and speech and hearing science professor and researcher at the Beckman Institute, recently published a report in the Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience Journal on optimal nutrition in older adults being associated with positive health outcomes in healthy aging populations. The research, conducted with M.D./Ph.D. student Marta Zamroziewicz, investigated the relationship between Omega-3 fatty acid consumption in older adults at risk of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease and their performance on tests of cognitive function-specifically cognitive flexibility.

According to Dr. Barbey, cognitive flexibility, the ability to efficiently switch between tasks, is an important predictor in determining daily functioning in older adults. The study found that higher Omega-3 fatty acid consumption is related to better cognitive flexibility. This gives evidence to optimal nutrition playing an important part in preserving cognitive function, slowing the progression of aging, and reducing the incidence of diseases in healthy aging populations.

Click here to read entire story

Published Date: June 23, 2015

AHS Faculty Featured in Inside Illinois for Traumatic Brain Injury Therapies

Author: Nathaniel Leonardi

Published Date:May 4, 2015

Dr. Aron Barbey, a professor of Neuroscience, Psychology, Speech and Hearing Science and researcher at Beckman, recently published an article stating that individuals with traumatic brain injuries do not receive the benefits from the advances in cognitive neuroscience research. Dr. Barbey states that individuals that treat brain-injured patients do not use new discoveries when diagnosing and treating TBI’s, and instead use an outdated Glasgow coma scale to diagnose injuries. The results of these diagnoses do not reveal much about the cognitive mechanisms and their connection of brain trauma.


Dr. Barbey proposes that physicians should more closely pay attention to the inner workings of the brain that enables the regulation and control of attention and memory and thought to use this for implementing treatment strategies. Due to the increase in TBI, it is important to develop better ways to diagnose TBI, and treat the injuries that interfere with the brain networks. Physicians who understand brain networks will allow them to better predict the kinds of impairments that patients with TBI will experience, and the progress through treatment and therapy.


Researchers, like Dr. Barbey, have found and recommend therapies that show increase in strengthening cognitive control functions. Physical fitness is just one of the specific interventions that target specific brain networks. Brain stimulation can be applied to enhance ability to respond to cognitive rehabilitation. It is important to develop more precise testing for traumatic brain injuries and to translate that into therapies and treatments for individuals in recovery from brain injury.


For the full inside Illinois article, please visit



Published Date: May 4, 2015

Grant Awarded to AHS Faculty for Increased Mobility in Multiple Sclerosis

Author: Nathaniel Leonardi

Published Date:March 30, 2015


Dr. Citlali Lόpez-Ortiz, an Assistant Professor in Kinesiology and Community Health, was recently rewarded a grant for her research titled, “Targeted dance program for improved mobility in multiple sclerosis.”  Since walking impairment is common in patients with MS, it has become important to find effective rehabilitation protocols to restore walking in individuals with MS.  Walking impairment can decrease an individual’s quality of life.  Decreased coordination while walking, and poor balance are associated in increased risk for falls and injury for individuals with MS. Dr. Lopez-Ortiz’s research is targeted to perform an intervention for individuals with MS and walking impairments in order to improve agility, balance, and whole body movement coordination.


Dr. Lόpez-Ortiz’s hypothesis is that “it is feasible to safely obtain improvements in balance, agility, and smoothness of movement during walking in patients with MS using a targeted classical ballet based intervention.” The study will gather individuals with MS from the local community and will be assigned to a control or treatment group.  The treatment group will experience targeted dance classes and the control group will participate in a stretching program.  Data will be collected before and after the interventions. This study has the potential to increase the treatment options for people with MS, and at a fraction of the cost of pharmaceutical alternatives. Rehabilitation through dance can increase the positive aspects of social and personal interactions in an individual’s life.


For more information please visit Dr. Lόpez-Ortiz’s faculty page and her research laboratory website at

Published Date: March 30, 2015

AHS New Faculty: JJ Pionke

Author: Nathaniel Leonardi

Published Date:January 28, 2015


JJ Pionke is a new member to the AHS faculty serving as the Applied Health Sciences Librarian within the Social Sciences, Health and Education Library (SSHEL). Ms. Pionke received her MSI from the University of Michigan and her MA degree from Truman State University.  Prior to becoming faculty at the University of Illinois, she served as an Engineering and Health Sciences Librarian faculty member at Wichita State University. Her primary role as the Applied Health Sciences Librarian is to educate the individuals of AHS on their resources within the library and how to properly utilize those resources to a maximum extent. As the library ambassador to the College of Applied Sciences, it is her role to acquire a multitude of sources for the Students, Faculty, and Staff within the College of Applied Health Sciences. She also serves as research support for faculty to a limited degree in terms of acquisition of library materials as well as presenting management solutions for the data.

As research faculty, she is currently conducting research concerning the accessibility of the library to individuals with disabilities, physical and mental.  She works with the Division of Disability Resources and Educational Services and the Veteran’s Center in order to increase accessibility of library resources within a university setting for all users.

When asked about her new position at the University of Illinois, she responded that this was her dream job.  A mixture of the beautiful old building and state of the art resources increased her love for the University.  Her favorite thing about the University is not the job or the facilities; it is the people she gets to interact with on a daily basis. The warm, friendly people of the University confirmed her decision to be part of the Applied Health Sciences Faculty.

Ms. Pionke is a motorcycle rider and rides a 1996 Nighthawk 750cc. She is excited for warmer weather to come about so she can break out the motorcycle again.  As a worldwide traveler, she has made it around the world in 85 days. When walking into her office, it is hard to miss the fact that she is extremely into Lego and Star Wars, unfortunately, there is not enough space in there to display her Lego Death Star. 

Published Date: January 28, 2015

AHS New Faculty: Manuel Hernandez

Author: Kayla Davis

Published Date:December 17, 2014


Dr. Hernandez is one of the newest additions to the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health. Prior to his work here at the University of Illinois, Dr. Hernandez obtained a Bachelor's Degree in Mechanical Engineering at Cornell University, along with a Master's Degree in Biomedical Engineering with a Concentration in Biomechanics and a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Michigan. 

Dr. Hernandez's current research investigates how injury and disability affect the balance and gait of older individuals. His goal is to study the structure and function of the human body through the use of mechanics. He seeks to understand the behavioral and neural mechanisms underlying postural dysfunction in older adults with and without Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Hernandez is happy to continue his research here at Illinois because of his appreciation for a collegiate environment. He enjoys being able to work with others while gaining and sharing interdisciplinary aspects of health and science. A friendly campus and having colleagues who are open to collaboration are what drew him to the U of I, and he looks forward to becoming part of an encouraging campus surrounded by renowned staff and ambitious students.
Dr. Hernandez's favorite thing about Illinois so far is its greenness. The abundance of trees and leaves changing color in the fall is a very different sight for him. He joins us directly from San Diego where the land is mostly dry desert, so Illinois has been a beautiful change of scenery.
Some other things you may not know about Dr. Hernandez:
- He is a big fan of snowboarding.
- He enjoys eating international foods. In fact, one of his favorite foods is a street food from  Venezuela called, arepa.
- He loves nature and the outdoors, but swimming is not a strength of his.

Published Date: December 17, 2014

AHS New Faculty: Citlali Lopez-Ortiz

Author: Kayla Davis

Published Date:November 10, 2014

Dr. Lopez-Ortiz is a recent addition to the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health. With a background in dance and complex sciences, Dr. Lopez-Ortiz obtained her Ph.D. in Kinesiology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Master's in Dance Biomechanics at the State University of New York at Brockport. She was a Post-doctoral Fellow at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University and a Research Scientist at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. She is a faculty member of the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago. 

Dr. Lopez-Ortiz's research here at Illinois focuses on how the human brain generates motor coordination using the language of dance movement. Her research is intrinsically interdisciplinary as it includes the areas of dance, biomechanics, mathematical modeling, motor control, motor learning, physics, body-environment interfaces, mixed media, computational neuroscience, neurophysiology, and rehabilitation. Dr. Lopez-Ortiz is developing the scientific basis for dance as therapy for rehabilitation of movement disorders and enhancement of movement learning. The intersection of the arts and sciences have helped her to enrich the lives of individuals of all abilities.
One of Dr. Lopez-Ortiz's favorite things about Illinois so far is that there is a very lively community here on campus. She was drawn to U of I because of its amazing research resources and its supportive environment. Illinois is well-recognized for its research programs, so Dr. Lopez-Ortiz was more than thrilled to join the team. She was also excited to come here because she heard great things about the students on this campus. Dr. Lopez-Ortiz likes the sense of discovery and teamwork in class and in the laboratory and she is very excited to get started as a new member of the Applied Health Sciences faculty.
Three things you may not know about Dr. Lopez-Ortiz:
- She enjoys Kick-Boxing and practicing other sports.
- She is a physicist. *her undergraduate degree was in physics*
- She is a cat lover!

Published Date: November 10, 2014

AHS New Faculty: Nuno Ribeiro

Author: Nathaniel Leonardi

Published Date:November 6, 2014


Dr. Nuno Ribeiro is one of the newest additions to the Recreation, Sports, & Tourism faculty.  Dr. Ribeiro received both his Masters and Doctorate from Penn State University in Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management, with a minor in Cultural Anthropology.  With a professional background in Hospitality and Tour Operations Management, Dr. Ribeiro has traveled extensively throughout his life.  Although he spent his childhood and did most of his schooling in Portugal (B.S. in Tourism Planning and Development, ULHT) lived and worked in places such as; Morocco, Spain, Tunisia, and Vietnam.   After a postdoctoral fellowship with the Canadian Institute of Health Research and the Indigenous Peoples’ Health Research Centre, position at the University of Regina, Saskatchewan, and a position as Research Assistant Professor at Clemson University, South Carolina, Dr. Ribeiro has found his way to the University of Illinois. 


Dr. Ribeiro conducted his doctoral research on the impact of culture on young peoples’ risky behaviors in hedonistic tourism destinations and he expanded this line of research during his post-doctorate working with First Nations Peoples in Canada. He looked at the positive influences of cultural practices on health behavior among Cree, Dakota, Dene, Lakota, and Metis youth in Saskatchewan. Dr. Ribeiro would like to use what he has learned from his research in order to positively impact the health of young people in a variety of tourism environments.  Specifically, Dr. Ribeiro argues that culture and cross-cultural knowledge are incredibly important variables to consider when designing, conducting, and evaluating health-based interventions among youth, and also that tourism and leisure environments are ideal environments in which to do so.


Dr. Ribeiro is a regular presenter at the Annual International Congress of Qualitive Inquiry (ICQI) held at the University of Illinois, and through ICQU, he became better acquainted with this University. The extremely high caliber of the faculty within the Recreation, Sports, & Tourism department and the College of Applied Health Sciences drew his eye, as well as the emphasis faculty and staff place on collaboration and constructive criticism and support for Interdisciplinary research.  He was also impressed by how much the faculty care for their students and how positively the students respond to their professors.  Dr. Ribeiro has been enjoying interactions with students at UIUC and looks forward to getting to know them better in the future. Dr. Ribeiro is currently teaching Administration of Leisure Services (RST 410) and will be teaching Cultural Impacts of Tourism (RST 351) in the spring semester.


Dr. Ribeiro loves sports (he is a diehard Chelsea FC fan), and enjoys playing tennis, racquetball, and lifting weights. He has three cats and does not like heights. Dr. Ribeiro is fluent in five languages and has intermediate language skills in two more. One of his most recent memorable experiences was having David Chang, founder of the Momofuku restaurant group, personally cook him a meal. 

For more information about Dr. Ribeiro, please visit his website at

Published Date: November 6, 2014

AHS New Faculty: Toni Liechty

Author: Kayla Davis

Published Date:October 27, 2014

Dr. Toni Liechty, one of the newest additions to the Department of Recreation, Sports, and Tourism, began her work at the University of Illinois in August of 2014. Dr. Liechty obtained her Bachelor's Degree in Parks and Recreation in her home state at Utah State University, a Master's of Science in Recreation Management and Youth Leadership at Brigham Young University, and a Ph.D. in Leisure Studies at Pennsylvania State University.  Prior to arriving at Illinois, Dr. Liechty was a faculty member in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management at Clemson University.

Her research here at the U of I focuses on the complex relationship between body image and physically active leisure. Does physical activity suffer because of poor body image? Does body image improve through participation in physical activity? These are just a few of the types of questions Dr. Liechty wants answers to. 
Dr. Liechty was drawn to U of I because she is enthusiastically interested in research and she realized that some of the greatest research scholars in this field of study work here at the University. The RST department at Illinois is very well-respected and the excellent research community was something she simply could not pass up. As a new faculty member, Dr. Liechty is most looking forward to the opportunity to work with great scholars and equally great students. She is excited because the students here are awesome and energetic, and they have a genuine interest in learning. This has made her transition to Illinois very easy since the people here have been so helpful and welcoming. 
Some other things you may not know about Dr. Liechty:
-She likes to do wheel pottery.
-She once caught an 80-lb Grouper fish.
-She loves cats and has three at home.

Published Date: October 27, 2014

Office of Recreation and Park Resources Determine what Illinoisans Want Concerning Outdoor Recreation

Author: Nathaniel Leonardi

Published Date:October 23, 2014


Dr. Jarrod Scheunemann, Robin Hall, and graduate student Megan Owens of the Office of Recreation and Park Resources at the University of Illinois conducted a survey for the Illinois Department of Natural Resource’s Office of Realty and Environmental Planning biennially.  The survey is used to assess the outdoor physical usage of and quality of outdoor recreational organizations, such as park districts, municipalities, and forest preserve/conservation districts. 


The survey concluded that Illinois holistically determined that there needs to be an increased number of trails, hiking, walking, nature, and multiuse, due to a large request population.  According to the survey, more than 800 trails are being developed statewide.  Through an increased number of trails, the economic gain from communities around those trails also increase. 


Outdoor sport pickle ball is also on the rise.  With a large population of older adults, the sport, a combination of tennis, badminton, and table tennis, has gained popularity due to its lighter intensity level.  The number of pickle ball courts is increasing, however lower than the number of bocce ball and horseshoe courts. 


The survey determined the impact fiscal constraints play on the recreation department.  Communities are switching to splash pads rather than pools in order to decrease costs.  Similarly, multiuse fields are being built constructed in order to refrain from constructing multiple types of fields for different sports or activities. 


For the Full article, please visit the Inside Illinois Article at

Published Date: October 23, 2014