Dr. Michael Forster

Kinesiology Faculty and Staff Carry Off Super 82nd Annual MAHPERD Convention

The Mississippi Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (MAHPERD) wisely brought their 82nd Annual Convention to Southern Miss this past Thursday and Friday.  Faculty members and staff in our School of Kinesiology – notably Asst. Prof. Rob Doan and communications staffer extraordinaire Hanna Knowles – helped host the meeting with style and professionalism.  On Friday morning, President Bennett followed KIN director Scott Piland in delivering thoughtful welcoming remarks that showed real appreciation for the critical contribution that health professionals make to the educational process and our collective well-being overall (always music to this dean’s ears).  All the informal feedback I picked up was very, very positive.  I won’t be surprised if MAHPERD comes knocking on our door again real soon.

And oh, yes, I got to teach all 60 or so students attending workshops on Thursday a line dance (to”Mojo Mambo” music) that they later performed in competition.  I can’t wait to see the video. :-)

Dr. Michael Forster

Let’s tighten up more on tobacco

I spent a good chunk of yesterday at a meeting in Jackson of the Mississippi Tobacco Control Advisory Council, of which I’m a member by virtue of my position as dean of the college.  Chaired by former attorney general Mike Moore, famous for the unprecedented litigation victory over Big Tobacco in the 1990’s, the Council monitors and advises tobacco mitigation efforts of the Mississippi Department of Health.

Unfortunately, the hundreds of millions of dollars paid out to Mississippi in settlement and originally committed to a “trust fund” to advance the health of Mississippians has long been spent on other things.  How that happened (not only in Mississippi, but around the nation in states sharing in the litigation settlement) is a fascinating, if disheartening, story.  But here the question is different: Why isn’t Mississippi – in a real sense ground zero in the fight against the health ravages of tobacco – doing more?

In case you think the battle against tobacco has been won in our state, think again – Mississippi ranks 6th among the 50 states and Washington, D.C. in prevalence of adult smoking, and 8th in high school seniors’ smoking.  We need to do two things now above all – (1) raise the tax on cigarettes further (it was raised in 2009 from 18 cents to 68 cents per pack, one of the lowest tax rates in the country); (2) pass a statewide public smoking ban.  Evidence suggests both that these methods are effective, and that further reduction in smoking would pay heavy dividends in terms of reduced disease prevalence and medical costs for treatment.

The irony of Mississippi’s lethargic approach to tobacco control – in the hands of the legislature, and not those of either the Department of Health or the Division of Medicaid – is that Mike Moore’s successful lawsuit argued that Mississippi should not be forced to pay for the health damage caused by the tobacco manufacturers.  The fact is, we’re still paying.

Dr. Michael Forster

On-campus Social Work conference a smashing success

Yesterday and today, the School of Social Work hosted the 44th Annual Alabama-Mississippi Social Work Education Conference – the longest-running regional conference of its type in the U.S.

350 social work educators and students from 10 schools in the two states – not to mention a few “outside” visitors and two dozen exhibitors – jammed the second and third floors of the Thad Cochran Center, making it the largest gathering in conference history.

Hats off to the School of Social Work, and especially conference organizers Barry Haywood, Rachel Lahasky, and Melissa Coker for a job well done.  (And yes, the rumors are true – there was ballroom dancing at last night’s reception!)

Dr. Michael Forster

Stop the public health mayhem; let’s get serious about gun safety

We’ve made automobiles much, much safer since the days they were massive hunks of steel hurtling down highways without impact absorbing bumpers, seat belts, or air bags.  The public’s health and safety is much, much better for it.  So why don’t we do the same with guns?

Okay, I confess I’m not a gun guy, and if I had my druthers, I’d slap all kinds of controls on what kinds of weapons were available and who had access to them.  How much motivation do we need?  The list of high-profile massacres alone – leave aside the “private” tragedies of accidents, domestic murders, and suicides – should be a lengthening ball and chain on the collective conscience – Aurora, Colo., Newton, Conn., Ft. Hood, Tex., Charleston, S.C.; three campus shooting in just the past month….

But I’m not talking about “gun control.”  I’m talking about gun safety and protecting the public’s health from preventable violence.  Various types of “smart” safety technology is readily available, as is superior, “micro-stamping” of weapons and ammunition for identification and tracing purposes.

Again and again one reads – usually after the latest news of multiple gun-related deaths – that the issues are “complex.”  Really?  Here’s a pretty simple policy formula to follow: 1. Set stringent standards for weapons safety. 2. Require gun manufacturers to apply the standards.  3. Hold them accountable when they don’t.

It would be a good start, anyway.



Jim Coll

Top Stories – October 2015

Here are a few of the most recent, best headlines from The University of Southern Mississippi. Each month, this post is a great reminder for me that we have a lot of awesome people completing a lot of awesome work at USM. SMTTT!

Demolition Begins at Gulf Park Campus to Pave Way for $7 Million Business and Health Building Project

Five modular units housing classrooms and offices for the colleges of Business and Health are being torn down to make way for a $7 million facility that will provide 25,000 square feet of space for students, faculty and staff. The Business and Health Building Project has an estimated completion date of May 2017.

The project is being funded from $3.5 million appropriated by the Mississippi Legislature and an additional $3.5 million appropriated by the legislature for general repairs to, and restoration of, Southern Miss facilities.

The building’s classrooms, breakout rooms and conference rooms will serve as a shared resource for all academic disciplines on the campus. The colleges of Business and Health will occupy separate spaces on the second floor. More than 30 faculty offices have been outlined in the building design.

Read More: http://www.usm.edu/news/article/demolition-begins-usm-gulf-park-campus-pave-way-7-million-business-and-health-building-proje

Favre Among Seven to be Inducted into USM’s Alumni Hall of Fame

The University of Southern Mississippi Alumni Association will induct seven of the University’s most dedicated and distinguished alumni into its Hall of Fame on Friday, Oct. 16, as one of the highlights of the 2015 Homecoming celebration.

The inductees include Three-time NFL MVP Brett Favre and Tom “Bones” Malone, who is best known for being a member of The Blues Brothers band, the Saturday Night Live Band, for which he served as leader from 1981-85, and the CBS Orchestra, the house band for the “Late Show with David Letterman.”

Read More: http://www.usm.edu/news/article/favre-among-seven-be-inducted-usm-s-alumni-hall-fame

USM Foundation Announces Scholarship to Honor Fallen Police Officers

The University of Southern Mississippi Foundation has announced the establishment of the endowed scholarship in honor of Hattiesburg Police Officers Benjamin Deen and Liquori Tate, who were killed in the line of duty on May 9 of this year. The first recipient is Bailee Alexander, a nursing student from Purvis whose father, Jason, is a lieutenant with the Lamar County Sheriff’s Office.

The scholarship will provide support to a Southern Miss student who is the child or grandchild of a police officer, firefighter or paramedic/EMT.

Read More: http://www.usm.edu/news/article/usm-foundation-announces-scholarship-honor-fallen-police-officers

Counseling Psychology Students Continue Graduate Program’s Success on National Exam

Recent graduates of the University’s master’s degree program in counseling psychology achieved a 100 percent passing rate on the National Counselor Examination (NCE).

Passage of the NCE is a qualifier for licensure as a professional counselor in many states and for National Certified Counselor (NCC) status. The exam assesses knowledge, skills and abilities considered important in providing effective counseling services.

Read more: http://www.usm.edu/news/article/students-continue-graduate-program-s-success-national-exam

Social Work Earns $1.2 Million Health Insurance Grant to Expand Health Initiative Outreach Efforts

The School of Social Work at The University of Southern Mississippi has been awarded more than $1.2 million in Affordable Care Act funding from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The funds will help consumers sign up for affordable Health Insurance Marketplace coverage in 2016.

With Marketplace Open Enrollment beginning Nov. 1, the funding will support outreach efforts designed to connect people with local help as they seek to understand coverage options and financial assistance available at HealthCare.gov.

Read More: http://www.usm.edu/news/article/southern-miss-school-social-work-earns-12-million-health-insurance-grant-will-expand-outreac