IHHS Fall Newsletter & Annual Report for 2020-2021

Thank you for taking the time to glance at what’s been happening in the Blue Cross NC Institute for Health and Human Services at Appalachian State University. In this update, we wanted to provide some fiscal year highlights and summary information from 2020-2021 along with a few updates this fall and moving into 2022.

This time last year we were moving with quite a bit of trepidation into the holiday season and then plowing as quickly as possible into 2021 with great hopes for a COVID-free existence. Alas, our pandemic continues and we carry our ongoing hopes for an ending (or at least a successful ongoing management plan) into 2022. The big difference for us this year is that we have been able to take the reflective information and discussions we shared during our in-person shutdown and begin to rebuild our programs with new ideas, new focus and new energy. Some of our programs that were just getting off the ground prior to the pandemic are now in full swing, such as our Aging Well program, nutrition consultations, and a Community Health and Fitness Program. The Community Health and Wellness program is not a new program, but it is new to the IHHS; and we hope to support Dr. Marco Meucci with this great ongoing assessment program for individuals who want to get a more comprehensive fitness assessment for athletics or other reasons. Please visit these websites to learn more about these offerings to our community. We are grateful for the work our faculty and staff are doing to improve the lives of the people of the High Country and Western North Carolina. We also have new faculty and staff highlighted here who have joined the IHHS, and we look forward to the growth they will bring to implementation of our mission and vision.

Gary McCullough,

Executive Director


McKenzie Hellman, IHHS Health & Wellness Coordinator

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McKenzie Hellman is our new IHHS Health & Wellness Coordinator. This is a new position that supports all areas of the IHHS by offering more personalized support for health and wellness, coordinating services, and working to bridge research, clinical activities and outreach to create a cohesive framework for faculty and staff at Appalachian, as well as in the community. 

McKenzie has lived in Boone for the past 8 years and loves the High Country. She is so grateful to start this new role, and she looks forward to being part of the App State family. She has a huge passion for health, wellness, upstream prevention and program planning. Previous to this role she worked at AppHealthCare (the local health department covering Watauga, Ashe and Allegheny Counties) and focused on district wide public health initiatives. In her spare time she enjoys hiking, rock climbing, backpacking, camping or any activity that gets her outside; and she loves spending quality time with her spouse and her dog, Ridgy. 

Interprofessional Clinic

Director, Bryan Belcher

The Interprofessional Clinic was not unlike any other provider of health and wellness services in the world this past year in that we were impacted by COVID 19. However, thanks to the flexibility and commitment of our faculty, staff, and students we were able to continue serving the community helping patients, while continuing to train students to become future healthcare providers.  


Two IPC Student Volunteers providing a Gait Assessment to an Aging Well participant.  

Adult voice and swallowing and audiology services were offered at pre-Covid levels by implementing careful protocols (masks, cleaning all surfaces before each appointment with Vindicator!, and staggering appointments to limit shared waiting room capacity).  

Speech Therapy for children, Music Therapy, and the Community Psychology Clinic all provided services via Telehealth in combination with limited in person appointments. The therapists were able to provide 405 visits utilizing the Telehealth platform and those services were billable for the first time thanks to federal legislation changes related to the pandemic.  

By initiating new telehealth services and returning to limited in-person clinical services, we were able to continue providing the educational opportunities to our students and serving our clients as much as possible under the circumstances.

We are pleased to report a few highlights from this past year:

  • Full internships were provided for two nutrition students and two health care management interns. Work was facilitated for four social work students with clients and two exercise science students helping with our Aging Well Assessments.
  • 414 clients were served for hearing services, 507 for speech therapy, 129 for psychological services, and 49 for music therapy.
  • Our new Aging Well program was initiated despite the pandemic and initial assessments were provided to 19 participants.
  • New monthly interprofessional case conferences were begun for students to share and learn from one another about each other’s roles and responsibilities.
  • Over 1,800 student clinical contact hours were generated.

Looking Ahead 

We are happy to report that our clinical programs are now back in full swing in both of our facilities (Levine Hall and University Hall) with the flexibility of offering telehealth when needed. Our Aging Well program has enrolled more adults in the first few weeks of the semester than in all of last year. If you are interested in signing up and receiving ongoing assessments to ensure that you are aging as well as you can, please call us at 828-262-8657 or email ipc@appstate.edu. For more information, visit our website: https://ihhs.appstate.edu/clinical-services/healthy-aging-and-adult-health.

For information on our other services or to schedule an appointment for any of our affiliated clinics, please call us at  828-262-8658.


Director, Mary Sheryl Horine

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Girls on the Run

Girls on the Run used a variety of approaches to be able to respond to the changing and unpredictable landscape during this past year of adapting to the Covid pandemic and resulting chaos, trauma, illness, and social distress. Girls who participated in the program developed and enhanced critical life skills such as self-confidence and the ability to persist through adversity. Because of these skills, we hope that Girls on the Run participants were able to build resiliency during these unprecedented times. While difficult to measure, evidence of these skills will become apparent in both the near future and years to come.


Our program targeted girls in the 3rd-8th grade in Watauga, Ashe, Avery, and Wilkes counties. We delivered programming to 169 girls and families in the fall of 2020. Because of university Covid protocols, we were not able to provide in-person programming during the Spring or Summer of 2021.


Schools throughout our programming area cancelled in-person programming, so it became necessary for Girls on the Run to adapt its normal approach. We transitioned the curriculum to a virtual model, with lessons that mirrored the in-person program. This type of programming model would ensure that participants could experience the social, emotional, and physical outcomes of our program while being adaptable to the changing landscape of school closures. In addition to the virtual model, we also adapted another version of our curriculum to be independently used by families with parents becoming GOTR coaches in place of trained program volunteers. This “GOTR At Home” program was delivered by email every week with two lessons per week that could be experienced at the family’s own pace. Because of the change in delivery format options, it was necessary to also change the way program coaches were trained. Girls on the Run adapted its extensive coach training to be completely virtual. Coaches included volunteers from the community who were teachers, students, and parents. Girls on the Run staff also developed a weekly newsletter that targeted resiliency skill building, optimism, and community connection. Ten issues of The Pace newsletter were distributed, reaching over 3,500 inboxes.

Hub for Autism and Neurodiversity

In order to continue the goals of providing education for regional families impacted by autism and other developmental disabilities, the Hub for Autism and Neurodiversity organized a series of virtual workshops targeting parents, faculty, students, teachers, providers and people with disabilities. Five educational sessions were developed and designed to cover both a wide variety of topics and a wide format delivery. The sessions included the following:

1) Problem Behaviors and How to Help, 3 Modules: 109 Registrants

2) Right Here Right Now, A Self-Care Deep Dive, 83 Registrants

3) Talking with your Kids: Developmental Disability and Sexuality, 5 Modules: 70 Registrants

4) “Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's” Book Club: 79 Registrants

5) No If's, And's, or Gut's about it: GI Health and Picky Eating Strategies for Your Child on the Spectrum: 73 Registrants


Nutrition Outreach and Research

In collaboration with faculty in the departments of Nutrition and RMPE, a grant proposal was written and funded to be able to conduct pilot research in the area of nutrition for high school student athletes. In a need’s assessment conducted in March 2021 among parents of local high school student athletes, 86.5% of respondents (n=155) indicated that they either “agree” or “strongly agree” that a nutrition education program to improve athletic performance in their child would be valuable. Topics deemed to be most useful included: “smart hydration,” “healthy snacking,” and “general nutrition.”


Healthy Heart Collaborative

As an effort to promote cardiovascular health and to revitalize efforts around teaching CPR and AED lifesaving skills, IHHS has teamed up with the Appalachian Regional Healthcare System to become certified as a provider in the American Heart Association training center network. Being able to provide onsite training, skills checking and plenty of practice opportunities for students and faculty, IHHS will streamline opportunities to learn how to save a life. 



Tiger Posey, Girls on the Run Site Coordinator

In late summer we welcomed Tiger Posey to the Girls on the Run project team. Tiger lives in North Wilkesboro and has been in the region almost 20 years. For the past 12 years he has held several roles in non-profit organizations and Wilkes County Schools including positions of Behavior Interventionist and Site Coordinator and Volunteer Coordinator for after-school programming. Tiger became involved with Girls on the Run as a coach and then as a board member. He hopes to spread GOTR excitement and opportunities at more school and community-based sites and whole-heartedly believes in the curriculum and the benefits that running and exercise hold for youth.

Looking Ahead

With some modifications, we have all of our outreach programs up and running now. GOTR is working with fewer school-based sites during the fall semester of 2021, however we are determined to “build back stronger” with the goal of doubling the number of sites during the spring 2022 semester. 

In addition, we are happy to have opened our new Hub for Diverse Abilities--a family resource center for information and support for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. This is located in University Hall in Room 174. For more information please visit https://ihhs.appstate.edu/hub.

Counseling for Faculty & Staff

Director, Tandrea Carter

Counseling for Faculty & Staff provides counseling support, group programs, and educational opportunities for Appalachian State faculty and staff and their families and partners with the Interprofessional Clinic to support community needs, as well. CFS was pleased to be able to transition quickly to provide telehealth services during the shutdown and continue to provide telehealth services as needed. 

Here are a few highlights from the work of CFS this past year:

  • Provided 248 individuals with 1,402 appointments.  
  • Led the following workshops:
  • Breathing and Meditation (85 sessions / 2-5 people each on average)
  • Exercise and Mental Health (1 workshop session/20 people)
  • Stretch for Stress (4 classes / 6 people)
  • Facilitated Invited Meetings and Trainings Upon Request:
  • Breathing and Meditation
  • Coping with COVID 
  • Annual Staff Retreat 
  • Supported other committees
  • Faculty Senate Welfare Committee
  • Appalachian Women in Leadership
  • Collaborated with Human Resources, Athletics, Student Counseling Center, Appalachian Women in Leadership, and Health Promotion for Faculty & Staff
  • Provided clinical education and training to a Master of Social Work Graduate Intern

Two other developments occurred this year in CFS. Tandrea Carter, Director, was appointed as the University Ombud for Appalachian State. This role takes part of Tandrea’s time away from counseling services but serves the Appalachian community in other important ways. To fill the gap in her services, we have welcomed a new counselor, Sarah Holmes.



Sarah Holmes, Ph.D., LMFTA

Sarah joined Counseling for Faculty and Staff in the Spring of 2021. She is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who earned both her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut. During her graduate training, she worked primarily at community mental health centers focusing on couples therapy and adult children who were taking care of their aging parents. She continued her research interest in caregiving through a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Aging at Boston College. After her training, she worked at the National Institute of Aging as a researcher and project manager. She has always wanted to return to her work as a therapist. Once her and her family relocated to the beautiful mountains of Boone, she decided to dedicate herself to working as a marriage and family therapist. She has a passion for helping parents co-parent when they are not living with the other parent. She also loves working with adult children who are taking care of their aging parents. And, she really enjoys working with individuals or couples who want to make their relationships better.

Looking Ahead

We are providing in person and telehealth services as requested and look forward to taking new clients as needed. In addition, we are excited to continue working with our colleagues across the IHHS and the Appalachian State Community to provide mental health and wellness support.

Health Promotion for Faculty & Staff

Director, Steff McDaniel


During the COVID shut down, Health Promotion for Faculty and Staff (HPFS) used creativity, perseverance and teamwork to pivot their programming to continue to serve their audience from afar. With our gyms closed, HPFS trainers reached out to their clients to learn what exercise equipment they had at their house to incorporate into their at home workouts. Our clients used outside steps, filled milk jugs, treadmills, walking trails and soup cans to add resistance and cardiovascular exercise to their quarantined daily lives. Our personal trainers incorporated videos, gifs and websites to encourage proper form and accountability to their client’s exercise programs. Some of HPFS classes were also offered online through ZOOM. Our participants logged in and followed the instructors' coaching through a Stretch class, High Intensity Interval Training and Intermediate Strength Training classes. 

Many times, our clients would share their barriers to being consistent with their exercise programs. Our team would brainstorm on suggestions to help people push through and continue with their wellness goals. Our clients shared how thankful they were to have HPFS continued encouragement during a very challenging time in their lives. They shared how much this helped their mental health while working at home, becoming their children’s teachers as well as the aches and pains associated with bad ergonomics of the home office. 

2020 Drive Thru Flu Clinic

In a typical year, HPFS organizes an annual employee health fair in conjunction with a flu vaccine clinic. During October of 2020, the annual health fair was cancelled due to indoor COVID precautions of social distancing and the potential spread of the virus. With the request of Chancellor Sheri Everts, HPFS organized a two-day outdoor drive-through flu vaccine clinic with the support of IHHS, AppHealthCare and ASU’s Emergency Management Department. 

The success can be attributed to many partners. HPFS incorporated new technology to organize the virtual registration process and coordinate with AppHealthCare’s vaccine scheduling procedures. APPHealthCare provided 100% of the nurses to administer the vaccines to all 264 participants. APPstate’s Public Health students volunteered to assist with traffic flow through the River Street parking deck. The IHHS team supported HPFS with the promotion, execution and completion of both drive-through days. We were grateful for everyone’s support in making this a successful event.

Here are a few highlights from this past year:


Educational Numbers:

ARC Adult First Aid/CPR/AED: 85

Professional Rescuer: 9

Pediatric First Aid/CPR/AED: 4

Total: 98


Group Exercise Classes: 498

Cardio: 2231

Strength Training: 2587

In Person Personal Training: 592

Virtual Person Training: 1602


BP: 95

Mammography: 89

Blood Screenings: 99


HP Programming:

Blood Drives: 90

Flu Shots (2 Events): 319

Health Fair

Duplicated Attendance between all services: 8179

Looking Ahead

We are excited to have all of our facilities open and operating and being back to serving people through individualized personal training, group classes, and exercise support. We are also offering our usual slate of screenings, including blood screens, mammograms, and nutrition screens (in conjunction with our nutrition students). We are also thrilled to have the support of our new IHHS Health and Wellness Coordinator, McKenzie Hellman, in building our team and supporting Appalachian and broader community we serve.


Director, Gary McCullough

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Dr. Martie Thompson, IHHS Director of Community Research

First, we would like to welcome our new IHHS Director of Community Research, Dr. Martie Thompson. Dr. Thompson joined the Appalachian State University faculty in August 2021 as the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Distinguished/Endowed Professor in Public Health and the Director of Community Research in the Institute for Health and Human Services. She moved to the Boone area from Cashiers, NC with her husband and two college-aged sons this summer. She loves living in western NC and is eager to explore this part of the region. Prior to coming to Appalachian, she was a professor of psychology at Clemson University; prior to that, she worked at the CDC in her hometown of Atlanta, Georgia. Her research focuses on the epidemiology and prevention of interpersonal violence and suicidal behaviors. We are thrilled to have her with us, and she is already busy with her own ongoing research and submitting new grant applications with our faculty.

Research in 2020-2021

The COVID pandemic brought most research involving human subjects to a grinding halt for the vast majority of the 2020-2021 fiscal year, and this impacted a large portion of all health-related research at Appalachian. Despite this, many of our research affiliates in the IHHS were able to forge ahead, at least partially; with their ongoing projects; and others applied for and received new funding. We are happy to provide some highlights to you from these successes.

Dr. Leah Hamilton was awarded an initial $30,754 in funding from the Jain Family Institute to work on the “Hudson Up” program, which is a pilot project in Hudson, NY to provide a Universal Basic Income to individuals and families living under the poverty line. She is researching the effects of this basic income on health, assets, relationships, spending, employment, and more. The work is currently being expanded elsewhere and has now been awarded another $250,000.

Dr. David Russell (Sociology) and Dr. Erin Bouldin (Public Health) received approximately $15,000 in NIH funding through a partnership with Penn State to examine the needs and resources available to people living with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers in rural versus urban settings. Risk factors for Alzheimers are higher in rural areas, and they have greater challenges accessing support services.

Other funded projects continuing include: 

  • Interdisciplinary training program for students aspiring to work with children with disabilities who have high intensity needs (Drs. Lakey, Cheek & Koppenhaver)
  • Dr. Jordan Hazelwood’s investigation of a standardized approach to assessing swallowing problems using the Modified Barium Swallow (a video x-ray study).
  • Dr. Erin Bouldin’s funding through the Department of Defense and the University of Utah on Veterans with post-traumatic epilepsy and their caregivers.
  • Dr. Jill Juris Naar USDA-funded project via a collaboration with Ohio State University, to work on an intergenerational program that connects older, vulnerable teens--such as those in foster care or kinship--with older adults using a mentoring curriculum in Ohio and Virginia. 

New and exciting awards have come in this fall, as well. In addition to the new expansion of Dr. Hamilton’s funding on Universal Basic Income mentioned above, we have two other newly funded awards.

Dr. Alan Needle was awarded a grant from the National Athletic Trainers Association for $57,349 to examine treatment of chronic ankle instability by targeting cortical pathways with transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS). This is exciting research which can have broader applications to other injuries, as well.

Dr. Martie Thompson, our new Endowed Professor of Public Health and IHHS Director of Community Research, just came to us from Clemson University and brought with her some ongoing funding, just over $10,000, to examine college campus sexual assault prevention programs and related attitudes and behaviors among college students. She plans to continue this line of work at Appalachian and is already busy working on new grant applications with our faculty and community partners.

This is amazing new and ongoing work from faculty in health-related fields across Appalachian State University to improve the health, wellness and quality-of-life of people in our region and beyond. And these are just the externally- funded projects. There is so much more that our faculty are doing to create new knowledge through research--some with internal funding and some with external. 

The IHHS provided it’s first interdisciplinary internal research grants this past spring, and the work is ongoing now. Here are the funded projects and research teams.

Performance Nutrition for High School Student Athletes

Mary Sheryl Horine, Public Health

Melissa Gutschall, Nutrition

Paul Moore, Nutrition

Ben Sibley, Physical Education

Exercise Oncology Research Initiative 

Jeff McBride, Exercise Science

Andrew Shanely, Exercise Science

Darren Seals, Biology

Maryam Ahmed, Biology

Steve Ratchford, Exercise Science

Abigail Stickford, Exercise Science

Erin Bouldin, Public Health

Jared Skinner, Exercise Science

Jonathon Stickford, Exercise Science

Across Generations: Interrupting Loneliness Through Engagement

Jill Naar, Recreation Management

Erin Bouldin, Public Health

Inflammation and Immunity Among Adults Recovering from SARS-CoV2

Steve Ratchford, Exercise Science

Abigail Stickford, Exercise Science

Michael Opata, Biology

Kevin Zwetsloot, Exercise Science

Jonathon Stickford, Exercise Science


For more information on research happening in the IHHS, please visit our website here.

In Closing...

Finally, we’d just like to say thank you to all who supported our work this past year during this very challenging time. Some did this through donations, others through volunteering, and others by working collaboratively with us on our projects. However you helped, we appreciate you! Thank you to our administrative support specialist, Heidi Tait, who helps make almost every one of our projects possible. And thanks to April Ward and Katie Lail in our Interprofessional Clinic, Tracy Weston in Health Promotion for Faculty & Staff, and Jessica Donley in Grants Administration for all they do. Our team is dedicated to service, and we hope it shines through in the work we do.

We wish you all a happy holiday season and a healthy and prosperous New Year!