Benedictine faculty present research at leading health care conferences

June 1, 2017

Lisle, Illinois ~ Three distinguished professors from the College of Education and Health Services at Benedictine University showcased their expertise in the health care industry at conferences during the 2016-17 academic year.

In November, Susan Cheng, Ph.D., assistant professor and chair of Benedictine’s department of Public Health, presented “Race and Poverty: Community Decline and Revitalizations using PredictorSusan Cheng, Ph.D., assistant professor and chair of Benedictine’s department of Public Health Metrics” to an audience of public health professionals, physicians, health care workers and other researchers at the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting in Denver, Colo. These conferences bring together more than 12,000 public health professionals from across the U.S. and around the world to network, educate and inspire each other.

Cheng, who joined Benedictine in 2013, earned a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology from San Diego State University researching male endogenous hormones and bone mineral density, and a Ph.D. in Epidemiology from the University of California, San Diego, in the field of HIV research. Her primary research interests focus on maternal and child health, special populations and mental health.

In her presentation, which resulted from research she conducted in collaboration with Lindsey Ho, Dr.P.H., assistant professor of Public Health at Benedictine, the Cook County Department of Public Health and Loyola University, Cheng shared the characteristics and determinants of what distinguishes neighborhoods that thrive, are in decline or stay at a successful plateau. The project compared economic markers, health data and socio-demographic factors in the Chicago suburbs of North Lawndale, Matteson and Orland Park.

The project is currently in its next phase of creating a mathematical model that can quantify the health of a neighborhood, and better compare neighborhoods to one another at different time points.

Elizabeth Ritt, Ed.D., M.S.N., RN, a professor of Nursing and Health Cheng will present new research findings at the 2017 American Public Health Association Annual Meeting and Expo, “Creating the Healthiest Nation: Climate Changes Health,” on November 4-8 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Ga.

Elizabeth Ritt, Ed.D., M.S.N., RN, professor of Nursing and Health in the graduate nursing program at Benedictine, gave the keynote speech and presented her research at the 5th Annual Advocate HealthCare Nursing Research Symposium: Building the Future of Nursing Science, this April in Oak Brook Terrace, Ill. Designed for nurses, health care professionals, administrators and nursing students, the conference explores social determinants of health and patient outcomes with emphasis on the presence of nursing within health care domains.

Ritt earned a Doctor of Education with an emphasis on leadership and educational policy studies at Northern Illinois University. She has nearly 40 years of nursing experience, which includes more than 15 years of progressive administrative and teaching experience in higher education.

Ritt’s presentation, “Engaging Your Imagination: The Journey from Idea to Action,” shared the results of studying the interrelationships between imagination, innovation and disruption as it applies to advanced nursing practices. The presentation provided insight into the impact of the shift from volume to value-based health care, the digital reality of daily work and the goal to promote high quality, accessible and affordable care to the communities nurses serve.Georgeen Polyak, Ph.D., an associate professor of Public Health

Her research also provided the clinical implications of the LACE index (length of stay, acuity of admission, comorbidities and the number of emergency department visits in the six months prior to admission) scoring tool, which has been used to predict the risk of death or unplanned readmission within 30 days after discharge from the hospital to the home setting, and the identification of post-acute patients at risk for hospital readmission.

Georgeen Polyak, Ph.D., an associate professor of Public Health at Benedictine, presented “A Successful Collaboration between a Master of Public Health Program and a State Health Association” in April at the Association for Prevention, Teaching and Research’s (APTR) annual conference in Savannah, Ga.

The purpose of the project was to foster student interest in public health policy; contribute resources to the public health system; and develop enduring academic/practice collaboration. Polyak’s presentation concluded that as part of their education, Master of Public Health students should be able to work on real public health problems. State public health associations typically need additional resources to carry out their work. Successful collaborations between students and associations could be a recruiting tool for future association members.

APTR is one of the oldest public health and preventative medicine associations in the United States and helps bring experts in the field of health care together with public health and medicine educators to inform and improve curricula.


Benedictine University is located in Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois, and Mesa, Arizona. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine enrolls nearly 9,000 students in 56 undergraduate and 20 graduate programs. Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the sixth consecutive year in 2016. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission ( For more information, contact (630) 829-6300, or visit

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