Masters in Public Health Faculty
Dr. Tanya J. Benedict, Ph.D., CPH
Prior to joining Creighton University, Dr. Benedict was in the College of Health Sciences at West Chester University where she served for 15 years as Director of the Graduate Program in Health Care Management in the Department of Health and Associate Professor in the Masters of Public Health and Public Health/Health Promotion programs. Previously, Dr. Benedict was the Director of the Health Care Management graduate program and Assistant Professor in the College of Education and Health Professions at the University of Arkansas. She graduated Cum Laude with B.A. and M.S. degrees from the University of Arkansas and received her Ph.D. in Health Policy and Administration from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill in 1999. Dr. Benedict also spent 10 years in a variety of managerial positions at Beverly Enterprises, the largest nursing home corporation in the world with an estimated $2.2 billion in yearly revenue and over 34,000 employees.
Dr. Benedict is a co-author of a nationally adopted college textbook in health and wellness and has been a contributing author for more than 20 health and wellness chapters. She has peer reviewed publications in the areas of health care access, health behavior and attitudes, and distance education. She has served as a textbook reviewer for Benjamin Cummings/Pearson Education and Wadsworth Thomson Learning. Her research is published in leading journals including the American Journal of Health Studies and The IAFOR Journal of Education. Dr. Benedict has presented extensively at both international and national conferences and she has had the honor of teaching at Oxford’s Harris - Manchester College in England. She is a Certified Public Health Professional (CPH) which is the only credential of its kind for public health demonstrating both knowledge of public health and commitment to the field through continuing education focused on emerging and established public health issues. Dr. Benedict is also currently becoming board certified in healthcare management through the completion of the premier fellowship offered by the American College of Healthcare Executives (FACHE). She has served as the Chairperson of the Society of Public Health Education (SOPHE) Health Advocacy committee and she is an active member in the American College of Healthcare Executives, the American Public Health Association, and the Society of Public Health Education.
Dr. Catherine C. Davis, Ph.D., MPH, FIDSA
Dr. Davis received her Ph.D. in Medical Microbiology from Creighton University and M.S. degree in Pathology Education from Washington University, St. Louis, MO. Currently, she is an MPH candidate focusing on Epidemiology – Colorado School of Public Health. She has served as a faculty member supporting both undergraduate and graduate professional education at The University of Iowa, Creighton University, and University of Colorado where she received numerous instructor of the year awards while providing didactic and clinical education to pharmacy, nursing, dental, and dental hygiene students. She also has 20 years experience working in Fortune 100 consumer industries and most recently as Principal Scientist - The Procter & Gamble Company where she was awarded the John Smale Award for Technical Excellence for leadership of a global research team focused on increased understanding of the pathogenesis of toxic shock syndrome. Her passion in research is researching how microbes and microbial communities contribute to human health and disease. Specifically, she is interested in the human microbiome and is co-author on the landmark studies published in Nature and Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. She was appointed as a Fellow in the Infectious Disease Society of America. In her spare time, she volunteers as a member of the Board of Trustees for Clearview Library District (Windsor, CO) and Northern Colorado Medical Center (Greeley, CO).
Jana Distefano, MPH
Formerly an epidemiologist with the Arizona Department of Health Services, Jana brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in data reporting, analysis, and health promotion models to Creighton University's Master's in Public Health adjunct faculty team. In addition, to her role as an adjunct faculty member, Jana works as the Associate Director for the Community Health team at Professional Research Consultants, PRC, in Omaha, Nebraska. Jana joined PRC (a market research firm exclusively devoted to healthcare) in 2011. At PRC, Jana has worked closely with healthcare organizations in developing strategic priorities based on the community health research PRC has conducted. She enjoys building relationships with healthcare organizations all across the United States and working alongside hospital leaders to change the way they think about their results and create meaningful community health initiatives. Jana was a co-author on the study, “Trends in Reported Syphilis and Gonorrhea Among HIV-Infected People in Arizona: Implications for Prevention and Control,” which appeared in the 2014 Supplement of Public Health Report.
Maggie Hernandez, MPH
Mary (Maggie) Hernandez has had the pleasure of working as a faculty member at Creighton University since spring of 2016. Raised in small town Nebraska, her parents enrolled her in gymnastics at the age of 3, where her love of sports started. She carried that love all the way through college where she was a member of the track & field team at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. While attending UNK, she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Science Fitness and Wellness. Upon completion, she relocated to Phoenix, Arizona where she received her Master’s degree in Public Health at Grand Canyon University. She has worked as a certified personal trainer (ACSM-CPT) for the last five years. Maggie has had the opportunity to work with a wide range of clientele, ranging from 18-87 years of age, all with unique stories and goals. She specializes in training tri-athletes, road runners, trail runners, ultra-marathon runners, track and field athletes and female athletes.
Dr. Judy Jesz, DNP, MBA, RN
Dr. Jesz has over three decades of clinical experience in academic and community, for-profit and not-for-profit health care environments. Working in hospital and ambulatory, Dr. Jesz has had a front row seat to the way health care is delivered across the continuum. Administrative and consultant employment provided Dr. Jesz with skills in leadership, strategy, finance, population and outcome management.
Her research emphasis is in Patient Centered Medical Homes and Accountable Care organizations. In her clinical practice, Dr. Jesz partners with interdisciplinary providers from medicine, nursing, pharmacy, social work, behavioral health, and nutrition to ensure patient care needs are met in the ambulatory setting. She identifies methods to optimize ACO reimbursement with MACRA MIPS and APM’s. Dr. Jesz participates in national accreditation initiatives including The Joint Commission and National Committee for Quality Assurance.
Dr. Jesz earned her Bachelors of Science in Nursing from Creighton University in 1983, her Masters of Business Administration from the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 1995. In 2012, Dr. Jesz earned a second master’s degree, in Nursing Administration from Creighton University. Judy graduated with her Doctorate in Nursing Practice with an emphasis in Clinical Systems Administration from Creighton University in 2013.
Dr. Jesz is currently serving a two year term as President of the Nebraska Nurses Organization of Nurse Leaders and is a member of Sigma Theta Tau.
Dr. LaShaune P. Johnson
- B.A., Sociology and Medieval/Renaissance Studies, 1999, Wellesley College
- M.A., Sociology, 2004, University of California, Santa Barbara
- Ph.D., Sociology, 2009, University of California, Santa Barbara (with doctoral emphases in Feminist Studies and Human Development)
- Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, University of Connecticut Health Center, 2009-2011
- Postdoctoral Fellowship, University of Missouri, School of Health Professions, 2011-2013
Dr. Johnson is a graduate of the Head Start program for low-income children, a two-time cancer survivor, and a former poet. These personal experiences help to drive her interest in studying health disparities and in telling the stories of community members (through research methods such as Photovoice). Before coming to Omaha, she was involved in the Mid-Missouri Komen-funded project, “Walking in the Spirit”, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation project, “Playgrounds without Borders”, and an American Academy of Pediatrics-supported CATCH planning grant. Her areas of interest are: childhood obesity prevention, qualitative research methods, cancer survivorship and “previvor”-ship in the African American/Black community, online learning for health professional students, and health practices among Muslim-identified women. In Omaha, she is a member of the African American Women and Breast Cancer Task Force and the Connection Project at UNMC.
Dr. Kate Lewis Nolt, MPH, Ph.D.
Dr. Nolt has had the pleasure of working in Public Health and Kinesiology for 12+ years. She has been teaching at various universities for 11+ years both in undergraduate and graduate programs. For 3 years, she served as the internship supervisor in both disciplines. Dr. Nolt is passionate about her students' success, and strives to foster a learning environment that is positive, thought provoking, compassionate, and engaging. Over the years she has consulted in hospital settings to make recommendations for improving quality of care and business procedures. She has also consulted for communities and school districts
As a consultant she has been responsible for research, development, implementation and evaluation of public health programs for non-profit, corporate, Chester County schools, public and private organizations. Programming subject matter includes: nutrition, exercise and fitness programs, substance use and abuse prevention and intervention, life skills, business process and procedure for healthcare organizations, community mobilization & organization (using the CTC model).
Dr. Marlene Wilken
- B.S.N., 1970, University of Nebraska School of Nursing
- M.N., 1974, Montana State University-Bozeman
- Ph.D., 1993, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Dr. Wilken’s professional life has been as a registered nurse, with a master's degree in nursing and a Ph.D. in political science. She has been at Creighton for 17 years in both the School of Nursing and in the Health Administration and Policy programs. Population-based health care and essentials of public health are her primary teaching areas. Her passion is environmental health, and she has done numerous presentations on this topic to nurses and other health professionals. She served on the board of the Public Health Association of Nebraska (PHAN) and helped to establish the state association of local boards of health (SALBOH), serving as co-chair for several years. Since 1998, Dr. Wilken has served on the Douglas County Board of Health and was elected to serve two-three year terms as the Midwest Regional Director for the National Association of Local Boards of Health as a board member. In June 2011, she received a $207,000, two-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to address the growing problem of type 2 diabetes mellitus in adult American Indians.