Emerging Threats Speakers

Nahid Rianon, MD, DrPH, AGSF

Nahid Rianon is a Geriatrician who is trained in Global Health. Her work in global health includes bone health, hospital hazards, fall and polypharmacy in older adults. She currently works as a hospitalist in the acute care for the elderly (ACE) unit, and as a consultant in geriatric medicine. She is the founder and coordinating physician for the Geriatric Osteoporosis clinic. Dr. Rianon witnesses caregivers’ stress in her daily work and understands why caregivers are called second victims of diseases as patients become dependent on them. She has seen in her own practice how a patient’s world can fall apart when a caregiver becomes sick. In the era of aging tsunami in a globalized world, Dr. Rianon believes, building culturally appropriate infrastructure where caregivers are part of health care plan for older patients, needs to be a priority especially in a multi-cultural city like Houston.

Philip B. Bedient, PhD, PE

Dr. Philip B. Bedient is the Chair and Herman Brown Professor of Engineering in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rice University. He teaches and performs research in surface water hydrology, disaster management, and flood modeling and prediction systems. He has directed 90 research projects over the past 45 years, has written over 200 articles in journals and conference proceedings. He formed and directs the Severe Storm Prediction Center (SSPEED) at Rice University in 2009 consisting of a team of seven universities and 15 investigators from Gulf coast universities dedicated to improving storm prediction, education, and evacuation from disaster. He is lead author on a textbook on “Hydrology and Floodplain Analysis” (Pearson, 6th ed., 2018) used in over 60 universities across the Unites States. Dr. Bedient received the Herman Brown Endowed Chair of Engineering in 2002 at Rice University, and received Fellow ASCE in 2006. He also received the C.V. Theis Award from the American Institute of Hydrology in 2007. He earlier received the Shell Distinguished Chair in Environmental Science (1988 to 1993). Dr. Bedient has four decades of experience working on flood and flood prediction problems in the U.S. He routinely runs computer models such as HEC-HMS, HEC-RAS, ADCIRC, and Vflo® for advanced hydrologic analysis, flood prediction, and coastal surge. He developed one of the first radar-based rainfall flood alert systems (FAS-4) in the U.S. for the TMC in Houston. He currently has several other FAS system projects in the Houston area.

Alexandra Van den Berg, PhD, MPH

Dr. Alexandra (Sandra) van den Berg is a professor of Behavioral Science and Health Promotion at the UTHealth School of Public Health at the Austin Campus as well as the Associate Director of the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living. She is a researcher with over 20 years of experience in the development and evaluation of large behavioral and environmental interventions addressing health disparities associated with dietary behaviors and weight status in low income, ethnically diverse families living in underserved communities. She is currently leading the evaluation of the federally-funded FRESH-Austin study, in which she and her team are measuring the impact of a local food access initiative (Fresh for Less) on low-income, mostly Hispanic residents’ purchasing and dietary behaviors. In another current study (R01 HL123865 – PI: Davis), the research team is assessing the impact of a school-based gardening, nutrition, and cooking intervention to reduce obesity and related metabolic disorders in predominately Hispanic children living in low-income, rural, food desert communities. Dr. van den Berg was also the PI for a 6-year study in which her team measured the impact of a large place-based initiative (Go Austin!/Vamos Austin!) to increase access to healthful foods and physical activity opportunities in low-income, mostly Hispanic communities. In addition to her research, she was also the vice-chair of the Austin/Travis County Food Policy Board until a few months ago and co-led 2 Food Policy Board working groups: Food Systems and Climate and Food Access.