Faculty and Staff

Dr. Leanne H. Field, Ph.D.

Mr. Robert Ligon, M.A.
Dr. Rick Nauert, Ph.D., MHA, MHF, PT
Dr. Zacharia Varghese, M.D., M.P.H.

Mr. Michael A Field, PMP, MSSTC, P.E.
Antonia Galea, M.P.H.
Alicia Spencer, M.B.A, M.A.H.R.
Phyllis Bellon



Dr. Leanne H. Field, Ph.D. [Director]

Dr. Leanne Field is a Distinguished Senior Lecturer in the College of Natural Sciences and Department of Molecular Biosciences at The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin). She also holds an appointment as an Adjunct Associate Professor of Public Health at The University of Texas Health Sciences Center at Houston, School of Public Health. Dr. Field is the Director of the Public Health, Medical Laboratory Science and Health Informatics and Health IT Programs for UT Austin. She teaches courses in human infectious diseases and emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, and carries out applied public health and public health informatics research in partnership with members of local and state public health practice agencies. Dr. Field received her B.A. from Florida State University in 1972, her M.S. from the University of Georgia in 1973, and her Ph.D. from UT Austin in 1987. Since joining the faculty in 1997, she has been honored with multiple teaching awards, including The University of Texas System Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award (2010) and the President’s Associates Teaching Excellence Award (2013). (2013).

Dr. Field led the development and implementation of the state’s first B.S. in Public Health degree for the university, which was offered to students for the first time in Fall 2010. This dynamic, interdisciplinary major now includes 300 students. Graduates of the public health undergraduate degree program have matriculated to the top graduate schools of public health in the nation, sought dual MD/MPH degrees and have directly entered the public health workforce. Dr. Field has been the recipient of multiple grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to support programs de-signed to educate the next generation of public health leaders at the university, includ-ing a public health internship program, an advanced public health internship program focused on Texas-Mexico border health, and five “Become A Disease Detective: Discover Public Health!” scientific conferences (www.biosci.utexas.edu/diseasedetective). These very successful initiatives have been recognized nationally by the Association of Schools and Programs in Public Health and the CDC as model programs for the development of the public health workforce.

In April 2010, Dr. Field received $2.77 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology as part of the Professional University Resources and Education for Health Information Technology (PURE-HIT) consortium project. She led a team of faculty and staff in the development and delivery of three post-baccalaureate professional education programs in health informatics and health IT that were delivered over a three year period. One of these programs, an innovative nine-week post-baccalaureate program leading to a certificate in Health Informatics and Health IT, continues as a sustainable professional education program http://utw10273.utweb.utexas.edu/wp/ . Since July 2010, 655 students have graduated from this program, and 96% of graduates seeking Health IT jobs have secured positions with 84 organizations nationwide. With generous support from health IT industry part-ners and healthcare organizations, Dr. Field created a unique Health Informatics and Health IT Learning Center on campus that includes a classroom, a clinic that models the healthcare continuum of care (including a “smart” hospital room). She received a grant from the university’s Longhorn Innovation Fund for Technology in 2011 to create a one-of-a kind health information exchange (HIE) laboratory which provides students with opportunities to experience interoperability first-hand as they transfer simulated medi-cal records through an HIE between two virtual physician practices. In the rich techno-logical environment of the Learning Center, students have opportunities to gain hands-on experience with multiple EHR and HIE software systems, carry out workflow process redesign, learn HL-7 message creation, and use Microsoft SQL and Access to perform data analytics exercises in a mock accountable care organization (ACO).

Most recently, Dr. Field partnered with CDC’s Public Health Informatics (PHI) Fellowship Program to carry out a first-in-the-nation pilot of their new I-Scale initiative, designed to increase the public health informatics workforce and to meet informatics needs at state and local health departments. Three graduates of the Health Informatics and Health IT Professional Education Program solved a short term public health informatics problem at the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department using the same “In-fo Aid” methodology utilized by PHI fellows. Students were taught by a public health scientist at the CDC to utilize a standardized approach to solve real-world, real-time problems associated with data collection, integration, translation, analysis, visualization, and the use of data for decision making during public health emergencies. CDC will now scale up this innovative program to include nine other academic institutions in the nation. Along with UT Austin, these universities will teach students to solve public health informatics problems using this approach to help increase the PHI Fellowship Program’s surge capacity to respond to routine information needs and urgent public health threats. The three UT Austin graduates who successfully piloted this program are now become part of the PHI Fellowship Program’s “informatics corps” and they may be called on in the future to respond during public health emergencies.

Dr. Field and the health informatics and health IT team at UT Austin plan to continue to be national leaders in the development of innovative educational programming in health informatics, public health informatics and health IT to meet workforce demands in Texas and the Nation.



Mr. Robert Ligon, M.A. [Faculty]

Robert is currently a lecturer in Health Informatics at UT Austin. Before joining the faculty at UT Austin, he was the Director of Health Information Technology at TMF Health Quality Institute, the Quality Improvement Organization (QIO) for Texas. He was part of the core team that developed the Regional Extension Centers proposals for Texas and oversaw a team of consultants who provided technical assistance to over 300 physician practices adopting EHRs. Prior to his work with the QIO, Mr. Ligon served as the CIO for one of the largest cardiovascular practices in the country where he also taught an introductory course in biostatistics at Southern Illinois Medical School. He also served for 10 years as the Director of Cardiovascular Clinical Research and Informatics at a large Midwestern hospital facility. Mr. Ligon holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Houston and a Master’s in Psychology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He also holds a degree in Advanced Respiratory Care. He holds a PMP certification from the Project Management Institute and a CPHIMS certification from the Health Information Management Systems Society. Mr. Ligon has authored or co-authored over 60 articles for peer review journals. His areas of specialization are workflow and process redesign, project management and quality improvement as well as EHR selection, implementation and optimization.



Dr. Rick Nauert, Ph.D., MHA, MHF, PT [Faculty]

Rick has over 35 years of experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He began his career as a clinical physical therapist working for 5 years in a variety of clinical settings before advancing into management. He then served as Administrator and ultimately Regional Manager for 15 years for a multidisciplinary rehabilitative agency. Afterwards, he work as an operational consultant to several major health systems, health plans and home health agencies before moving into academia. Nauert has a graduate degree in health promotion, a graduate degree in healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin. His doctorate field was a multidisciplinary study of information science focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research includes health promotion, online disease management, telemedicine, telehealth, and use of electronic health records. Nauert was an Associate Professor in the School of Health Administration at Texas State University before joining the University of Texas – Austin. He teaches Operational Aspects of Health Care (aka The Business of Medicine) in the Health Informatics and Health IT Professional Education Program and Social Determinants of Health, and Health Policy for undergraduate Public Health majors. Nauert is married, he and his wife have 4 children in college and another who is an Occupational Therapist. Nauert’s hobbies include exercise, gardening, hunting and fishing, reading and working on his ranch.



Mr. Michael A Field, PMP, MSSTC, P.E. [Staff]

Michael is a certified Project Management Professional and a registered Professional Engineer. Mike joined the UT-Austin Health Informatics and Health IT program in 2010 following a 30+ year career in the computer industry. His primary responsibility has been the creation of the Health Information Exchange laboratory and implementation of other interfaces between Health IT products used in the Health Informatics and Health IT Professional Education Program. He has a Master’s degree in Science and Technology Commercialization and a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering.Fun fact: Mike painted a 36×30 inch copy (original size) of van Gogh’s Starry Night for his daughter, Grace, for Christmas 2013.



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