Texas Tech University

Three Faculty Members Chosen as YWCA's 2019 Women of Excellence

Glenys Young

February 21, 2019

Annette Sobel, Lisa Gittner and Rebecca Geist will receive awards in the Government, Science and Medicine categories, respectively.

Three joint faculty members of Texas Tech University and the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) are recipients of the 2019 Women of Excellence Awards, the annual honors presented to notable community members by the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) of Lubbock.

Former Maj. Gen. Dr. Annette Sobel, an associate professor in the TTUHSC Department of Medical Education and an adjunct professor in the TTUHSC School of Nursing and Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, as well as the Texas Tech Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Lisa Gittner, an associate professor in both the TTUHSC Julia Jones Matthews Department of Public Health and the Texas Tech Department of Political Science; and Rebecca Geist, a faith community nurse and assistant professor for the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs in the TTUHSC School of Nursing and a guest lecturer for the Texas Tech Honors College, will be three of 10 women honored by the YWCA for their career success and contributions to the community.

The Women of Excellence Awards are presented each year to recognize and honor women in the community who have achieved career excellence and contributed to business, industry, organizations and the community. Created in 1989, the awards have recognized 264 women. The 31st YWCA Women of Excellence Celebration & Dinner is scheduled for 6 p.m. March 19 at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center.

"Congratulations to Dr. Sobel, Dr. Gittner and Dr. Geist on this most deserving recognition from the YWCA," said Lawrence Schovanec, Texas Tech president. "Each is widely respected in their disciplines and across both the Texas Tech and TTUHSC campuses. We are proud of their achievements and representation of Texas Tech University."


Geist, the recipient of the Women of Excellence Award for Medicine, holds a bachelor's degree from Angelo State University and master's degree from Lubbock Christian University, both in nursing. She is currently pursuing her doctorate in nursing practice at TTUHSC and will graduate in December.


Before joining the faculty at TTUHSC in 2012, she practiced as a hospital nurse serving in roles of charge nurse and nurse manager in specialty areas for over 19 years and as a school nurse with the Lubbock Independent School District from 2005 to 2012. During her time at TTUHSC, she has also served as a guest lecturer for the Texas Tech Honors College, which has several programs dedicated to helping students interested in a future in the medical field.

Geist serves on the School Health Advisory Committee for Lubbock ISD, focusing on the improvement for children's health and the value of health promotion with decision makers in the public school system. She is on the board for Vitalant, formerly United Blood Services, and is a member of the Llano Lions Club, an organization whose charter mission is to support health initiatives in Lubbock. She previously served on the board for Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Southwest. She is noted for her work in the community with nursing students, focusing on human sex trafficking.

"To be considered as a Woman of Excellence with such outstanding women who are significantly impacting their respective professions and our community is truly humbling," Geist said. "I am so honored for this recognition and thank everyone who has mentored and supported me."


Gittner, the recipient of the Women of Excellence Award for Science, holds bachelor's and master's degrees in biochemistry/toxicology from Wright State University and a doctorate in health policy, public administration and urban studies from the University of Akron. Gittner completed post-doctoral work at Case Western Reserve University as a program director for a National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities grant studying mechanisms to activate medically and socially disenfranchised patients to advocate for their own health.


She is an associate member of the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women's Health within TTUHSC and a member of The American Society of Public Administrators and The American Public Health Association. Gittner is an expert on peer social support to improve health outcomes. Her research focuses on the management of life-course disease risk through networks. She currently is working on a collaboration with the Lubbock County Detention Center, funded by a U.S. Department of Justice grant, to analyze trends in and reduce incarceration of individuals with serious mental illness. She also has received a National Science Foundation grant to refine risk algorithms for the prediction of population chronic disease risk and to determine the most viable intervention points.

Gittner's prior research was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Garfield Foundation, Eastbay Foundation and Komen Foundation. She has published 37 peer-reviewed articles and a chapter on "Nutrition in Infancy and Childhood" in the "Encyclopedia of Nursing Research, Fourth Edition." Previously, Gittner was director of research for Kaiser Permanente and director of novel dose development for Watson Pharmaceutical Company, Inc.

"I am shocked and humbled because, without my knowledge, my former students submitted me for this award," Gittner said. "I read the nomination package and was stunned; I did not realize the kind of impact I have on my students. I switched careers, mid-life, because I wanted to give back to the next generation. I was not sure if it was the right thing to do, but this re-affirms that I made the correct decision."


Sobel, the recipient of the Women of Excellence Award for Government, is a former major general in the Arizona Air National Guard and served as the Executive for Critical Infrastructure Protection and Health Security Initiatives at Texas Tech. She is residency-trained in family and community medicine and aerospace medicine, and is a hyperbaric medicine specialist, certified by the U.S. Navy.


As a physician-human factors engineer trained at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, she has collaborated on a number of human factors interprofessional challenges. Trained as an Army, Air Force and NASA flight surgeon, she worked at Sandia National Laboratories, was promoted to distinguished member of the technical staff and is a guest scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Biosciences Division. While at the University of Missouri, she served on a team of engineers to critically evaluate the first prototype of the Cerner electronic health record.

As a senior adviser to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and senior adviser for biosecurity engagement in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense/Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Defense Program, Sobel evaluated many research and development projects in the field of human factors engineering. In addition, she served as chair of the Permanent Monitoring Panel for mitigation of acts of terrorism of the World Federation of Scientists and served on the Defense Intelligence Agency's Science Advisory Board for a decade.

Sobel served as the first director of intelligence for the National Guard Bureau immediately after 9/11 and during the Hurricane Katrina response. She developed the first Information Fusion Center for the National Guard and State Emergency Management Centers nationwide. As the first woman deputy secretary for public safety and homeland security director for the State of New Mexico, she tested and evaluated many of these concepts for health and border security and disease surveillance in civilian and military environments globally. She was an Army astronaut candidate in 1989.

She served in combat in Operation Just Cause and supported Space Shuttle Operations at NASA-Dryden Test Flight Facility during Operation Desert Storm. While senior flight surgeon for the 57th MEDEVAC Detachment, Fort Bragg, N.C., Sobel was responsible for all pre-hospital medical care and training. She also served as the assistant to the chief, National Guard Bureau, as well as the chief's adviser for civil-military support during 9/11.

Sobel received the Anti-Defamation League's Distinguished Public Service Award, as well as a NATO award for career service devoted to understanding the science of weapons of mass destruction. She received the 1993 Julian Ward Award from Secretary of the USAF and Society of USAF Flight Surgeons for Aerospace Medicine Researcher of the year.

She has served on the National Board of Directors of the Girl Scouts of the USA, is a board member of the South Plains Council of BSA and Women's Protective Service, Lubbock region. Sobel was the president of West Texas Komen. She is currently president of the Aerospace Human Factors Association and sits on the Board of the Baylor College of Medicine's Translational Institute for Space Health. Sobel was the faculty mentor for the Texas Tech undergraduate Genetically Engineered Machine Team, winning Bronze and Silver international team awards. She also serves on the Texas Tech Military and Veterans Alumni Founding Board of Directors.

"I am humbled by this honor and will continue as a public servant through activities to support veterans and battered women throughout our community," Sobel said.