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Burgess, Smith share successes of Asthma Education Program

A school-based asthma education program was launched in DeKalb County in September by the College of Community Health Sciences. The program is being conducted via telemedicine by Dr. Karen Burgess, associate professor and chair of the Department of Pediatrics, and Beth Smith, a nurse practitioner in the Faculty-Staff Clinic at University Medical Center. The two presented on the successes and challenges of the program at the College’s February Academic Conference.

Once a week, for four weeks, a group of students at the Ruhama Junior High School in Fort Payne, along with their parents and school staff and administrators, learn about asthma symptoms, medications and treatments. After a group has completed four sessions, another group participates.

The school was chosen because of its high rate of documented asthma cases, and Burgess and Smith referred to the National Asthma Prevention Program and the Alabama Department of Public Health’s asthma coalition when forming the curriculum.

The first two groups consisted of seven or eight students, parents, and a few staff or administrators from the school. The third group was made up of teachers and school staff. Altogether, 44 learners have been reached by the program.

“It was our goal to reach some parents of children and school staff, so we could kill two birds with one stone,” Burgess said.

The asthma education program is being funded with a $25,000 gift from BlueCross Blue Shield of Alabama.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 137,091 children in Alabama had asthma in 2007, a prevalence rate of 12.3 percent, which compares to the US rate of 9 percent.

So far, about one-third of the gift has been used, and 15 asthma spacers (add-on devices for inhalers that allow for easier and more effective administration of medication) were provided for students. Burgess said parents have also reported improved symptoms of their children.

Burgess said she and Smith found the informal classroom setting (versus a medical examination room setting) to be helpful in engaging the students, even with the occasional “awkwardness” that comes with communicating with video conferencing equipment.

“We provide asthma education every day in the clinic, and we never have had kids ask questions the way they do in the classroom,” she says.

CCHS has provided specialty health care via telemedicine across the state for a number of years, including: telepsychiatry services to the DeKalb County Youth Services; telepsychiatry services to West Alabama Mental Health Care Center, with sites in Marengo, Choctaw, Greene, Hale and Sumter counties; and diabetes education via telemedicine to a number of rural Alabama communities in Sumter, Pickens and Clarke counties.


Brussels Sprout Challenge premiers at West Alabama Heart Walk

A Brussels Sprout Challenge was a highlight of the American Heart Association’s West Alabama Heart Walk held on February 14 at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater. The University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences partnered with Manna Grocery and Deli to roast and serve more than 800 Brussels sprouts during the walk.

The idea originated with Richard Streiffer, MD, dean of the College, as a counter to the Krispy Kreme Challenge – a two-mile race that requires participants to eat a dozen donuts at the mid-point of the race. Streiffer wanted to offer a similar challenge but also promote healthy eating and healthy lifestyles while complementing the American Heart Association’s goal of building healthier lives, free of heart disease and stroke.

To complete the Brussels Sprout Challenge, participants ate four Brussels sprouts during the walk – one at each mile and one at the finish line. Participants who completed the challenge were awarded a t-shirt highlighting the health benefits of the Brussels sprout, which include heart health, cancer protection and cholesterol lowering, among others.

“Lots of people who may have been introduced to the mighty cruciferous vegetable family are happy and healthier,” said Streiffer, who plans to host the challenge again at next year’s Heart Walk.

See more coverage of the Brussels Sprout Challenge here.

AAS Popsicle Party

UMC provides Student of the Month program at Tuscaloosa Magnet Schools

Students at Tuscaloosa Magnet School Elementary and Middle are incentivized regularly for key character traits through University Medical Center’s Student of the Month program. The program is a partnership of The University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences, which operates University Medical Center, and Tuscaloosa Magnet Schools and is part of the West Alabama Chamber of Commerce’s Adopt-a-School program. This is the seventh consecutive year of the partnership.

The Student of the Month program is based on the International Baccalaureate Attitudes and Learner Profile and rewards students who exemplify a selected characteristic each month. University Medical Center provides a certificate, a pencil and a real-fruit Popsicle to each student at a monthly social.

“The Student of the Month program is a great way for University Medical Center to encourage the students to be lifelong learners and to reward them for intercultural understanding and respect,” says Amy Saxby, marketing and events coordinator at the College and coordinator for the partnership. “We also love the opportunity to encourage healthy eating by offering real-fruit popsicles instead of ice cream.”

In addition to the Student of the Month program, the College also supports the Magnet School by leading a nutrition club for middle school students, by teaching a 10-week course to elementary students on the human body and the job of a doctor and by supporting various school events throughout the year.

Mission Moment: Boxmeyer receives UA Faculty Research Award

130124_JH_Caroline_BoxmeyerDr. Caroline Boxmeyer, associate professor in the College’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, has been selected as the 2015 recipient of The University of Alabama President’s Faculty Research Award for the College of Community Health Sciences. These awards recognize select UA faculty whose research and/or scholarship represents excellence in their field.

Boxmeyer is currently conducting several federally-funded research studies. These include: a project funded by the Administration of Children and Families to test a social-emotional intervention in Head Start preschools to improve children’s school readiness and family well-being; two projects funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, one to develop and test the Mindful Coping Power program for elementary students and their parents, and another to develop and test an internet-delivered version of the Coping Power program; and

a project funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to study the short- and long-term effects of tornado exposure on children and families in Tuscaloosa.

With pilot funding from the College and the University’s Division of Community Affairs, Boxmeyer is also collaborating with the Druid City Garden Project to examine the effects of its school garden curriculum on children’s plant knowledge, food choices, physical health, and academic learning and engagement.

“The expansion and enhancement of scholarship within the College, including collaborative efforts with other UA faculty, is one of the four strategic priorities of the College, based upon our 2013 Strategic Plan,” says Dr. Richard Streiffer, dean of the College. “As a result, we’re starting to see more projects from our students and residents, many of them in partnership with our faculty. Dr. Boxmeyer’s skill and experience as a researcher serves as a wonderful model for others starting out along this path.”

Recipients of this award from colleges across the University will be recognized at Faculty Research Day on April 8, 2015.


Leeper honored for leadership by American Public Health Association

Dr. Jim Leeper, a professor in Community and Rural Medicine at the College of Community Health Sciences, was honored by the American Public Health Association Intersectional Council at the 142nd annual meeting of the APHA in New Orleans in November. He is past chair of the council and has served in leadership roles on its steering committee for the past four years.

The Intersectional Council (ISC) presented Leeper with its Making the Difference award, thanking him for outstanding contributions toward its goals and recognizing him for his dedication and commitment.

The ISC brings together representatives of the 31 sections of APHA, which serve as the primary professional units of the APHA and represent major public health disciplines or public health programs. The council serves as the collective voice of the sections, officially interacting with the Governing Council, Executive Committee and professional staff of the 25,000-member APHA, which works to improve population health by placing an emphasis on prevention, advocacy and public education.

Leeper has been a member of the APHA since 1977 and has been especially active in the Statistics Section, serving as section chair, program planning chair, governing councilor and section councilor. He has also served as secretary and newsletter editor for the Statistics Section.

In addition to serving on and chairing the Steering Committee of the ISC, Leeper has taken on other leadership roles at the association level as a member of the Executive Board, Science Board, Education Board, Continuing Education Committee, Program Development Board, Joint Policy Committee and liaison to the Taskforce on Community Preventive Services. He is currently chair of the APHA Membership Committee.

Fall 2014 scholarship recipients announced


Daniel Seale


Arnelya Cade


Jacob Guin

Three medical students who are receiving their clinical training at the College of Community Health Sciences were awarded tuition scholarships last fall. Daniel Seale, in his third-year of medical school, received the Frank Fitts, Jr., Endowed Scholarship; Arnelya Cade, a fourth-year student, received the Dr. Sandral Hullett Endowed Scholarship; and Jacob Guin, a first-year student, received the Alfa Rural Medical Scholars Endowed Loan.

All three students are a part of the College’s Rural Medical Scholars Program, a selective five-year medical education program with a mission of producing physicians for rural Alabama who are leaders in developing healthy communities.

“These three Rural Medical Scholars are great examples of the kind of rural student we seek in this program, who are committed to returning to rural Alabama to provide health care,” said Dr. John Brandon, medical director of the Rural Medical Scholars Program. “The faculty, staff and student peers of the program would like to congratulate these students, and we especially thank the respective donors who honor all medical students at the College with their ongoing support.”

Cynthia Ford (Fitts) Thomas established the Frank Fitts, Jr., Endowed Scholarship to show her support of the University and meet the financial needs of medical students who bear a high-debt load. This $5,000 annual scholarship honors her late husband, Frank Fitts, Jr., great grandson of J.H. Fitts, who established the first endowed scholarship at The University of Alabama in 1903.

The Dr. Sandral Hullett Endowed Scholarship, a $1,000 annual scholarship, was established in 1991 to promote the education of minority medical students. The scholarship honors Dr. Sandral Hullett, who, after graduating from the College’s family medicine residency in 1979, moved to Eutaw, Ala., to practice medicine and become director of West Alabama Health Services. In 2001, Hullett moved to Cooper Green Hospital where she became the chief executive officer before retiring in 2013.

The Alfa Rural Medical Scholars Endowed Loan, a full-tuition loan, is given to an outstanding Rural Medical Scholar each year to further encourage practice in rural Alabama. The interest-free loan will be fully forgiven if the recipient practices medicine in a rural setting for at least five years after residency.

In its role as a regional campus to the University of Alabama School of Medicine, the College provides clinical training to a cohort of third- and fourth-year medical students. The students spend the first two years of medical education in Birmingham.

Chief residents announced

Three chief residents of The University of Alabama Family Medicine Residency were named this month: Drs. Katie Gates, Tim Eckford and Bhavika Patel. All three physicians are in their second year of residency.

The University of Alabama Family Medicine Residency is a three-year post-graduate medical education program of the College of Community Health Sciences that leads to board certification in Family Medicine.

“Drs. Gates, Eckford and Patel are very dedicated and professional individuals,” said Dr. Ricky Friend, residency director. “I am confident that they will be excellent chief residents. They are very deserving of this honor.”

Gates is a graduate of the University of Alabama School of Medicine in Birmingham. She completed her clinical training at the College before entering the residency program. Gates plans to work in an outpatient clinic upon graduating from residency and is also considering the College’s sports medicine fellowship.

A graduate of Saba University in the Caribbean, Eckford hopes to practice medicine all over the world upon graduating from the residency.

Patel graduated from Kasturba Medical College at Manipal University in India. After residency, she plans to get her Master’s of Public Health degree and practice rural and community medicine.

The three chief residents replace Drs. Sarah Mauthe, Kelly Shoemake and Hunter Russell.


Dr. Katie Gates


Dr. Tim Eckford


Dr. Bhavika Patel


Students elected to membership in honor medical society

Four University of Alabama School of Medicine students who are receiving their clinical education at the College of Community Health Sciences were elected members of the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society. The students, all in their third-year of medical school, are Joshua Gautney, John Killian, Margaret Marks and Bud Sauer.

Alpha Om­­ega Alpha is a professional medical organization that recognizes excellence in scholarship as well as outstanding commitment and dedication to caring for others. The top 25 percent of a medical school class is eligible for nomination to the honor society, and up to 16 percent may be elected.

“Only a select group of medical students are elected to membership in Alpha Omega Alpha and only a few are elected as juniors,” says Brook Hubner, director of medical education at the College. “We are proud that of the six UASOM students elected to the society as juniors, four came from our campus.”

About 3,000 students, alumni and faculty are elected to Alpha Omega Alpha each year. The society has 120 chapters in medical schools throughout the United States and has elected more than 150,000 members since its founding in 1902.

In its role as a regional campus of the University of Alabama School of Medicine, the College provides clinical education to a subset of third- and fourth-year medical students. The students complete the first two years of basic science courses at the School of Medicine’s main campus in Birmingham, and then complete clinical rotations on the Tuscaloosa campus in the departments of Family Medicine, Pediatrics, Internal Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Neurology, Psychiatry and Surgery.

Josh Gautney

Josh Gautney

John Killian

John Killian

Margaret Marks

Margaret Marks

Bud Sauer

Bud Sauer

“A Sense of Place” art exhibit on display at UMC

The Wellness Walls for Art program at University Medical Center is opening the 2015 year with an exhibit that features 17 artists and is entitled “A Sense of Place.”

“A Sense of Place” brings together work that is evocative of an observed, remembered or imagined scene. The show primarily represents the work of The Tuscaloosa and University Painters and many are executed in the plein air tradition, painting outside on location. Meridian, Miss., based artist Cooper French has been invited as a special guest artist.

Other artists represented are Sue Blackshear, Elizabeth Hagwood, Matt Daugherty, Chris Metzger, Karen Jacobs, Diana Francko, Emily Mitchell, Anne Stickney, Lorie Layden, Jack Kidd, Jane Evers, Sandra Ray, Pamela Copeland, Lisa Godwin, Sharon Long and Deborah Hughes.

In 2013, local artist Deborah Hughes began coordinating the hanging of the art at the center, and in January 2014, she became the official curator of the program called Wellness Walls for Art. Last year’s shows included: “A Brush With Art,” paintings by The Tuscaloosa and University Painters; “The Many Faces of Art in Adult Continuing Education;” “About People;” and “Quilting and Carving,” featuring the prints of Isadora Bullock and quilts by the West Alabama Quilters Guild.

University Medical Center, the largest multi-specialty clinic in West Alabama, is operated by The University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences.

The public is invited to an artists’ reception Friday, January 16, from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm at University Medical Center located at 850 5th Avenue East in Tuscaloosa. For information, contact Deborah Hughes at (205) 310-5939.Place compFF


Reid talks about global, U.S. health care in talk to Tuscaloosa community

Nearly all of the world’s advanced industrialized countries provide health care to all of their citizens, achieve better health outcomes and spend less, according to TR Reid, a well-known journalist, author and documentary filmmaker.

The lone exception: the United States.

“Approximately 40 million people nationwide, or about 20 percent or 1 million people in Alabama, don’t have health insurance,” Reid said during a talk to the Tuscaloosa community Nov. 13 at Tuscaloosa River Market. “Every day somebody in America dies because they don’t have insurance and can’t get care. We could do better.”

Reid’s talk, “Better Health, Lower Costs: One Man’s Global Quest to Fix a Bum Shoulder,” was hosted by UA’s College of Community Health Sciences, College of Communication and Information Sciences and Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration. The presentation was based, in part, on Reid’s New York Times bestseller, The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care, which documented his travel to various countries to learn about their health-care systems – and to try and “fix my bum shoulder.” In addition to books, Reid writes for the Washington Post newspaper, is a commentator on NPR’s Morning Edition and makes documentaries for PBS’s Frontline.

During his community talk, Reid outlined health-care models used by different countries, starting with England. The country believes keeping people healthy is the responsibility of government, much like providing for trash pickup and funding libraries, he said. While Reid acknowledged that people in England pay taxes to fund the country’s socialized system of medicine (their sales tax is 20 percent) “since no one pays insurance premiums, deductibles or co-pays, they still pay half of what we do for health care.”

The German model has its roots in efforts to bring citizens together as a single country using the provision of social services, including “the most radical idea, that this new nation should provide health care for everyone,” Reid said. Today, there are 220 insurance companies operating in Germany, all hospitals are private and citizens split the cost of their insurance premiums with their employers. But there is some government control with regard to cost of health services and when physicians must be paid. “This is a private system with some government control,” Reid said.

A marriage of the England and German models can be found in the Canadian approach – government payment of private providers, similar to the US Medicare program, which provides health care for older citizens. In fact, the United States used the Canadian model when setting up its own Medicare program, even borrowing the name.

Finally, Reid touched on the model used by many of the world’s underdeveloped countries. He called it the Out-of-Pocket Model: “If you have no money, you don’t see a doctor and you don’t get care.”

All four models are in use in the United States, Reid said. Care provided by the Veteran’s Administration mirrors England’s socialized system of medicine. Many US citizens are similar to those in Germany, who share the cost of insurance premiums with their employers, while older US citizens are similar to those in Canada, who receive their care through Medicare programs. “And if you’re the 40 million Americans without insurance, you’re in the Out-of-Pocket Model,” Reid said.

“I learned that every country’s health system reflects its values,” Reid said. “If you make that commitment (to cover everyone), you can create the system. In the United States, we haven’t done that. I don’t think we’ve ever had that conversation.”

He continued: “If we could find the political will to provide health coverage for everyone, the other rich countries can show us the way.”