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Mission Moment: Using telemedicine to provide asthma education

The College of Community Health Sciences launched a school-based asthma education program in DeKalb County in September.

Seven elementary students at the Ruhama Junior High School in Fort Payne, Ala., which serves students in Kindergarten through the eighth grade, participated in the first session of the program on Sept. 18. Also participating were five parents, two school nurses and the school principal.

The education program was conducted from CCHS 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, which the College operates.

This first group of participants will attend three more session, on consecutive Thursdays, from 1 pm to 1:30 pm. Then, a new group will participate, also on four consecutive Thursdays.

The asthma education program is being funded with a $25,000 gift from BlueCross BlueShield 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 U.S. rate of 9 percent.

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.

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Research roundup: An intervention program for childhood obesity

Faculty from The University of Alabama and community members from Alabama’s Black Belt region have been awarded $45,000 to support a childhood obesity prevent plan through Project UNITED’s Intervention Pilot Program. The project will run through June 2015.

UA faculty members on the project are Harriet Myers, PhD, associate professor and clinical psychologist in the College; Linda Knol, PhD, associate professor in the department of Human Nutrition and Hospitality Management in the College of Human Environmental Sciences; and Shelia Black, PhD, an associate professor of Psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Community members are Debra Clark, founder of the Health and Wellness Educational Center in Livingston; Darlene Robinson, a community health advocate in Eutaw; and Yawah Awolowa, founder of Mahalah Farm in Cuba, Ala.

The project will focus on the home environment of children between the ages of 2 and 5 living in Greene and Sumter counties.

According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one-fourth of all children in these counties are obese. The study first will use questionnaires to better understand the many aspects of the home environment as it relates to eating behaviors.

With this information and previous intervention research as a guide, the research team will develop and implement a home-based, multi-generational program intended to teach eating mindfulness to children and their caretakers.

The funding has been awarded through Project UNITED (Using New Interventions Together to Eliminate Disparities), a program that was developed by UA faculty and staff in partnership with the Black Belt Community Foundation to promote community-based participatory research to reduce and eliminate health disparities in Alabama’s Black Belt, an impoverished region originally named for its dark, rich soil.

Project UNITED is supported by a planning grant from the Community Based Participatory Research Program of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.

Research roundup: Mindful intervention

130124_JH_Caroline_BoxmeyerExamining the integration of mindfulness and yoga practice into the existing Coping Power preventive intervention for at-risk children and their families is the focus of a $700,000 grant awarded to Caroline Boxmeyer, PhD, an associate professor in the College’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine.

Boxmeyer, a clinical psychologist, is the grant’s principal investigator, along with Shari Miller-Johnson, PhD, a child clinical and research psychologist at Duke University.

The grant’s co-PIs are John Lochman, PhD, professor and Saxon Chair of Clinical Psychology at UA and director of the University’s Center for the Prevention of Youth Behavior Problems, and Nicole Powell, PhD, a research psychologist at the center. Boxmeyer is also a research psychologist at the center.

The researchers anticipate that their study will show that integrating mindfulness and yoga practices with the Coping Power program will reduce children’s emotional impulsivity, increase parental warmth and mindful parenting, and prevent possible later substance abuse and negative developmental outcomes. Boxmeyer and Miller-Johnson will test the effectiveness of yoga and mindfulness techniques with at-risk youth from 100 families and four schools.

“We think we can enhance the Coping Power program’s effects on emotion regulation by incorporating these strategies, which have been proven to enhance self-regulation,” Boxmeyer says. “As a practicing clinician, I’ve seen the benefits of mindfulness, which is a way of focusing your attention on the present moment, noticing how your body is feeling and what is on your mind, and practicing awareness and acceptance of those thoughts and feelings rather than judging them. We’ll work on building that practice with children.”

The research project began in September and will continue through August 2017. It is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The Coping Power program is a preventive intervention delivered to at-risk children in late elementary school and early middle school years and addresses key factors, including social competence, self-regulation and positive parental involvement.

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Skinner, Elsayed join Family Medicine Department

Dr. Catherine Skinner, who has practiced as a family physician in Pickens County for the past 10 years, and Dr. Tamer Elsayed have joined the College’s Department of Family Medicine as assistant professors.

Skinner worked at Pickens County Medical Center and Carrollton Primary care before joining the College. She was also a member of the Pickens County Medical Center’s Hospital Board and its Medical Staff Executive Committee.

Since 2005, Skinner has served as a community professor for the College’s Department of Family Medicine, a volunteer preceptor for the College’s medical students and residents and as an assistant affiliate professor for the College’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

She completed an obstetrics fellowship at Austin Medical Education Program in Texas. She did her residency training at the College’s Family Medicine Residency. Skinner received her medical degree from the University of Alabama School of Medicine, and graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in biology from The University of Alabama School of Medicine.

Skinner is a fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians and a member of the Alabama Academy of Family Physicians and the Medical Association of the State of Alabama.

She has received numerous awards from the University of Alabama School of Medicine, including Excellence and Dedication in Teaching, Outstanding Services in Obstetrics and Gynecology and Outstanding Research Award.

Dr. Tamer Elsayed will see patients in University Medical Center’s Family Medicine Clinic in addition to participating in the clinical education of medical students and residents.

The College operates University Medical Center.

Elsayed completed his residency training at the College’s Family Medicine Residency, where he received the outstanding research award for an influenza vaccine acceptance study.

He earned a Master’s Degree of Internal Medicine and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Medicine from the Medical School, Cairo University, Egypt, where he graduated with honors. He also received an Award of Excellence from the Kuwait Ministry of Health.

Elsayed is a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Medical Association.

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Pickens County Health Scholars welcomed

A new class of the College’s Pickens County Health Scholars program gathered in Carrollton, Ala., at the Pickens Baptist Association for a welcome dinner on October 27. The 20 students, all in the 10th and 11th grades, were joined by parents, teachers, county leaders, and staff and students from the College’s Rural Medical Scholars Program, a five-year medical education program for rural students planning to enter medical school.

The Pickens County Health Scholars were chosen this fall through an application and selection process. They received laptop computers and ACT prep exercises to help them prepare for college entrance exams.

The dinner was organized by the program’s local coordinator, Patti Presley-Fuller of the Pickens County Extension Office, and Melissa Cox, outreach programs coordinator at the College and director of the Pickens County Health Scholars program.

The program is supported by a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission to help meet the ongoing need for rural health care providers in Pickens County and surrounding counties in West Alabama and the Black Belt region.

“Recruiting local students into health careers is critical in attracting a stable and continuous supply of health professionals into this region’s health care workforce,” Cox says.

One day each month, the Pickens County Health Scholars will participate in a health-related activity or field trip to help prepare for college and future health careers.

The Scholars were chosen by a local committee with consideration given to grades, extracurricular involvement, community service and a written application. The applicants were also interviewed by the committee.

The 2014-15 Pickens County Health Scholars are:

10th Grade

Ashley Birmingham, Pickens Academy

Carol Bozeman, Gordo High School

Victoria Dee, Pickens Academy

Amber Driver, Pickens County High School

Reagan Gibson, Pickens Academy

Reagan Griffin, Gordo High School

Ashleigh McCool, Pickens Academy

Kaylee Pate, Gordo High School

Mariel Tellis, Pickens County High School

Skyler, Gordo High School

 

11th Grade

Morrisa Ball, Aliceville High School

Tanita Crowel, Aliceville High School

Riley Carpenter, Gordo High School

Karli Elmore, Gordo High School

Calandria Harris, Aliceville High School

Kayla Jones, Pickens County High School

Olivia Rector, Pickens Academy

Katelyn Shamery, Aliceville High School

Kandis Snyder, Pickens County High School

DeKendra Williams, Aliceville High School

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Ulzen honored for medical education efforts in Ghana

Dr. Thad Ulzen, professor and chair of the College’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, received the Postgraduate Training Award from the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons. He received the award in September during the 4th Annual Medical Update for Ghanaian Physicians. Ulzen was a keynote speaker at the event.

The award was given “in appreciation of your diligent and sustained effort that has enhanced the Medical Knowledge Fiesta and the practice of Medicine and Dentistry in Ghana.”

The Medical Knowledge Fiesta is an annual Continuing Medical Education (CME) event organized by the Ghana Physicians and Surgeons Foundation of North America (GPSF), a non-profit entity of physicians of Ghanaian origin in the United States and Canada that supports postgraduate medical education in Ghana. Ulzen was president of GPSF in 2008 and worked to help establish the Medical Knowledge Fiesta in Ghana to provide updates in all specialties.

The annual CME event is in its fourth year and is attended annually by approximately 300 physicians in practice in Ghana.

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T.R. Reid to visit UA

T.R. Reid, a well-known Washington Post journalist and author of the best-selling book, The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care, will give a community talk November 13 at 6:30 pm at Tuscaloosa River Market.

Reid’s talk, “Better Health, Lower Costs: One Man’s Global Quest to Fix a Bum Shoulder,” is being hosted by The University of Alabama’s College of Community Health Sciences, College of Communication and Information Sciences and Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration. The talk is free and open to the public. Continuing Medical Education will be provided, and a book signing will follow.

Reid’s 2009 New York Times best-seller, The Healing of America, which details how other industrialized countries provide health care for all of their citizens at a reasonable cost, launched him into a national role in describing ways to provide health coverage for all Americans.

“His work really gets at the underlying systems issues in our health care – the high costs and poor outcomes,” says Dr. Richard Streiffer, dean of the College of Community Health Sciences.

The College educates medical students and resident physicians and is a major provider of health care in West Alabama through University Medical Center, which it operates. Streiffer says Reid can help continue the dialogue locally about how to improve the healthcare system.

“As a College, our focus is on primary care, on partnering with communities to improve health and on helping to address the inequities and workforce shortages in rural and other underserved populations,” Streiffer says. “We want to help move Alabama along the journey toward improved health care delivery and, ultimately, improved health equity, access, status and improved overall population health.”

As a Washington Post reporter, Reid covered Congress and four presidential campaigns. He served as the newspaper’s bureau chief in Tokyo and London. He has reported from four dozen countries on five continents.

Reid is a commentator on NPR’s Morning Edition and has made documentary films for National Geographic Television, PBS and the A&E Network. His latest film, “U.S. Health Care: The Good News,” premiered on the national PBS network in 2012 and is still being broadcast by local PBS affiliates. In the film, Reid travels the United States studying communities that provide high-quality health care at far below average costs.

PBS Frontline made two documentaries following Reid as he did reporting for The Healing of America. In “Sick Around the World,” Reid visits five industrialized democracies seeking to learn how they provide high-quality health care for their populations while spending half as much on medical costs as the United States does. In “India – A Second Opinion,” he studies ancient Indian medicine.

Reid has written nine books in English and three in Japanese.

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Rural communities struggle to keep doctors

As much as he likes working in Heflin, Dr. Igor Bidikov said he has had a hard time recruiting doctors to work with him in Heflin. The doctors will come for a little while and then they leave, he said. The problem is a symptom of a statewide shortage of doctors that has hit rural areas especially hard, say representatives of the medical field.

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Faculty addresses food deserts

John Higginbotham, PhD, associate dean for research and health policy and director of the Institute for Rural Health Research at the College of Community Health Sciences, recently discussed the effects of food deserts on childhood obesity in a Crimson White article.

According to Higginbotham, children who grow up in food deserts have a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes and other health conditions associated with obesity and poor nutrition.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food deserts as areas where a significant percentage of the population lives more than a mile from the nearest source of fresh, healthy food. For many people living in a food desert, the only sources of food they have access to are gas stations and convenience stores.

“Right now our adolescents and our young children, 31 percent of them are either overweight or obese,” Higginbotham told The University of Alabama student newspaper. “If we look at the adults, that number jumps to 69 percent in our state. These children are going to have the same problems with obesity that adults are having but at a younger age. There have even been some people who have said this may be the first generation that doesn’t outlive their parents if it continues to go in this direction.”

UA was awarded a $1 million grant from the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities that is funding Project UNITED, which works to reduce childhood obesity in Alabama’s Black Belt region. Through Project UNITED, a collaborative effort of the UA Colleges of Community Health Sciences and Communication and Information Sciences, Higginbotham and other UA researchers involved in the project are working to create lasting solutions to food deserts and obesity by customizing solutions that fit each individual community.

Read the full Crimson White article here.

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Economic impact of practicing rural obstetrics

According to the research of Dan Avery, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the College of Community Health Sciences, a family physician practicing obstetrics in a rural community adds a nearly $1.5 million annual benefit to the local economy. The research article looking at this economic impact was published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine (JABFM) earlier this month.

The project was a joint effort of several UA researchers, including: Dwight Hooper, MD, , a professor, and John McDonald, MD, an assistant professor, both in the College’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology; Melanie Tucker, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine and director of clinical investigations for the College; Jason Parton, PhD, an assistant research professor of statistics in the Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration’s Department of Information Systems, Statistics and Management Science; and Michael Love, MD, a 2014 graduate of the University of Alabama School of Medicine.

According to the article, obstetric care affects the economic development and sustainability of rural communities. The availability of maternity care affects young people moving to the community, local businesses and other medical and hospital services.

“When maternity care is lost in a community, negative effects occur on many levels,” Avery says.

The University of Alabama Family Medicine Obstetrics Fellowship was founded in 1986 by the College to help bring obstetrical care to Alabama’s underserved, rural communities and is one of the oldest fellowships of its kind in the United States.

Read the full JABFM article here.