College of Community Health Sciences

Improving Health in Your Community


Master’s in Population Health Degree

Connect health care and research with a CCHS online master’s degree in population health sciences. Alabamians applying by June 15 may receive an application fee waiver.

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Tuscaloosa Family Medicine Residency Program

One of seven family medicine physicians practicing in Alabama graduated from our residency – one of the oldest and largest family medicine residencies in the US.

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Dr. Richard Friend

Dr. Richard Friend

A Message from the Dean

We are dedicated to improving and promoting the health of individuals and communities in rural Alabama.

These words begin our mission statement, and they describe the very reason the College of Community Health Sciences was founded five decades ago. They continue to be our beacon.

Rural communities in our state face myriad of challenges. Many are burdened with high rates of poverty and few financial resources. Their populations are older and sicker. Their hospitals have reduced services or have closed. There is often a lack of access to basic care because health-care professionals tend to practice in urban areas, citing the isolation of rural communities and the resulting lack of peer support and exposure to specialist practice.

Nearly 25% of Alabama’s population lived in rural areas as of 2019. That’s more than a million people. But only 12% of the state’s primary care physicians practice in rural Alabama.

Primary care is important, and our focus at CCHS, because it serves as a first entry point into the healthcare system, which can be particularly important for rural residents who might otherwise not have access to care. Primary care provides diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic illnesses, health promotion and maintenance, disease prevention, counseling and patient education.

We believe strongly in our mission to increase the availability of health care, and particularly primary health care in rural Alabama. In recent years, we have accelerated these efforts.

Though slowed a bit by the COVID-19 pandemic, we have nonetheless spent the past handful of years increasing the footprint of our medical practice, University Medical Center, in rural West Alabama. The services we provide are what the communities need most.

After the only ob-gyn practicing in Demopolis retired in 2017, we opened UMC-Demopolis to provide prenatal, obstetrics and family medicine care. We followed with the opening of UMC-Fayette in 2021, providing prenatal and obstetrics care, and now gynecology, to a community suffering from high rates of infant mortality.

Also in 2021, with Carrollton in rural Pickens County reeling from the 2020 loss of its hospital, Pickens County Medical Center, we opened UMC Carrollton to provide family medicine, prenatal, obstetrics and sports medicine care to the community.

We established UMC-Livingston in 2022 to bring family medicine care to the city, which includes the University of West Alabama, as well as to surrounding communities. In late 2022, we relocated and expanded UMC-Northport, allowing for the delivery of multi-specialty care at that clinic. While Northport isn’t necessarily rural, the new location of the clinic and its proximity to Pickens County provides county residents with another place to access health care.

As we have opened new UMC clinics in rural communities, we have done so with the goal of ensuring their presence can be sustained. I believe we have developed a business model that will enable us to do just that.

In another effort to broaden access to care, UMC entered into a partnership with the Boston-based Ceras Health in 2022 to provide remote digital patient monitoring for patients 65 and older and those with limited health-care access. Using leading-edge patient digital devices, which monitor vital signs and other health factors to provide access to patient health data in real-time, UMC is helping patients manage diabetes, high blood pressure and other chronic conditions.

We continue to grow our Capstone Hospitalist Group, whose physicians care for patients at DCH Regional Medical Center in Tuscaloosa and Northport Medical Center. To better serve female students at UA, we expanded the Student Health Center and Pharmacy to include a women’s health pavilion and increased the gynecologic and other women’s health services provided there.

On the education front, our Primary Care Track, a medical education track created to address the shortage of primary care physicians in rural Alabama, graduated its first class of medical students. Also in 2022, we launched the Tuscaloosa Rural Pre-Medical Internship to interest and prepare pre-medical students for rural health care.

The College also marked an important milestone in 2022, our 50th anniversary. As we reflect on those five decades, we can point to successes in meeting our mission. Our Tuscaloosa Family Medicine Residency has graduated 557 physicians, the majority of whom practice in Alabama – in 47 of the state’s 67 counties. Our rural medical education tracks have helped place 85 physicians in rural Alabama communities since 1996. These are only a few examples. We have a good story to tell.