11th Annual Research and Scholarly Activity Day

November 27, 2019

Research and scholarly efforts of the College of Community Health Sciences faculty, staff, residents, medical students and graduate students were highlighted during the College’s 11th Annual Research and Scholarly Activity Day.

“The number of presentations here is the largest I have seen in my seven years at the College,” said Dr. Richard Friend, dean of the College. “Each represents a tremendous amount of work. I hope that each poster leads to a publication and eventually to a grant to continue the research.”

Forty-eight poster presentations were displayed at the November 21 event, held at CCHS. Judges were: Dr. Daniel Avery, professor emeritus in the College’s Department of Community Medicine and Population Health; Dr. Alan Blum, the Gerald Leon Wallace, MD, Endowed Chair of Family Medicine and professor in the College’s Department of Family, Internal, and Rural Medicine; Dr. Mercedes Morales-Aleman, assistant professor in the College’s Department of Community Medicine and Population Health; and Dr. Michele Montgomery, dean of research and associate professor in UA’s Capstone College of Nursing.

“As a College, we have more than doubled our research dollars since the last fiscal year,” said Dr. John C. Higginbotham, director of the College’s Institute for Rural Health Research and senior associate vice president for research and economic development for The University of Alabama. “We want to continue to promote collaborative research like what is shown here tonight.”

Winners were named in three categories

Medical Student Division

First Place Brooke Becker, Medical Student |Co-Authors: M. Morales-Aleman, PhD; Gwendolyn Ferreti , PhD for Provider Perceptions of Barriers to Reproductive Healthcare Access for Adolescent Latinas in the U.S. South

Resident Division

First Place Jessica Powell, MD | Co-Author: Catherine Skinner, MD; Drake Lavender, MD; Daniel Avery, MD; James Leeper, PhD for Obstetric Care by Family Physicians and Infant Mortality in Rural Alabama

Faculty Division

Tied for First Place Maryam Jafari Bidgoli , PhD for Short- and long-term effects of cancer on employment and work hours with respect to gender

Tied for First Place Brian Gannon, MD | Co-Authors: Kaitlyn Merrels ; Abbey Gregg, PhD, MPH for Addressing Complexities of Children in Foster Care in Alabama

Of the posters, five were presented in the Medical Student Division, 16 in the Resident Division, and 27 in the Faculty Division.

The winners of the three categories spoke highly of the process of learning and growing as researchers and described their enthusiasm for continuing their engagement in the research community.

“This was my first experience with quantitative research, and I can see how it will help me a lot in my chosen field of psychiatry,” said Brooke Becker, a fourth-year medical student. “I owe so much of it to Dr. Morales-Aleman who took me under her wing and included me in her wide-reaching research.”

Dr. Brian Gannon also presented his first foray into academic research at the event. He said he plans to continue to collect data on the effectiveness of the UMC Foster Care Clinic to better steer treatment and future policy in helping the underserved and unresearched foster care community.

“A lot of the data on foster care children is urban skewed,” Gannon said. “We need to see if our community here in rural west Alabama has different needs. We have the perfect opportunity with the data set we can draw from here to see if what we are doing is really helping.”

Dr. Maryam Jafari Bigoli is a recent addition to the College. She joined the Department of Community Medicine and Population Health and the Institute for Rural Health Research in January 2019. Her research focus is on the economic effects of chronic illness. For this project, she focused specifically on cancer’s impact on male- and female-survivor population’s short- and long-term ability to return to work.

“This research is crucial to inform policymakers about the need to reduce the economic burden on survivors,” Bigoli said. “Thankfully, we are seeing more people survive cancer, but that means the economic burden on the survivors and their families is a growing problem.”

Dr. Jessica Powell, third-year family medicine resident who will practice in Greensboro, Alabama following graduation from residency, said her passion for rural communities drove her research goals. She began her research project when she was a medical student and has grown her data set through her residency.

Pickens County, Alabama, over the course of her data collection, gained two family physicians and a labor and delivery unit, then lost those resources. She was able to definitively show the statistically significant decrease in infant mortality rates then the sharp incline during those events.

“It’s been insightful, and we published our findings from this project and presented at the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine,” Powell said. “We want to show that we should be pouring resources into these rural, underserved communities. Lives are depending on it.”

The 12 th annual Research and Scholarly Activity Day has been set for November 19, 2020.