Making The University of Alabama a No Flu Zone

A University of Alabama campaign to vaccinate faculty, staff and students against the flu this year kicks off in September.

The vaccination effort will be led by University Medical Center and the Student Health Center, which are both operated by the College.

Beginning September 4, University Medical Center nurses, and additional nurses hired for the vaccination effort, will begin visiting buildings across campus. Vaccination stations will be set up in building lobbies, and nurses will also go to employee offices to provide vaccinations. The idea is to make getting this year’s flu shot as convenient as possible.

The vaccination, which will be in injection form, will be free. Employees do not need to have University health insurance to receive a flu shot. The University has purchased enough injections for 8,000 people.

“This is a huge undertaking,” says Elizabeth Cockrum, MD, clinical director of University Medical Center and the College’s associate dean for Clinical Affairs. “But our goal is to knock on doors and to make this as easy and convenient as possible.”

Nurses will travel from building to building on campus during the first several weeks of September, eventually visiting nearly every building on campus. Toward the end of the month, tents will be set up on the University’s Quadrangle and in faculty and staff parking lots and flu shots will be offered before and after work hours.

A schedule listing vaccination sites, times and dates will be announced closer to the start of the campaign and will be included on the University’s Campus Calendar.

Vaccinations will also be offered at University Medical Center’s Faculty and Staff Clinic, at the University’s WellBama sites, which are in various locations on campus, and at the Oct. 10 University of Alabama Employee Health Fair, while supplies last.

The University has approximately 4,000 employees.

In early October, nurses from the Student Health Center will be available at the Ferguson Center and will visit the University’s dormitories to provide flu shots to students.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone aged six months and older get a flu vaccine each year. The CDC says getting a flu shot is especially important for people who are at high risk of developing serious complications if they get sick with the flu, including: people with asthma, diabetes and chronic lung disease; pregnant women; and people aged 65 and older. The CDC also says people who live with or care for others who are at risk of developing serious complications from the flu should also be vaccinated.

“Getting a flu vaccine is the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease,” Cockrum says.

The seasonal flu vaccine protects against three influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming flu season. Risks associated with receiving a flu shot are extremely small, and the viruses in the flu shot are inactivated so they cannot cause the flu.

Cockrum says a flu vaccine is needed every year because flu viruses are constantly changing and it is not unusual for new flu viruses to appear each year. The flu vaccine is formulated each year to keep up with flu viruses as they change.

Flu season can begin as early as October. For more information about seasonal flu shots visit the CDC website.

Medical Students Attend Orientation at College

Thirty-eight University of Alabama School of Medicine students who will spend their third and fourth years of clinical training at the College of Community Health Sciences recently attended an orientation session at the College, which included site visits to several community health-related and service organizations in Tuscaloosa.

Nick Darby, a first-year medical student at The University of Alabama School of Medicine, attends orientation at the College of Community Health Sciences. Darby will spend his third and fourth years of clinical training at the College, a regional campus of the School of Medicine.

The College serves as one of two regional campuses of the School of Medicine, along with Birmingham and Huntsville. Students complete the first two years of basic sciences at the Birmingham campus, where the School of Medicine is headquartered, and then choose to complete the third and fourth years of the medical school curriculum one of the three campuses.

At the Tuscaloosa campus, clinical education is oriented to primary care while also providing exposure to other specialties and subspecialties. A key part of the College’s mission is improving health care in rural and underserved areas of Alabama, and its academic programs include emphasis on primary care, family medicine and community medicine. Since its founding in 1972, approximately 767 medical students have received their third and fourth years of clinical training at the College, with more than half choosing careers in primary care.

The 38 medical students were welcomed to the College by Heather Taylor, MD, associate director of Medical Student Affairs and an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics.

“Here you get to see what primary care is really like, and that’s important even if you go into another specialty,” Taylor said. “You get to help communities and have an impact. You get to know your faculty and they get to know you.”

The Tuscaloosa program class size is approximately 35 students each year, resulting in a high level of personal interaction among medical students, resident physicians and faculty.

College Dean Richard Streiffer, MD, also addressed the students and spoke about the need for more primary care physicians in Alabama and the value of integrating communities into medical education.

University of Alabama School of Medicine students who will spend their third and fourth years of clinical training at the College of Community Health Sciences work at Temporary Emergency Services in Tuscaloosa as part of orientation.

“We view the community to be as important as mastering the basic sciences,” Streiffer said. “We encourage entry into primary care and we will do our best to keep you here because we need you in Alabama.”

Alabama continues to have a serious primary care physician shortage, ranking the state ninth out of 50 in terms of the most underserved states based on Health Professional Shortage Area scores.

As part of their orientation, the students visited several community organizations in Tuscaloosa, including: Caring Days, a day program for adults with Alzheimer’s and other memory disorders; Temporary Emergency Services Inc., which helps individuals and families in crisis situations; and Capstone Village, a retirement living center on The University of Alabama campus.

Students also toured University Medical Center, a large, primary-care group practice the College operates that also serves as a teaching facility for medical students.

Haygood, Tarvin attend top-notch programs

Sarah Haygood, a rising Boaz High School senior, was among a select group of 25 students from across the state who attended the Rural Health Scholars program at The University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences, according to a July 25 press release from the college.

The program introduces students from rural areas to college life, giving them an orientation on the need for health and medical professionals in communities like their own.

Haygood, the only student from Marshall County to attend, was chosen based on her academic achievements and interest in rural health care. Haygood attended the program at UA during the summer to take courses for college credit and to attend seminars.

Cynthia Moore and Dr. John Wheat of the College of Community Health Sciences direct the program.

After 20 years and $6 million in support from the state, UA’s Rural Health Programs have benefited the state by encouraging high school and college students to follow careers in rural medicine, according to Wheat.

523 rising high school seniors from 66 Alabama counties have participated in the Rural Health Scholars program.