Verizon Foundation Grant Expands Access to Diabetes Education Program

A nearly $20,000 grant from the Verizon Foundation has enabled the College to expand a program that teaches diabetic patients how to better manage their disease.

The College’s Diabetes Self-Management Education Program is now offered at the Sumter County Health Center in York, Ala., and will soon be offered at the Rush Clinic in Livingston, Ala. The program will consist of three classes a month, with each class lasting three hours. The program will be held at the Sumter County Health Center in January, March and May and at the Rush Clinic in February and April.

The Diabetes Self-Management Education Program is currently offered at University Medical Center, a multi-specialty health clinic operated by the College and located on The University of Alabama campus. The diabetes education program earned national recognition from the American Diabetes Association in 2012 for providing high-quality education services to patients.

The ADA Education Recognition effort is a voluntary process that assures that approved programs have met the national standards for diabetes self-management education programs. Programs that achieve Education Recognition status have a staff of knowledgeable health professionals who provide state-of-the-art information about diabetes management to participants.

“Our staff works diligently every day to provide the best education possible to our patients,” says Angela Hammond, CRNP, CDE, a nurse practitioner at University Medical Center who teaches in the program and who works with the center’s diabetic patients.

Patients in York and Livingston will be recruited into the program through referrals from area physicians who treat Medicaid patients. Initially, the program will be open only to Medicaid recipients.

Self-management education is an essential component of diabetes treatment, according to the American Diabetes Association. Patients in ADA-recognized and similar programs are taught self-care skills that promote better management of diabetes treatment regimens. With increased knowledge, patients can assume a major part of the responsibility for their diabetes management and possibly prevent some of the acute and chronic complications of diabetes.

The Diabetes Self-Management Education Program will be provided to the Sumter County Health Center and the Rush Clinic via the College’s telehealth equipment. Telehealth is a rapidly developing application of clinical medicine where information is transferred through interactive audiovisual media for the purposes of consulting and conducting remote medical examinations or providing health education to patients. For rural populations that are geographically isolated, and for rural patients who are physically or financially unable to travel long distances, telehealth can improve access to care. The Sumter County Health Center and the Rush Clinic are both located in rural areas.

Diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death for Alabamians, according to the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes-related deaths in rural Alabama are as much as 18 percent higher than in the state’s urban areas, and are as much as 44 percent higher than diabetes-related deaths in the United States, the ADA says.

Nationwide, there are 25.8 million people, or 8.5 percent of the U.S. population, who have diabetes, according to the ADA. The association says diabetes contributed to 231,404 deaths in 2007, making it the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. Each day, approximately 5,205 people are diagnosed with diabetes and many will first learn that they have the disease when they are treated for one of its life-threatening complications – heart disease and stroke, kidney disease, blindness and amputation, according to the ADA.

Americans spend more than $2.6 trillion on health care each year, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and studies show that 45 percent of the entire population (133 million Americans) lives with at least one chronic disease. The National Vital Statistics Reports 2008 data shows that seven out of 10 deaths in the United States are attributed to chronic disease, many of which are preventable. In addition, seventy-five cents of every health care dollar is spent on chronic disease, studies show, and the impact of chronic disease on underserved populations accounts for almost 40 cents of that spent.

“The Verizon Foundation is pleased to partner with The University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences to help chronic patients better manage their diabetes,” says Jonathan LeCompte, president of the Georgia/Alabama region for Verizon Wireless. “We firmly believe that utilizing technology and resources like this program will help address a rapidly growing epidemic, and we applaud The University of Alabama for leading the way.”

The Verizon Foundation is focused on accelerating social change by using the company’s innovative technology to help solve pressing problems in education, health care and energy management. Since 2000, the Verizon Foundation has invested more than half a billion dollars to improve the communities where Verizon employees work and live. Verizon’s employees are generous with their donations and their time, having logged more than 6.2 million hours of service to make a positive difference in their communities. For more information about Verizon’s philanthropic work, visit www.verizonfoundation.org.

Residency Recruiting in Peak Season

The recruiting season for the College’s Tuscaloosa Family Medicine Residency is currently underway for the 2013-2014 academic year.

With 65 candidates interviewed, the residency office has finished its interview season and recently hosted its Second Look Weekend.

The weekend gives residency candidates the opportunity to get to know the College’s faculty and residents as well as learn more about the residency program and the Tuscaloosa community. The candidates were invited to a meet and greet reception, a luncheon and a University of Alabama basketball game.

The Tuscaloosa Family Medicine Residency prepares physicians to provide high-quality patient care and is designed to lead to board certification in Family Medicine, and to prepare physicians to assume leadership positions in the communities where they will practice.

The program currently has 39 residents enrolled and plans to increase that number to 42 starting in July.

Pediatrics Chair Retires from College

Michael Taylor, MD, retired from the College on January 31, 2013, after almost 22 years of service. Taylor was a professor and chair of the Department of Pediatrics.

For the education and training of medical students, the College is also a branch campus of The University of Alabama School of Medicine, headquartered in Birmingham.

Taylor held many titles during his time at the College, including assistant dean for Information Technology and adjunct associate professor of Psychology, medical director of The University of Alabama’s ADHD Clinic and founder and medical director of the West Alabama Child Medical Evaluation Center.

College Dean Richard Streiffer, MD, says, “We are very appreciative of Mike’s many contributions to CCHS over the years, and we will miss him a great deal.”

Taylor’s clinical passion is the evaluation, support and care of children who have been or may have been abused. Taylor is the only board certified child abuse pediatrician in Alabama and one of only 234 in the United States, according to the American Board of Medical Specialties.

Taylor has accepted a position as professor of Pediatrics and division chief of the Violence Intervention and Prevention Program at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.

“It has been my great fortune and pleasure to work here at CCHS since 1991, establishing many productive working relationships, friendships and “in the trenches” buddies,” Taylor says.

David Nichols Named Chief Operating Officer

David Nichols has joined the College as its first ever Chief Operating Officer.

In the new position, Nichols will incorporate strategic direction and operational tactics to help the College achieve its mission of education, clinical service, scholarship and community engagement.

Nichols earned his bachelor’s degree in Health Care Management from The University of Alabama and obtained his Masters of Business Administration from the University of Houston.

He spent 13 years in administrative roles at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and served for 14 years as senior executive officer at the University of Alabama School of Medicine in Birmingham, responsible for the operational and financial performance of the Department of Medicine.

Most recently, Nichols worked as a health care and business development consultant increasing revenues, reducing expenses, expanding market share and improving infrastructure for academic medical centers and private medical practices.

“David is imminently qualified for this role and we are very pleased and fortunate to have him join us,” says Richard Streiffer, MD, dean of the College.

By enhancing and expanding the infrastructure support to the College’s faculty, staff, medical students and residents, Nichols says, “It is my hope that our methods of service delivery, program expansion, customer satisfaction, communication and business orientation become recognized as a model that can be replicated at all sites of service and held out as an example for how such services should be implemented at other organizations.”

Nichols is married with five children and a yellow Labrador retriever named Ruby-May. He enjoys reading, hiking, sports and raising teenagers. “I feel very fortunate to be joining CCHS as its chief operating officer. This is an exciting time to be associated with a health care organization whose mission includes training the future generation of Family Medicine and Primary Care physicians,” Nichols says.

Colleges Hope Screening of Film Will Start Dialog about Health Care

A free community screening of the film, ESCAPE FIRE: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare, will be held Sunday, March 3, 2013, at 3 p.m. at the Bama Theatre in downtown Tuscaloosa.

The event is sponsored by The University of Alabama’s College of Community Health Sciences, Capstone College of Nursing, School of Social Work, Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration and Office of Health Promotion and Wellness.

The screening will be followed by a panel discussion to focus on health care issues and concerns and possible ways to improve the healthcare system. Panelists will include: Bryan Kindred, CEO of DCH Health System; Deborah Tucker, CEO of Whatley Health Services; Charles Morgan, senior executive vice president and general counsel of Phifer Inc.; Linda House Moncrief, benefits and wellness director for the city of Tuscaloosa; and Allen Perkins, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Family Medicine at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine.

“This is an opportunity to have an important dialog,” says Richard Streiffer, MD, dean of the College of Community Health Sciences and a family medicine physician. “Our goal is to begin to change the conversation in the community.”

ESCAPE FIRE is a feature-length documentary that examines the nation’s healthcare system. The movie was an official selection of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. According to the ESCAPE FIRE website, the film looks at “the powerful forces maintaining the status quo, a medical industry designed for quick fixes rather than prevention, for profit-driven care rather than patient-driven care. But the current battle over cost and access does not ultimately address the root of the problem: we have a disease-care system, not a healthcare system.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, much of healthcare spending in the United States goes to treating preventable diseases, for example heart disease, diabetes and cancers caused by obesity.

American healthcare costs overall are rising rapidly and could reach $4.2 trillion annually within a decade, roughly 20 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The average per capita cost of health care in the United States is $8,000, compared to $3,000 in the rest of the developed world, according to the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development.

Still, the Institute for Medicine has found that 30 percent of healthcare costs in the United States, approximately $750 billion annually, are wasted and do not improve health.

“This documentary tackles the American healthcare system, a subject that carriers with it decades of debate and misconception,” say film directors Matthew Heineman and Susan Froemke. They say much of the recent media attention has focused on the contentious passage of the Affordable Care Act and the debate about its impact “yet Americans are still unclear about what is broken and how best to move forward. ESCAPE FIRE seeks to explore possibilities to create a sustainable system for the future and to dispel misinformation in order to create a clear and comprehensive look at healthcare in America,” they added.

Heineman and Froemke say it is time to create “escape fires” in the nation’s healthcare system.

The University of Alabama sponsors of the ESCAPE FIRE film screening hope the event will be the start of a dialog about potential healthcare escape fires for Alabama.

 “We are all involved in training health professionals for the future,” Streiffer says. “We have the ability to change the conversation in a meaningful way.”

Medical Student Recipient of Rural Health Lecture Award

Daniel Partain, a third-year medical student, is the recipient of The University of Alabama Institute for Rural Health Research’s first annual William A. Curry, MD, Rural Health Lecture Award.

Partain is a student at The University of Alabama School of Medicine. He is completing his clinical training at the College. For the training of medical students, the College is a branch campus of the School of Medicine.

The award honors a third- or fourth-year medical student at the Tuscaloosa campus who demonstrates an academic interest in rural medicine and is engaged in rural research or scholarly activity in a rural setting. The award is designed to encourage medical students to pursue experiences in rural medicine.    

As part of the award, Partain spoke during a breakout session at the 14th Annual Rural Health Conference, The Weight of our Rural Communities: Partnering to Reduce Obesity, which will be held Feb. 20 at the University’s Ferguson Center Student Union. He will also receive a plaque and a $150 honorarium. 

This year’s Rural Health Conference (http://rhc.ua.edu) focused on obesity and featured speakers in the areas of nutrition, physical activity and clinical aspects of obesity. Partain’s lecture was titled “The Obesity Epidemic in Fayette County, Alabama.”

Partain earned a bachelor’s degree in Molecular Biology from the University of Wisconsin. He is expected to complete his medical degree in 2014.

While a student at the University of Wisconsin, Partain completed a Senior Honors Research Thesis at the Carbone Cancer Center that focused on adults with Melanoma and children with Neuroblastoma. He also worked as a research assistant at the center, assisting with research in tumor microenvironment, immunotherapy and combined therapies with natural botanical products.

Partain is active in community service projects. He works with Hospice of West Alabama and previously provided health care at a student-operated free clinic to indigent patients in Birmingham, Ala. 

William Curry, MD, is a former dean of the College of Community Health Sciences and founder of the annual Rural Health Conference. He currently serves as associate dean of Rural and Primary Care and a professor of Internal Medicine at The University of Alabama School of Medicine’s main campus in Birmingham.

The annual Rural Health Conference is attended by health care professionals, community leaders, government officials and representatives of faith-based organizations who come together to hear from prominent speakers and share critical information and knowledge about health disparities that impact rural Alabama. 

Preparing to be a Rural Physician

The Rural Medical Scholars program is presenting a workshop for pre-medical students on preparing to be a rural physician. Topics covered will be why we need doctors in rural Alabama and how to finance graduate and medical school.