Local physician joins faculty

Joseph Fritz, MD

H. Joseph Fritz, MD, has joined the College as an assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine, where he will work with residents in hospital and clinic settings.

Fritz received his medical degree from The University of Alabama School of Medicine and completed his residency training at the College’s Tuscaloosa Family Medicine Residency.

A board-certified Family Medicine physician, Fritz has been in private practice in Tuscaloosa since 1978. Although he has worked with residents and medical students during his years in practice, he says he is looking forward to the transition to an academic setting. “What a great opportunity for me,” Fritz says. “I expect to be challenged by the young doctors and learn a lot from them and my colleagues.”

Fritz’s practice, which is now operated by the College, is located in the Fairfax Medical Park complex in Tuscaloosa.

Fritz says he believes wholeheartedly in the mission of the College, which, in part, focuses on the training of Family Medicine physicians to serve in rural communities across the region. “Family physicians are in a unique position to impact patients’ health. The faith they [patients] place in you is humbling,” he says.

Fritz, along with his late wife, Carolyn, has been active in the community as a volunteer at Kentuck, RISE, and the Good Samaritan Clinic. He is also a member of the board at the Children’s Hands-On Museum, the Leadership Board of The University of Alabama College of Arts and Sciences and the vestry at Christ Episcopal Church in Tuscaloosa.

Third-year students elected to membership in honor medical society

Only a select group of medical students are elected to membership in the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society each year and only a few are elected as juniors. Three medical students who are receiving their clinical training at the College were elected to membership in their junior year.

The students are: Kent Burton of Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Reese Feist of Indian Springs, Ala.; and Justin Vines of Tallassee, Ala.

Alpha Omega Alpha is a professional medical organization that recognizes excellence in scholarship as well as outstanding commitment and dedication to caring for others. The top 25 percent of a medical school class is eligible for nomination to the honor society, and up to 16 percent may be elected based on leadership, character, community service and professionalism. The chapters are limited to the number of students they can elect as juniors and several chapters choose to elect only senior students.

“Election into AOA is truly a prestigious honor and not just because it recognizes these students’ outstanding achievements. Being elected into AOA also means you are being recognized for your potential to be a leader in the field of medicine,” says Heather Taylor, MD, the College’s assistant director of Medical Student Affairs. “We are certainly proud to have three of our own students receive this honor.”

Burton, who earned an undergraduate degree in Biology from The University of Alabama, says he was surprised to find out he was elected for membership. “I immediately told my parents and my fiancé…. To know that your family is proud of you is the best feeling in the world.”

The students recognize the faculty, among others, as major contributors to their success. “Medical school has been an enormous challenge, but I have enjoyed learning from such great faculty during my time as an undergraduate and medical student,” Feist says. He received his undergraduate degree from The University of Alabama and is interested in opthamology, specifically vitreoretinal surgery.

Vines, a graduate of The University of Alabama and the College’s Rural Scholars Program, says he is thankful for the support and encouragement of his family, friends, educators and peers. “I am blessed to have received such a prestigious honor and I hope that I can continue to grow and learn throughout the remainder of my medical education,” he says.

About 3,000 students, alumni and faculty are elected to Alpha Omega Alpha each year. The society has 120 chapters in medical schools throughout the United States and has elected more than 150,000 members since its founding in 1902.

In its role as a branch campus of The University of Alabama School of Medicine, the College provides clinical education to approximately 70 third- and forth-year medical students. The students complete the first two years of basic sciences courses at the School of Medicine’s main campus in Birmingham, and then complete clinical rotations on the Tuscaloosa campus.

Ellis, Hammond selected for prestigious fellowships

Jared Ellis, MD

Jared Ellis, MD, and Angela Hammond, CRNP, were accepted into prestigious fellowship programs with North Carolina universities for the 2013-2014 academic year.

Ellis is assistant director of the College’s Family Medicine Residency and an assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine. Hammond is a nurse practitioner in the College’s Faculty-Staff Clinic.

Ellis will train at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, as part of its 35th Faculty Development Fellowship Class. The class is a mid-career program for medical educators with a history of developing graduates for careers as leaders in Family Medicine education. The program is a one-year commitment, including six weeks in the Family Medicine Residency program in Chapel Hill, and includes training and experiential projects in medical education, teaching, management and scholarship. The fellowship class consists of a diverse group of educators coming from a variety of community, university and military Family Medicine programs.

After the program, Ellis hopes to return to Alabama a better educator and jokingly adds, “No, I won’t be changing my colors to blue from crimson!”

Angela Hammond, CRNP

Hammond will join the Duke-Johnson & Johnson Nurse Leadership Program at Duke University. The program provides leadership and management training to advanced practice nurses so they can better meet the challenges of the evolving health care environment. The program’s focus is to better equip its fellows to increase operational efficiency and improve patient outcomes, with a focus on underserved populations.

Hammond plans to take the leadership and management skills she learns in the program and use them to transform the College’s practices for the new health care environment, and to develop an outreach project for an underserved population.

“I am certainly looking forward to gaining knowledge and creating beneficial programs for our College and patients,” Hammond says. Like Ellis, she says “I think I will continue to share loyalties to the Tide” and “the MSU Dawgs.”

Hammond received undergraduate degrees from both The University of Alabama and the University of Alabama at Huntsville. She began sharing her loyalty with Mississippi State University while practicing nursing in a rural health clinic in Mississippi for 10 years before relocating to Tuscaloosa. Her husband and son also attended Mississippi State University.

The Faculty-Staff Clinic is a walk-in clinic that offers continuity care for University of Alabama faculty, staff and their families and is a part of the multi-specialty University Medical Center, which is operated by the College.

The College is also a regional branch campus of The University of Alabama School of Medicine, which is headquartered in Birmingham.

Medical student’s work recognized

Todd Raines, a third-year medical student at the College, has received awards for three projects he completed on the subject of Orthopaedic Medicine.

A paper Raines wrote on ligament reconstruction in competitive baseball players was awarded the 2013 American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine O’Donoghue Sports Injury Research Award, given annually to the best overall paper dealing with clinical-based research or human in-vivo research. The paper also received the 2010-2011 American Sports Medicine Fellowship Society’s Clinical Science Award.

In addition, the paper is being considered for publication in the American Journal of Sports Medicine. The paper has also been selected for presentation at several orthopaedics-based annual meetings, a closed meeting with Birmingham-based orthopaedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews, and it was presented at the 2011 UAB Medical Student Research Day.

Raines collaborated with other physicians on the paper. “This paper was the result of a research internship I performed at the American Sports Medicine Institute after my first year of medical school,” he explains.

Raines also co-wrote papers on arthroplasty procedures that were based on his studies during medical school. One paper about prophylactic antibiotic choice and surgical infection in arthroplasty is under review for publication by The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery and was selected for presentation at similar orthopaedics-based annual meetings, as well as the 2012 UAB Medical Student Research Day.

Raines’s third paper, about determinants of readmission from arthroplasty procedures, has been selected for presentation by the 2013 Mid-America Orthopaedic Association and was presented at the 2012 UAB Medcial Student Research Day

Raines received a bachelor’s degree in Athletic Training and a master’s degree in Health Education and Health Promotion from The University of Alabama. He is currently pursuing a medical degree from The University of Alabama School of Medicine. The College is a regional campus of the School of Medicine, which is headquartered in Birmingham.

Raines is planning a career in orthopaedic surgery and sports medicine and hopes to be able to incorporate teaching into his work.

Faculty Publishes Lessons Learned in Telepsychiatry

Three faculty members of the College have published a paper that describes the real-life successes and challenges of the partnership of an academic health center and a community-based mental health clinic in providing telepsychiatry services to underserved areas in Alabama.

The paper was published by the Community Mental Health Journal in 2013 and online in 2012. The paper is co-authored by: Thaddeus Ulzen, MD, professor and chair of the College’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine; Lloyda Williamson, MD, an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine; Pamela Payne-Foster, MD, an associate professor in the College’s Department of Community and Rural Medicine and deputy director of the College’s Institute for Rural Health Research; and Kelley Parris-Barnes, director of the Alabama Department of Child Abuse and Neglect.

Telepsychiatry provides access to patients in underserved areas by using remote computer technology as an alternative to office visits, allowing a psychiatrist to interview and evaluate patients directly or consult the patient’s primary care physician.

As part of a larger telemedicine program, the College has partnered with the West Alabama Mental Health Center to deliver telepsychiatry to children and adolescents in an effort to meet the mental health gaps in rural parts of Alabama. According to the U.S. Surgeon General Report, Children and Mental Health, children, especially those living in rural areas, have limited access to needed mental health services. Among rural counties in Alabama, nearly three-fourths lack a psychiatrist while 95 percent lack a child psychiatrist.

The publication offers lessons learned for mental health practitioners who may be considering the benefits and challenges of forming a similar telepsychiatry program.

In addition to Psychiatry, the College uses telemedicine technology to provide a diabetes education program to rural clinics. The College plans to continue to expand its telemedicine services.

Adam Downs, MA, LMFT, joins faculty

Adam Downs, MA, LMFT

Adam Downs, MA, LMFT, has joined the College as director of Substance Abuse Counseling and Recovery Services in the Student Health Center and an instructor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine.

Downs will complete clinical evaluations and provide clinical counseling for patients in the Student Health Center, as well as design, implement and expand programs to enhance substance abuse recovery throughout the University.

Downs earned his bachelor’s degree in human development and family studies with a specialization in substance abuse studies from Texas Tech University.  He earned his master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Michigan State University and is currently a doctoral candidate in couple and family therapy at Michigan State University. Downs plans to earn his doctorate this spring after the completion of his dissertation, which focuses on predictors of the delinquency trajectory from adolescence to adulthood.

A recovering addict himself whose life was saved by treatment and continued counseling, Downs says, “This field chose me, I did not choose it.” He says he is giving back by focusing his clinical experience and research on addiction as it relates primarily to juveniles and young adults.

In his new position, Downs says he is looking forward to “helping students who need to find a different way to live their life and experience college without the use of drugs and alcohol and also to be able to share a perspective to the medical students that they may not have been exposed to before in their previous training.”

Junior premier recipient credits award to advisors

Koushik Kasanagottu, the 2013 William P. Bloom Award recipient, knows how to make his visions a reality. The junior majoring in biology has devoted much of his time at The University of Alabama to diabetes prevention education as the founder and president of the Diabetes Education Team.