Alabama family physicians attend annual meeting

Family medicine physicians, residents and medical students from across the state of Alabama gathered together for the annual meeting of the Alabama Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) held recently in Sandestin, Florida. The meeting provided opportunities for physicians to network as well as earn Continuing Medical Education (CME) credit.

In addition to an exhibition throughout the four-day event, the College, which is also a regional branch campus of the University of Alabama School of Medicine, hosted a day of lectures on Saturday, June 22, the third day of the conference. Faculty and physicians presented new information respective to their specialties.

Dean Richard Streiffer, MD, said College faculty provided very informative and relevant presentations.

“Over the years, the CME offerings have shifted so that now a majority of the educational sessions are conducted by family doctors and other primary care physicians from the faculties from our state’s family medicine training programs.”

First to lecture were Cathie Scarbrough, MD, and Chelley Alexander, MD. Scarbrough and Alexander provided updates in a variety of topics, including acne treatments for children and adolescents, guidelines in diagnosing and treating ear infections, and diagnosing type 2 diabetes in children.

They also shared apps for iPhones or Android phones that they have found useful in their practices, including Pedi STAT, which serves as a reference for pediatricians, BiliCalc, which helps determine when to use phototherapy on a patient, and Glucose Buddy, which helps diabetes patients track sugars, blood pressure, weight and medications.

Alexander is chair of the Department of Family Medicine and Scarbrough is assistant director of the College’s Family Medicine Residency.

Scott Arnold, MD, interim chair of the Department of Internal Medicine, presented new findings in adult medicine literature during the past year. Some of the areas Arnold covered included hypertension, coronary artery disease, endoscopies, vaccines and the results of studies of particular medicines and vitamin intakes.

Sports Medicine Fellow Zack Boylan, MD, followed Arnold with a presentation on pre-participation exams in sports and their importance in screening and diagnosing conditions in young athletes, in addition to screening for general health and starting a discourse with athletes about healthy habits.

Boylan said that while the pre-participation exams have not led to a significant decrease in mortality rates among student athletes, the exams are important because the secondary objective – educating students about their health – is being met, and conditions that have been caught can be life saving for the student athletes.

Finally, Anne Halli, MD, addressed issues surrounding memory loss and dementia in geriatric care. Halli distinguished dementia from Alzheimer’s disease and delirium, both of which involve a fluctuating loss of self and memory, whereas dementia is gradual. Dementia, she said, is rarely seen without another kind of illness alongside it. Halli also discussed methods of testing and treatment. 

The College’s new mission statement was displayed as part of its exhibit. The mission statement explains the overall mission of the College as “improving and promoting the health of individuals and communities in Alabama and the region through leadership in medical education and primary care; the provision of high quality, accessible health care services; and scholarship.”

The AAFP has seen a loyal attendance at its annual summer meeting, with this summer being no exception, Streiffer said, adding that quite a few graduates of the College’s Family Medicine Residency also attended.  

“This has been a great venue for faculty to demonstrate their expertise while also helping to keep the content of the education highly relevant to the needs of family physicians,” he said. “And of course, the AAFP meeting is also a place where old friends get to connect, socialize and relax.”

UA physician offers tips on sun safety

The long, lazy days of summer are finally here, and while it’s the perfect time to have some fun in the sun, one University of Alabama professor stressed the importance of being smart while enjoying those golden rays.

The problems typically caused by the sun and hot weather — sunburn, heat exhaustion and heat stroke — are “very preventable,” said Dr. Cathie Scarbrough, assistant professor in UA’s College of Community Health Sciences, a family medicine physician and assistant residency director for the College’s family medicine program. It just requires that people take precautions and educate themselves on the dangers of too much sun.

College works with rural communities to reduce obesity

Obesity is a major issue in the United States but even more so in the state of Alabama. The obesity rate of adults in Alabama is over 32 percent while the national average falls at just 26 percent. One of the main areas of concern in Alabama is the Black Belt region, which has obesity averages above 40 percent.

As part of a community-based participatory research grant awarded by the National Institutes of Health, the College of Community Health Sciences has partnered with The University of Alabama Institute for Communication and Information Research and the Black Belt Community Foundation to make a difference in obesity and related health issues in Black Belt communities. 


“Our goal is to plan and create an infrastructure through which Black Belt communities, current and future family medicine clinicians and interdisciplinary academic researchers can work together to develop effective and sustainable research strategies to reduce or eliminate obesity and related health issues,” says the College’s associate dean for Research and one of the grant’s principal investigators, John C. Higginbotham, PhD, MPH.

The grant project, “UNITED: Using New Interventions Together to Eliminate Disparities,” recognizes that cultural awareness and understanding are key to addressing complex health disparities. So, Project UNITED researchers and communities will work as equal partners to build an infrastructure and develop programs that community partners believe are necessary to reduce obesity in their communities. Communities will fund 51 percent of their projects, giving them the ability to make funding decisions.

Project UNITED is currently partnering with the Sunshine School in Newbern, Ala., to address the needs related to reducing obesity in that community.  The school has taken note of several areas in which the project can help, including organizing a health fair with screening for children and parents, repairing the school playground, building a track around the football field, coordinating a school closed circuit television broadcast and hiring a part-time art teacher. Additionally, the project has plans to work with Druid City Garden Project to plant a garden on the school premises.

The Sunshine School is a K-12 school in the Black Belt region of Alabama with 245 students. 

Meanwhile, Project UNITED is currently reviewing applications of researchers and physicians who want to participate in a 10-month workshop designed to enhance the research knowledge and skills of investigators as they relate to community-based participatory research. The selected applicants will be partnered with community members and will compete for a $35,000 Project UNITED grant to implement their proposed research project that is intended to reduce obesity in the rural Black Belt.

Resident returns from military service

William P. Clifford, JD, MD, FS, recently returned to the College’s Family Medicine Residency after spending four months in Afghanistan with The Alabama Army National Guard. 

In addition to his family medicine training, Clifford serves as the lead flight surgeon for Army National Guard Aviation Units in Alabama.

William P. Clifford, JD, MD, FS

William P. Clifford, JD, MD, FS

Clifford is a graduate of the University of Alabama School of Medicine, headquartered in Birmingham, and received his clinical training at the College of Community Health Sciences, which is a regional branch campus to the School of Medicine.

While in medical school, Clifford joined the Alabama National Guard and, simultaneously with his medical studies, attended the Officer Basic Leadership Course. He then attended the United States Army Flight Surgeon School where he graduated among the top of his class of Army physicians from all over the country.

“I really enjoy helping soldiers in combat and cannot imagine a higher calling,” Clifford says.

While in Afghanistan, Clifford was the only American physician for United States and allied NATO forces on the Army base in Kabul. With the help of medics, Clifford provided trauma, emergency, aviation, and primary care medical services to all allied personnel including injured Afghans. He coordinated the evacuation of injured and ill personnel from the United States treatment facility to NATO hospitals and served as the medical liaison for public health teams among others.

Reflecting back on his time in Afghanistan, Clifford remembers sitting in the back of a C-17 diving into the airfield thinking, “Things will never be the same.” 

“They never will,” he says.

Clifford’s service has had a significant impact on his life. “When you witness the incredible sacrifices being made every day by young Americans, you realize how blessed we are.”

After completion of his residency, Clifford plans to apply for a military fellowship program that will better enable him to serve his nation while continuing to serve as a flight surgeon for the Army National Guard.

'Through these Doors' event recognizes progress in diversity

As part of a campus-wide celebration looking at the progress made in diversity since integration at The University of Alabama—50 years after the infamous “stand in the schoolhouse door” by then-Gov. George Wallace, Sr.—the College of Community Health Sciences hosted a daylong symposium examining diversity in medicine and medical education.

College faculty, staff, resident physicians and medical students attended the symposium as did pre-medical UA students and area high school students who are participating in the College’s Rural Health Leaders Pipeline program, a series of programs designed to recruit students from rural Alabama and help them prepare to become rural physicians and other needed health professionals.

Sandral Hullett, MD, former CEO and medical director of Cooper Green-Mercy Hospital in Birmingham and the first African-American female resident at the College and Art Dunning, PhD, professor and senior research fellow for the University of Alabama Education Policy Center, served as a panel that looked back at the beginnings of racial diversity at The University of Alabama.

Sandral Hullett, MD, former CEO and medical director of Cooper Green-Mercy Hospital in Birmingham and the first African-American female resident at the College, and Art Dunning, PhD, professor and senior research fellow for the University of Alabama Education Policy Center, served as a panel that looked back at the beginnings of racial diversity at The University of Alabama.

The symposium was comprised of two panel discussions as well as two keynote speakers. A mentoring and networking session completed the event. The symposium opened with remarks from Samory Pruitt, PhD, vice president for Community Affairs at the University, and Richard Streiffer, MD, dean of the College.

Streiffer noted that the day should be about looking back and commemorating the progress made, but also paying attention to areas that still need improvement.

“We are honoring the past and celebrating where we have come, but we also are acknowledging where we still need to go as a health profession as well as a society,” Streiffer said.

The word “diversity” was pulled apart and examined throughout the event, starting with a look back at the beginnings of racial diversity at The University of Alabama. Sandral Hullett, MD, former CEO and medical director of Cooper Green-Mercy Hospital in Birmingham and the first African-American female resident at the College, shared her memories of Wallace’s opposition to integration and how that affected her life and medical career.

“There’s a lot that can change in a lifetime,” Hullett said. “This University has shown that it has a commitment to try to be diverse and to allow people with the qualifications to come here and have an opportunity to succeed.”

Art Dunning, PhD, professor and senior research fellow for the University of Alabama Education Policy Center, shared his global perspective, having kept up with the progress of the Civil Rights movement by reading national newspaper papers while stationed in Taiwan with the United States Air Force during the Cold War. Diversity is not just about racial integration, he said, but also about a rounded worldview.

“I had something most people didn’t have,” he said. “I had been to Asia, and I knew that where we were was not the whole world.”

The definition of diversity was examined even more by the first keynote speaker, Jeannette South-Paul, MD, the Andrew W. Mathieson Professor and chair of the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Health Sciences, in her talk, “The Future of Diversity in Medical Education.”

South-Paul echoed that diversity extended beyond race, and she delved into topics of gender, religion, socioeconomic status and disabilities. She also talked about how, as health care providers, to better serve the population through patient-centeredness and cultural competency, both of which are key points in the College’s mission statement.

“We must keep our community front and center,” she said. “We have got to understand the importance of working with one another and understanding one another because we are going to take care of each other.”

South-Paul also shared her connection to a rural doctor in Alabama. Her immigrant parents had just moved to Hale County and, with her mother pregnant with her, were shown kindness by a white family doctor who delivered South-Paul in his office when no other doctor would see an African-American woman.

A second panel examined the beginnings of diversity at the College, and included speakers who were among the first African-American members of the College: Carol Johnston, MD, a physician in Alabaster, Ala., and one of the first African-American medical students; Vernon Scott, MD, CEO of the Alabama Multi-specialty Group in Tuscaloosa, and Herbert Stone, MD, CEO of the Mobile Emergency Group in Mobile, Ala., two of the first African-American residents; and Earnestine Tucker, CRNP, clinical supervisor for UA’s Working on Womanhood Program and one of the first African-American staff members.

Stone was the second keynote speaker at the symposium with his address, “So You Want to be a Doctor.” After the address, he shared in mentoring and networking activities with high school students interested in the medical profession.

The symposium also included the Trailblazers Awards presentations, which honored a large group of individuals who paved the way in bringing diversity to the College, including many of the symposium speakers. Each recipient was honored for the work and courage demonstrated as leaders in diversity at the College.



UA nutrition experts offer tips on healthy summer eating for kids

Summer time can often be a free-for-all when it comes to children and their eating habits, said one University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences nutrition expert. There are, however, several things parents can do to help make meal times fun — and nutritious.

College introduces new mission statement

The College of Community Health Science’s Executive Committee approved a new mission statement for the College late last month.

Richard Streiffer, MD, dean of the College, said the new mission statement is a product of months of discussion and input from many within the College as well as other stakeholders who have been participating in the Strategic Planning Process, which is ongoing.

“It is easy to dismiss a mission statement as just words on a paper or a sign in the lobby,” Streiffer said in an email to the College. “I look at it differently. Our mission is our core purpose, our reason for existing as an organization and defines the important work that we do.”

The previous mission statement cited the overarching goal as producing physicians for the state of Alabama. What has changed is that, while still part of the mission statement, producing physicians has become a way to achieve the overall new mission: “improving and promoting the health of individuals and communities in Alabama and the region through leadership in medical education and primary care; the provision of high quality, accessible health care services; and scholarship.”

The mission statement also includes the College’s core values: integrity, social accountability, learning, innovation, patient-centeredness, transparency and interprofessional collaboration.

View the full mission statement here.