College faculty, resident visit Cuba

Three faculty members from the College of Community Health Sciences and a resident physician from the College’s Family Medicine Residency traveled as part of a University of Alabama team to Cuba for six days in January 2014 to learn about that country’s healthcare system. Cuba Cropped

The group learned about the structure of the Cuban healthcare system and how it delivers care, particularly at the community level; established relationships with the Cuban Health Ministry and Medical Science University; and explored the development of a “pipeline” with the Latin American Medical School in Havana. Such a pipeline would assist medical students in Havana to make summer visits to UA and the College and graduates to consider the College’s Family Medicine Residency. The pipeline could also offer the Latin American Medical School in Havana as a medical school option for Alabama students, perhaps those from underserved and Black Belt communities.

“The Cubans have systematically built a rational, resource-frugal, yet effective healthcare system that ranks just below the United States in the World Health Organization rankings despite drastic differences in resources, infrastructure and philosophy,” says College Dean Richard Streiffer, MD, who participated in the Cuba trip.

He says like the mission of the College, the Cuban healthcare system is based on the family medicine-nurse team and neighborhood-centered primary care, as well as on a strong public health orientation.

“Cuba has largely eliminated the severe disparities of access, advancing the overall health of their population to near that of the United States and all at a fraction of the per capita costs seen in the United States,” Streiffer says. “The lessons potentially to be learned from collaborating with the Cuban healthcare and medical education systems seem particularly applicable to Alabama, a state with more than its share of health disparities, poor outcomes and resource-poor communities.”



Clem accepting new patients at UMC-Warrior Family Medicine


Jennifer Clem, MD

Jennifer Clem, MD, has joined University Medical Center-Warrior Family Medicine and is accepting new patients. To schedule an appointment with her, call (205) 348-6123. She will see patients on Monday afternoons and all day on Thursdays.

Additionally, Dr. Clem is an assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences, where she instructs resident physicians in the College’s Family Medicine Residency. The College also functions as a regional campus of the University of Alabama School of Medicine.

Clem joined the College last year and previously worked for Indian Health Service in a comprehensive health care facility in Chinle, Arizona, where she provided inpatient and outpatient care on the Navajo Nation. She earned her medical degree from the University of Alabama School of Medicine and completed a residency at the University of Michigan Department of Family Medicine. She is board certified in Family Medicine. 

University Medical Center-Warrior Family Medicine, located at 971 Fairfax Park, is a second location of University Medical Center, the area’s largest multi-specialty practice, which serves both the University of Alabama and the West Alabama community. The College of Community Health Sciences operates both.

University Medical Center-Warrior Family Medicine was formed last year after H. Joseph Fritz, MD, and his practice, Warrior Family Practice, joined the College. Dr. Fritz, who has been in private practice in Tuscaloosa since 1978, continues to see patients at University Medical Center-Warrior Family Medicine.

College awards scholarships to three medical students

Three medical students at the College of Community Health Sciences were awarded scholarships in late 2013. 

Erica Young and Caroline Price received the Frank Fitts Jr., Endowed Scholarship, awarded to full-time medical students at the University of Alabama School of Medicine – Tuscaloosa Regional Campus who bear a high debt load upon graduation from medical school. Both Young and Price are third-year medical students at the College.

Brittany Anderson, a fourth-year medical student and class president, received the Dr. Sandral Hullett Endowed Scholarship awarded to African-American medical students enrolled full-time at the University of Alabama School of Medicine – Tuscaloosa Regional Campus. 

In the training of third- and fourth-year medical students, the College serves as a regional campus for the University of Alabama School of Medicine, headquartered in Birmingham.

The Frank Fitts, Jr., Endowed Scholarship was first established at The University of Alabama in 1903 by J.H. Fitts. The fund now stands to address students’ current financial needs and to honor Frank Fitts, Jr., the great grandson of J.H. Fitts.

Using a share of the proceeds from the 1991 Fiesta Bowl, The Dr. Sandral Hullett Endowed Scholarship was established to support minority, particularly African-American, graduate students and to honor Dr. Sandral Hullett, who, after completing medical residency at the College’s Family Medicine Residency in 1979, went on to practice with and become director of West Alabama Health Services and its staff, as well to hold an adjunct faculty position at the College. 

Mayor asks medical students to help make Tuscaloosa healthier


Mayor Maddox speaks to medical students at Dean’s Hour.

Tuscaloosa Mayor Walter Maddox spoke recently at Dean’s Hour and asked medical students for their help – now and when they become practicing physicians. 

Dean’s Hour is a monthly forum for medical students created by the College of Community Health Sciences last year to raise students’ awareness of community health issues.

“We have a large portion of our population in poverty, without access to health care, mental health care, transportation and technology,” Maddox said. “What role do you see your College playing in these topics? What could we step up and do that we’re not? Are there city programs where you can help?”

Maddox suggested medical students might be able to help the city provide free medical screenings in low-income areas.

“How can you help us be more engaged in primary care?” he asked.

Maddox, who is 41-years-old, recalled that when he was younger, he at one time weighed 290 pounds. He started jogging, and, over the course of five years, lost 75 pounds.

“As we try to become more preventive in our health-care model, what, as a community, might we do to encourage our citizens to have a more active lifestyle? I am interested in your points of view.”

Maddox also talked about the recent hospitalization of his mother and the physicians who cared for her.

“There’s nothing more comforting than when you are with health professionals who are competent and have your best interest at heart. Don’t ever lose touch of that human element,” he said. “Whether you realize it or not, people look at you differently. You hold their attention and your opinion matters.”

Lavender joins College as Family Medicine faculty


Paul Drake Lavender, Jr., MD

Paul Drake Lavender, Jr., MD, joined the College of Community Health Sciences in late 2013 as an assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine.

Lavender received his medical degree from the University of Alabama School of Medicine and was a chief resident in the College’s Family Medicine Residency. He has been in private practice in Gordo, Ala., since graduating residency in 2004.

Board-certified in family medicine, Lavender’s expertise is in colonoscopies and colposcopies. On a part-time basis, he will perform those surgical procedures at the Surgical Center in Tuscaloosa and at Pickens County Medical Center in Carrollton In addition, Lavender will see patients at University Medical Center and at DCH Medical Center.

University Medical Center is a multi-specialty clinic open to University of Alabama faculty and staff as well as the West Alabama community. It is operated by the College.

Algernon Sydney Sullivan award given to College faculty

Margaret Garner, MS, RD, LD, is a recipient of this year’s Algernon Sydney Sullivan award—the highest honor offered by The University of Alabama.

The award recognizes the practical application of noble ideas, excellence of character and service to humanity. It is presented by the University’s Department of Student Affairs to two graduating seniors and one non-student winner.

Garner, the interim director of the Student Health Center, which is part of the College of Community Health Sciences, will be honored at an awards ceremony in March at the Indian Hills Country Club in Tuscaloosa. 

“This award is a wonderful and well deserved honor for Margaret,” says College Dean Richard Streiffer, MD. “There is no one I know in this College nor anywhere on campus more loyal, more dedicated in her leadership nor of higher character than Margaret. The College is very proud of Margaret for her contributions and for the recognition that this award acknowledges.”

Garner is an associate professor at the College and a full-time nutritionist for the College’s Department of Family Medicine as director of nutrition education and services. She presently serves as the director of Health Promotion and Wellness at the Student Health Center and assistant dean for Health Education and Outreach for the College.

“Margaret’s leadership at UA and the Family Medicine Department at the College are evidence of her commitment to educating future physicians, dietitians and other health professionals,” Streiffer says.

Garner joined the College in 1979 as a professor and director of nutrition education and services. After her appointment as assistant dean of Health Education and Outreach, she secured reimbursement for medical nutrition therapy for UA employees, an initiative that is still in place.

She is the recipient of multiple honors and was tapped into the Mortar Board National Honor Society for Leadership, Scholarship and Service in 2008. She has been active in many professional organizations throughout her career.

Her professional interests include diabetes, hypertension, coronary vascular disease and eating disorders.

“Margaret’s competence and enthusiasm have inspired health professionals for more than three decades, and her visionary leadership and unbridled energy have left a lasting impact on the College of Community Health Sciences and The University of Alabama,” Streiffer says.

‘Tha’ Hip Hop Doc’ speaks at African American Male Health Career Forum

The College of Community Health Sciences’ first ever African American Male Health Career Forum was held on Saturday, Jan. 18, in an effort to address the minority physician shortage in Alabama.

The event, which was hosted by the College and it’s Institute for Rural Health Research, was geared specifically for African-American male high school students.

One hundred students from various West Alabama high schools (including those from rural communities and Tuscaloosa city and county schools) were invited to participate in the forum, which was held in the Ferguson Theater on The University of Alabama campus and featured keynote speaker Rani G. Whitfield, MD, a family medicine physician otherwise known as ‘Tha’ Hip Hop Doc.

The focus of the day was not only on the shortage of African American physicians in Alabama and across the United States, but also the shortage of male African American physicians.

Only 7.3 percent of the U.S. medical school applicants in 2011 were black, and of that number, 34.9 percent were male, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. In 2012, only 5 percent of direct care physicians in the United States were black.

There were a few reasons Pamela Payne-Foster, MD, MPH, coordinator of the event, posed in her opening talk of the day-long forum. One was the amount of debt accumulated in medical school. Another was the amount of time spent in school before being able to make money, which would make professions in other fields look more attractive to young African-American males.

“These students don’t always know that there are other options available in health care,” said Payne-Foster, deputy director for the Institute for Rural Health Research  and associate  professor in the College’s Department of Community and Rural Medicine.

After Foster’s opening talk, Whitfield took the stage, talking about his path to medical school and his profession as a hip hop artist and a family medicine physician. He spoke about “The Pact,” a book written by three African-American physicians—Sampson Davis, George Jenkins and Rameck Hunt—who grew up in Newark, N.J., faced with struggles and temptations. They made a promise to each other that they would become doctors, and they were able to by joining forces and holding each other accountable, Whitfield said.

The students later broke into groups to further discuss the book and work with mentors in health care fields.

“Your success is really up to you,” Whitfield said. “Dedication, determination and discipline: If you are struggling in a class, struggling in school—there are people who can help you. You have to make a decision about your life.”

Whitfield, whose home and practice are in Baton Rouge, La., is known for his appearances on CNN, BET’s “106th Park,” iVillage and other national talk and news shows.

He released in 2008 “Tha’ Hip Hop Doc Presents: State of Emergency,” a health education music CD, and the comic book series, “Tha’ Hip Hop Doc Presents: The Legion of Health” in order to educate youth about healthy lifestyles and habits. He founded the Hip Hop Health Coalition, a nonprofit whose mission is to promote healthy living to youth groups.

Payne-Foster said that because the mission of the College emphasizes rural communities, much of the focus of the Rural Health Leaders Pipeline programs has been predicated on focusing on rural youth to encourage them to go to medical school, working with them through graduation and encouraging them to return back to their hometowns or a similar place in rural Alabama to practice.

“However we have been struggling with getting minority students into this model as well as recruitment of our students into some Black Belt counties,” Payne-Foster said.  “We are experimenting with expanding our own model to include minority students from underserved urban communities to consider working in underserved rural communities. This expands the model into preparing medical students of varied backgrounds to serve in any community in Alabama.”

It is important to educate students about career possibilities in health care professions at an early point of their academic career, Payne-Foster said.

“Studies show that the earlier you introduce students to the medical field, the better prepared they will be in successfully completing the course of study,” Payne-Foster said. “In fact, high school is kind of late. Starting even earlier, like around middle school, is even better.”

H1N1 flu strain affecting younger, healthier age groups this year

This year, a familiar virus has shown up in the labs of the Alabama Department of Public Health. Elizabeth Cockrum, a UA professor of pediatrics, said while college students are generally a healthy population, less than desirable immunization rates allow college campuses to become hotbeds for the H1N1 flu virus.

Blum: We haven’t done enough to curb smoking

Alan Blum, professor and anti-smoking activist, is marking the 50th anniversary of a 1964 Surgeon General’s report on the hazards of smoking with a new documentary meant to celebrate the landmark report but also to serve as a sobering reminder of the country’s inability to overcome its greatest preventable public health challenge.