Vickers gives ‘5 Cs’ of being a great physician at Senior Convocation

Graduating medical students received sage advice from Selwyn M. Vickers, MD, the dean of the University of Alabama School of Medicine, at the annual Senior Convocation hosted by the College of Community Health Sciences and held at the Indian Hills Country Club in Tuscaloosa on May 16.

The College provides clinical training for a cohort of third- and fourth-year medical students enrolled at the University of Alabama School of Medicine, which is headquartered in Birmingham. The 29 students honored at the convocation were among the more than 160 students who graduated from UASOM during a ceremony in Birmingham on May 18.

Vickers delivered the convocation keynote address and presented his “5 Cs” of being an excellent physician: care, competence, character, courage and collaboration.

Having a caring attitude in examining patients will be of the utmost importance, Vickers said to the students. “You have to be all in, all the time.”

He said that while the students have been highly trained at the College of Community Health Sciences, which functions as the Tuscaloosa Regional Campus for UASOM, they will need to be lifelong learners. “At the end of the day, your patient needs someone who is competent and willing to go that extra mile to make sure the patient is taken care of.”

Vickers said at some point in their careers, students’ characters will be put to the test, and when that happens they’ll need to exercise courage.

“It will take courage on your part to always put your patient first, even when it seems like it may cost you.”

His final “c,” collaboration, often goes hand-in-hand with communication, he said.

“That collaborative spirit and ability to communicate is important for your success and for the outcome of your patient.”

Vickers said the faculty, students’ family and friends and the students themselves should be proud of their hard work and accomplishments.

“If you look at the spectrum of everything you can do in the world, there really is nothing like waking up and knowing you can make a difference every day in someone’s life.”

Awards were also presented:

Awards given by faculty:
Robert F. Gloor Award in Community Medicine— Paige Ivey Partain, MD
Family Medicine Award — Brittney Tenae Anderson, MD
Family/Rural Medicine Preceptor’s Award — Julia Boothe, MD, MPH
William W. Winternitz Award in Internal Medicine — Justin Edward Vines, MD
Neurology Award — Richard Minton Feist, Jr., MD
Pediatrics Recognition Award — Brittany Shea Richardson, MD
Pediatrics Service Award — Sarah Helen Gammons, MD
Peter Bryce Award in Psychiatry — Mary Katherine Leonard Thrower, MD
Finney/Akers Memorial Award in Obstetrics and Gynecology — Justin Edward Vines, MD
William R. Shamblin, MD, Surgery Award — Samuel Edmond Ford, MD
Larry Mayes Research Society Scholar — Brittney Tenae Anderson, MD
Larry Mayes Research Society Members — Daniel Kent Partain, MD; Paige Ivey Partain, MD; Brittany Shea Richardson, MD
Student Research Award — Benjamin Todd Raines, MD
Scholastic Achievement Award — Justin Edward Vines, MD
William R. Willard Award — Brittney Tenae Anderson, MD

Awards given by students:
Faculty Recognition Award (junior year): Heather Taylor, MD
Patrick McCue Award — A. Robert Sheppard, MD
Resident Recognition Award — JD Engelbrecht, MD
James H. Akers Memorial Award — Justin Edward Vines, MD
Most Likely to Make You Laugh During Morning Report — Samuel Lessley Ardis Douglas, MD
Most Likely to Wear a Suit to Clinic — Zachary Luke Farmer, MD
Most Likely to Wear Heels to Clinic — Danielle Sheree Franklin, MD
Most Likely to Leisurely Read JAMA — Daniel Kent Partain, MD
Most Likely to be Seen on Television — William Hampton Gray, MD
Most Likely to be Late for Work on July 1 — Zachary Luke Farmer, MD

Related: Rural Medical Scholars students honored at Convocation
Related: Fourth-year medical students celebrate Match Day

Rural Medical Scholars students honored at Convocation

Members of the College’s Rural Medical Scholars class of 2013-14 and Rural Community Health Scholars were recognized April 25 at the 18th Annual Rural Health Scholars Convocation. The 18 students also earned certification in Rural Community Health.

The Rural Medical Scholars Program is exclusively for college seniors or graduate students from rural Alabama. It is a five-year track of medical studies that leads to a certificate or master’s degree in Rural Community Health in the first year, and a medical degree from the University of Alabama School of Medicine. The first year of the program focuses on rural primary care and community medicine and gives students experiences in rural settings through field trips, service projects, research and shadowing of rural physicians.

The Rural Community Health Scholars Program is for graduate students and trains future health care providers to become community health leaders. The training prepares them to develop and maintain community health centers and other health-care practices and to engage in community affairs that advance community health.

The 11 Rural Medical Scholars honored at the convocation, held at the Hotel Capstone on the UA campus, begin their first year of medical school this summer at the School of Medicine’s main campus in Birmingham. They will return to the College, which also functions as a regional campus of the School of Medicine, during their final two years of medical school.

“The mission of the Rural Medical Scholars Program is to produce physicians for rural Alabama who are leaders of health in their communities,” said John Wheat, MD, founder and director of the program.

The convocation keynote address was given by Sandral Hullett, MD, a graduate of the College’s Family Medicine Residency and a national expert in rural health.

“I felt it was important to be a family doctor,” she told the students. “The number one thing is for people to have a doctor who will care for them and listen to them.”

Hullett was also presented with The University of Alabama Rural Medical Scholars Program Distinguished Service Award.

“She has made her mark everywhere she’s been,” Wheat said when presenting the award to Hullett. “She grew to national importance and advised people about what we should do as a country about rural health care.”

After her residency training, Hullett took a position with Green County Hospital in Eutaw, Ala., where she stayed for 23 years, also serving for many of those years as medical director of West Alabama Health Services and as a preceptor for a large number of medical students and residents. She served as a physician and director for the nonprofit Family HealthCare of Alabama, where she supervised 24 primary health care facilities serving 20 rural counties. She later served as CEO and medical director of Cooper Green Mercy Hospital in Birmingham. She is the principal investigator of the National Institutes of Health Transdiciplinary Collaborative Centers for Health Disparities Research.

Hullett has received numerous honors, including induction into the National Institute of Medicine, a unit of the National Academy of Sciences. She was named Rural Doctor of the Year by the National Rural Health Association in 1988, and was elected to Alabama’s Health Care Hall of Fame in 2001.

College Dean Richard Streiffer, MD, also spoke to students at the convocation.

“Rural is always a neglected area, and that’s still the case. So our work continues,” he said. “Congratulations. Study hard and keep in touch. We’ll see most of you back here in a couple of years.”

Whitney Hudman, a Rural Medical Scholar from Jemison, Ala., said, “Coming from a modest background, the Rural Medical Scholars Program was made for people like me. It will help me succeed in medical school.”

Ireland retires after 23 years

Robert Ireland, Jr., MD, a professor in the Department of Family Medicine, is retiring from the College of Community Health Sciences on May 30. Ireland has worked at the College for 23 years.

Through the College’s family medicine residency and the College’s role in providing the clinical training to a cohort of third- and fourth-year medical students of the University of Alabama School of Medicine, Ireland has helped train more than 268 family medicine physicians. He has a passion for treating diabetic patients and was the founder of the College’s Diabetes Self-Management Education Program.

“In my four years of medical school, three years of residency and one year of fellowship, I learned from Dr. Ireland, ‘You have to sell the shoes,’” said Beverly Jordan, a graduate of The University of Alabama Family Medicine Residency and family physician in Enterprise, Ala. “Dr. Ireland wanted us to teach our patients to understand and think the way we think.”

Jordan and other graduates of the College’s residency gathered with Ireland and his family, friends and coworkers at a reception in May to honor him for his many years of dedication and hard work.

At the reception, Jordan said to Ireland, “You’ve worked hard, you’ve done a great job, and you’ve trained generations of physicians for the State of Alabama, and we really do appreciate it.” She says, “Because you taught me how to be a great doctor, I don’t have to sell the shoes – I can finally buy the shoes.”

College’s Project United earns Excellence in Community Engagement Award

A College research project that is bringing rural Alabama communities and University of Alabama researchers together in projects to reduce obesity has received an Excellence in Community Engagement Award.

The project is called UNITED – Using New Interventions Together to Eliminate Disparities – and it is a partnership of UA’s College of Community Health Sciences and College of Communication and Information Sciences, and the Black Belt Community Foundation. The foundation is a nonprofit organization that works to improve the health and quality of life of citizens in the 12 Black Belt counties it serves.

UNITED is funded by a three-year, $900,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health.

The Excellence in Community Engagement awards were presented at a luncheon April 18 to UA faculty, staff, students and community partners whose research projects reflect excellence in community engagement. The award program, now in its eighth year, is sponsored by UA’s Center for Community-Based Partnerships.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens and people can change the world,” said Samory Pruitt, PhD, vice president of the UA Division of Community Affairs, of which the Center for Community-Based Partnerships is a part. “We are indeed engaging communities and changing lives.”

Katy Campbell, PhD, dean of the Faculty Extension at the University of Alberta, Canada, was the awards luncheon keynote speaker. She is an engaged scholar and member of the board of directors of the Engagement Scholarship Consortium, and is an expert in learning and instructional design and faculty transformation.

“We are involved in creating knowledge, not only in the hallways of universities but out there,” Campbell said.

Prior to the awards luncheon, there was a presentation of UA research posters emphasizing community-university partnerships and successful civic engagement practices.

The focus of project UNITED is to improve the health of rural Black Belt communities in regard to obesity and related diseases. Through UNITED, research training programs have been created for community residents and UA researchers to build their community-based participatory research capacity. CBPR is research that is conducted as an equal partnership between researchers and community members and allows communities to participate fully in all aspects of the research. To date, four research projects involving various Black Belt communities and UA researchers have been developed.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 32 percent of Alabama’s population is considered obese, above the national average of 27 percent. In some Black Belt counties, obesity rates range between 39 and 47 percent for adults and greater than 20 percent for school-age children. Obesity can lead to myriad of health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and some cancers.


College to host Patient-Centered Medical Home Conference

Imagine a doctor’s office where everything revolves around the patient.

The model is called a patient-centered medical home (PCMH). The name can be confusing because in this case, a medical home is not necessarily a place but rather a philosophy of providing care that is readily accessible, coordinated, centered around the patient and with an emphasis on prevention, education and managing long-term chronic conditions.

The College of Community Health Sciences at The University of Alabama will host a conference in July that focuses on the PCMH model and ways that physicians and other health-care providers can incorporate this model into their medical practices.

The conference, “Building the Patient-Centered Medical Home: Inspiration and Tools to Help Transform Your Practice,” will be held July 25-26 from 8 am to 4:30 pm at Hotel Capstone on The University of Alabama campus. CME will be provided, as well as CEUs for nursing and social work.

Among the keynote speakers is Paul Grundy, MD, director of IBM Global Healthcare Transformation and founding president of the Patient Centered Primary Care Collaborative.

In his role at IBM, Grundy (known as the “Godfather” of the PCMH) develops and executes strategies to shift health-care delivery toward consumer-focused, primary-care-based systems through the adoption of new philosophies, primary-care pilot programs, new incentive systems and the information technology required to implement such changes. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine and recipient of the 2012 National Committee for Quality Assurance Quality Award.

The Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative, founded in 2006, is dedicated to advancing an effective and efficient health system built on a foundation of primary care and the PCMH.

Other confirmed conference speakers include:

  • Beverly H. Johnson, president and CEO of the Institute for Patient and Family-Centered Care and the recipient of the 2011 Dorland Health People Award for leadership in the area of patient- and family-centered care. Johnson has published widely on patient- and family-centered issues and strategies, has more than 25 years of experience in organizational development and management, and has worked as a health professional, providing direct care in hospitals, managing a hospital unit and teaching.
  • Mary Coleman, MD, PhD, is a professor in the Department of Family Medicine and director of Community Health Clinics at the Louisiana State University School of Medicine. In her administrative role, she is working to develop an LSU network of primary-care health clinics that conform to the PCMH model.

A patient-centered medical home provides a team-based approach to comprehensive patient care. Led by a physician and including such health professionals as nurses, social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists, nutritionists, pharmacists and health educators, the PCMH is a way of organizing primary care to emphasize holistic care by a team of professionals who coordinate care and teach self-care skills. The goal is to provide a higher quality of care at a lower cost, and to improve the care experience for patients and providers alike.

All the attention to patients is not an extravagance. Heading off problems in the doctor’s office often keeps patients out of the emergency room or from being readmitted to the hospital, both of which are costly forms of health care. The PCMH has also been shown to help patients manage their own chronic health conditions, which account for an estimated 75 percent of all U.S. health care spending.

Related: Developing a Patient-Centered Medical Home

Rural Health Conference focuses on early childhood development

The key to forming healthy communities and eliminating health disparities in rural areas is to start early—from birth to age 5.

Early childhood development was the focus of the 15th Annual Rural Health Conference, held April 29 at The University of Alabama Bryant Conference Center. Hosted each year by the College of Community Health Sciences and its Institute for Rural Health Research, the conference is attended by health care providers, community leaders, researchers, government officials and policymakers interested in making an impact in rural communities.

This year’s event, “Healthy Beginnings, Healthy Communities: The Early Childhood Experience,” featured keynote speakers Allison de la Torre, MA, executive director of the Alabama School Readiness Alliance, and Bernard Guyer, MD, MPH, the Zanvyl Kreiger professor of children’s health, emeritus, of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

De la Torre, who works with the ASRA to promote high-quality, voluntary pre-kindergarten as a top statewide priority and has implemented state-based pre-k policy initiatives, spoke about the need for high-quality pre-K education in Alabama, as well as led a discussion of the definition of “high-quality.”

She said the most important window of a child’s education and brain development is before age 5: children who attended a higher-quality pre-K often have higher achievement test scores later on in life.

“This is critical,” de la Torre said. “This is vital to our state’s economic future. The achievement gap that our teachers and policymakers work so hard to close begins as a school-readiness gap.”

Guyer, who delivered the afternoon keynote address via videoconferencing (due to severe weather), spoke about how to link early child health to healthy communities as a whole. The more adverse events that occur during early childhood, the more likely adverse outcomes (like heart disease and depression) will be present later in life, even into the individual’s 50s, 60s and 70s, Guyer said.

“How do we go about addressing early influences in adult life?” Guyer asked. “We’ve begun to realize that it isn’t just about medicine, that healthy life is created in homes, health care facilities, community facilities in neighborhoods, in day care, in a whole range of different kinds of settings.”

Conference breakout sessions, many of which were led by speakers from the UA colleges of Nursing, Education and Human Environmental Sciences, focused on early child health care, development and education.

Michele Montgomery, PhD, MPH, RN, and Paige Johnson, PhD, MSN, RN, both assistant professors at The University of Alabama Capstone College of Nursing, spoke at the beginning of the conference and also in a breakout session about the Tuscaloosa Pre-K Initiative. Another breakout session was led by Maria Hernandez-Reif, PhD, director of pediatric development research for the UA College of Human Environmental Sciences, who spoke about common milestones in early childhood development.

This year’s William A. Curry Award winner was Keri R. Merschman, a fourth-year medical student at the University of Alabama School of Medicine — Huntsville campus, for her research, “Report to the AAFP: Evaluating the Effectiveness of the Tar Wars Education Program.” The award, named after the former dean of the College of Community Health Sciences and founder of the Institute for Rural Health Research, honors a UASOM student who demonstrates an academic interest in rural medicine and is engaged in rural research or scholarly activity.

Medical students attend orientation at College

Thirty-one University of Alabama School of Medicine students who will complete their third and fourth years of medical school at the College attended an orientation session in Tuscaloosa earlier this month.

“Our mission drives who we are and what we do, and our core values are the principles upon which we operate,” College Dean Richard Streiffer, MD, told the students. “What drives our medical education is social accountability.”

The College, which also functions as a regional campus of the School of Medicine, provides clinical education that is oriented toward primary care, while also providing exposure to and experience in other specialties.

“We have to have everything, but we have too many specialists and not enough primary care physicians in Alabama,” Streiffer said.

The College’s mission is to improve and promote “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 College’s core values are: integrity, social accountability, learning, innovation, patient-centeredness, transparency and interprofessional collaboration.

Medical students complete the first two years of basic sciences courses at the School of Medicine’s main campus in Birmingham, and then complete the third and fourth years of the medical school curriculum at either Birmingham or one of the school’s regional campuses in Tuscaloosa and Huntsville. A third regional campus, in Montgomery, will begin accepting students in August.

During their orientation in Tuscaloosa, the medial students also learned about the College’s clerkships and electronic medical record, and participated in CPR and training in the use of defibrillators. They toured DCH Regional Medical Center and met with Chief Medical Officer Ken Aldridge, MD.

“You’re about to begin an interesting part of your medical training,” Aldridge told them. “It’s a wonderful time for you and I hope you find it rewarding. And I hope all of you set up private practice in Tuscaloosa. We need all the bright young doctors we can get.”

Cockrum taps into elite women’s honorary

110708_CCHS_headshots_day_3True leader, compassionate and brilliant are all words that were used to describe Elizabeth Cockrum, MD, FAAP, in her recent nomination for the XXXI, a women’s honorary recognizing exceptional leadership and service to The University of Alabama community.

Cockrum, a professor of pediatrics at the College of Community Health Sciences and a 1981 graduate of The University of Alabama, was tapped-in to the 26th order of the organization as part of the 2014 Honors Week.

Cockrum received her nomination from Margaret Johnson, a UA student and vice president of the XXXI, who met Cockrum through the University Fellows Experience during her freshman year of college. As part of the program, Cockrum served as a mentor to Johnson.

“I have never met someone more willing to be involved in mentoring students,” Johnson says. “Not only is she an amazing mentor and helped guide my college career more than anyone else, but she is also an outstanding pediatrician and leader.”

The University Fellows Experience is a community of elite scholars from diverse disciplines who share a similar passion to being change agents through commitment to leadership and service.

“I had the privilege of shadowing Dr. Cockrum fall semester, and I have never seen a pediatrician connect so well with both her patients and their parents,” Johnson says. “Not only that, I also watched as she mentored the medical students during their pediatric rotation, and the amount of growth I saw in them over the six weeks was remarkable.”

Each year, 31 women are selected to represent the XXXI, including 18 rising seniors, eight honorary senior or graduate members, three alumnae, one faculty member and one honorary member. Past honorees include former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin.

The XXXI, founded in 1989, represents a diverse group of women who are committed to their paths and have made significant contributions to the community.

“Dr. Cockrum embodies everything that it means to be a woman of XXXI and her commitment to the University over the years has been relentless,” says Johnson.

College offers relaxation to Tuscaloosa Magnet School teachers

photo-4In recognition of Teacher Appreciation Week in May, the College of Community Health Sciences reached out to its Adopt-a-School partner, Tuscaloosa Magnet School, to offer Mindfulness Meditation sessions to the school’s faculty and staff.


Harriet Myers, PhD, an associate professor and clinical psychologist at the College, led the sessions in an effort to provide the teachers with a relaxation technique that can be easily used throughout the school day. Approximately 14 faculty and staff participated in the sessions.

Though the roots of mindfulness are in Buddhist meditation, the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, has brought a secular practice of mindfulness to the American mainstream in recent years.  The Mindful-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program developed by Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center has helped Myers develop her sessions.

“Mindfulness meditation is moment-to-moment awareness. It is being fully awake. It involves being here for the moments of our lives, without striving or judging,” according to Kabat-Zinn. Mindfulness meditation incorporates a formal practice of sitting meditation or mindful movement practices like yoga, and an informal practice of maintaining a moment-to-moment awareness of thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and surrounding environment.

According to Myers, the majority of our thoughts tend to be of the past or the future and our minds tend to live most often in a negative place. Through mindfulness, our thoughts tune into the present moment, without judgment, rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future, she said.

Studies have shown that the practice reduces pain, decreases anxiety, improves the ability to cope with stress, increases the ability to relax, promotes greater energy and enthusiasm for life and improves self-esteem.     

Avery talks shortage of OB/GYN services with WSFA

Many expectant mothers in rural counties are having to travel more than 50 miles for OB/GYN visits and hospitals that will deliver their babies, according to a WFSA-NBC in Montgomery news report.

The report included an interview with Dan Avery, MD, chair and professor of the College of Community Health Sciences’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Avery said half of the counties in the U.S. have no obstetric services, leaving about 10 million reproductive-age women short of any OB care, and the areas hit the hardest are rural.

“The big problem in Alabama is access to care,” Avery said in the report. “People are having to travel farther and farther distances. It’s not unusual for a woman to have to travel one to two hours for care.”

More than one-third of Alabama’s delivering hospitals have been forced to close their labor and delivery units, according to the report.

“Unfortunately when hospitals are struggling, like so many are, it’s a service that often falls to the wayside,” Avery said.