Burgess, Smith share successes of Asthma Education Program

A school-based asthma education program was launched in DeKalb County in September by the College of Community Health Sciences. The program is being conducted via telemedicine by Dr. Karen Burgess, associate professor and chair of the Department of Pediatrics, and Beth Smith, a nurse practitioner in the Faculty-Staff Clinic at University Medical Center. The two presented on the successes and challenges of the program at the College’s February Academic Conference.

Once a week, for four weeks, a group of students at the Ruhama Junior High School in Fort Payne, along with their parents and school staff and administrators, learn about asthma symptoms, medications and treatments. After a group has completed four sessions, another group participates.

The school was chosen because of its high rate of documented asthma cases, and Burgess and Smith referred to the National Asthma Prevention Program and the Alabama Department of Public Health’s asthma coalition when forming the curriculum.

The first two groups consisted of seven or eight students, parents, and a few staff or administrators from the school. The third group was made up of teachers and school staff. Altogether, 44 learners have been reached by the program.

“It was our goal to reach some parents of children and school staff, so we could kill two birds with one stone,” Burgess said.

The asthma education program is being funded with a $25,000 gift from BlueCross Blue Shield of Alabama.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 137,091 children in Alabama had asthma in 2007, a prevalence rate of 12.3 percent, which compares to the US rate of 9 percent.

So far, about one-third of the gift has been used, and 15 asthma spacers (add-on devices for inhalers that allow for easier and more effective administration of medication) were provided for students. Burgess said parents have also reported improved symptoms of their children.

Burgess said she and Smith found the informal classroom setting (versus a medical examination room setting) to be helpful in engaging the students, even with the occasional “awkwardness” that comes with communicating with video conferencing equipment.

“We provide asthma education every day in the clinic, and we never have had kids ask questions the way they do in the classroom,” she says.

CCHS has provided specialty health care via telemedicine across the state for a number of years, including: telepsychiatry services to the DeKalb County Youth Services; telepsychiatry services to West Alabama Mental Health Care Center, with sites in Marengo, Choctaw, Greene, Hale and Sumter counties; and diabetes education via telemedicine to a number of rural Alabama communities in Sumter, Pickens and Clarke counties.

Vickers commends College’s Longitudinal Curriculum in State of the School address

The Tuscaloosa Longitudinal Community Curriculum (TLC²) received praise from Dr. Selwyn Vickers, vice president and dean of the University of Alabama School of Medicine, during his first State of the School of Medicine address, which he gave from University of Alabama at Birmingham on Jan. 28.

The College of Community Health Sciences’s TLC² is a unique clinical educational opportunity for third-year medical students to live and train in a community under the supervision of experienced primary care physicians.

Students at UASOM receive the first two years of their education in Birmingham, where UASOM is headquartered, and then a cohort of students receives their third and fourth years of clinical training at the College, which also functions as the Tuscaloosa Regional Campus for UASOM.

Traditionally, medical students spend eight weeks in one block clerkship before moving onto the next. But a longitudinal curriculum allows students to learn at a deeper level, applying concepts in multiple settings at once.

Two students are currently participating in the program. Elizabeth Junkin is working in Reform, Ala., under the supervision of Dr. Julia Boothe, at Boothe’s practice, Pickens County Primary Care. Katherine Rainey is working with Dr. Vernon Scott and Dr. Erica Day-Bevel at Alabama Multi-Specialty Group, P.C., in Tuscaloosa.

The College has received a number of applications from students interested in participating in the coming year.

Vickers called the Tuscaloosa Regional Campus innovative for TLC², and commended Dr. Richard Streiffer, dean of the College, for leading the College through its strategic planning process, which yielded the longitudinal curriculum, among other things.

“The longitudinal curriculum allows [medical students] to engage with skilled clinicians who take them through the care of the patient across multiple diseases and multiple specialties,” Vickers said.

Brussels Sprout Challenge premiers at West Alabama Heart Walk

A Brussels Sprout Challenge was a highlight of the American Heart Association’s West Alabama Heart Walk held on February 14 at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater. The University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences partnered with Manna Grocery and Deli to roast and serve more than 800 Brussels sprouts during the walk.

The idea originated with Richard Streiffer, MD, dean of the College, as a counter to the Krispy Kreme Challenge – a two-mile race that requires participants to eat a dozen donuts at the mid-point of the race. Streiffer wanted to offer a similar challenge but also promote healthy eating and healthy lifestyles while complementing the American Heart Association’s goal of building healthier lives, free of heart disease and stroke.

To complete the Brussels Sprout Challenge, participants ate four Brussels sprouts during the walk – one at each mile and one at the finish line. Participants who completed the challenge were awarded a t-shirt highlighting the health benefits of the Brussels sprout, which include heart health, cancer protection and cholesterol lowering, among others.

“Lots of people who may have been introduced to the mighty cruciferous vegetable family are happy and healthier,” said Streiffer, who plans to host the challenge again at next year’s Heart Walk.

See more coverage of the Brussels Sprout Challenge here.

HIV/AIDS study nearing end

A research study examining the role that African-American churches and congregations can play in reducing HIV-AIDS related stigma in rural Alabama is nearing the finish line.

Dr. Pamela Payne-Foster, deputy director of the College’s Institute for Rural Health Research, is the principal investigator of the $540,368 grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She is also an associate professor in the College’s Department of Community and Rural Medicine.

The purpose of the study, titled Faith-Based Anti-Stigma Initiative Towards Healing HIV/AIDS, or Project FAITHH, is to conduct and evaluate an HIV/AIDS anti-stigma related intervention among 10 African American churches in rural Alabama in an effort to decrease both individual and community stigma in these congregations.

“Currently, we have almost completed all the control churches and half of the standardized churches and are currently working on the intervention churches,” Foster says.

The intervention includes daylong HIV/AIDS seminars at the churches, after which changes will be measured in congregants’ HIV/AIDS knowledge, as well as HIV/AIDS-related stigma.

CCHS, Nursing partner to provide interprofessional education

Research suggests that collaborative nurse-physician relationships are associated with lower patient mortality rates, fewer readmissions to the hospital and higher patient satisfaction. A better understanding between nurses and physicians regarding one another’s roles and expertise might even help prevent health care errors, research shows.

In an effort to support interprofessional education, the College of Community Health Sciences and the Capstone College of Nursing partnered this semester to provide undergraduate nursing students and third and fourth-year medical students an opportunity to interact weekly for two hours to learn from and with each other about four competencies associated with interprofessional education: values and ethics for interprofessional practice, roles and responsibilities, interprofessional communication and teamwork.

The course provides a forum for students to discuss and resolve shared issues commonly encountered in the health care environment. Students meet in the classroom and the clinical practice lab at the College of Nursing to learn how to perform critical care procedures as teams, as opposed to traditional methods where they have learned in isolation of one another. The course will culminate with an interactive interprofessional simulation in the school of nursing simulation lab.

The goal is to prepare students to work together with the common goal of building a safer and better patient-centered health care system.

Faculty from both colleges say students are learning about each other’s unique contributions to patient care. One nursing student reported during the first week of class, “nurses are the eyes and ears for the health care provider and advocate for the patient when they cannot advocate for themselves.” Medical students reported how they “marvel at what nurses know about each patient,” and how they “depend upon nursing to inform them of critical information as they complete their daily rounds.”

UA Matters: Do Adults Need Booster Shots?

When we think of vaccinations, the image of children getting their shots at a health clinic comes to mind, but there are many reasons adults need to think about vaccinations, as well.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 50,000 adults in the United States die each year from diseases that are preventable through vaccination. If you are planning on traveling, especially to foreign destinations, you may need to make a visit to your health-care provider for needed vaccinations.

There are regular vaccinations that you may need to update, as well. The University of Alabama College of Community Health Science’s Angela Hammond reminds us that it is as important for adults to be up-to-date on vaccinations as it is for children.

UMC provides Student of the Month program at Tuscaloosa Magnet Schools

Students at Tuscaloosa Magnet School Elementary and Middle are incentivized regularly for key character traits through University Medical Center’s Student of the Month program. The program is a partnership of The University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences, which operates University Medical Center, and Tuscaloosa Magnet Schools and is part of the West Alabama Chamber of Commerce’s Adopt-a-School program. This is the seventh consecutive year of the partnership.

The Student of the Month program is based on the International Baccalaureate Attitudes and Learner Profile and rewards students who exemplify a selected characteristic each month. University Medical Center provides a certificate, a pencil and a real-fruit Popsicle to each student at a monthly social.

“The Student of the Month program is a great way for University Medical Center to encourage the students to be lifelong learners and to reward them for intercultural understanding and respect,” says Amy Saxby, marketing and events coordinator at the College and coordinator for the partnership. “We also love the opportunity to encourage healthy eating by offering real-fruit popsicles instead of ice cream.”

In addition to the Student of the Month program, the College also supports the Magnet School by leading a nutrition club for middle school students, by teaching a 10-week course to elementary students on the human body and the job of a doctor and by supporting various school events throughout the year.

Angela Hammond on Vaccinations and Boosters

Angela Hammond, a Nurse Practitioner in the Faculty Staff Clinic of University Medical Center, gives an update on vaccinations and boosters.