UA’s Project FAITHH Conference Features Several HIV/AIDS Activists

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Five nationally known HIV/AIDS activists are featured speakers at The University of Alabama’s Project FAITHH conference in Montgomery.

The Ministers Dissemination Conference, which is sponsored by UA’s College of Community Health Sciences’ Project FAITHH, or Faith-based Anti-stigma Initiative Towards Healing HIV/AIDS, will be held 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4, at Maggie Street Baptist Church in Montgomery.

UMC offering transitional care to discharged hospital patients

When some patients are discharged from the hospital after being treated for an acute condition, they need help transitioning back into their everyday life—and making sure they are not readmitted.

University Medical Center, which is operated by The University of Alabama’s College of Community Health Sciences, is now helping these types of patients on a weekly basis with its new Transitional Care Clinic located in the Department of Family Medicine. The clinic is held every Thursday morning and is currently seeing about five to eight patients every week.

The clinic was developed through an interprofessional collaboration among the Family Medicine, Pharmacy and Social Work departments along with a partnership with DCH Regional Medical Center. The efforts have been spearheaded by Dr. Tamer Elsayed, assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine.

Elsayed, who is a recent graduate of the College’s Family Medicine Residency, says the aim of the clinic is to provide services to patients who face medical or social issues that require special attention in the transition. He says the clinic addresses barriers patients face when obtaining health care, such as transportation or the cost of medication.

“Our target is to provide the patients with the means to maintain health and avoid complications of chronic health problems,” he says.

From left, Amy Yarbrough, LPN, Dr. Tamer Elsayed, assistant professor in Family Medicine, and Kim McMillian, LPN

From left, Amy Yarbrough, LPN, Dr. Tamer Elsayed, assistant professor in Family Medicine, and Kim McMillian, LPN

Kim McMillian, LPN, a nurse in family medicine and a primary care patient advocate for University Medical Center, works with DCH to identify UMC patients who have been treated at DCH for chronic conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure, diabetes. The patients are contacted within two days, McMillian says.

“We’ll contact them to make an appointment, and make sure they have what they need at home,” she says. “We try to reconcile their medications and make sure they can get to their appointment.” The biggest issues facing patients are coping with their diagnosis as well as transportation, McMillian says.

An appointment must take place within seven to 14 days, and the patient will meet with Elsayed as well as a pharmacist or social worker. Also working the clinic are: Dana Carroll, PharmD, assistant professor in Family Medicine and the Pharmacy departments; Robert McKinney, LCSW, and Cynthia Tyler, MSW, both social workers for University Medical Center; and Amy Yarbrough, LPN, a nurse in Family Medicine. Suzanne Henson, a nutritionist and dietician for the College, and Calia Torres, a fellow in Behavioral Health, also assist.

The patient then must go 30 days without being readmitted to the hospital for the treatment to qualify as transitional care. The goal is for them to assimilate into their community setting and back to regular care with a primary care physician. The clinic will follow up with the patient and provide health education, a 24-hour answering service, a dedicated nurse, and walk-in care at UMC. McMillian also works to schedule an appointment with the patient’s primary care physician within two weeks.

“The clinic will serve patients as part of their patient-centered medical home,” Elsayed says. “It will provide patients with excellent care and avoid hospital readmissions at the same time.”


College awards fall 2015 scholarships

Six medical students who are receiving their clinical education at The University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences have been awarded scholarships.

Daniel Seale, a fourth-year medical student, was awarded the Frank Fitts, Jr. Endowed Scholarship for the second year in a row. The $5,000 award is given annually to medical students who bear a high debt load upon graduation. It was established in 1993 by Cynthia Ford (Fitts) Thomas to honor her late husband Frank Fitts, Jr., great-grandson of J.H. Fitts who established The University of Alabama’s first endowed scholarship in 1903.

Chaniece Wallace, a third-year medical student, was awarded the Dr. Sandral Hullett Endowed Scholarship, an award established with gifts from the Capstone Health Services Foundation and proceeds from the 1991 Fiesta Bowl to honor Dr. Sandral Hullett, one of the first African-American residents to graduate from The University of Alabama Family Medicine Residency, which is operated by the College. The $1,000 award is annually given to a medical student enrolled at the College, and priority is given to black or African-American students, followed by students from other socially or economically disadvantaged groups.

Pia Cumagun

Pia Cumagun

Melissa Jordan

Melissa Jordan

Elizabeth Junkin

Elizabeth Junkin

Daniel Seale

Daniel Seale

Chaniece White

Chaniece White

Elizabeth Junkin, Pia Cumagun, and Melissa Jordan, all fourth-year medical students, received awards from the International Medical Experience Fund, which supports international travel that facilitates the education of medical students at the College. Priority is given to applications and training opportunities that align with the College’s mission.

Junkin will spend four weeks in La Entrada de Copan, Honduras, where she will study medical missionary work, community health issues and tropical medicine while treating patients at a boarding school and in nearby villages. Cumagun and Jordan will take the Lumbreras Tropical Medicine course, a four-week elective in Lima, Peru, that allows students to study the treatment and prevention of tropical and infectious diseases.

Crystal Skinner, a first-year medical student, was awarded the Alfa Rural Medical Scholars Endowed Loan, a full-tuition loan, which is given to an outstanding Rural Medical Scholar each year to further encourage practice in rural Alabama. The interest-free loan will be fully forgiven if the recipient practices medicine in a rural setting for at least five years after residency.

In its role as a regional campus to the University of Alabama School of Medicine, the College provides clinical training to a cohort of third- and fourth-year medical students. The students spend the first two years of medical education in Birmingham.


College to offer Culinary Medicine elective

Physicians often advise patients to avoid foods high in fat, sugar and sodium. But it can be more effective to help patients come up with a meal plan suitable for everyday life. That is why The University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences is partnering with the College of Human and Environmental Sciences to create a Culinary Medicine elective.

Starting in January 2016, the class will teach, through lectures, hands-on cooking classes and a follow-up discussion, medical students, Family Medicine residents and nutrition students how to better educate patients about their diets.

“Patients don’t like to hear ‘don’t eat,’” says Dr. Jennifer Clem, assistant professor in Family Medicine and one of the faculty spearheading the project. “We need to be telling our patients what they can eat. Students aren’t coming out of their medical education with the right thoughts about this issue, and we need to work on that.”

Clem will be teaching with Dr. Linda Knol, associate professor of human nutrition at the College of Human and Environmental Sciences. About 30 will take the class, which will encourage a team-based approach to working with patients. The idea is for the students to learn the basics of cooking so that they can provide patients with helpful information when addressing chronic disease management and obesity. Classes will be held in the College of Human and Environmental Sciences’s teaching kitchen.

The curriculum for the course will pull from five of 20 modules of the curriculum at Tulane University’s Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine: Intro to Culinary Medicine, which will include the principles of the Mediterranean diet; weight control and portion control; fats and textures; renal disease, hypertension and sodium; and diabetes and carbohydrates. The students will also learn recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.

A group leading the College’s efforts to implement the elective presented information about the course to the College’s Board of Visitors at its fall meeting on Nov. 13. The group was comprised of: Clem; Knol; Dr. John C. Higginbotham, associate dean for Research and director of the College’s Institute for Rural and Health Research; and Dr. Keirsten Smith, a second-year Family Medicine resident. Smith pointed out to the Board that by 2030, obesity will surpass tobacco as the leading cause of cancer.

“Obesity is slowly becoming a norm which will continue to burden our healthcare system if the problem isn’t addressed,” she said.

In June 2015, Higginbotham, Clem, Dr. Richard Streiffer, dean of the College, and Dr. Bhavika Patel, chief resident for the College’s Family Medicine Residency, attended a two-day retreat at the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine to learn about the curriculum.

“Addressing lifestyle issues in order to improve health is fundamental to what we do in primary care in the nation,” said Dr. Streiffer in a article. “We need ultimately to equip our students with a better set of skills, not just with disease but about wellness. This is a piece of a long-term strategy to change our curriculum and our product.”

College provides medical care at Homeless Connect

Faculty, residents and medical students at The University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences provided homeless people in the community with health screenings and treatment for acute conditions at Homeless Connect, an event held at Central High School in Tuscaloosa on Saturday, Oct. 31.

The event provided the homeless access to medical, dental and vision care as well as legal assistance, substance abuse and mental health counseling, information about employment and housing opportunities, and even haircuts.

“Sometimes these services can be difficult to access and navigate for individuals without resources or transportation,” says Teresa Manlief, a volunteer with Love in the Name of Christ, or Love INC, a local coalition of churches that organized the event. Homeless Connect is a national project with a mission to end homelessness by providing access to community resources.

Elizabeth Junkin, fourth-year medical student, helped spearhead the efforts of the College. Junkin is president of the College’s local chapter of the Family Medicine Interest Group, which is part of the national group organized by the American Academy of Family Physicians. One of the College’s functions is to serve as the Tuscaloosa Regional Campus for the University of Alabama School of Medicine and provide clinical education for a cohort of third- and fourth-year medical students.

A group of about 15 from the College, made up of faculty, residents and medical students, provided care at the event. The health screenings included checks of vital signs, glucose levels and body mass index calculations. Patients were then seen by a medical student with supervision from a resident or faculty member.

“Our main goal for the day was to treat acute conditions, provide flu shots and get patients plugged into Whatley Health Services or the Good Samaritan Clinic,” Junkin says. They were also able to fill some prescriptions, she says.

Junkin says she saw patients diagnosed with high blood sugars and hypertension.

Manlief says the services provided helped eliminate barriers for the homeless, and she hopes the event can take place again in the future.

“The UA faculty, residents and medical students provided this important service and helped individuals receive treatment for potentially life-threatening conditions that they might not have otherwise received,” she says.


Residency celebrates 40 years

The College of Community Health Sciences hosted a reunion weekend Nov. 13-15, 2015, to celebrate 40 years of its Family Medicine Residency, and graduates from the last four decades gathered to reconnect, remember the history of the Residency and learn about its current impact on the state of Alabama and the Southeast.

The Residency, one of the oldest and largest family medicine residencies in the United States, was founded in 1974 and to date has graduated 450 family medicine physicians, the first one in 1975. More than half of those graduates are practicing in 46 of Alabama’s 67 counties, and 48 percent are practicing in a rural area of the state.

One in seven family physicians in Alabama graduated from the Residency, and 77 percent of Residency alumni practice in a primary care physician shortage area.

The College’s mission is to improve and promote the health of individuals and communities in Alabama and the region, and part of how it accomplishes that mission is by addressing the physician workforce needs of Alabama and the region with a focus on comprehensive Family Medicine Residency training.

The weekend kicked off with a cocktail party on Nov. 13 at the Tuscaloosa Museum of Art, and a lecture series was held the following morning with continuing medical education credits offered. Dr. Richard Streiffer, dean of the College and a 1980 graduate of the Residency, and Dr. Richard Friend, director of the Residency and chair of the Department of Family Medicine, presented a history of the College and the Residency and talked about recent growth and expansion. The Residency has undergone an expansion in recent years, growing from 36 to 48 approved slots.

Friend said the drive behind the Residency’s growth and expansion is its responsibility to care for the health of the state.

“I think we have an obligation to the region to produce more family medicine doctors,” he said.

Dr. Scott Arnold, associate professor and chair of Internal Medicine, presented an update on internal medicine research. Dr. Kristine Graettinger, assistant professor and chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Dr. Catherine Skinner, assistant professor of Family Medicine, presented on current topics in women’s health.

The series also included a two-part presentation by Dr. John Sullivan, a 1978 Residency graduate well-known for his work in toxicology, including the development of rattlesnake bite anti-venom serum, as well as development of medication container features to prevent tampering following seven Tylenol-related deaths in Chicago in 1982 that were the result of product tampering.

Sullivan talked about the development of his anti-venom serum.

As a practicing physician in Arizona, he would often see several hundred patients between March and October of each year who had been bitten by rattlesnakes. He had a laboratory in his practice, so worked to develop an anti-venom serum, shepherded it through clinical trials during the 1990s, and by 2000 received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Today, his serum is the standard treatment for rattlesnake bites.

“My goal when I came to residency here was to practice in rural Alabama and really change the world,” Sullivan said. “But I am still one of you. I just changed the world in a different way.”

Later that evening, a Gala was held at the North Zone at Bryant-Denny Stadium. After a welcome by Streiffer, brief remarks were provided by Dr. Mike McBrearty, the first graduate of the Residency, and Dr. Drake Lavender, a more recent graduate of the program.

Dr. Glen Stream, president of Family Medicine for America’s Health and former president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, delivered the keynote address. He outlined the goals of the Health is Primary Campaign, an initiative of Family Medicine for America’s Health. The campaign, launched a year ago, seeks to improve the health of people across the country and to rein in health care costs. Campaign strategies include increasing the number of family medicine physicians in the United States, ensuring that everyone has a medical home and changing the payment system for primary care.

“Family Medicine for America’s Health works to educate the public about the importance of family medicine,” Stream said. “People who have a family medicine physician, who have a source of primary care, are healthier.”

“It’s good to be celebrating the importance of your residency program,” he added.

Streiffer says the weekend was a success because graduates were able to visit with each other and reconnect with the College.
“That was what we really wanted to do—reconnect with our alumni base, and in doing so, help them see how the Residency, to which they all contributed by virtue of having been part of it, has grown and evolved from its early days while still remaining true to its original mission,” he says. “I hope our alumni are proud of the Residency, feel good about our direction, and will keep in touch in touch and help advise us about and inform our future.”