Spring scholarships awarded to medical students

Four medical students receiving their clinical education at the College of Community Health Sciences were awarded scholarships.

Danielle Fincher, a third-year medical student, was awarded the Larry Mayes Endowed Scholarship. The award for 2016 was $2,000.

The Larry Mayes Endowed Scholarship is awarded to medical students at the University of Alabama School of Medicine’s Tuscaloosa Regional Campus who elect a community medicine experience in a medically underserved setting in the United States or abroad during their third or fourth year of medical school.

Larry Mayes was a member of the Class of 1986 of the School of Medicine who died while on an elective rotation in Africa during his senior year. His family and friends created the fund in his memory to promote a broader understanding of international health care and of the health needs in underserved areas of the United States.


Elizabeth Junkin and Russell Guin, both fourth-year medical students, were awarded the Reese Phifer, Jr., Memorial Foundation Scholarship. The award for each was $1,500.

The Reese Phifer, Jr., Memorial Foundation Scholarship was established in 2014 for medical students receiving their training at the College who intend to join The University of Alabama Family Medicine Residency.

Both Junkin and Guin matched into the College’s Family Medicine Residency.

Maria Gulas, a third-year medical student, was selected as the recipient of the Robert E. Pieroni, MD, and Family Endowed Scholarship. The award for 2016 is $1,000.

The scholarship was established by Dr. Robert Pieroni and Mrs. Dorothy Pieroni in 2007 to support medical students at the College interested in entering primary care. Dr. Pieroni was a faculty member at the College for many years.

CCHS hosts orientation for incoming medical students

The College hosted 32 University of Alabama School of Medicine students April 28 and 29 who will complete their third and fourth years of medical school in Tuscaloosa.

In its role as a regional campus for the School of Medicine, the College provides clinical education for medical students that is oriented toward primary care but that also provides exposure to and experience in other specialties. In its role as a college on The University of Alabama campus, the College operates one of the oldest and largest family medicine residencies in the country and the multi-specialty University Medical Center, and conducts research focused on rural and community health.

During the orientation in Tuscaloosa, medical students learned about the College’s clerkships, participated in CPR training and toured DCH Regional Medical Center.

Medical students complete the first two years of basic sciences courses at the School of Medicine’s main campus in Birmingham, and their third and fourth years at either Birmingham or one of the school’s regional campuses in Tuscaloosa, Huntsville and Montgomery.

University of Alabama School of Medicine, Tuscaloosa Regional Campus
Class of 2018:

Emily Bender
Sarah Bode
Jordan Busing
Grace Cain
Jimmy Cheng
Nic Cobb*+
Kathryn Cox*>
Mary Craig
Laura Crocker
Clinton Erwin
Asaf Gans
Jake Guin*+>
Phillip Higginbotham
Whitney Hudman*
Luke Iannuzzi
Christopher Johnston
Salmaan Kamal
Koushik Kasanagottu+
Madeline Morgan
Randy Nelson*+
Bhavika Patel*
John Pickering
Marshall Pritchett*+
Christopher Ray
Rebecca Shuford+
Paul Strickland*
Mary Katherine Sweeney
Garrett Taylor+
Lissa Tyson+
Ben Walters+
Dana Watson*
Jared Willis*

>Primary Care Scholars
+TLC2 students
*Rural Medical Scholars

Grants, fellows and coordinator selected for Health Care Teaching County Partnership

Grants have been funded, fellows have been named and a coordinator has been selected for The University of Alabama and Pickens County Health Care Teaching County Partnership.

The partnership of UA and Pickens County and its medical center seeks to provide sustainable health care for the rural county and “real world” training for UA students. Students in medicine, nursing, social work, psychology, health education and other UA disciplines will gain practice from internships and other learning opportunities in Pickens County, and the rural county will gain additional health resources.

Approximately $600,000 was obtained from the Alabama Legislature in 2015 for the project, and the funds will be used in three ways.

Grant Projects
The first is to fund projects that address an identifiable health issue/priority within the Pickens County community. The projects must involve UA faculty, students and a Pickens County community organization or similar entity.

1. Disseminating the Power PATH mental health preventive intervention to Pickens County Community Action Head Start Program
Principal Investigator: Dr. Caroline Boxmeyer, associate professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at CCHS
Co PIs: Dr. Ansley Gilpin, assistant professor of psychology at UA, and Dr. Jason DeCaro, associate professor of anthropology
Collaboration: Pickens County Community Action Head Start Program

2. TelePlay: Connecting physicians, families and autism professionals to increase early autism identification in Pickens County
PI: Dr. Lea Yerby, assistant professor of Community and Rural Medicine at CCHS
Co PIs: Dr. Angela Barber, assistant professor of Communicative Disorders and the clinical research director of Autism Spectrum Disorders Clinic at UA
Collaboration: Dr. Julia Boothe, family medicine physician in Pickens County

3. Improving Pickens County Residents’ Knowledge of Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease and Type 2 Diabetes
PI: Dr. Michele Montgomery, assistant professor at the Capstone College of Nursing
Co PI:  Dr. Paige Johnson, assistant professor at the Capstone College of Nursing
Collaboration: Pickens County Community Action Committee & CDC, Inc., Pickens County Board of Education, Pickens County Head Start, and the Diabetes Coalition

4. Development of a Rural Family Medicine Residency in Pickens County
PI: Dr. Richard Friend, director of the College’s Family Medicine Residency
Collaboration: Jim Marshall, CEO of Pickens County Medical Center; Deborah Tucker, CEO of Whatley Health Services

5. Pickens County Medical-Legal Partnership for the Elderly
PI: Gaines B. Brake, staff attorney with the Elder Law Clinic at The University of Alabama School of Law
Collaboration: Jim Marshall, CEO of Pickens County Medical Center

6. Improving Access to Cardiac Rehabilitation Services in Pickens County
PI: Dr. Avani Shah, assistant professor of Social Work at UA
Co PI: Dr. Jonathan Wingo, associate professor of Kinesiology at UA
Collaboration: Sharon Crawford Wester, RRT, Cardiopulmonary Rehab Pickens County Medical Center

7. Alabama Literacy Project
PI: Carol A. Donovan, professor of special education and multiple abilities at UA
Collaboration: Jamie Chapman, Superintendent of Pickens County Schools

8. Bringing Healthy Food options and ease of preparation home to our senior adults
PI: Jennifer Anderson, director of Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UA
Co PI: Suzanne Henson, dietitian and assistant professor in Family Medicine at CCHS
Collaboration: Anne Jones, Pickens County Family Center and Mayor Joe Lancaster, City of Carrollton, Alabama

The funding from the Alabama Legislature will also cover one-year fellowships for these recent UA graduates. Four fellows have been selected. The fellowships will provide an opportunity for them to serve in health-related capacities in Pickens County to both provide a year of service while expanding their experience and education.

Project Coordinator
Wilamena Hopkins has been named the coordinator of the UA and Pickens County Health Care Teaching County Project.

Hopkins, who has experience as an event and training coordinator for Whatley Health Services, will be located primarily in Pickens County. She will direct and facilitate overall development, oversight implementation and administration for the project and serve as a liaison into the community and promote the partnerships and its projects to the people of Pickens County and the University community.

Pickens County ranks 41st in health outcomes against Alabama’s 67 counties. The county has nine primary care physicians per 10,000 residents, and 36 percent of adults are considered obese. One-third of the population lives below the poverty line.

UA’s Rural Medical Scholars Program Celebrates 20th Class

The Rural Medical Scholars Program at the College of Community Health Sciences will honor the graduates of its 20th class, as well as alumni of the now two-decade-old program, on Sunday, May 1, at Hotel Capstone on The University of Alabama campus.


Eighth annual Research Day held

Thirty-three posters were presented by faculty, staff, resident physicians and medical students at the College of Community Health Sciences at its 8th annual Research and Scholarly Activity Day on April 7, 2016.

Winners were named in three categories:

Faculty/Staff Category
First Place: “Where are the CCHS Medical School Graduates and What are They Practicing”
Principal Investigator: Dr. Daniel Avery
Authors: Dr. Grier Stewart, Dr. Catherine Skinner, Nelle Williams, Dr. Thomas Weida and Dr. John Higginbotham

Second Place: “Critical Care Interprofessional Education: Perceptions Among Nursing and Medical Students: A Mixed-Methods Pilot Study”
Principal Investigator: Luanne Friend
Author: Dr. Richard Friend

Resident Category
First Place: “Student and Resident Effectiveness in Dietary Modification”
Principal Investigator: Dr. Bhavika Patel
Authors: Dr. Brooke Robinson, Dr. Keirsten Smith, Dr. Jennifer Clem, Dr. Melanie Tucker, Dr. Linda Knol

Second Place:“Febrile Journey
Principal Investigator: Dr. Karen Merschman
Author: Dr. Karen Burgess

Medical Student Category
First Place: “Impact of an Interdisciplinary Geriatric Clinic on Cognition, Depression, and Anxiety in Geriatric Patients”
Principal Investigator: Brendan Meyer
Authors: Aaron Garrett, Dr. Anne Halli-Tierney, Dr. Rebecca Allen, and Dana Carroll

Second Place: “Needs Assessment of Medical Services for Sexual Assault Survivors at a Regional Medical Center Emergency Department”
Principal Investigator: Danielle Fincher
Author: Dr. Lea Yerby

Of the posters presented, 14 were by faculty and staff, four were by residents and 15 were by medical students.

Mini Medical School continues with tips for relieving stress, cooking demo

The College of Community Health Sciences is continuing its Mini Medical School program—a lecture series for The University of Alabama’s OLLI program—by beginning in April with two CCHS faculty.

Harriet Myers, assistant dean for Medical Student Education and clinical psychologist at the College’s University Medical Center, presented on handling stress and the chronic effects of too much stress. Suzanne Henson, registered dietitian in Family Medicine, provided a cooking demonstration and recipes for two healthy dishes.

The Mini Medical School Program provides an opportunity for adults and community learners to explore trends in medicine and health, and the lectures by CCHS faculty offer important information about issues and advances in medicine and research.

OLLI, short for Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, is a member-led program catering to those aged 50 years and older and offers educational courses as well as field trips, socials, special events and travel.

Myers presented her lecture “Stress and Illness” on April 19.

Some side effects of stress, like a headache, can be felt immediately, she said. But too much stress over a long period of time can have chronic health side effects, including difficulty sleeping, an upset stomach, high blood pressure, sexual and reproductive issues and a weaker immune system.

Myers said that mindfulness can be used to combat stress on an “hour-by-hour, moment-by-moment basis.” She provided tips for practicing mindfulness through breathing exercises as well as through calming, “judgment-free” thoughts.

“The mind, when not actively solving a problem, is constantly criticizing itself or others,” she said. “Practicing mindfulness is a change in the habitual, automatic way the brain works.”

Henson provided a cooking demonstration for participants on April 26.

The first recipe she demonstrated was a pasta with spicy peanut sauce. She suggested using protein-fortified pasta, as older patients often need more protein in their diets. And she also suggested modifications for participants with arthritis, such as using pre-sliced frozen vegetables.
She also provided a dessert of fresh strawberries and key lime yogurt flavored with a bit of coconut oil. The dessert had a low amount of sugar, she said.

CCHS pediatrician receives UA research award

Dr. Karen Burgess, associate professor and chair in the College’s Department of Pediatrics, was presented with The University of Alabama President’s Faculty Research Award for the College of Community Health Sciences on March 31 as part of UA’s Faculty Research Day.

Burgess was among 13 faculty members across campus to be recognized for excellence in research and/or scholarship in their fields. She and the other award winners were profiled at the event, sponsored by the University’s Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development and held at the Bryant Conference Center.

Karen Burgess from CIT Multimedia Services on Vimeo.

“We are a place for research, discovery and changing students’ lives,” said UA President Dr. Stuart Bell. “Research is good for The University of Alabama, the state and the country. I congratulate the recipients.”

Burgess’s research looks at ways to improve health outcomes of children in Alabama. Recently, she has focused on pediatric asthma. With funding from BlueCross and BlueShield of Alabama, she is conducting a school-based asthma education program via telemedicine for rural schools in Alabama.

“We partner telemedicine and schools, and we developed a curriculum to talk to students about asthma, inhalers and spacer techniques,” she said. “We’ve found that it’s (telemedicine) a successful way to communicate information to children who are suffering from a chronic condition.”

Burgess currently works with Greensboro Elementary School in Hale County and Ruhama Junior High in Fort Payne in DeKalb County. The schools were chosen because of their high rate of documented asthma cases. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 137,000 children in Alabama had asthma in 2007, a prevalence rate of 12.3 percent, which compares to the US rate of 9 percent.

Classes are offered weekly for the students and their parents to learn about asthma symptoms, medications and treatment. Each class meets a total of four times for 45 minutes. Part of the gift from BlueCross and Blue Shield was used to provide students at Ruhama Junior High School with asthma spacers (add-on devices for inhalers that allow for easier and more effective administration of medication). The hope is that students at Greensboro Elementary School will also be provided with spacers if they do not have them.

Burgess says parents of Ruhama Junior High School students have reported improved symptoms of asthma in their children. “My ultimate goal is to make people’s lives better,” she said.

Burgess plans to expand the project to develop telemedicine clinics in rural areas to improve access to health care for those populations.

Dr. David Franko, dean of UA’s Graduate School, was the keynote speaker at the awards presentation. He said faculty research and graduate education is linked, “and what emerges from this synergy is a vibrant knowledge economy.”

UA currently has 4,600 graduate students, 15 percent of the student body. The University has 6,500 graduate school alumni, and more than half live in Alabama. “Alabama is now a net importer of graduate talent,” Franko said.

UA to Host Training Course for Clinicians who Prescribe Opioid Medications

The University of Alabama will host a training course May 12 for clinicians who prescribe opioid medications.

The course, “Clinical Challenges in Opioid Prescribing: Balancing Safety and Efficacy,” is funded by and will use materials from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Continuing education will be provided.

Rural Health Conference to Focus on Integrative Medicine

Many people use a combination of conventional medicine and nonmainstream practices, like all-natural products or mind and body practices, for a whole person approach to their health care.

The 17th annual Rural Health Conference, hosted by the Institute for Rural Health Research at The University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences, seeks to educate community members and health care providers in rural areas about how this works.

Friends of College receive Family of the Year honor

Bradley Cork, a member of the College of Community Health Sciences’ Board of visitors, and his wife, Susan Cork, have been named the recipients of the United Way of West Alabama’s Alexis de Tocqueville Society’s annual Family of the Year honor.

The Corks will be presented with the award at the Society’s spring dinner on April 26.

“We are very honored to have been chosen from many worthy families,” Bradley Cork says.

The award is given to society members who have made significant contributions in improving health, education or financial stability for residents of West Alabama. The Alexis de Tocqueville Society was founded to recognize, foster and promote the vital importance of community service and personal giving. It is comprised of donors who invest $10,000 or more annually in the United Way of West Alabama.

Susan Cork is the manager and trustee of the Reese Phifer, Jr., Memorial Foundation, which established a scholarship fund in 2014 for University of Alabama School of Medicine students enrolled at its Tuscaloosa Regional Campus, which is located at the College. Priority is given to students who intend to join the College’s Family Medicine Residency and who have an interest in spending part of their training in Fayette, Ala.

The Reese Phifer, Jr., Memorial Foundation was established by Mr. and Mrs. J. Reese Phifer in 1967 in memory of their son J. Reese Phifer, Jr., a student at the University of Alabama who died in 1964.

“Mr. and Mrs. Reese Phifer were very generous and supportive of community involvement and encouraged us all to do the same,” Bradley Cork said.

In addition to serving on the College’s Board of Visitors, Cork also serves on its Capstone Health Services Foundation Board.