Mini Med School series with OLLI continues

There are times patients might ask their doctors for medications and tests that might not be necessary and that could cause harm, according to Dr. Ray Brignac, a family medicine physician who practices at University Medical Center-Northport, which is operated by the College.

During a lecture that was part of the College’s Mini Medical School program with The University of Alabama’s OLLI program, Brignac said doctors and patients need to talk and to use evidence-based recommendations to make the best care decisions possible.

“You need to put as much research into your medical decisions as you do buying a car or a washing machine,” he said. “There’s a lot of information out there. Try to go where the evidence is.”

A national campaign called Choosing Wisely advocates just that. The campaign encourages doctors and patients to have conversations informed by evidence-based recommendations that facilitate good decisions about appropriate care based on a patient’s individual situation, and to avoid unnecessary medical tests, treatments and procedures.

“The Choosing Wisely campaign gives us good tools to be better informed and wiser,” said Brignac, who titled his lecture “Choosing Wisely in Geriatrics.”

OLLI, short for Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, is a member-led program educational program catering to those aged 50 years and older. The College’s Mini Medical School lecture series through OLLI provides an opportunity for OLLI members and community learners to explore trends in medicine and health and to receive important information about issues and advances in medicine and research.

Brignac presented on May 3, and Dr. Catherine Ikard, a physician at University Medical Center and UMC-Northport, presented on May 10.

Choosing Wisely in Geriatrics
Brignac said older people often have more medical conditions and, as a result, take more medications than younger people. While medications have benefits, they also carry risks. “Is it always wrong to take medications? No. But you need to exercise caution,” he said.

He noted that sleeping pills help with insomnia, which affects many people over the age of 60, but studies show increased falls by those taking sleeping pills. Antibiotics do not cure colds and have risks, including diarrhea and damage to nerves and tendons. Nutritional supplements have the potential to react with other medications. Narcotics are not always the best way to treat chronic pain and non-drug interventions like exercise and physical therapy are sometimes more  effective. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications like Aleve and Ibuprofen are safe but can sometimes cause gastrointestinal bleeding and increased risk of heart attack or stroke, and while acetaminophen, found in Tylenol, is a good medication, if taken in excess can damage the liver. Medications for heartburn and acid reflux can carry higher risk of osteoporosis, but sometimes avoiding certain foods and sleeping with the head of the bed raised can help.

“It’s not that you shouldn’t ever take these drugs, but you need to be aware of the risks,” Brignac said. “It’s always good to questions medications – are there alternatives, lower doses?”

Many older patients have low back pain and often ask for X-rays or MRIs, Brignac said. He recommends patients wait a month before tests because most back pain clears up in that time. “If you jump right into testing, you can create needless anxiety, or you might wind up under the surgeon’s knife unnecessarily.”

Brignac joined University Medical Center-Northport last year after a 34-year practice at Selma Medical Associates in Selma, Ala. In addition to family medicine, Brignac also has an interest in geriatrics and nursing home patients and is working to build a “hands-on” nursing home practice in Northport and Tuscaloosa.

Recognizing, Treating and Preventing Strokes
If you suspect someone you know is having a stroke, the most important information that can be relayed to the EMT or physician treating that person is the last known well time, said Dr. Catherine Ikard.  This will determine the course of treatment.

Ikard, assistant professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine and Internal Medicine, spoke about the causes, symptoms and treatments of strokes at a lecture she presented as part of the College’s Mini Medical School with The University of Alabama’s OLLI program.

OLLI, short for Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, is a member-led educational program catering to those aged 50 years or older. The College’s Mini Medical School lecture series through OLLI 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.

One of the best ways to identify if someone might be having a stroke is to ask the person to smile. If the smile is lopsided or there is drooping, the person might be having a stroke, Ikard said.

If a stroke is caused by a blood clot, a medication called a tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA, may be given within four and a half hours of the last-known well time, said Ikard.

After four and a half hours, or if the patient cannot receive a tPA for medical reasons, endovascular therapy can be used, which involves the use of a stent retriever that a doctor routes through a catheter to the blocked artery and removes the clot, Ikard said.

“If you suspect a stroke, call 911,” Ikard said. “If it is a stroke, every 30 minute delay could lead to a 10 percent relative reduction in recovery.”

Coordinator of UA-Pickens County Partnership joins College

Wilamena Hopkins has joined the College of Community Health Sciences as the project coordinator for the UA-Pickens County Partnership, an effort that seeks to provide sustainable health care for the rural county and “real world” training for UA students.

The partnership of UA and Pickens County and its medical center will allow students in medicine, nursing, social work, psychology, health education and other UA disciplines to gain practice from internships and other learning opportunities in Pickens County, and the rural county will gain additional health resources.

Hopkins will be located primarily in Pickens County at its medical center and will direct and facilitate overall development, oversight implementation and administration for the project and serve as a liaison into the community and promote the partnership and its projects to the people of Pickens County and the UA community.

Approximately $600,000 was obtained from the Alabama Legislature in 2015 for the project, and the funds will be used for projects that address health needs in Pickens County, for fellows to serve in health-related capacities in Pickens County and for the project coordinator.

Four recent UA graduates have been selected for a one-year fellowship that will provide opportunities to serve in health-related capacities in Pickens County.

The projects that address an identifiable health issue or priority within the Pickens County community must involve UA faculty, students and a Pickens County community organization or similar entity.

The grant projects include:

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


Faculty joins Institute for Rural Health Research, Community and Rural Medicine

Dr. Mercedes Morales-Alemán has joined the College of Community Health Sciences as an assistant professor in the Department of Community and Rural Medicine and the Institute for Rural Health Research.

Morales-Alemán researches health disparities and health promotion among Latino populations in the southeastern United States through a community-based participatory lens.

She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Puerto Rico, and her master’s and doctoral degrees in ecological-community psychology from Michigan State University.

Morales-Alemán was a research fellow for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention. At the CDC, she studied the multi-level predictors of intimate partner violence and access to HIV services in ethnic minority communities at risk for or living with HIV and AIDS.

She recently completed a training fellowship in Preventive Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where she studied the social determinants of sexual health and health care access among adolescent Latinas in the South.

“I look forward to contributing to the University’s mission of excellence in research, teaching and service and to the Institute’s mission of bringing the highest attainable standard of health to rural citizens,” she says.

Medical students honored, presented awards at convocation

Thirty-one medical students were honored at the College of Community Health Sciences’ Senior Convocation on Friday, May 13, at the Tuscaloosa River Market. The students, now physicians, are beginning their residency training in programs across 11 states.

See the full coverage of Senior Convocation, including photos, a list of graduates and awards, here.

The students received their third and fourth years of clinical education at the College, which also functions as the Tuscaloosa Regional Campus for the University of Alabama School of Medicine. All students at the School of Medicine spend their first two years of medical education at the School of Medicine’s headquarter campus in Birmingham and then receive their clinical education at either Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Huntsville or Montgomery.

In an opening address at convocation, Dr. Craig Hoesley, senior associate dean for medical education at the School of Medicine, said the students are leaving the College and the School of Medicine “even better than it was when they found it.”

The students received awards from faculty, clinical staff and their peers. One of the awards presented was the newly-named William Owings Award in Family Medicine, which was awarded to Dr. Elizabeth Junkin for demonstrating excellence in Family Medicine.

Owings, who recently retired from the College, was recognized at the ceremony by Dr. Drake Lave

nder for his 20 years of service.

“Dr. Owings embodies all that is good in family medicine,” he said. “He was practicing full spectrum family medicine before family medicine even existed.”

On Sunday, May 15, the students joined their 173 classmates for commencement.

At commencement, Dr. John Thomas Killian Jr. received the Hugh J. Dempsey Award, given to the student with the highest overall academic achievement over the four-year course of medical school. Dr. Amber Michelle Beg received the Medical Alumni Association Leadership and Community Service Award.

Awards given at Convocation:

Department and College Awards:
Robert F. Gloor Award in Community Medicine
Drs. Jackson Averett Reynolds and Daniel Seale
Awarded for excellent performance in Community and Rural Medicine

William Owings Award in Family Medicine
Dr. Elizabeth Ann Junkin
Awarded for excellence in Family Medicine

Rural Medical Scholars
Drs. Nicholas Drew Darby, Justin Len Deavers, Andrew Lloyd Jones, Nicholas Allen Rockwell, Daniel Seale, Elijah J. Allen Stiefel

Family/Rural Medicine Preceptor’s Award
Dr. J.D. Shugrue
Awarded annually to a community preceptor in Family Medicine/Community and Rural Medicine who exemplifies excellent teaching and role modeling for students.

William Winternitz Award in Internal Medicine
Dr. Melissa Rae Jordan
Awarded for outstanding achievement in Internal Medicine during the third and fourth years. This student possesses an exceptional wealth of knowledge, is able to integrate the pathology of disease with the physiology of clinical skills, and practices with empathy, compassion, and a desire to improve the patients with whom he or she comes in contact.

Neurology Award
Dr. John Thomas Killian, Jr.
Awarded for outstanding academic and clinical performance during the Neurology Clerkship.

Pediatrics Recognition Award
Dr. Andrew Lloyd Jones
Awarded for outstanding interest, ability and the reflection of pleasure in helping parents and their children reach their full personal, social and educational potential.

Peter Bryce Award in Psychiatry
Dr. John Thomas Killian, Jr.
Awarded for excellence exhibited by a medical student both academically and clinically during his/her Psychiatry Clerkship. This award is presented in honor of Dr. Peter Bryce, who was appointed the first superintendent of Bryce Hospital in Tuscaloosa. He and his wife, Ellen Clarkson Bryce, were cornerstones for Tuscaloosa society and tenacious advocates for people who experience mental illness.

Finney/Akers Memorial Award in Obstetrics and Gynecology
Dr. Brittany Taylor Massengill
Awarded to a student achieving outstanding academic and clinical success in Obstetrics and Gynecology. This award is presented in honor of former medical students James H. Akers and Teresa K. Finney.

William R. Shamblin, MD, Surgery Award
Drs. Daniel Barton Booth, John Thomas Killian, Jr. and Paul Frederick Sauer, Jr.
Awarded to a student or students with the highest scholastic achievement during their third-year Surgery Clerkship. Dr. William R. Shamblin, a Tuscaloosa native and former Chair of the Department of Surgery, spent years educating medical students and Family Medicine residents. This award continues in his honor.

Interprofessional Excellence Award
Dr. Jonathan Russell Guin
This award recognizes the medical student who has best demonstrated excellence in communication skills, respect for staff and patients, and a commitment to working as an effective member of the health care team.

Larry Mayes Research Society Scholars
Drs. Daniel Barton Booth, Pia Marie Abano Cumagun, Katherine Rainey Dean, Wyman Oscar Gilmore III, Jonathan Russell Guin, Andrew Lloyd Jones, Brittany Taylor Massengill, Cyrus Massouleh, Jackson Averett Reynolds, Robert Rhett Rhyne, Nicholas Allen Rockwell, Daniel Seale, Elijah J. Allen Stiefel

Official Fellow Members:
Drs. Nicholas Drew Darby, Justin Len Deavers, Lauren Marie Gibson, Melissa Rae Jordan, Elizabeth Ann Junkin

Official Members: Drs. Emily Cleveland Ager, Cory Daniel Smith

Student Research Award
Dr. Wyman Oscar Gilmore III
Recognition of the pursuit of one or more research projects leading to presentation or publication during the clinical years of medical training.

Scholastic Achievement Award
Dr. John Thomas Killian, Jr.
Awarded for superior performance in the clinical curriculum.

William R. Willard Award
Dr. Elizabeth Ann Junkin
Established by the Bank of Moundville, this award is presented for outstanding contributions to the goals and mission of the College of Community Health Sciences as voted by the College faculty.

Faculty, Resident and Student Awards as determined by the graduating class
Faculty Recognition Award
Dr. Joseph Wallace
Awarded for outstanding contributions to undergraduate medical education during the students’ junior year.

Community Preceptor Recognition Award
Drs. Erica Day-Bevel and Charles Gross
Awarded to a community preceptor for outstanding contributions to undergraduate medical education.

Patrick McCue Award
Dr. A. Robert Sheppard
Awarded for outstanding contributions to undergraduate medical education during the students’ senior year.

Resident Recognition Award
Drs. Blake DeWitt and Brittney Anderson
Awarded for outstanding contributions to medical education.

James H. Akers Memorial Award
Dr. Amber Michelle Beg
Awarded to a graduating senior for dedication to the art and science of medicine.

College Scholarships
Dr. Sandral Hullett Endowed Scholarship
Chaniece Wallace
The Dr. Sandral Hullett Endowed Scholarship was established in 1992 from gifts given by the Capstone Health Services Foundation and proceeds from the 1991 Fiesta Bowl to honor Dr. Hullett, one of the first African-American Family Medicine residents to graduate from The University of Alabama Family Medicine Residency.

Frank Fitts Jr. Endowed Scholarship
Dr. Daniel Seale
The Frank Fitts Jr. Endowed Scholarship was created by Cynthia Ford Fitts (now Thomas) to address the needs of medical students who bear a high debt load upon graduation from medical school. The scholarship was named in honor of her late husband, Frank Fitts Jr., great grandson of J.H. Fitts, who established The University of Alabama’s first endowed scholarship in 1903.

Robert E. Pieroni, MD, and Family Endowed Scholarship
Drs. Elizabeth Ann Junkin and Jonathan Russell Guin
The Robert E. Pieroni, MD, and Family Endowed Scholarship was established by Dr. and Mrs. Robert Pieroni to support medical students intending to enter primary care.

Reese Phifer, Jr., Memorial Foundation Scholarship in CCHS
Drs. Elizabeth Ann Junkin and Jonathan Russell Guin
The Reese Phifer Jr. Memorial Foundation Endowed Scholarship is awarded annually to promote the education of medical students at the College of Community Health Sciences/University of alabama School of Medicine Tuscaloosa Regional Campus. The Foundation was established by Mr. and Mrs. Reese Phifer in 1967 in memory of their son J. Reese Phifer, Jr., a student at The University of Alabama who died in 1964. The foundation established the scholarship fund in 2014. Priority is given to current fourth-year medical students who intend to complete their residency at The University of Alabama Family Medicine Residency, Which the college operates, and who have an interest in spending part of their residency training in Fayette, Alabama.

Larry Mayes Endowed Scholarship
Dr. Amber Michelle Beg
Larry Mayes was an outstanding member of the class of 1986 who died while on an elective rotation in Africa during his senior year. Larry’s family and friends have created a scholarship fund in his memory to promote a broader understanding of international health care and of the health needs of underserved areas of this country. The award is presented to a rising senior to complete an international elective or an elective in an underserved area of this country.

School of Medicine Commencement Ceremony Awards:
Medical Alumni Association Leadership & Community Service Award
Dr. Amber Michelle Beg

Hugh J. Dempsey Memorial Award
Dr. John Thomas Killian, Jr.

Formal Academic Honors
Drs. John Thomas Killian, Jr. and Margaret Pollard Marks – Summa cum laude
Drs. Joshua Thomas Gautney, Matthew Monte May, Paul Frederick Sauer, Jr. – Magna cum laude

College co-hosts training for clinicians who prescribe opioid medications

As the use of prescription pain-killing opioids, and problems associated with their use, has increased, clinicians now have the difficult task of balancing patient pain relief with the need to prevent adverse outcomes.

That was the theme of an opioid prescribing training session for clinicians held May 12 at The University of Alabama. The session by the UA Substance Abuse and Health Services Administration, “Clinical Challenges in Opioid Management: Balancing Safety and Efficacy,” was conducted by two physicians selected by SAMSHA, Drs. Jacqueline Tulsky and Stephen Wyatt. The session was hosted by UA’s College of Community Health Sciences, Capstone College of Nursing and School of Social Work.

“The course will address the balance between providing pain relief and preventing inappropriate use of opioids,” Tulsky said as she welcomed the more than 100 physicians, nurses, social workers, medical students and resident physicians to the training session. “This is as much of an art as a science.”

Tulsky is emeritus professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, in the HIV/AIDS Division at San Francisco General Hospital. Wyatt is medical director of Addiction Medicine/Behavioral Health Service Line at Carolinas HealthCare System in Charlotte, North Carolina.

According to SAMSHA, chronic pain affects about 100 million Americans, approximately one-third of the population. The agency said pain is the most common reason for medical visits, and there are 40 million pain-related doctor visits each year. An estimated five million to eight million individuals are on opioids long term, and the number of opioid prescriptions written for pain treatment grew from 76 million in 1991 to 219 million in 2011, according to SAMSHA.

“The prevalence of chronic pain and the increasing use of opioids have created a silent epidemic of distress, disability and danger,” Tulsky said.

Efforts are underway nationwide to stem opioid abuse. Unintentional overdose deaths from prescription painkillers nearly quadrupled from 1999 to 2013, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services.

During the training course, information was provided about preventing adverse patient outcomes by teaching clinicians how to identify candidates for opioid therapy, how to monitor patient responses and how to better recognize problematic behaviors.

Opioids are effective in providing relief from pain, but there are side effects – nausea and vomiting, constipation, insomnia, respiratory depression, cognitive impairment and psychomotor dysfunction, and in rare cases organ toxicity. There’s also misuse, overuse and abuse of opioids, and even overdose deaths when opioids are combined with other medications or sedatives, Tulsky said.

A relatively new, unintended consequence has emerged – the shift from opioids to heroin. As access to opioids has tightened, more people are turning to heroin for pain relief and death rates from heroin use are increasing, Tulsky said. “There has been a rise in heroin use since 1999. Heroin is cheap and easy to get. No one will take care of you like your dealer will.”

Tulsky and Wyatt said the goal for clinicians is to “have a reasonable balance” and to “give opioids with some counseling to make it safer.”

“Pain is a complex problem, it’s not a single item,” Wyatt said. “As health care providers, we need to listen to patient experiences. Pay attention to depression, anxiety and other things they are experiencing. If we listen to patents we can start to care for them more effectively.”

Twentieth class of Rural Medical Scholars graduates

The Rural Medical Scholars Program at The University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences celebrated a milestone at its convocation in May – the 20th anniversary of the program, which is designed for rural Alabama students who want to become physicians and practice in rural communities.

“We are celebrating our 20 years, and recognizing students who are finishing the program this year and heading to medical school,” Dr. Jim Leeper, a professor of Community and Rural Medicine who works closely with the program, said as he welcomed graduates, their families and guests May 1 at the Hotel Capstone on the UA campus.

Eight Rural Medical Scholars graduated this year. Alumni of the two-decades-old program were also honored with a reception that preceded the convocation.

The Rural Medical Scholars program is exclusively for rural Alabama students and includes a year of study, after students receive their undergraduate degree, that leads to a master’s degree in Rural Community Health and early admission to the University of Alabama School of Medicine. Rural Medical Scholars spend the first two years of medical school at the School of Medicine’s main campus in Birmingham and then return to the College for their final two years of clinical education.

Dr. Kevin Leon, associate dean for Undergraduate Medical Education at the School of Medicine, provided the convocation address. He spoke to students about the importance of primary care, the area of medicine that many Rural Medical Scholars choose to practice, and the privilege of serving patients, sharing some of his own experiences.

“What sets a primary care physician apart from other physicians are the relationships that are built,” Leon said. “Being present at the beginning of a new life, caring for a person throughout their life, rejoicing with patients, crying with patients and being there at the end of their lives to help them with that transition. What a privilege that is.”

He said primary care physicians also need to be active proponents for health. “Our responsibility to our patients, their families and our society is to go further – as advocates for health care in our communities and the nation.”

Dr. Drake Lavender, an assistant professor in the College’s Department of Family Medicine and the first graduate of the Rural Medical Scholars Program, also spoke at the convocation. He noted that many Rural Medical Scholar graduates hold leadership positions in state and national medical and teaching organizations. Lavender currently serves as president of the Alabama Academy of Family Physicians. “I didn’t anticipate that leadership would be part of my responsibilities, but you need to. We need people to come behind us with leadership abilities.”

Also during the convocation, the Rural Medical Scholars Program Distinguished Service Award was presented to Dr. Jim Coleman, director of the Office of Family Health, Education, and Research at the UAB Huntsville regional campus of the School of Medicine. Coleman was founding director of the Rural Medicine Program, a sister program to the Rural Medical Scholars Program that was established at Auburn University and the Huntsville regional campus.

“There is no greater honor than to be recognized by students and your peers and by the program that started it all,” Coleman said in reference to the Rural Medical Scholars Program.

The Rural Medical Scholars Alumni Award for Outstanding Rural Medical Educator, presented for the first time, was awarded to Dr. John Brandon, a long-time family physician in Gordo, Ala., who has served as a preceptor to medical students and family medicine residents.

Graduating members of the 20th class of Rural Medical Scholars:

Anooshah Ata of Scottsboro
Helen Cunningham of Fairhope
Tanner Hallman of Arab
Gloria McWhorter of Pike Road
Carson Perrella of Salem
John Pounders of Leighton
Jayla Robinson of Addison
Harriet Washington of Carrollton

Carroll certified in geriatric pharmacy

Dana Carroll, PharmD, a clinical assistant professor in the College of Community Health Sciences’ Department of Family Medicine, earned certification as a geriatric pharmacist from the Commission for Certification in Geriatric Pharmacy. The CCGO, a nonprofit organization created by the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists, offers a voluntary certification program for pharmacists, with a focus on geriatric pharmacy practice. To become certified, eligible pharmacists must pass a written exam on geriatric pharmacy practice and principles of geriatric drug therapy. Carroll is a board-certified pharmacotherapy specialist and a certified diabetes educator. She earned her BA and PharmD from Auburn University and completed a primary care pharmacy practice residency.

College partner receives UA community engagement award

A Pickens County community organization and partner of the College of Community Health Sciences at The University of Alabama received a community engagement award from UA.

Buddy Kirk, Patti Presley-Fuller and Alan Harper, leaders of Friends of the Hospital in Pickens County, were awarded an Outstanding Community Partner-Initiated Engagement Effort Award last month.

Kirk is a retired attorney appointed by the Pickens County Commission to help the Pickens County Medical Center find a sustainable solution to its challenges. Presley-Fuller is County Extension coordinator for Pickens County. Alan Harper is a state representative whose district includes Pickens County.

Friends of the Hospital was created several years ago when Pickens County Medical Center was on the verge of closing. Like many rural hospitals across the country, the medical center was struggling to survive. Today, Friends of the Hospital and CCHS, as well as other UA colleges and schools, have partnered to create the Health Care Teaching County, a partnership involving Pickens County physicians and health care institutions and UA to address health care concerns in the county now and in the future.

“We recognize the efforts of students, faculty and community partners to move UA to the next level in engagement scholarship, working together as a team to make a difference in our communities and the lives of people living in those communities,” Dr. David Francko, UA’s associate provost and dean of the Graduate School, said during a luncheon to honor community engagement award recipients.

The idea behind the Health Care Teaching County partnership is to bring new energy and human capital to Pickens County, while providing useful training opportunities for students at UA. Students in medicine, nursing, social work, psychology, health education and other disciplines will gain practice from internships and other learning opportunities in Pickens County, and the rural county will gain additional health care and related resources.

Approximately $600,000 was obtained from the Alabama Legislature in 2015 for the project. To date, the funds have been used to hire a coordinator and four fellows for the partnership, and to fund seven UA-Pickens County proposals for health projects in the county. The fellows are receiving one-year paid fellowships that provide them an opportunity to serve in a health-related capacity in Pickens County and spend time in community engagement and leadership development activities.

Organizers of the partnership foresee overall improvement of health in the community and a possible boost in its economy as positive outcomes from the collaboration.

Pickens County is a Medically Underserved Area and a Primary Care, Mental Health and Dental Health Professional Shortage Area. The county ranks 41st in health outcomes among Alabama’s 67 counties.



UA Matters: Effects of Chronic Stress

Some side effects of stress, like a headache, can be felt immediately. But too much stress over time can wreak havoc on the body. Some chronic health conditions can be attributed to long-term stress, said The University of Alabama’s Dr. Harriet Myers.

Here are a few chronic side effects from long-term stress…

Training by UA Professors Helps Head Start Program Win Recognition

A Head Start program in Hale County that is the beneficiary of a grant to faculty at The University of Alabama has received recognition from a national organization.

At the 12th International PATHS Conference in Chicago, the Hale County Head Start center was recognized as a PATHS Model School. The Hale County Head Start is based in Sawyerville and overseen by Community Service Programs of West Alabama.