Projects underway in UA-Pickens County Partnership

In Pickens County, elementary school students in Gordo are learning how to garden and how to prepare healthy foods. Meanwhile, Head Start teachers in Carrollton are being trained to identify and prevent mental health issues. Both of these are part of ongoing projects with The University of Alabama-Pickens County Partnership.

Coordinated by the UA College of Community Health Sciences, the partnership seeks to provide sustainable health care for the rural county and real world training for UA students in medicine, nursing, social work, psychology, health education and other disciplines.

Pickens County is a medically underserved area and a primary care, mental health and dental health professional shortage area. The county ranks 41st in in the state in health outcomes.

Four recent UA graduates who are completing year-long fellowships with the partnership and are working on collective and individual projects.

The fellows, August Anderson, Laura Beth Brown, Courtney Rentas and Judson Russell, are conducting health screenings at schools across Pickens County, including Pickens Academy, Aliceville Elementary, Gordo High School and Reform Elementary School.

“While the health screenings have been a top priority for the fellows for the past couple of weeks, they have remained actively involved in their community projects,” says Wilamena Dailey, coordinator for the Partnership.

Anderson’s individual project is providing health education in Pickens County Schools. Brown is focusing on senior centers and providing the elderly with care, activities and resources. Rentas and Russell are focused on activities at the 4H House in Gordo. Rentas is educating students about nutrition through hands-on cooking demonstrations, and Russell teaches them about growing healthy foods through a teaching garden.

Eight projects that address health issues in Pickens County are also part of the partnership. Each includes UA faculty, UA students and a Pickens County community organization.

An update on some of the projects underway:

Disseminating the Power PATH Mental Health Preventive Intervention to Pickens County Community Action Head Start Program:
Dr. Caroline Boxmeyer, associate professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at CCHS and the principal investigator of the project, has implemented the first portion of the Power PATH Program, equipping Pickens County Head Start teachers  with training and resources to use in the future to identify and help prevent mental illness. The second part of the program—a training program for parents—is underway.

Boxmeyer is working alongside Dr. Ansley Gilpin, assistant professor of psychology at UA, and Dr. Jason DeCaro, associate professor of anthropology at UA. They are collaborating with the Pickens County Community Action Head Start Program.

Improving Pickens County Residents’ Knowledge of Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease and Type 2 Diabetes:

Health screenings have been conducted at the Pickens County Head Start Pre-K Program and at the Board of Education as part of the project. Led by Dr. Michele Montgomery and Dr. Paige Johnson, both assistant professors at the UA Capstone College of Nursing, the project is in collaboration with the Pickens County Community Action Committee and CDC, Inc., the Pickens County Board of Education, Pickens County Head Start and the Diabetes Coalition.

Pickens County Medical-Legal Partnership for the Elderly
Gaines Brake, staff attorney with the Elder Law Clinic at UA’s School of Law, is seeing clients at Pickens County Medical Center and throughout the community to increase awareness about the Medical-Legal Partnership. The Elder Law Clinic also hosts hours at Pickens County Medical Center, where it provides free legal advice and representation to individuals aged 60 and over. Gaines is working with Jim Marshall, CEO of Pickens County Medical Center.

Improving Access to Cardiac Rehabilitation Services in Pickens County
An expansion of the Cardiac Rehabilitation Center at Pickens County Medical Center is completed. Dr. Avani Shah, assistant professor of social work at UA, and Dr. Jonathan Wingo, associate professor of kinesiology at UA, have collaborated with Sharon Crawford Webster, RRT, of the Cardiopulmonary Rehab at Pickens County Medical Center on the project.

The College’s mission is to improve and promote the health of individuals and communities in Alabama and the region, and one of the ways it seeks to do that is by engaging communities as partners, particularly in rural and underserved areas.

In Pickens County, there are nine primary care physicians per 10,000 residents, and one-third of the population lives below the poverty line. The county ranked 45th of Alabama’s 67 counties in social and economic factors that contribute to health. Thirty-six percent of adults are considered obese.

Click here to view all the planned projects for the partnership, and to learn more about Pickens County.

Alumnus, antivenin developer speaks to med students about snakebites

Resident speaks about hypertension at Mini Medical School

One in three adults in America has hypertension, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, hypertension can be treated with lifestyle modifications and medications, said Dr. Brittney Anderson, a third-year resident physician at The University of Alabama Family Medicine Residency.

Dr. Brittney Anderson, third-year resident at The University of Alabama Family Medicine Residency

Dr. Brittney Anderson, third-year resident at The University of Alabama Family Medicine Residency

Anderson provided a presentation on hypertension on Nov. 3 as part of the Mini Medical School program conducted by the UA College of Community Health Sciences in collaboration with UA’s OLLI program.

Mini Medical School lets adults and community learners explore trends in medicine and health, and the lectures by CCHS faculty and residents provide information about issues and advances in medicine and research. OLLI, short for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, is a member-led program catering to those aged 50 years and older and offers education courses as well as field trips, socials, special events and travel.

Anderson started her presentation by illustrating hypertension, or high blood pressure.

“Think of it the way you would think of pressure from a water hose. What would alter that pressure? The size of the hose, and what the fluid in the hose is having to overcome,” she said.

Cholesterol buildup, for instance, can inhibit blood from moving at a normal pressure through blood vessels, she said.

Diagnosing hypertension starts with an accurate blood pressure reading, which can sometimes be challenging due to faulty or inaccurate measuring cuffs or other factors with the patient and environment, Anderson said.

She offered tips for an accurate blood pressure reading. First, be at your calmest—don’t worry about engaging in conversation. Second, support your back and feet, and keep your legs uncrossed. Third, empty your bladder so that it doesn’t affect your body’s stress level. And fourth, keep your arm supported at your heart level and make sure the cuff is over your bare arm (and not your clothes).

If patients are using an automated cuff for measuring blood pressure at home, the physician may ask that it be brought in for the exam to compare, Anderson said.

Normal blood pressure less than 120 mm Hg systolic and less than 80 mm Hg diastolic. Prehypertension is between 120-139 mm Hg systolic and 80-89 mm Hg diastolic. When the systolic reads 140-159 mm Hg, and diastolic reads 90-99 mm Hg, the patient may be diagnosed as Hypertension Stage 1. Hypertension Stage 2 is when the systolic is 160 mm Hg or higher, and the diastolic reading is 100 mm Hg or higher. A Hypertensive Crisis, which requires emergency intervention, is when the systolic is read at higher than 180 mm Hg and higher than 110 mm Hg diastolic.

If a patient has an elevated blood pressure reading of greater than or equal to 180/110 mm Hg, then the diagnosis is clearly hypertension, Anderson says.

“But if not, then we have to do some more digging,” she said. It could be that the patient suffers from “white coat hypertension,” which means the patient is nervous simply from being in the doctor’s office. Patients in that case would be asked to wear an ambulatory blood pressure cuff 24 hours a day for a few days for an accurate measurement.

Or, if a patient is diabetic, it causes damage to blood vessels. That means that if a reading is greater than 130/80 mm Hg and the patient is diabetic, then it is a diagnosis of hypertension.

There are risk factors that lead to hypertension, Anderson said. Primary risk factors include age, obesity, family history, race, diet and exercise and alcohol use. Secondary risk factors include medicines (like decongestants, birth control and steroids), illicit drugs, sleep apnea and renal disease.

Hypertension can be treated through lifestyle modifications, like weight loss, adopting an eating plan, adding physical activity and reducing alcohol and sodium intake, Anderson said. There are many medications, too. Thiazides, ACE inhibitors and calcium channel blockers are some of the most common.

In Remembrance: Dr. Ernest Cole Brock, Jr.

Dr. Ernest Cole Brock, Jr., a longtime physician for the Alabama Crimson Tide and the creator of a sports medicine lecture series for the College of Community Health Sciences, passed away on Nov. 5 at his home in Tuscaloosa. He was 91.

Dr. Ernest Cole Brock, Jr., with his wife, Hannah Brock

Dr. Ernest Cole Brock, Jr., with his wife, Hannah Brock

Brock was an orthopedic surgeon who practiced in Tuscaloosa for many years, in addition to serving as a physician for the Alabama football team.

He and his wife, Hannah Brock, created The Ernest Cole Brock III Endowment for Continuing Medical Education at the College to support a lecture series on treating concussions and other athletic injuries. They created the fund to honor the memory of their son Ernest Cole Brock III who died in 1999 at the age of 36. The inaugural lecture was held in January 2013.

Brock grew up in Fairfield, Alabama. In 1943, at age 18, he entered the United States Air Force and fought as a gunner in 32 combat missions in Guam and Japan. After he returned to the US, he accepted a scholarship to play football at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.

Brock had plans to be a football coach and a science teacher, but after he suffered a career-ending leg injury during his second year of college, he decided to pursue medical school. He received his medical degree from Wake Forest University and then completed his residency in orthopedic surgery at University Hospital in Birmingham (now UAB Hospital).

After residency, he joined the hospital’s staff and served as the physician for high school football players at Legion Field.

“[Orthopedic surgery] is a good field to be in,” Brock said to the College in a 2014 interview. “Most of the patients are young and can heal.”

Brock later formed an orthopedic surgery and sports medicine practice in Tuscaloosa and began traveling as a surgeon with the Crimson Tide and head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.

“I enjoyed working for the team, and Coach Bryant was nice to work for,” Brock said.

For 25 years, Brock was the team orthopedist for Alabama. He also served as an orthopedic preceptor for the College, training residents and medical students on the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal conditions. He practiced in Tuscaloosa until he retired in 1992.

Dr. James Robinson, chair of Sports Medicine, team physician for Alabama and an alumnus of the College’s Residency, said Brock was a mentor to him when he was training.

“Dr. Brock’s legacy to CCHS will be maintained by the annual lecture series that bears his name and by the continuation of the physician care of the athletic department through the deShazo Sports Medicine Clinic,” he said.

Brock’s funeral was held Nov. 9 at Calvary Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa.

Scholarships awarded to medical students, Rural Medical Scholars

Scholarships were recently awarded to four medical students receiving their clinical education at The University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences. Rural Medical Scholars also received awards.

UA News: UA’s Rural Medical Scholars Program Adds 10 New Students

Ten students from rural Alabama have been accepted into The University of Alabama’s Rural Medical Scholars Program this year.

The Rural Medical Scholars Program, which is part of UA’s College of Community Health Sciences and has been cited nationally as a model program for educating rural physicians, is a five-year medical education program for rural Alabama students leading to the M.D. degree.

The program provides specialized training and field experiences, as well as a peer network between the students and rural doctors who serve as preceptors and mentors, and former students who graduated from the program and have entered practice.

Meeting the Fellows: L.B.

Hello! My name is Laura Beth , but everyone calls me L.B. I’m from Tuscaloosa and have lived here my entire life. I received both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from The University of Alabama. As an undergrad, I interned at Tuscaloosa’s One Place, a family resource center that promotes self-sufficiency, strengthening families and the prevention of child abuse and neglect. During graduate school, I interned at University Medical Center, a multispecialty health care practice operated by the UA College of Community Health Sciences. After I graduated with my MSW, I started working with The University of Alabama-Pickens County Partnership. In just over three months, I have already learned more from this experience than I could have ever imagined.

First, I’d like to tell you a little about myself: I am a laid-back and positive person, always eager to learn new things and to understand things from different points of view. I enjoy college and NFL football, college and NBA basketball, reading, exercising, yoga, puzzles, music and being with friends and family. I especially love Alabama football and basketball! I am obsessed with my dog. Also, I just got married this past August!

I have so many stories to share, but for now I’d like to let you know a little about my role in the UA-Pickens County Partnership. I am one of four fellows employed through The University of Alabama. We each have our own project of interest. My project focuses on geriatrics. I am working with each senior activity center in the county to provide education and activities by connecting resources and teaching certain things. I am in the second phase of the project, which is scheduling and organizing various things to bring to the centers. Each center will be different in choosing what activities and education to receive. The third phase will be the implementation of the education and activities. I have scheduled a painting class for one of the center locations. I am excited to see how that goes.

The fellows and I also work with various UA faculty and staff to assist in their work. I work with the UA School of Law and help with the new Medical Legal Partnership (MLP). I am also helping with a new Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at Pickens County Medical Center.

We also have a group project. For our project, we will perform wellness/health screenings at Pickens County schools. Our screenings will have three educational booths where we will check BMI, height, weight and blood pressure.

During my time in Pickens County, I have loved getting to know the community and people. Because this is a new fellowship and partnership with Pickens County, we are creating and learning about several exciting things–and I have loved every minute of it!

I am so excited to see what comes from our work in Pickens County. Thank you for taking the time to read this little introduction. I hope you continue to follow our story!