Resident physician receives scholarship to care for patients in Haiti

Dr. Natalie Kuijpers, a chief resident of The University of Alabama Family Medicine Residency, has received a scholarship to provide patient care in Haiti. The residency is operated by the College of Community Health Sciences.

Kuijpers is one of only two family medicine residents in the US to receive the scholarship, which is awarded by the American Academy of Family Physicians Foundation. The foundation’s Family Medicine Cares International Program provides patient care, family medicine education and school and orphanage support to Haiti.

“Dr. Kuijpers will be part of the program’s Patient Care Team and will be providing direct patient care for the people of Haiti,” says Dr. Jane Weida, associate director of the residency.

Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, was devastated in 2010 by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake. More than 100,000 perished in the first 60 seconds of the earthquake, and some 250,000 homes and 30,000 commercial buildings were destroyed or severely damaged. As many as 150,000 Haitians were still homeless as late as 2014.

The scholarship will cover all expenses for Kuijpers trip to Haiti. In addition, the scholarship will cover travel costs to the AAFP’s national conference in Kansas City in August 2018, where she will present highlights of her work in Haiti.

University Medical Center recognized as a Patient-Centered Medical Home

University Medical Center was nationally recognized in December as a Patient-Centered Medical Home for its patient-centered, quality and coordinated care.

“Your practice is among the elite group that has demonstrated its commitment to advancing quality in health care,” the National Committee for Quality Assurance wrote in announcing the PCM certification of UMC, which is operated by the College of Community Health Sciences.

NCQA recognition means medical practices have made a commitment to providing care that is patient-centered, accessible, continuous, comprehensive and focuses on quality. The PCMH model uses a care delivery team, led by a primary care physician, that delivers coordinated and integrated care and is proactive in providing preventive, wellness and chronic illness care – all with the patient at the center of the health care experience.

Research shows that the PCMH model builds better relationships between patients and their clinical care teams, improves quality of care, as well as the patient experience and staff satisfaction, and reduces health care costs. The PCMH has also been shown to help patients be more compliant and able to successfully manage chronic health conditions.

“This was a long time coming and a lot of work, and it matters because NCQA PCMH recognition improves patient care and reduces costs,” says Dr. Richard Streiffer, dean of CCHS. “In addition, the PCMH model is associated with happier staff and patients.”

UMC is the largest community practice in West Alabama, with locations in Tuscaloosa, Northport and Demopolis. UMC provides primary care-focused health services in family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, women’s health, psychiatry, geriatrics, neurology and sports medicine. The PCM certification was received by UMC’s Tuscaloosa location on the UA campus for its family medicine and pediatric clinics.

NCQA recognition ranges from Level 1 to Level 3, which is the highest. UMC family medicine clinics received Level 3 PCMH recognition and its pediatric clinic received Level 2 recognition. The levels require meeting such benchmarks as: enhancing access to care and continuity of care; identifying and managing patient populations; planning and managing care; providing self-care support and community resources; tracking and coordinating care; and measuring and improving performance.

These efforts translate to providing patients with reminders about chronic and preventive care needs, more regular health screenings, after-hours care, use of electronic health records to improve quality and efficiency of care and to monitor chronic diseases, and use of multiple communication channels, including web-based portals through which patients can request appointments and prescription refills.

“There are not many PCMHs in Alabama. We are one of only a small handful that I know of in the state,” Streiffer says.

Dr. Jane Weida, an associate professor in the College’s Department of Family, Internal, and Rural Medicine who led efforts to obtain PCMH recognition for UMC, believes the small number of recognized practices in Alabama stems from a lack of financial resources, especially for small and rural practices.

“It is very difficult for a small practice to achieve PCMH certification. We had a committee of about nine (people) that met every other week for two years,” Weida says. “It took thousands … of hours to do this. A small practice that is working full time on patient care simply doesn’t have the time to do it.”

Getting off Electronics and Outdoors

“Think of a special memory of being outside that impacted you growing up.”

That’s how Dr. Caroline Boxmeyer, a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at the College of Community Health Sciences, began her lecture for the Mini Medical School Program on January 29. The program is a lecture series the College provides in collaboration with The University of Alabama’s Osher Lifelong Learning institute, or OLLI.

While her lecture was titled “Getting your Grandchild off Electronics and Outside,” the advice shared was not just for children.

Getting off electronics is often difficult for many reasons, including that technology is a useful tool that has become part of everyday life. But screens are addictive and work on the same addiction pathways as drugs, Boxmeyer said.

“Be mindful of children,” she noted. “Their brains are still developing their foundational stretchers and connections. We want to be mindful about how they are spending their time when that is happening.”

Taking a break from electronics has many benefits, Boxmeyer said. It can help reduce anxiety and stress, increase positive thinking, and improve overall health and wellness. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests children need to spend 15 to 60 minutes outside each day to experience a positive impact on the human body.

Ways to get outside include:

  • Outdoor camps/organizations
  • Family trips
  • Outdoor playtime
  • Sports
  • Hobbies (gardening, fishing, etc.)

Health Matters Honored for Excellence

The weekly television segment Health Matters, a collaboration of WVUA-23 and the College of Community Health Sciences, received an award of Special Merit from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, earning recognition as one of the best media relations programs in the Southeast last year.

Health Matters provides important and timely health information to WVUA viewers throughout West Alabama and parts of the Southeast. CCHS provides content for the weekly series via interviews with its dean, Dr. Richard Streiffer, a family medicine physician, and members of the CCHS faculty – physicians with specialties in family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, sports medicine, geriatrics, neurology, psychiatry and psychology.

The interviews are conducted by WVUA’s managing editor, Mike Royer, and are filmed at CCHS. The segments, about a minute and half in length, air twice a week – during the 5 pm newscast on Wednesdays and again during the 10 pm newscast on Sundays.

Health Matters was launched in spring 2017, and topics have included high cholesterol, the importance of prenatal care, diabetes, depression and anxiety, sinusitis, childhood vaccinations and adult immunizations, low-back pain, Alzheimer’s disease, stress relief and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The full interviews are approximately five to six minutes in length. Both the segment aired and the full interviews are posted to the WVUA website. Television viewers are directed to the website for more in-depth information about the health topic.

Health Matters is a key component of the College’s media and public relations efforts.

CASE is an international professional association serving educational institutions and the professionals who work on their behalf in communications, alumni relations, development, marketing, advertising and related areas.

Higginbotham steps into UA’s interim VP for Research position

Dr. John C. Higginbotham, who leads research efforts for the College of Community Health Sciences, was tapped by University of Alabama President Stuart Bell to serve as UA’s interim vice president for Research and Economic Development while the search for a new vice president is underway.

Higginbotham has served as UA’s associate vice president for Research and Economic Development for the past several years. He also serves as associate dean for Research and Health Policy for the College, and as chair of the College’s Department of Community Medicine and Population Health and director of its Institute for Rural Health Research (IRHR).

“We are fortunate Dr. Higginbotham is available to serve during this interim time,” says UA Provost and Executive Vice President Kevin Whitaker. “His extensive academic and research background, intimate knowledge of our existing research and economic develop operations, and strong relationships with faculty and researchers across campus and around the country will serve the University well as we begin the important national search for a new vice president.”

Says Higginbotham: “Serving in this leadership capacity is an honor. I appreciate the trust Dr. Bell and Dr. Whitaker have placed in me to continue the important work of this office during this critical time.”

Meanwhile, faculty in the College’s Department of Community Medicine and Population Health and IRHR will take on additional administrative responsibilities during Higginbotham’s interim time. Dr. Martha Crowther will serve as interim associate dean of Research and Health Policy for the College, and Dr. Lea Yerby will serve as vice chair of the department.

In addition, Dr. Louanne Friend will serve as acting deputy director of IRHR. Dr. Pamela Payne-Foster, deputy director of IRHR, was granted a special sabbatical this semester to work with Stillman College’s senior administration in efforts to strengthen the Tuscaloosa institution’s academic mission.

CCHS Partners with the Alabama Statewide Area Health Education Centers

The College of Community Health Sciences has partnered with Alabama Statewide Area Health Education Centers to extend educational and training opportunities to high school students in rural areas of Alabama who are interested in pursuing health care careers.

The partnership “serves the mission of the College for CCHS to continue to support the region in terms of leadership in medical education and scholarship through its assistance to our area partners,” says Dr. Richard Streiffer, dean of CCHS. “Alabama Statewide Area Health Education Centers (AHEC)has become established nationwide, in the majority of our states, and this is a historic role in which they have deep experience and success. We are pleased to help Alabama AHEC assume this role for the benefit of our state and its communities.”

For the past 25 years, the College’s Rural Programs have operated as a pipeline system that starts in high school, for junior and seniors, to prepare students for opportunities in health care following graduation and before they begin higher education and training. In recognition of the positive impact that AHEC has had throughout the state, the College has determined that the opportunities for advancement to provide for these students would be exponentially higher with the network that AHEC has in place statewide, beyond medical school and including other health care professions.

CCHS will continue to be an active partner as the high school programs transition to AHEC’s lead role with continued support and involvement from the College in the future.

“We are so appreciative of the opportunity to assume responsibility for the CCHS rural high school programs. AHECs have a long history of working with high school students, to recruit them into health careers. It’s an area where AHEC really shines, and we thank CCHS for their confidence in us to continue to move these programs forward,” says Dr. Cynthia Selleck, Director of the Alabama Statewide AHEC Program.

To date, the College’s rural scholastic year programs have already transferred to AHEC implementation and include the after-school Health Profession Academy and the in-school Health Careers 101. During the next year, it is anticipated the summer programs for Rural Health Scholars and Rural Minority Health Scholars—11th and 12th grades, respectively—will transition to AHEC’s lead, though they are currently being managed by the College with AHEC’s assistance. Following the final transition of all high school programs to AHEC’s management, the College will continue developing a future workforce of medical professionals through the Rural Medical Scholars, Rural Community Health Scholars, and Family Medicine Residency programs, while providing oversight to the new AHEC high school programs as they do the same.

About the Partners

The University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences is dedicated to improving and promoting the health of individuals and communities in Alabama and the region through leadership in medical education and primary care; the provision of high quality, accessible health care services; and scholarship.

Alabama Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) are committed to expanding the health care workforce, maximizing diversity and facilitating distribution, especially in underserved communities. AHECs were created by Congress in 1971 to increase the quantity, diversity and distribution of health care professionals, especially in rural and underserved areas. Research has shown that positive changes to these three areas increase access to care and improve the overall health of communities.