UMC dietitian elected to national academy position

Suzanne Henson, RD, MS, a registered dietitian at University Medical Center, was elected Alabama’s delegate to the National Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She will serve a three-year term.

The academy is the world’s largest organization of food and nutritional professionals. Its membership includes more than 100,000 credentialed practitioners, including registered dietitian nutritionists, dietetic technicians, and other dietetics professionals holding undergraduate and advanced degrees in nutrition and dietetics.

In addition to her role with UMC, which is operated by the College of Community Health Sciences, Henson is also an assistant professor in the College’s Department of Family, Internal, and Rural Medicine. She is responsible for the education, coordination and provision of nutritional information to resident physicians and medical students, and assists UMC patients in the promotion of their health.

The mission of the National Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is to improve the nation’s health and advance the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. The academy was founded in 1917 in Cleveland, Ohio, by a group of women dedicated to helping the government conserve food and improve public health and nutrition during World War I.

Flu season more active than usual

The current flu season has been unusually active, with approximately 6.4 percent of doctor visits in 2018 alone for flu or for flu-like illnesses, said Wyndy Looney, director of Nursing at University Medical Center. She said so far this year, flu activity is higher than peak flu activity observed during many previous flu seasons.

Looney made the comments during her Feb. 5 presentation, “Influenza,” at the Mini Medical School Program, a collaboration of OLLI (The University of Alabama’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) and the College of Community Health Sciences, which operates UMC.

Influenza, or the flu, is a virus that affects the nose, throat, and lungs. It produces mild to severe symptoms and can sometimes lead to death. Flu season typically begins in October/November and can last until May, with a peak in January or February.

Looney shared flu identification, prevention and treatment information.

The flu presents itself similarly to a common cold, but the flu often produces a high fever, has a sudden onset and lasts longer than a cold. She said if you have the flu and your symptoms are mild, stay home to prevent spreading the illness. Contact a health care provider if symptoms are severe enough for treatment, but she said not to go to a hospital emergency department unless you have emergency symptoms, such as chest pain or shortness of breath.

Staying home for at least 24 hours after fever is gone will also help prevent the flu from spreading.

Preventive measures include staying away from sick people, covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands often – and getting a flu shot.

The flu vaccine helps the body develop immunities to specific strands of the flu. When a large percent of the population is vaccinated and has developed an immunity, indirect protection from the infectious disease is created, Looney said. This is called “Herd Immunity” and can protect those who might not be immune.

University Medical Center to host fourth annual Brussels Sprout Challenge at Heart Walk

University Medical Center, which is operated by UA’s College of Community Health Sciences, will host its fourth annual Brussels Sprout Challenge during the American Heart Association West Alabama Heart Walk on March 3.

Partnering again with Manna Grocery and Deli in Tuscaloosa, which roasts and donates the Brussels sprouts served at the walk, University Medical Center uses the challenge to promote healthy lifestyle choices – a healthy diet and exercise – while complementing the American Heart Association’s mission to build healthier lives free of heart disease and stroke.

More than 900 Brussels sprouts were distributed at last year’s challenge.

To complete the Brussels Sprout Challenge, participants have to eat one roasted Brussels sprout at each mile marker of the 3.1-mile walk. Those who complete the challenge by eating all three Brussels sprouts are awarded a T-shirt at the end of the walk.

University Medical Center also provides handouts about the health benefits of Brussels sprouts, which include heart health and cancer protection, as well as Brussels sprout recipes.

The West Alabama Heart Walk begins at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater and continues along the downtown river walk. Registration begins at 8 am and the walk begins at 9 am.

The mission of University Medical Center and the College of Community Health Sciences is to improve and promote the health of individuals and communities in Alabama and the region.

Lead author of new blood pressure guidelines to speak at CCHS endowed lecture

Dr. Paul Whelton, lead author of the new clinical guidelines for blood pressure management, will provide the David and Natica Bahar Memorial Lecture March 8 for the College of Community Health Sciences.

As chair of the American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology Hypertension Guidelines Committee, Whelton led the team that redefined high blood pressure for the first time in more than a decade. The new guidelines lower the threshold for diagnosis – resulting in almost half US adults now considered hypertensive.

Whelton says the goal of the new guidelines is to help patients more accurately understand their cardiovascular risk so they can address it sooner. High blood pressure accounts for the second largest number of preventable heart disease and stroke deaths in the US.

Whelton, a professor and epidemiologist, is the Show Chwan Health System Endowed Chair in Global Public Health at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans.

The new blood pressure guidelines were simultaneously published in Hypertension, the American Heart Association journal, and the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The endowed lecture will be held in the Willard Auditorium at DCH Regional Medical Center in Tuscaloosa, from 7:30 am to 8:30 am.

Whelton’s research interests include cardiovascular and renal disease epidemiology, clinical trials, health policy and global health. He has led numerous major National Institutes of Health blood pressure intervention trials, and has chaired many working groups and committees for NIH, the American Heart Association, the Institute of Medicine, the Irish Government and the Show Chwan Health System in Taiwan. He received his bachelor of medicine and medical degrees from the University College Cork – National University of Ireland.

The David and Natica Bahar Memorial Lecture was established in 1987 by the late Dr. David Bahar in memory of his wife. The lecture seeks to promote the quality and practice of internal medicine at CCHS by annually supporting a distinguished lecturer in internal medicine.

Bahar was well known throughout Tuscaloosa County for his work in the fight against tuberculosis. He was a clinical professor in the College’s Department of Internal Medicine and served as past president of the Alabama TB Hospital Association and the Alabama Thoracic Society.

Orientation for Health Profession Academy held at CCHS

West Central Alabama AHEC hosted an orientation session at the College of Community Health Sciences Feb. 24 for its Health Profession Academy, a program that works to recruit rural students into health care education programs in the state and help them return to their home communities, or similar communities, to practice.

About two dozen students attended from the West Central Alabama AHEC (Area Health Education Center) service area, which includes 13 counties, many in the Alabama Black Belt, and that suffer from high poverty, poor health outcomes and a severe shortage of health care providers.

As part of the Health Profession Academy, students will be able to participate in interactive workshops, receive individual health careers counseling and preparation for the ACT, a standardized test used for college admissions in the US, and earn allied health certification in phlebotomy and patient care tech.

Alabama is a largely rural state with tremendous health care needs. There are limited numbers of health care providers in rural areas, and 62 of the state’s 67 counties are designated as primary care health professional shortage areas. Regina Knox, executive director of the West Central Alabama AHEC said few students from counties with poor health rankings go into health professions.

“That’s why we’re here. We want to increase those numbers. We want to help you succeed,” she said.

According to statistics from the West Central Alabama AHEC, in the three counties in its service area with the poorest health rankings – Wilcox, Greene and Perry – only one student each from Wilcox and Green counties are enrolled in medical school and no students from the three counties are enrolled in nurse practitioner and physician assistant programs.

In health outcomes, Wilcox County ranks 67th out of Alabama’s 67 counties, while Greene County ranks 66th and Perry County ranks 65th.

“We want to help students from rural and underserved communities meet the needs of their communities,” Knox said.