2019 Year in Review

December 17, 2019

As we look forward to a new year, we reflect on 2019, a year of transition and growth for the College of Community Health Sciences.

During the past year, CCHS added more than 20 new faculty to expand the College’s work of educating and training future generations of primary care physicians and of conducting pioneering research to help mitigate health issues faced by Alabama’s rural and underserved communities.

A number of faculty were promoted to new positions within the College and The University of Alabama. Most notably, Dr. Richard Friend was named dean of the College after serving as the interim dean for a year and as director of the UA Family Medicine Residency and chair of the College’s Department of Family, Internal, and Rural Medicine. Dr. John C. Higginbotham was named senior associate vice president for Research and Economic Development for UA and will continue in his College roles of chair of the Department of Community Medicine and Population Health and director of the Institute for Rural Health Research. Dr. Martha Crowther, professor of community medicine and population health, was named associate dean for Research and Health Policy for CCHS. Dr. Grier Stewart, associate professor of family, internal, and rural medicine, was named assistant dean for Medical Student Education at CCHS, and Dr. Tamer Elsayed, assistant professor of family, internal, and rural medicine, was named director of the UA Family Medicine Residency, which is operated by the College. Dr. Drake Lavender, assistant professor of family, internal, and rural medicine, was named director of Rural Programs for CCHS.

The Institute for Rural Health Research continued to bring in new grants and recognition to the College. The TERM project (telemedicine toward empowering rural moms) was awarded funding for work to reduce the infant mortality rates of expectant mothers in rural and underserved areas. The fight against hypertension continued with development of the HYPE app. CCHS remained a key partner in the All of Us Research project, a National Institutes of Health program to accelerate health research and medical breakthroughs and enable individualized prevention, treatment and care – and affect research into diseases that disproportionately impact the South in populations traditionally underrepresented in biomedical research.

Research publications from CCHS faculty were featured in peer-reviewed journals such as American Family Physician, Oncology, Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, AIDS and Behavior and the Journal of Social Work Values and Ethics. College faculty also provided interviews as experts in their fields to such media outlets as The New York Times and Sports Illustrated.

Through its UA Family Medicine Residency, the College graduated 21 physicians and fellows who are now in practice and recognized 36 students who completed their clinical years of medical school (third and fourth years) at CCHS and who have begun residency training in programs across 14 states. The College also serves as a regional campus of the UA School of Medicine. CCHS expanded its educational offerings with the addition of a Pediatric Fellowship to provide additional training in pediatrics for family medicine physicians, and with a master’s degree in Rural Community Health. Efforts to continue the medical education of CCHS learners abroad was solidified with the creation of the International Travel Fund. The gift fund is designed to support and sustain the College’s ongoing global health initiatives in Ghana and Kenya.

The College hosted four endowed lectures, 10 medical grand rounds lectures and numerous guest lectures that provided continuing medical education to CCHS faculty physicians as well as community physicians and other health care professionals.

The College expanded the size of its University Medical Center location in Demopolis, increasing the number of exam rooms to nine, adding pediatric and obstetric services and placing three permanent physicians there. CCHS also significantly expanded the size of its University Hospitalist Group, physicians who care for hospitalized UMC patients, primarily at DCH Regional Medical Center in Tuscaloosa, bringing to 23 the number of hospitalist physicians who are part of the group.

These are just some of the exciting developments that took place in 2019. Stories about these and other developments can be found at cchs.ua.edu/news.