May is Mental Health Awareness Month at University Medical Center

University Medical Center, the community medical practice run by the College of Community Health Sciences, observed Mental Health Awareness during the month of May. In addition to fact sheets distributed to patients in its clinics, and digital signage placed throughout the building and across campus, each week in May featured a special WVUA Health Matters segment related specifically to mental health and presented by various physicians and clinical staff of the CCHS Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine Department.


UMC also hosted faculty and staff oriented events to build awareness during May. For example, Bob McKinney, a clinical social worker at UMC, spent time in the clinics, working with faculty, staff, and learners—individually and in small groups— to offer guidance about ways to incorporate mindfulness into daily activities.


In addition, Dr. Nancy Rubin led two, 30-minute sessions focused on Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), also known as Tapping. This form of psychological acupressure uses the same energy meridians as practiced in Chinese medicine for more than 5,000 years. Instead of using needles, fingertips are used to tap on those meridians to decrease stress and increase a sense of calm.


Faculty and staff were also encouraged to wear Mental Health Awareness Month t-shirts each Friday in May, and around their community daily, to help break the stigma of mental illness.


The observation of Mental Health Awareness Month is in line with the College’s mission to improve and promote the health of individuals and communities in Alabama. This mission extends past the month of May throughout the year. Recently, the College partnered with Tuscaloosa Fire and Rescue to implement the new ACTION program, the first-of-its-kind program in Alabama that aims to meet the less critical medical needs of the community and reduce costly hospital emergency room transports of individuals with low-emergency conditions. As it relates to mental health needs, program vehicles transport mental health and social workers to support our community in times of emergency when the ailment is not physical. This new program enables the College and UMC to continue to develop patient-centered community health outreach in service of the Tuscaloosa area.

Accolades for Drs. Drake Lavender, Ed Geno & Cecil Robinson

Dr. Drake Lavender, assistant professor in the College’s Department of Family, Internal, and Rural Medicine, was re-elected to a three-year term on the Council on Medical Education for the Medical Association of the State of Alabama. He was also elected chair of the council for 2018-19. In addition to his faculty position, Lavender also serves as medical director of the College’s Tuscaloosa Longitudinal Community Curriculum, a medical student education program.


Dr. Ed Geno, assistant professor in the College’s Department of Family, Internal, and Rural Medicine, and Dr. Cecil Robinson, associate professor and director of Learning Resources and Evaluation for the College, completed the 2018 Emerging Leaders Class of the Society of Teachers in Family Medicine. The competitive STFM fellowship provides training and support to new faculty and those transitioning to leadership roles. Geno works with the College’s family medicine residents in minor surgery and hospital medicine. He has practiced obstetrics as well as minor procedures and clinic and hospital medicine. Robinson works with undergraduate and graduate medical educators and administrators at the College to examine, assess and improve educational practices, processes and outcomes. He also works to advance interprofessional education among health faculty and professionals at UA.





Boxmeyer completes leadership program

Dr. Caroline Boxmeyer, assistant dean for Academic Affairs Medical for the College of Community Health Sciences, completed Leadership U, a University of Alabama program that prepares faculty and staff in leadership positions to assume increasing levels of responsibility within their organizations and to be forward-thinking – anticipating future challenges and envisioning opportunities for success.

During the program, participants met with UA leaders to learn more about the University, its goals and mission and the leadership styles of UA’s top administrators. Participants took part in professional development workshops to assess their personal strengths as leaders and to help them hone interpersonal skills. Faculty participants also were part of the Southeastern Conference’s Academic Development Leadership Program and visited LSU and Auburn for workshops.

“A consistent theme that we learned about leadership is the importance of focusing on the mission of your organization and how each department and employee contributes to this mission. It made me proud of CCHS’s commitment to improving health in Alabama and to training leaders in medical education and primary care,” Boxmeyer says. “It also deepened my appreciation for our excellent faculty, staff and students in CCHS who work hard to contribute to this mission every day.”

Leadership U, which began in 2010, is offered by the UA Office for Academic Affairs and administered by UA Associate Provost Jennifer Greer.

Participating in the program with Boxmeyer, professor in the College’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine and a practicing clinical psychologist, were: Sommer Coleman, senior project manager for Construction Administration; Jessie Gardner, assistant athletics director for Student-Athlete Enhancement; Dr. Jonathon Halbesleben, senior associate dean in the Culverhouse College of Business; Dr. Laura Hopson, director of the BSW program in the School of Social Work; Alyson Jarnagin, director of student services and registrar in the College of Communication and Information Sciences; Melinda King, executive director of the Career Center; Dr. Roger Sidje, associate dean for multicultural affairs in the College of Arts and Sciences; Debbie Vaughn, associate vice president for the Office of Development; and Monica Watts, associate vice president for Communications.


Medical students honored, receive awards at banquet

Medical students honored, receive awards at banquet

Twenty-six medical students were honored at the College of Community Health Sciences Senior Banquet on Friday, May 18, at the Tuscaloosa River Market. The students, now physicians, will soon begin their residency training in programs across 11 states.

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

In his welcoming remarks, Dr. Richard Streiffer, dean of CCHS and associate dean of the School of Medicine, said to the students: “When you get your medical degree, you will enter the top 5 percent of the world in educational achievement. With that comes a responsibility to make a difference in the world.”

A new scholarship presented for the first time was the Dr. William Winternitz, Sr. Geriatric Scholarship. The scholarship was created to encourage medical students to pursue the practice of geriatrics, and it is awarded to a student who shows “exceptional interest in geriatrics and/or service learning and represents the best in academic medicine as recognized by faculty, residents and medical students.”

“Today’s healthcare system is ill-equipped to provide care for the elderly,” said Madeleine Hill, wife of the late Winterntiz, as she presented the scholarship to Dr. Koushik Kasanagottu. “In response, the Winternitz Geriatrics Scholarship recognizes students interested in the older generation.”

The students also received awards from faculty, clinical staff and their peers.

On Saturday, May 19, the students joined their 162 classmates for commencement in Birmingham. At commencement, Dr. Salmaan Kamal received the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award. Dr. Koushik Kasanagottu received the Medical Alumni Association Leadership and Community Service Award. Both completed their clinical training at the College.

Awards given at the Banquet:

Department and College Awards:

Robert F. Gloor Award in Community Medicine

Dr. Luke Iannuzzi

Awarded for excellent performance in Community and Rural Medicine

William Owings Award in Family Medicine

Dr. Paul Strickland

Awarded for excellence in Family Medicine

Recognition of Rural Medical Scholars

Drs. Nic Cobb, Whitney Hudman, Bhavika Patel, Paul Strickland and Dana Watson

Family/Rural Medicine Preceptor Award

Dr. Scott Boyken

Awarded annually to a community preceptor in Family Medicine/Community and Rural Medicine who exemplifies excellent teaching and role modeling for students.

William W. Winternitz Award in Internal Medicine

Dr. Salmaan Kamal

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. Christopher Ray

Awarded for outstanding academic and clinical performance during the Neurology Clerkship.

Pediatrics Recognition Award

Dr. Jordan Busing

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. Christopher Ray

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. Laura Crocker

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

Dr. Garrett Taylor

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. Lissa Handley

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.

Proassurance Patient Communication Award

Dr. Luke Iannuzzi

Awarded to a student who best demonstrates appropriate bedside manner, goes above and beyond in helping patients understand their diagnosis and treatment, and is a passionate patient advocate.

William A. Curry Award

Dr. Paul Strickland

The William A. Curry Award honors one University of Alabama School of Medicine-Tuscaloosa Regional Campus medical student in his or her third or fourth year of study for outstanding scholarly work in the areas of rural medicine and research.

Recognition of Larry Mayes Research Society Scholars

Drs. Sarah Bode and Benjamin Walters

Official Fellow Members:

Drs. Sarah Bode and Benjamin Walters

Student Research Award

Dr. Paul Strickland

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. Christopher Ray

Awarded for superior performance in the clinical curriculum.

United States Public Health Service Excellence in Public Health Award

Dr. Salmaan Kamal

Established by the US Public Health Service, this award recognizes a UAB student who has made a significant contribution to public health through leadership of projects in health promotion and disease prevention during his or her time in medical school.


William R. Willard Award

Dr. Salmaan Kamal

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. Heather Taylor

Awarded for outstanding contributions to undergraduate medical education during the students’ junior year.

Community Preceptor Hero Award

Dr. Larry Skelton

Awarded to a community preceptor for outstanding contributions to undergraduate medical education.

Patrick McCue Award

Brook Hubner

Awarded for outstanding contributions to undergraduate medical education during the students’ senior year.

Resident Recognition Award

Dr. Russell Guin

Awarded for outstanding contributions to medical education.

James H. Akers Memorial Award

Dr. Koushik Kasanagottu

Awarded to a graduating senior for dedication to the art and science of medicine.


College Scholarships:

Frank Fitts Jr. Endowed Scholarship

Dr. Paul Strickland

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

Dr. Luke Iannuzi

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.

William Winternitz, Sr. Geriatric Scholarship

Dr. Koushik Kasanagottu

The William Winternitz, Sr. Geriatric Scholarship was established in 2016 by Ms. Madeleine M. Hill, in honor of her late husband. The recipient of this award has shown an exceptional interest in geriatrics and/or service learning and represents the best in academic medicine as recognized by faculty, residents and medical students.

School of Medicine Commencement Ceremony Awards:

The Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award

Dr. Salmaan Kamal

Medical Alumni Association Leadership and Community Service Award

Dr. Koushik Kasanagottu

Rural Health Conference

Substance Abuse Topic of Rural Health Conference

Substance abuse in Alabama and the US was the topic of the 19th Annual Rural Health Conference held April 25-26 at the Bryant Conference Center on The University of Alabama campus. The annual Rural Health Conference is hosted by the College of Community Health Sciences and its Institute for Rural Health Research.

This year’s conference, “Substance Abuse in Alabama: When it Hits Home,” featured several keynote speakers, as well as breakout sessions and a community resource panel. Below are highlights from the keynote addresses.

The annual Rural Health Conference is attended by health care professionals, community leaders, researchers, government officials and policymakers working together to share information and knowledge and make a difference in the health of rural communities.

Dr. Holly Hagan, professor, New York University’s Rory Meyers College of Nursing; co-director, NIH Center for Drug Use and HIV Research:

In 2016, there were more than 64,000 drug overdose deaths, exceeding motor vehicle accident and gun fatalities. “And there are no signs of it leveling off. We can expect to see increases over time. Opioids are heavily and deceptively marketed in areas with a high prevalence of chronic pain and a large manual workforce.” The immediate consequences of the US opioid crisis are overdoses and deaths, neonatal abstinence syndrome, and an increase in rates of Hepatitis C, HIV, and sexually transmitted infections. Longer-term consequences include lifelong struggles for individuals with opioid use disorder, stress in families and communities, a negative impact to the workforce, incarceration and stigmatization. The total cost of the US opioid epidemic in 2015 was $500 billion.

Stephanie McCladdie, director, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Region 4, Atlanta; director, Prevention Services, Alabama Department of Mental Health:

Factors that contribute to substance abuse in rural America include poverty, unemployment, poor education, high-risk behaviors and isolation. For rural Americans with substance abuse issues, drug treatment and behavioral health services are not readily available, and rural hospital emergency room personnel and first responders have limited experience caring for patients suffering from drug disorders or overdoses. “Substance abuse can be especially hard to combat in rural areas due to limited resources for prevention, treatment and recovery.” There are 2.1 million people in the US with an opioid use disorder, but only 20 percent receive addiction treatment. What’s needed? Strong public health surveillance, improved practice of pain management, increased access to treatment and recovery services, and support for cutting-edge research. “There’s an urgent need to prepare the workforce to deliver treatment and recovery services.”

Dr. Richard Spoth, F. Wendell Miller Senior Prevention Scientist; director of Partnership in Prevention Science Institute, Iowa State University:

In rural areas, one-half of adults say they have been directly affected by the opioid crisis. “They’ve lost a family member, used or abused themselves, or they know someone who has. This is when it hits home.” Still, in 85 percent of US rural counties, behavioral health and prevention services are sparse or non-existent, and opioid and other drug problems continue to escalate. “We need to build on accessible infrastructure and resources – public school systems, extension services and public health programs. And we need evidence-based interventions off the shelf and into the hands of people who need it.”

Dr. Stefan Kertesz, professor, UAB Division of Preventive Medicine:

Opioids accounted for two-thirds of drug overdoses in 2016, and many overdose deaths involve multiple substances, including synthetic opioids. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) implemented a prescription dose limit for 2018 that requires insurers to deny payments to patients prescribed a total morphine equivalent of 90mg. This proposal is designed to reduce older individuals’ risk of becoming addicted to or overusing opioids, and ultimately to reduce the oversupply of the drugs. But, most overdose deaths are happening in people who are receiving a low-dose prescription. “We don’t fully understand the event we call overdose if most of the problem is happening at a low dose.” Overdoses occur primarily among tolerant older users, and most deaths involve people using multiple drugs… Overdose is more like a poisoning event.” As opioid prescriptions are limited, those addicted turn to other drugs like heroin or fentanyl to fill the gap. The CMS prescription limit faces clinicians with an ethical dilemma: “Do we take nonconsensual action on patients who are adherent and stable, and there is absent strong evidence for those actions that sometimes result in the patient’s death?”

Baltimore Ravens Linebacker C.J. Mosley Praises Dr. Robinson

Dr. James Robinson, endowed chair for Sports Medicine for the College of Community Health Sciences and team physician for the UA Athletic Department, was mentioned in a recent episode of Bama Cuts, a series of casual conversations between UA football players, coaches and former players at the barbershop inside the Mal Moore Facility.

In an episode that aired April 11, Baltimore Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley, who played at UA from 2010 to 2013 (winning national championships in 2011 and 2012), talked about his time at the University and what Robinson and other football trainers and coaches mean to him.

“I’ve had multiple injuries since I’ve been in the NFL and I’ve done a lot of my rehab here with everybody here who are part of the staff,” Mosley said. “Dr. Robinson, if I get sick, I go to see him.”

Mosley said he has a special gratitude for the resources at UA, the training staff, the facilities and the coaches. “Just being around them – it’s an extended family. I always come back here. I feel welcome. I feel at home.”

All of Us Bus

All of Us Research Program at University Medical Center

The College of Community Health Sciences kicks off its participation in the national All of Us Research Program on May 10 at University Medical Center. All of Us is part of the National Institutes of Health’s effort to advance research into precision medicine. The CCHS kickoff, scheduled from 2 pm to 6 pm, features the All of Us Journey Bus, a traveling education experience that brings the project to local communities. The goal of the All of Us project is to enroll one million individuals living in the US and gather their health information and other data over time. The data will be used to learn more about the health impact of differences in lifestyle, environment and biological makeup.

Lilanta Joy Bradley

From Research to Action: Taking Your Research Beyond the Journal

Dr. Lilanta Bradley, a post-doctoral fellow with the Institute for Rural Health Research, participated in a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded symposium that brings together scholars from historically underrepresented groups working in fields that intersect with health and health care.

The Institute for Rural Health Research is part of the College of Community Health Sciences.

The New Connections Symposium Bradley attended, titled “From Research to Action: Taking Your Research Beyond the Journal,” was held in February at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

The RWJF, the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted to public health, built the New Connections program to create a broad network of early career researchers interested in the foundation’s goal of building a national “culture of health” that enables everyone in society to lead healthier lives. New Connections currently supports a network of more than 900 underrepresented investigators, and through the symposium they are offered practical and meaningful ways to enrich their professional and research skills, advance their scholarship and build their careers. They learn from senior faculty, researchers and community leaders, build relationships and establish opportunities for collaboration.

Bradley said she learned during the symposium how she can disseminate her research in actionable ways. She said she had always planned to translate into action her research around children, youth and adolescents but did not realize the different communications tactics available.

“It’s (the symposium) given me a lot of thought about how to communicate my work, how to be more community engaged and how audiences are going to benefit,” she said. Bradley is now focused on sharing her research through social media and op-eds.

Convocation recognizes rural Alabama students working to become rural doctors

Eleven students who want to become physicians and practice in rural Alabama communities were recognized May 6 at a convocation for the Rural Medical Scholars Program, which is operated by the College of Community Health Sciences.

The 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 (UASOM). 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 CCHS for their final two years of clinical education. The 11 Rural Medical Scholars begin medical school this summer.

“Alabama is a disproportionately rural state and programs that develop rural health professionals are vital,” CCHS dean Dr. Richard Streiffer said in his welcoming remarks. “If you want rural health professionals, you need to start with rural individuals.”

Dr. Craig Hoesley, senior associate dean for Medical Education for the School of Medicine, provided the convocation keynote address. Hoesley oversees the undergraduate, graduate and continuing medical education programs of the School of Medicine.

Hoesley said Alabama has 284 medically underserved areas, more than any other Southeastern state, according to the US Health Resources Services Administration. “We have entire counties without a provider of any kind.”

He said the UA School of Medicine’s mission is to provide physicians for Alabama, but “we’re not successful at this point. The Rural Medical Scholars Program has done this better than any other program in the history of our state.”

He told the Rural Medical Scholars being honored at the convocation, held at the Hotel Capstone on the UA campus, that they are a voice for the program and to “continue to extol the virtues of primary care. You are an inspiration to others.”

Approximately 200 students have entered the Rural Medical Scholars Program since its founding in 1996. Dr. James Leeper, medical director of the program, said three-quarters of Rural Medical Scholars specialize in family medicine and other primary care disciplines.

Also during the convocation, the Rural Medical Scholars Program Distinguished Service Award was presented on behalf of Dr. Neil Christopher, who has been a rural family medicine physician, primary care advocate and Alabama health care leader for more than four decades. Christopher served as chair of the Alabama Academy of Family Physicians and was chosen as its Family Doctor of the Year in 1993. He was also founding chair of the Alabama Family Practice Rural Health Board and received the prestigious Samuel Buford Humanitarian Award from the Medical Association of the State of Alabama.

Christopher was unable to attend the convocation, but Susan Guin, associate director of the College’s Rural Scholars Program noted that he was “committed and devoted to improving rural health care in Alabama. Based on his support for our program and his advocacy for rural health, we recognize him.”

2017-18 Rural Medical Scholars:

  • Austin Brooks
  • Jeb Cowen
  • Charity Cypert Donaldson
  • McKenzie Donald
  • Kathryn Gray
  • Bailey Bryant Gregory
  • Brionna McMeans
  • Peyton Powell
  • Kristin Pressley
  • Ashlyn Shields
  • Robert Weaver

TLC2 Students Visit Montgomery

Three third-year medical students participating in the College’s Tuscaloosa Longitudinal Community Curriculum traveled to Montgomery March 30 to learn about government relations and physician leadership. They met with Dr. Robert Moon, medical director of the Alabama Medicaid Agency, and with representatives of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama. The TLC2 program places third-year medical students in communities for their clinical training, pairing them with physicians to care for patients over the course of the year and through various specialties – a departure from the traditional model of clinical education delivered at hospitals through separate rotations.

Pictured from left: Andrew Elson, Rachel Daniell and Josh Price.