College welcomes new Behavioral Health Fellow

The College of Community Health Sciences welcomes Dr. Danielle Andrews to the Behavioral Health Fellowship.

The Behavioral Health fellowship along with Obstetrics, Sports Medicine, Emergency Medicine, Geriatric Medicine, Hospital Medicine, and Rural Public Psychiatry comprise the seven fellowships offered by the College. Each fellowship is a year-long program designed to offer additional, specialized training to physicians.

The Behavioral Health Fellowship for family medicine physicians, one of few in the country, trains family medicine physicians, particularly those planning to practice in rural communities, to better care for patients with psychiatric concerns.

The goal of the fellowship is to provide administrative training and public psychiatric experience for psychiatrists interested in practicing or serving in a community setting.

Andrews received a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Clark Atlanta University. She earned a master’s degree in Public Health at Boston University School of Public Health, concentrating in Social and Behavioral Sciences.  She completed her medical degree at Boston University School of Medicine and family medicine training at Phoebe Family Medicine Residency in Albany, Georgia.

Medical students at College recognized for patient-centered care

Six University of Alabama School of Medicine students completing their clinical years of education at the College of Community Health Sciences have been recognized as 2017 Gold Humanism Honor Society inductees.

The students are: Rachel Daniell and Amie Lemley of the Class of 2017; and Mary Craig, Luke Iannuzzi, John Pickering and Christopher Ray of the Class of 2018.

CCHS serves as the Tuscaloosa Regional Campus of the School of Medicine.

The Gold Humanism Honor Society was established to recognize medical students, residents and faculty who practice patient-centered care by modeling such qualities as integrity, excellence, compassion, altruism, respect and empathy. Each year, the Gold Humanism Honor Society extends membership to medical students in their clinical years who are committed to these qualities. Between 10 percent and 15 percent of each class can be selected cumulatively during the third and fourth years of medical school.

The Gold Humanism Honor Society is a signature program of the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, which works to create “compassionate, collaborative and scientifically excellent health care and to support clinicians throughout their careers so that that the humanistic passion that motivates them at the beginning of their education can be sustained throughout their practice.”

College welcomes back residency graduates as fellows

Dr. Blake DeWitt

Three recent graduates of The University of Alabama Family Medicine Residency are returning to the College of Community Health Sciences as fellows. Drs. Carrie Coxwell and Blake DeWitt join the College’s Obstetrics fellowship, and Dr. Keirsten Smith joins the Sports Medicine fellowship.

The college operates the UA Family Medicine Residency, which is the third largest family medicine residency in the country and one of the oldest.

The Obstetrics and Sports Medicine fellowships, along with Behavioral Health, Emergency Medicine, Geriatric Medicine, Hospital Medicine, and Rural Public Psychiatry comprise the seven fellowships offered by the College. Each fellowship is a year-long program designed to offer additional, specialized training to physicians.

Dr. Carrie Coxwell

The College’s Obstetrics Fellowship for family medicine physicians, one of the first in the country, aims to address the need for obstetric and gynecological care in rural areas. As the attrition of obstetricians in the United States exceeds the number of obstetricians completing residencies and entering practice, programs that train family medicine physicians to provide quality obstetrical care will continue to grow in importance.

The College’s OB fellows are supervised by board-certified OB/GYNs and train for 12 months to complete the requirements for certification. During the year, fellows master high-risk, operative obstetrics and office OB/GYN procedures, including ultrasound, colposcopy, cryotherapy and endometrial biopsies. Coxwell and DeWitt also join University Medical Center, which the College operates, as members of the family medicine practice and will care for patients and teach medical students and residents.

Coxwell is a graduate of the University of Alabama School of Medicine and DeWitt is a graduate of Texas Tech University Science Center. Both Coxwell and Dewitt completed their residency training at the College.

Dr. Keirsten Smith

The College’s Sports Medicine Fellowship offers education, training and certification to family medicine physicians, who are often called to serve as team physicians for high school sports programs in their communities.

During the year-long Sports Medicine Fellowship, Smith will work under the supervision of Dr. James Robinson, who holds the College’s Endowed Chair in Sports Medicine, and will receive training in sports medicine care. Sports Medicine fellows work with The University of Alabama athletic team physicians, coaches, trainers and athletes, and with local high school athletes. Fellows see patients at the College’s Dr. Bill deShazo Sports Medicine Center, located within University Medical Center, which is operated by the College.

Smith earned her medical degree from American University of the Caribbean in Sint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles and completed her residency at the College of Community Health Sciences.

New Emergency Medicine Fellows Kick-Off First Rotations of Year-Long Fellowship

Dr. Michelle Pike

The newest addition to graduate medical education at the College of Community Health Sciences kicked off in July with the appointments of Dr. Michelle Pike and Dr. Owen Ulmer to its Emergency Medicine Fellowship. Both family medicine physicians have begun rotations, based primarily at Rush Foundation Hospital in Meridian, MS. Each has come with a unique background and broad set of skills to provide support to a rural community facing a critical shortage in emergency medicine professionals and to which they each have personal ties.

Pike is a native of rural Missouri. While completing her undergraduate degree at Truman State University, Pike paralleled training to earn a NREMT Paramedic license. She additionally worked on an Advanced Life Support Unit as a paramedic on critical care and emergency patient transports before entering medical school, and has logged more than one thousand hours of combined medical shadowing and ambulance experience through Missouri’s PRIMO/ACES Medical Mentoring Program. Pike attended medical school at the American University of the Caribbean, St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilies. Subsequently, she completed her residency training at The University of Alabama Family Medicine Residency, operated by CCHS, graduating as a Board-Certified Family Medicine Resident Physician in June 2017. Her research has been published in the West London Medical Journal. Pike has served as an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and Basic Life Support (BLS) instructor for medical and Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) students throughout her medical studies. As an AmeriCorps member, she has worked with rural health care programs to further health education for her community.

Dr. Owen Ulmer

Ulmer is a family medicine physician, originally from Columbia, MD, who returned to his military parents’ native Mississippi to attend medical school and to practice. Ulmer received his undergraduate degree in Biology from Delta State University, and his graduate degree in Biomedical Sciences through the University of Mississippi Medical Center. A recent graduate of William Carey University, Ulmer served as chief resident and was a member of several committees both within his program and at the national level. Ulmer is a member of the United States Navy Reserve and provides community services through his local free clinic. Throughout his career, he has maintained an overarching interest in general medicine within both outpatient and emergency health care.

Pike and Ulmer are the first fellows to take part in the new Emergency Medicine Fellowship, which the College is providing in conjunction with Rush Foundation Hospital in Meridian, MS. The fellowship is part of the College’s efforts to provide needed health care professionals for many Alabama communities—particularly to those rural communities with limited access to major medical facilities and services.

Find out more about the Emergency Medicine Fellowship

Graduating medical students celebrated at College convocation

Twenty-nine graduating medical students were honored at Senior Convocation, hosted by the College of Community Health Sciences May 19 at the Tuscaloosa River Market. Now physicians, the students are beginning their residency training in programs across 17 states.

The University of Alabama School of Medicine students completed their third and fourth years of clinical education at the College, which also functions as the Tuscaloosa Regional Campus for the 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 the Birmingham campus or one of the regional campuses – Tuscaloosa, Huntsville and Montgomery.

The Tuscaloosa Regional Campus students also received awards at the Convocation from faculty, clinical staff and their peers. Scholarships were also presented.

On Saturday, May 20, the students joined their 158 classmates for commencement in Birmingham.


Awards given at Convocation:

Department and College Awards:
Robert F. Gloor Award in Community Medicine
Dr. Jessica Powell
Awarded for excellent performance in Community and Rural Medicine

William Owings Award in Family Medicine
Dr. Jessica Powell
Awarded for excellence in Family Medicine

Recognition of Rural Medical Scholars

Drs. Daniel Stanley, Scott Thomas, Jessica Powell, Amanda Turner Shaw and Caitlin Tidwell
Family/Rural Medicine Preceptor’s Award
Dr. Larry Skelton
Awarded annually to a community preceptor in Family Medicine/Community and Rural Medicine who exemplifies excellent teaching and role modeling for students.

William Winternitz Award in Internal Medicine
Dr. Steve Allon
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. Scott Thomas
Awarded for outstanding academic and clinical performance during the Neurology Clerkship.

Pediatrics Recognition Award
Dr. Maria Gulas
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. Caitlin Tidwell
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. Chelsea Turgeon
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. Julia Stiegler
Awarded to a student with the highest scholastic achievement during his or her 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. Scott Thomas
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.

Larry Mayes Research Society Scholars
Drs. Chelsea Turgeon and Andrew Watson

Official Fellow Members:
Drs. Danielle Fincher, Caroline Watson, Reaves Crabtree, Julia Stiegler and Roshmi Bhattacharya

Student Research Award
Dr. Jessica Powell
Recognition of the pursuit of one or more research projects leading to a presentation or publication during the clinical years of medical training.

Scholastic Achievement Award
Dr. Caroline Kennemer
Awarded for superior performance in the clinical curriculum.

William R. Willard Award
Dr. Danielle Fincher

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

Community Preceptor Heroes Award
Drs. Bradley Bilton, Julia Boothe, Scott Boyken, Scott Davidson, Charles Gross, William Lenahan, Quinton Mathews and JD Shugrue
Awarded to community preceptors for outstanding contributions to undergraduate medical education.

Patrick McCue Award
Dr. A. Robert Sheppard
Awarded for outstanding contributions to undergraduate medical education during students’ senior year.

Resident Recognition Award
Dr. Blake DeWitt
Awarded for outstanding contributions to medical education.

James H. Akers Memorial Award
Dr. Nathan Sherrer
Awarded to a graduating senior for dedication to the art and science of medicine.


College Scholarships
Dr. Benjamin Collins Maxwell Endowed Scholarship
Dr. Ben Lee
Dr. Benjamin Collins Maxwell was a pioneer in Family Medicine practice who trained many Tuscaloosa medical students and family medicine residents in his practice in Atmore, Alabama. He was renowned for the degree of interest, patience and compassion he had for his patients. This scholarship was endowed by Dr. David and Mrs. Regina Maxwell to honor the legacy of Dr. Maxwell and of all primary care physicians, and to support the Rural Medical Scholars Program and academic excellence within the College of Community Health Sciences. Priority is given to graduating medical students who plan to practice rural primary care in Alabama, with a special consideration for students from Escambia County and the Rural Medical Scholars Program.

Reese Phifer, Jr., Memorial Foundation Scholarship in CCHS
Dr. Jessica Powell
The Reese Phifer Jr. Memorial Foundation Endowed Scholarship is awarded annually to promote the education of medical students at the College of Community Health Sciences/University of Alabama School of Medicine-Tuscaloosa Regional Campus. The Foundation was established by Mr. and Mrs. Reese Phifer in 1967 in memory of their son J. Reese Phifer, Jr., a student at The University of Alabama who died in 1964. The Foundation established the scholarship fund in 2014. Priority is given to current fourth-year medical students who intend to complete their residency at The University of Alabama Family Medicine Residency, which the college operates, and who have an interest in spending part of their residency training in Fayette, Alabama.

Robert E. Pieroni, MD, and Family Endowed Scholarship
Dr. Danielle Fincher
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.

Robinson part of panel focusing on concussion prevention and treatment

Dr. Jimmy Robinson, who holds the Endowed Chair of Sports Medicine for Family Physicians at the College of Community Health Sciences, was part of a panel discussion last month that focused on concussion prevention, diagnosis, treatment and management.

Robinson, who is also the lead team physician for UA Athletics, was joined on the University of Alabama at Birmingham panel by Dr. M. Heath Hale, lead team physician for UAB Athletics, and Dr. Siraj Abdullah, sports medicine physician for Auburn University.

“The more we learn about concussions, the more we realize what we don’t know about concussions,” Robinson said.

The panel discussion is part of ongoing efforts among researchers and medical professionals at UAB looking for answers in how to best protect the brain and treat traumatic brain injuries.

“The research that continues to come out of UAB enhances the care we are able to provide our athletes,” Hale said. “New helmet research to protect our football players’ brains, baseline testing for all student-athletes in the case that they receive a concussion, and even research on the appropriate time for our student-athletes to return to the classroom play an important role in how we care for concussed student-athletes each day.”

Robinson was instrumental in helping pass legislation in Alabama in 2011 to protect younger athletes from concussions as a founding member of a task force created by the Neuropsychology Department at Children’s Hospital in Birmingham. The law requires athletes and their parents and coaches to be educated about the signs and symptoms of concussions. The law also requires athletes who show signs or symptoms of a concussion to get physician approval before returning to their sport.

Robinson, who has served as lead team physician for UA Athletics since 1989, is also the team physician for many Tuscaloosa area high schools. He is director of the College’s Dr. Bill deShazo Sports Medicine Center and oversees the College’s Sports Medicine Fellowship for Family Physicians.

Prevention best way to avoid Zika Virus

By Amelia Neumeister

“It’s a story that begins with a bug,” said Dr. Heather Taylor, associate professor of Pediatrics at the College of Community Health Sciences, as she began her May 1 lecture as part of the Mini Medical School Program hosted by the College and UA’s OLLI program.

In her talk, titled “Zika Virus,” Taylor explained that the mosquito Aedes Aegypti is the vector, or carrier, of the Zika Virus, as well as three other major diseases – Yellow Fever, Dengue Fever and Chikungunya Virus. She said this mosquito is such a good carrier of these diseases because it has developed an immunity to many pesticides and other chemicals, and will lay eggs in standing water.

Almost 40 percent of the world’s population is at risk for the diseases carried by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, Taylor said.

The Zika Virus was first identified in Uganda’s Ziika Forest in 1947, and the first human case was documented in 1952. Over time, several small outbreaks were identified, with the first large outbreak occurring in 2007 in the South Pacific, on Yap Island in Micronesia. More than 73 percent of the island’s population was infected.

It wasn’t until 2015 when Brazil experienced a major outbreak of the Zika Virus that research about the disease began to change, Taylor said. Before this outbreak, the Zika Virus was considered a mild disease with only about a quarter of those infected showing symptoms, and with symptoms lasting for about a week. After the outbreak in Brazil, researchers found a link between Zika Virus, microcephaly infants and Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

“Zika Virus is playing from very different rules that the other flaviviruses that are mosquito born,” Taylor said.

She said the Zika Virus breaks the rules because it is not spread the same way as other viruses. “We know that it’s not spread through touching, coughing, sneezing or breastfeeding. So it’s different from other viruses in that it’s not spread by respiratory secretions.”

The Zika Virus is spread by mosquito bites, blood and sexual intercourse.

While testing for the Zika Virus exists, it is not yet widespread. “At this point, the health departments are controlling Zika testing so they can make sure the people that need those tests can have access to them,” Taylor said. “The CDC is controlling testing for people who really need it – people who have been exposed to the virus and who are symptomatic or pregnant.”

Unfortunately, there is no treatment for the Zika Virus, Taylor said. “The only weapon we have for fighting it is prevention.” Four vaccines are currently being tested and are targeted for females who have the potential to get pregnant in the future. Testing is also underway on genetically modified mosquitos designed to fight the Aedes Aegypti mosquito.

There are several stages of prevention, Taylor said, “But they all go back to that bug.”

The stages are: avoid being bitten; avoid traveling to areas that have experienced an outbreak; and if travel is necessary, or if you live in an affected area, wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants, spray the insecticide Permethrin on your clothing, use a bed net, if indoors keep the doors closed and use air conditioning and keep screens on doors and windows.

Summer Sun Safety: Avoiding the Dangers of the Sun’s Rays

By Kim Eaton

Those beautiful golden summer rays might look quite appealing after springtime showers, but if you’re not careful, that summer sun can turn dangerous, and fast.

“Exertional heat illness is one of the leading causes of death in young athletes each year,” says Dr. Ed Geno, assistant professor in the Department of Family, Internal, and Rural Medicine at the College of Community Health Sciences. “Children and the elderly are also more at risk. The elderly do not have the same cardiovascular ability to sweat and get the heat out of their system. There are also many medications that can predispose someone to heat injury of any kind.”

There are several types of heat illness. Heat cramps and heat exhaustion are the most common, while heat stroke is the most severe. People often know when they are hot, but with heat stroke, the core body temperature is elevated above 104 degrees and those individuals can start to exhibit brain symptoms – trouble walking, seizures and hallucinations and loss of consciousness, Geno says. Other symptoms may include headache, skin redness and warmth, rapid breathing and heartbeat, diarrhea and vomiting, muscle cramps and lack of sweating.

“The severity of heat stroke is directly related to the length of time someone is hot,” Geno says. “ So, if you start having symptoms of heat crams or heat exhaustion – heavy sweating, nausea, headache, faintness, dizziness, muscle cramps – you need to stop and immediately begin cooling your body down to prevent heat stroke.”

You can do this by spraying your body with cool water or taking a cool shower; moving into the shade, an air-conditioned car or by using a fan; drinking water or sports drinks, but never alcohol; removing extra clothing; or putting a cold pack on the back of your neck or under your armpits. If you do suffer from heat stroke or see people exhibiting symptoms, they need to be treated by a physician, Geno says.

If you know you are going to be in the sun for any length of time, make an effort to avoid any kind of heat illness, he says. “You can do this by gradually increasing your exercise rather than starting at full force, and drinking enough fluids so you do not feel thirsty,” Geno says. “Wear lightweight clothing and do activities earlier or later in the day. And never leave someone in a hot car.”

Managing diabetes to stay healthy

By Amelia Neumeister

Controlling blood sugar is important for people with diabetes, but other conditions need to be managed as well to provide the best health outcomes, according to Dr. Jared Ellis, assistant professor of family medicine for the College of Community Health Sciences and associate director of its Family Medicine Residency.

During a presentation for the Mini Medical School Program, a lecture series the College provides in collaboration with UA’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, Ellis spoke about ways diabetes can manage their disease to stay healthy.

He said controlling blood sugar is important in managing microvascular issues associated with diabetes, such as damage to eyes, kidneys and nerves. “This is impacted by sugar control,” Ellis said in his presentation, “Providing quality care for the improvement of diabetes.”

Diabetes is the top cause of acquired blindness in the US, Ellis said, explaining that for diabetics, tiny blood vessels behind the eyes can become blocked and there can be bleeding. Diabetics also have a higher risk of cataracts and glaucoma.

Diabetes is also the No. 1 cause of kidney failure in the US, and it can lead to diabetic neuropathy, which reduces the blood supply to nerves, causing a loss of feeling, typically beginning in the feet. “Getting the sugar down helps,” Ellis said.

Blood sugar control has less of an impact on macro vascular diseases associated with diabetes, such as heart attack, stroke, or peripheral vascular disease, Ellis said, adding that good blood pressure and cholesterol control are more important. “We want to see more good than bad cholesterol,” he said.

In addition, people with diabetes are more susceptible to infections, so they should stay up-to-date on their immunizations, particularly for flu, pneumonia, tetanus and pertussis.

Blood sugar can be controlled through diet, exercise and medication. Ellis suggested making reasonable changes to diet, but “eating closer to the vine and tree is important. Read food labels, although that can be tricky.” He said diabetics shouldn’t be discouraged if they can’t get to the gym to exercise. “Just move. If it’s a nice day, park farther from the door. Moving more is the key.”

His prescription for self-management of diabetes: “Be knowledgeable, be proactive and not reactive, and keep up with your lab results.”

CCHS hosts orientation for incoming medical students

The College of Community Health Sciences hosted 33 University of Alabama School of Medicine students April 27 and 28 who will complete their third and fourth years of medical school in Tuscaloosa.

In its role as a regional campus for the School of Medicine, the College provides clinical education for a portion of medical students, who complete the first two years of medical school at the School of Medicine’s main campus in Birmingham, and their third and fourth years at either Birmingham or one of the school’s regional campuses in Tuscaloosa, Huntsville or Montgomery.

During the orientation in Tuscaloosa, medical students learned about the College’s clerkships, participated in electronic medical record training and toured DCH Regional Medical Center. Most of the students are Alabamians, while others are from Georgia, Oregon, Connecticut and other states.

Dr. Richard Streiffer, dean of the College, told the students that while the College’s clinical education is oriented toward primary care, it provides exposure to and experience in other specialties. “Our focus is on primary care, but not exclusively,” he said. “We provide a very good, general professional education of physicians. We have students going into every discipline from this campus.”

Streiffer explained that an emphasis on primary care is important for a number of reasons. The US spends more on primary care than most industrialized nations yet has poorer health outcomes. Primary care, meanwhile, is associated with better access to care at lower costs. Alabama continues to have a shortage of primary care physicians. The US has an aging population suffering from chronic diseases and conditions that primary care is best suited to handle. And, finally, primary care takes into consideration social determinants of health – factors like socioeconomic status, education, physical environments, employment and social support networks, as well as access to care.

“Medical schools are largely funded by public money, so a social mission that medical schools have is to train physicians to meet the needs of society, Streiffer said, adding that the mission of the College is to improve health in communities by educating and training doctors for Alabama and the Southeast region.

He said the College’s education efforts are also interprofessional. “You will interact with students from nursing, social work and pharmacy, and you can take a culinary medicine course. You will work with our residents. We have an interprofessional faculty, and University Medical Center is a full-service practice.”

The College operates The University of Alabama Family Medicine Residency, the second largest family medicine residency in the US and one of the oldest. University Medical Center, the largest community practice in West Alabama, is also operated by the College and is the base for its clinical teaching program. UMC provides direct health care services in the areas of: primary care, including family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics and geriatrics; psychiatry and behavioral medicine; women’s health, including obstetrics and gynecology; and sports medicine. UMC also has telemedicine services and evening hours. The practice saw nearly 155,000 patients last year.