Rural Medical Scholar studies church-based health promotion in Africa

Daniel Stanley, a Rural Medical Scholar and third-year medical student at the College of Community Health Sciences, spent most of September in Malawi, Africa, as part of a study on the effectiveness of church-based community health education and promotion.

Stanley, who is from Elmore County, Alabama, is studying the effectiveness of this type of health promotion as means of addressing health disparities in African-American communities in rural Alabama. He went to a rural area of Malawi to serve as a participant observer in a church-based health promotion program.

The Rural Medical Scholars program is exclusively for rural Alabama students who want to become physicians and practice in rural communities. The University of Alabama program includes a year of study, after students receive their undergraduate degree, that leads to a master’s degree in Rural Community Health as well as early admission to the University of Alabama School of Medicine. 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 the College, which serves as the Tuscaloosa Regional Campus for the School of Medicine, where they receive their third and fourth years of clinical education.

Stanley’s study is part of his required scholarly activity as a Rural Medical Scholar. He says he became interested in the topic during a family medicine rotation in Hale County.

“I really began to appreciate how the cultural perceptions of those living in rural west Alabama have molded their behavioral decisions, which has in some ways led to health disparities,” he says. “Another thing that I began to see was how this culture has led to a strong relationship between those living in such areas and the church. I began to consider how churches have served as a medium for health education and promotion.”

Because of his interest in mission-based, global health, Stanley looked for programs to observe abroad. Through the organization Community Health Evangelism, he was connected with a program in rural Lumbadzi, Malawi, that educates church leaders on health topics so that they can serve as health promoters in their faith community. Stanley says one of the main goals of the group was to address HIV misconceptions and provide education about testing and treatment.

“The program has been very successful in terms of addressing and correcting culturally-derived misconceptions about HIV,” he says. “There has been an increase in the number of people getting tested and seeking treatment in the villages where the program was introduced.”

Stanley also worked at a nearby hospital with its mobile clinic, visiting neighboring villages three times a week.

He says that while the medical issues he saw in Malawi were different from those in rural Alabama, he saw some common themes.

“There are some great similarities in that these are two marginalized populations with health disparities that can be reduced largely by behavioral modification,” he says.

Stanley says he hopes to share results of his study with local church leaders after completing his final report.

 

Retired Student Health Physician and Wife Establish Scholarship

Dr. David H. Maxwell, a retired physician who worked at The University of Alabama’s Student Health Center for nearly 25 years, and his wife, Jeanne Maxwell, have pledged $25,000 to establish the Dr. Benjamin Collins Maxwell Endowed Scholarship at the College of Community Health Sciences.

The scholarship will give priority of consideration to fourth-year medical students at the University of Alabama School of Medicine’s Tuscaloosa Regional Campus, which is located at the College, as well Rural Medical Scholars who plan to practice primary care in a rural part of Alabama. Additional preference will be given to students who meet those criteria who have graduated from high schools in Escambia County, Alabama.

Dr. Benjamin Maxwell was Dr. David Maxwell’s uncle and his family’s primary care physician.

“‘Dr. Ben’ was a beloved family physician who served his hometown, Atmore, Alabama, for 43 years and was the personification of the compassionate, capable family doc,” he says. “As my family’s physician, he was an influence in my own decision to pursue medicine,

Benjamin Maxwell served in the US Navy after graduating high school in 1943. After WWII, he attended the University of Alabama and then attended medical school at the University of Alabama School of Medicine. After a one-year internship in Birmingham, he practiced in Atmore until retiring in 1996.

Jeanne Maxwell also knew Benjamin Maxwell when she was young. Her father was a physician in Mobile and she accompanied him to Atmore for consultations. Both Jeanne and David Maxwell attended The University of Alabama.

David Maxwell completed medical school at the University of South Alabama in Mobile and a family medicine residency at the University of Alabama at Huntsville. He then practiced in Atmore himself for six years before moving with Regina to Tuscaloosa in 1989, where he practiced at the Student Health Center until retiring in 2014. He says their children are fourth-generation University of Alabama students and graduates.

David Maxwell says the scholarship is not only a way to honor his uncle’s legacy in his community and in the state, but that of all primary care physicians.

“Its goal is in keeping with the mission of the Rural Medical Scholars program as well as that of the College. Both are vital in meeting the need for culturally competent physicians, particularly in the underserved communities and counties of Alabama,” he says. “As our medical students make their decisions to fulfill a medical calling, I hope they will be encouraged and enabled in part by such scholarships as well as by those physicians who have served before them. It is my particular wish that this can help fill the needs in our home area—rural Escambia County.”

Rural Medical Scholars 20th Class attends orientation

The 20th class of the Rural Medical Scholars Program was admitted by The University of Alabama’s College of Community Health Sciences, and a day of orientation was held for them and this year’s class of Rural Community Health Scholars (master’s degree candidates in Rural Community Health) on Aug.18 at Camp Tuscoba Retreat Center in Northport.

The orientation was more than introductions and program expectations—it was the starting point of a year of anticipation and preparation to pursue their goals, says Susan Guin, associate director of the Rural Medical Scholars Program.

“This coming year will be a time of developing lasting relationships with their peers and mentors who will be a source of friendship and support as they continue their education and into their careers,” says Guin. “Through the years, this support has come in many forms and from many sources, so we invite partners from around the state to join us in welcoming the newest class of Scholars.”

The College works to address the shortage of primary care physicians in Alabama through the Rural Medical Scholars Program, which is for rural Alabama students who want to become physicians and practice in rural communities. The program 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. 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 the College for their final two years of clinical education.

The College will celebrate the program’s milestone with special events throughout the year.

Members of the Rural Medical Scholars 20th class are: Anooshah Ata, from Scottsboro; Helen Cunningham, from Barnwell; Tanner Hallman, of Arab; Storm McWhorter, Prattville; Carson Perrella, Salem; Johnson (John) Pounders, Leighton; Jayla Robinson, Addison; and Harriet Washington, from Carrollton.

The Rural Community Health Scholars Program is for graduate students not enrolled in the Rural Medical Scholars Program who are interested in health care careers. The program prepares students to assume leadership roles in community health in rural areas. The graduates of the program have entered the fields of public health, health administration, nursing and physical therapy, and they have continued their professional training to become nurse practitioners, physician assistants, public health practitioners, physicians, teachers and researchers.

Rural Community Health Scholars this year are: Januar Page Brown, of Enterprise; Amellia Cannon, of Duncanville; Dylan Drinkard, of Thomasville; Caleb Mason, of Guntersville; Johnny Pate, of Moundville; Kristin Pressley, of Harvest; and Jeremy Watson, of Tuscaloosa County.

The orientation agenda included an overview of the health needs of rural communities and the mission of the Rural Health Leaders Pipeline, a series of programs that recruit and support rural Alabama students who want to be health care professionals in rural and underserved communities in the state.

Each of this year’s Scholars added a colored dot to his or her own home county on oversized maps showing the home counties of past Rural Medical Scholars and Rural Community Health Scholars.

Program directors and professors discussed academic expectations and community involvement, which includes recruiting and outreach to rural youth.

Students spent time getting to know one another, and they also were introduced to College faculty and faculty from other UA departments associated with the program. Those who came to welcome them from the College included Dr. Richard Streiffer, dean of the College; Dr. Thaddeus Ulzen, associate dean for Academic Affairs; and Dr. Tom Weida, associate dean for Clinical Affairs.

Other attendees included: Ron Sparks, director of rural development for Gov. Robert Bentley; Gwen Johnson, Tuskegee University Cooperative Extension Agent for Hale and Greene counties; Toice Goodson, Greene County farmer; Regina Knox, Alicia Logan, and Katie Summerville, directors from the West Central Alabama Area Health Education Center; and Joe Anders, president of the Tuscaloosa County Farmers Federation.

Visitors from the South Georgia Medical Education and Research Consortium also attended to learn more about implementing a sequence of programs similar to the Rural Health Leaders Pipeline.

New class previews clinical education to Rural Medical Scholars

Rural Medical Scholars can now get a better idea of what to expect during their third year and fourth years of clinical education in medical school, thanks to a new class offered by The University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences.

The class, Family Medicine Practice and Procedures: Special Topics, is being offered by the departments of Family Medicine and Community and Rural Medicine to second-year medical students who are Rural Medical Scholars.

Students shadowed faculty and gained clinical experience at University Medical Center, which is operated by the College, and at DCH Regional Medical Center. They also participated in skills workshops. The class was offered in August in two week-long periods.

The Rural Medical Scholars Program is for rural Alabama students who want to become physicians and practice in rural communities. The program includes a year of study, after students receive their undergraduate degree, that leads to a master’s degree in rural community health as well as early admission to the University of Alabama School of Medicine.

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 the College for their final two years of clinical education. One of the College’s functions is to serve as the Tuscaloosa Regional Campus for the School of Medicine.

The co-instructors for the course are Susan Guin, CRNP, assistant professor in Community and Rural Medicine, and Dr. Drake Lavender, assistant professor in Family Medicine. Rural Medical Scholars tend to have limited interaction with Family Medicine faculty, and this is an effort to change that, Guin says. She says the class is intended to be a preview of what their third year clinical education will be like when they return to Tuscaloosa.

“It’s about relationship building and mentoring for the Rural Medical Scholars,” she says. “It begins that support network that is so beneficial during medical school and residency.”

Three Rural Medical Scholars participated in the course: Nic Cobb, Jake Guin and Whitney Hudman.

The skills workshops included learning airway management from Glenn Davis, director of Emergency Medical Services for the College, and suturing techniques from Dr. William Owings, professor in Family Medicine.

Students also shadowed Owings in clinic at UMC. Jake Guin says observing Owings with a patient was an experience that stood out to him.

“Anyone could tell that the patient truly trusted [Owings], and [Owings] truly cared for the well-being of the patient, physically, mentally and emotionally,” he says.

The students shadowed several other faculty in clinic at UMC, including Dr. Richard Friend, director of The University of Alabama Family Medicine Residency; Dr. Catherine Scarbrough, associate director of the Family Medicine Residency; Dr. Tamer Elsayed, assistant director of the Family Medicine Residency; Dr. Alan Blum, professor in Family Medicine; Dr. Anne Halli-Tierney, assistant professor in Family Medicine; Dr. Jerry McKnight, professor in Family Medicine; and Dr. Catherine Skinner, assistant professor in Family Medicine. The students also shadowed some Family Medicine resident physicians.

Hudman said she found her learning experiences helpful in preparing her for clinical education.

“In addition to learning by seeing patients, it was good just to be able to see what my future will look like as a third-year student, fourth-year student and a family medicine resident,” she says.

GUEST COLUMNIST: Taxes critical for rural health care

Friends, family and colleagues have asked about my views on proposals to raise taxes in order to keep up the services available to Alabama’s citizens. My first impulse is to believe that there is already plenty of money in Montgomery to cover all the bases.

I grew up around farms, and many of my family still farm, where we learned “to make do.” Also, I appreciate the favorable current use tax rate on several hundred acres of timberland. It is tempting to believe that there is enough money to go around.

Rural Medical Scholars Program holds orientation for 20th class, WVUA reports

The 20th class of the Rural Medical Scholars Program attended orientation Tuesday, August 18, at Camp Tuscoba Retreat Center in Northport. The Rural Medical Scholars Program is dedicated to addressing the shortage of primary care physicians in rural parts of the state, reported WVUA.

“We are in a severe crisis with a shortage of primary care physicians in rural Alabama,” Dr. John Wheat, director of the program, said in the report. “Family physicians are most likely to practice in rural Alabama, so that’s what we’re about—producing physicians for rural Alabama.”

Watch the WVUA report here:

The University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences will celebrate the program’s 20th anniversary during the 2015-2016 academic year.

The students of the 20th class of the Rural Medical Scholars Program are:

Anooshah Ata, Scottsboro, Jackson County
Helen Cunningham, Barnwell, Baldwin County
Tanner Hallman, Arab, Marshall County
Carson Perrella, Salem, Lee County
Gloria (Storm) McWhorter, Prattville, Autauga County
Johnson (John) Pounders, Leighton, Colbert County
Jayla Robinson, Addison, Winston County
Harriet Washington, Carrollton, Pickens County

College welcomes 20th class of Rural Medical Scholars

The 20th class of the Rural Medical Scholars Program will start in August, and The University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences will celebrate the program’s 20th anniversary during the 2015-2016 academic year.

The incoming class of Rural Medical Scholars will attend orientation on Aug. 18 at Camp Tuscoba Retreat Center in Northport, Ala.

The 20th class of Rural Medical Scholars are:

Anooshah Ata, Scottsboro, Jackson County
Helen Cunningham, Barnwell, Baldwin County
Tanner Hallman, Arab, Marshall County
Carson Perrella, Salem, Lee County
Gloria (Storm) McWhorter, Prattville, Autauga County
Johnson (John) Pounders, Leighton, Colbert County
Jayla Robinson, Addison, Winston County
Harriet Washington, Carrollton, Pickens County

The Scholars were selected in May 2015 after an interview process. The Rural Medical Scholars Program is exclusively for rural Alabama students who want to become physicians and practice in rural communities. The program includes a year of study, after students receive their undergraduate degree, that leads to a master’s degree in rural community health, as well as early admission to the University of Alabama School of Medicine. 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 the College for their final two years of clinical education.

“Orientation for the Rural Scholars is more than introductions and program expectations; it is the starting point to a year of anticipation and preparation to pursue their goals,” says Susan Guin, CRNP, associate director of the Rural Medical Scholars Program. “This year will be a time of developing lasting relationships with their peers and mentors who will be a source of friendship and support as they continue their education and into their careers. Through the years, this support has come in many forms and from many sources, so we invite partners from around the state to join us in welcoming the newest class of Scholars.”

The Rural Medical Scholars Program is part of the Rural Health Leaders Pipeline, a sequence of programs that recruit and support rural Alabama students who want to be primary care physicians in rural and underserved communities in the state.

The College will celebrate the two decades of the Rural Medical Scholars Program throughout the academic year with events for alumni, many of whom are practicing in rural Alabama, as the program intends. About 60 percent of Rural Medical Scholars have chosen to practice in rural Alabama, and 90 percent of Scholars in practice are located in Alabama.

Six Rural Community Health Scholars will also attend the orientation on Aug. 18. The Rural Community Health Scholars at the College this year are:

Januar Page Brown, Enterprise, Coffee County
Amellia Cannon, Duncanville, Tuscaloosa County
Dylan Drinkard, Thomasville, Clarke County
Caleb Mason, Guntersville, Marshall County
Johnny Pate, Moundville, Hale County
Kristin Pressley, Harvest, Madison County
Jeremy Watson, Tuscaloosa County

 

Rural Medical Scholars honored at convocation

Members of the College’s Rural Medical Scholars Class of 2014-15 were recognized April 17 at the Rural Health Scholars Convocation, held at the Hotel Capstone on The University of Alabama campus.

The seven members of the class will begin their first year of medical school this summer at the University of Alabama School of Medicine’s main campus in Birmingham. They will return to the College, which provides clinical education and experiences for a portion of School of Medicine students, during their final two years of medical school.

The College’s Rural Medical Scholars Program is exclusively for university seniors or graduate students from rural Alabama. It is a five-year track of medical studies that leads to a certificate or master’s degree in Rural Community Health in the first year, and a medical degree from the University of Alabama School of Medicine in the fifth year.

Dr. Deanah Maxwell, a former Rural Medical Scholar who now practices family medicine in Brewton, Ala., provided the keynote address.

“It is here that I acquired the skills to become Dr. Maxwell,” she said. “The clinical education I received here has allowed me to make a positive impact on my patients.”

After completing the Rural Medical Scholars program and medical school, Maxwell did her residency training at the College’s Family Medicine Residency. She then went to practice in rural Alabama. “I came full circle” she said.

“As you embark on this next phase of your life,” she told members of the Rural Medical Scholars class, “it’s easy to focus on studies and rotations. But find something you love outside of medicine. Reach out to others. Ask for help when you need it. When you have those days where you feel a sense of joy, share that with your family. Great doctors and great people recognize the importance of human connections.”

During the convocation, Dr. Michael McBrearty, who practices family medicine in Fairhope, Ala., and who was the first graduate of the College’s Family Medicine Residency, was presented with the Rural Medical Scholars Program Distinguished Service Award. McBrearty, who graduated from the residency in 1975, was introduced by his son, Dr. Sean McBrearty.

“My dad has had a great impact on my life. He’s the reason I went into family medicine,” McBrearty said. “I hope I always have the passion for practicing family medicine that you do.”

Michael McBrearty said he was humbled to receive the award. “The folks who have received this award before me are leaders and really put this program on the map,” he said. “They gave up their established practices to come here and make this program what it is. The work of this program is nationally known and a model of how things should go.”

Allison Montgomery, a Rural Medical Scholar from Talladega, Ala., spoke briefly at the convocation. She plans a career as a physician in rural Alabama, which has a shortage of primary care and family medicine physicians.

“We’ve had such a fantastic year,” she said. “We’ve learned so much about medicine. We’re invigorated, ready to go and looking forward to the future.”