Friends of College receive Family of the Year honor

Bradley Cork, a member of the College of Community Health Sciences’ Board of visitors, and his wife, Susan Cork, have been named the recipients of the United Way of West Alabama’s Alexis de Tocqueville Society’s annual Family of the Year honor.

The Corks will be presented with the award at the Society’s spring dinner on April 26.

“We are very honored to have been chosen from many worthy families,” Bradley Cork says.

The award is given to society members who have made significant contributions in improving health, education or financial stability for residents of West Alabama. The Alexis de Tocqueville Society was founded to recognize, foster and promote the vital importance of community service and personal giving. It is comprised of donors who invest $10,000 or more annually in the United Way of West Alabama.

Susan Cork is the manager and trustee of the Reese Phifer, Jr., Memorial Foundation, which established a scholarship fund in 2014 for University of Alabama School of Medicine students enrolled at its Tuscaloosa Regional Campus, which is located at the College. Priority is given to students who intend to join the College’s Family Medicine Residency and who have an interest in spending part of their training in Fayette, Ala.

The Reese Phifer, Jr., Memorial Foundation was established by Mr. and Mrs. J. Reese Phifer in 1967 in memory of their son J. Reese Phifer, Jr., a student at the University of Alabama who died in 1964.

“Mr. and Mrs. Reese Phifer were very generous and supportive of community involvement and encouraged us all to do the same,” Bradley Cork said.

In addition to serving on the College’s Board of Visitors, Cork also serves on its Capstone Health Services Foundation Board.

New Chief Residents Announced


From top left, clockwise: Drs. Shawanda Agnew, Carrie Coxwell, Eric Frempong and Blake DeWitt

The University of Alabama Family Medicine Residency announced its chief residents for the 2016-2017 academic year.

Drs. Shawanda Agnew, Carrie Coxwell and Blake DeWitt are chief residents. Dr. Eric Frempong has been elected as IT chief resident.

The Family Medicine Residency, which is operated by the College of Community Health Sciences, is a three-year post-graduate medical education program that leads to board certification in Family Medicine.

Agnew attended medical school at the University of Mississippi, and is a Mississippi Rural Medical Scholar. She plans to return to Mississippi after graduation to practice in an underserved community. She is interested in women’s health.

Coxwell received her medical degree from the University of Alabama School of Medicine, located in Birmingham. She has a special interest in obstetrics and is interested in the College’s Obstetrics Fellowship.

DeWitt attended medical school at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. His special interests include sports medicine and primary care endoscopy. He plans to return to his home state of Texas to practice after graduation.

Frempong received his medical degree from American University of the Caribbean. He has a special interest in obstetrics and, after residency, plans to practice inpatient and outpatient family medicine.

Residency fills class of 2019 through match process

Sixteen new residents were welcomed into the College of Community Health Sciences’ Family Medicine Residency class of 2019 on March 18 through the National Resident Matching Program.

Two members of the incoming class—Elizabeth Junkin and Russell Guin—are currently fourth-year medical students at the College, which also functions as the Tuscaloosa Campus for the University of Alabama School of Medicine.

More than 2,000 candidates applied for the available slots (an increase from the 1,700 applicants in 2015) and 130 were interviewed. The residency, a three-year program and one of the largest of its kind in the country, was able to fill all the positions through the match process.

The College’s mission is to improve and promote the health of individuals and communities in Alabama and the region, and one of the ways it fulfills that mission is by addressing the physician workforce in Alabama and the region with a focus on comprehensive family medicine residency training.

To address the growing need for primary care physicians in Alabama and nationwide, the Family Medicine Residency has been undergoing an expansion in recent years. It recently applied for and received additional residency slots, which brought its total approved and funded slots from 36 to 48.

One in seven family physicians practicing in Alabama has graduated from the Family Medicine Residency, and the 230 graduates practicing in Alabama are in 46 of the state’s 67 counties. Of the 436 graduates practicing outside of Alabama, the majority practice in the South or the Southeast.

The University of Alabama Family Medicine Residency Class of 2019:

Blair Lindsey Chance
Indiana University

Joshua Franklin Coy
St. George’s University, Grenada

Ashley Sujane Froese
Lincoln Memorial University

Richard Anthony Giovane
St. George’s University, Grenada

Jonathan Russell Guin
University of Alabama School of Medicine • Tuscaloosa Regional Campus

Elizabeth Ann Junkin
University of Alabama School of Medicine • Tuscaloosa Regional Campus

Jonathan Edward Kroeker
St. George’s University, Grenada

Soojung Samantha Lee
Louisiana State University – New Orleans

Cory Allen Luckie
University of Alabama School of Medicine

John Calvin Lundeen
American University of the Caribbean, Saint Maarten

Jodie Erin McDonald-Beach
William Carey University

Katie Taheerah Muhammad
Meharry Medical College

Taki Mohammad Rida
Medical University of the Americas, Nevis, West Indies

Clifton Shane Scott
St. Matthew’s University, Grand Cayman

Tiffani Yvonne Thomas
Medical University of South Carolina

Hailey Elizabeth Thompson
William Carey University



Rural Medical Scholars Program to Honor Grads as Part of 20th Anniversary

The Rural Medical Scholars Program at the College of Community Health Sciences will honor the graduates of its 20th class, as well as alumni of the now two-decade-old program, on May 1 at Hotel Capstone on The University of Alabama campus.

A reception for program alumni will be held at 3 pm and will be followed by the 20th Annual Rural Scholars Convocation, where both the current class and past classes of the Rural Medical Scholars and Rural Community Health Scholars will be recognized.

Approximately 200 rural Alabama students have entered the College’s Rural Medical Scholars Program since its founding in 1996, and many graduates have chosen primary care fields. The majority of the program’s graduates practice in Alabama, and more than half of those practice in rural communities.

The Rural Medical Scholars Program is the culmination of the Rural Health Leaders Pipeline, a series of nationally-recognized programs that recruit rural students to prepare for health and medical careers in rural Alabama and provide them with opportunities for rural training experiences so that ultimately, they will return to their home towns or other rural parts of the state to practice.

“‘Growing our own’ is a tenet of the Rural Medical Scholars Program and other Rural Scholars Programs at The University of Alabama and is based on research that shows that rural students are more likely to choose to live and practice in rural areas,” says Dr. John Wheat, founder and director of the Rural Medical Scholars Program.

The Pipeline was recognized as the 2013 Outstanding Rural Health Program by the National Rural Health Association.

Medical student named in inaugural class of Alabama Schweitzer Fellows

A medical student who will receive his clinical education at the College of Community Health Sciences is part of the inaugural class of Alabama Schweitzer Fellows, a group of graduate students across the state selected to spend a year on a community service project to address chronic health problems.

David Osula, a first-year student at the University of Alabama School of Medicine, is developing the Academy of Health Sciences Mentoring Program for inner-city high school students in Birmingham interested in health care careers. Osula will receive his third and fourth years of clinical education at the School of Medicine’s Tuscaloosa Regional Campus, which is located at the College.

The Academy of Health Sciences is run by Birmingham City Schools and hosted at Carver High School. It allows high school students to job shadow and visit hospitals to learn about health care professions, and to take courses and learn skills to prepare them for a career in health care.

Many School of Medicine students were already working with the Academy, Osula says.

“We are involved in several aspects already, including volunteering to teach a few classes, ACT Tutoring, and now, mentoring.”

Osula saw the existing bond between the high school students and medical students as an opportunity to develop a structured mentoring program. After four years of working with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Osula says he has seen the impact mentorships can have on both the mentee and mentor.

With his project, Osula will serve as mentorship coordinator. He will design the program, run a short pilot and implement it in the fall.

The Alabama Schweitzer Chapter was founded in 2015. Many chapters are established across the United States.

The first class of fellows is made up of 16 graduate students from across the state who were selected from applicants in a variety of graduate programs, including medicine, nursing, dentistry, public health, education, social work, law and the arts, according to the chapter’s website. Projects address chronic health issues in the state and their root causes, like poverty, the environment and education.

Osula says his mentoring program will positively impact the students of Carver High school, and they will, in turn, go on to positively impact Alabama health care.

“We, the medical students, are here to supplement their experience and provide new perspective. And soon, we will also be there to provide mentoring, encouragement and advice on how to be successful in their future careers,” he says. “By showing these students our ‘reverence for life’ as Albert Schweitzer so aptly did, we hope they carry on the torch and show a reverence for the lives they encounter in the future.”

TLC2 students join advocates in march to Ala. State House for HIV, AIDS awareness

Medical students at the College of Community Health Sciences marched for HIV and AIDS awareness and met with state leaders as part of the annual Alabama HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, held March 10 at the Alabama State House in Montgomery.

The students, who are part of the Tuscaloosa Longitudinal Community Curriculum (TLC2), participated in the day’s activities as part of their Leadership in Community and Population Medicine elective, says Dr. Lea Yerby, assistant professor of Community and Rural Medicine and the Institute for Rural Health Research at the College.

About 250 people living with HIV or AIDS and receiving medication from the AIDS Drug Assistance Program were present, along with other advocates for HIV and AIDS awareness from across the state.

“The purpose of the students’ participation was to learn about more organized advocacy, practice advocacy on the state level with the legislators representing their clinics’ communities, learn about advocating for their patients, and to see patients advocating for themselves,” Yerby says.

One of the most memorable parts of the day for TLC2 student Maria Gulas was hearing the stories of those living with HIV and AIDS.

“It was inspiring to see how these individuals overcame such devastating health effects and social stigma to be thriving as they are today,” Gulas says.

The students marched with the group to the Alabama State House and distributed district-specific HIV prevalence data to senators and representatives. Gulas said many of those living with HIV and AIDS advocated for themselves directly to state leaders.

“It was so powerful to see them fighting for their own care, with the support of family, friends, community members, public health leaders, and future providers, as the decisions made in that building will affect the lives of people living with HIV across Alabama,” Gulas says.

She says the experience was valuable for her and the other TLC2 students because it allowed them to connect with and learn from people living with HIV and AIDS as well as advocate for them and for those who will be future patients.

“Advocacy is a critical component of patient care, but it is not something to which we have much exposure in medical school,” Gulas says. “Just with this one day, I think all the medical students left with a clearer picture of what it means to advocate for your patients and gained confidence in our abilities to do just that.”



Family medicine faculty receives Degree of Fellow from AAFP

Dr. Catherine Scarbrough, associate director of the College of Community Health Sciences’ Family Medicine Residency, received the Degree of Fellow from the American Academy of Family Physicians, a credential that honors one’s commitment to family medicine through community work, research, teaching, professional development and organized medicine.

The degree requires experiences in lifelong learning, practice quality and improvement, volunteer public teaching, public service, publishing and research and service to family medicine, as well as six years of AAFP membership.

Scarbrough, who is also assistant professor and clinic director of Family Medicine for the College, recently completed the University of North Carolina Faculty Development Fellowship in Chapel Hill.

In the past year, she presented at three national conferences. She has conducted and collaborated in a number of research projects, mentored several family medicine residents in their research, and has been published numerous times.

In June 2015, she joined Alabama Academy of Family Physicians’ Board of Directors and advocates for family medicine physicians and for the practice itself in Alabama.

“I am thankful for a supportive faculty and chair who helps encourage young faculty members in scholarly and curricular pursuits,” she says.

Members who receive the degree are able to use the initials “FAAFP” after their name. Scarbrough will be honored at a convocation ceremony at an annual meeting of the Family Medicine Experience.

Prior to joining the College in 2012, Scarbrough had a family medicine practice at St. Vincent’s Family Care in Pell City, Alabama. Before that, she served as a faculty member at St. Vincent’s East Family Medicine Residency Program before going overseas to serve on the faculty of a family medicine training program in Central Asia.

Three medical students selected to honor society

Three University of Alabama School of Medicine students who are receiving their clinical education at the College of Community Health Sciences were selected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society as juniors.

The students, all in their third year of medical school, are Steven Allon, Caroline Rose Kennemer and William Benton Lee.

Alpha Omega Alpha is a professional medical organization that recognizes excellence in scholarship as well as an outstanding commitment and dedication to caring for others. The top 25 percent of a medical school class is eligible for nomination to the honor society, and up to 16 percent may be selected.

About 3,000 students, alumni and faculty are elected to Alpha Omega Alpha each year. The society has 120 chapters in medical schools throughout the United States and has elected more than 150,000 members since its founding in 1902.

In its role as a regional campus of the University of Alabama School of Medicine, the College provides clinical education to a subset of third- and fourth-year medical students. The students complete the first two years of basic science courses at the School of Medicine’s main campus in Birmingham, and then complete clinical rotations on the Tuscaloosa Regional Campus in the departments of Family Medicine, Pediatrics, Internal Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Neurology, Psychiatry and Surgery.


UA-county partnership seeks applications for health projects and fellowships

A University of Alabama and Pickens County, Ala., partnership working to provide health resources for the rural county and “real world” training for UA students is accepting proposals for health projects and applications for fellowships.

The University of Alabama/Pickens County Health Care Teaching County Partnership, of which the College of Community Health Sciences is a leading partner, recently received $600,000 from the Alabama Legislature to initiate the partnership. Once fully underway, the partnership will enable UA students in medicine, nursing, social work, nutrition, psychology, health education, health care management and elder law to gain practice experience from internships and other learning opportunities in Pickens County, and at the same time provide sustainable health resources for the county.

Currently, the partnership is seeking project proposals from UA faculty and/or Pickens County entities for health-related projects to be conducted in the county. Award amounts vary but will not exceed $25,000. Funds will be available May 1, and projects must start by the summer.

The partnership also is seeking recent UA graduates for one-year paid fellowships that provide an opportunity to serve in a health-related capacity in Pickens County. Fellows will spend time in community engagement and leadership development activities, which include seminars on health and public policy, as well as social determinants of health.

Pickens County is a Medically Underserved Area and a Primary Care, Mental Health and Dental Health Professional Shortage Area. The county ranks 41st in health outcomes among Alabama’s 67 counties. Other statistics show that 36 percent of adult residents are considered obese, one-third of the population lives below the poverty line and there are only nine primary care physicians per 10,000 residents.

Mini Medical School Lecture Series Continues

Three faculty and one family medicine resident at the College of Community Health Sciences continued the Mini Medical School program—a lectures series for The University of Alabama’s OLLI program.

The Mini Medical School program provides an opportunity for adults and community learners to explore trends in medicine and health, and the lectures by CCHS faculty offer important information about issues and advances in medicine and research.

OLLI, short for Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, is a member-led program catering to those aged 50 years and older and offers educational courses as well as field trips, socials, special events and travel.

Dr. Jane Weida, associate professor of Family Medicine and associate director of the College’s Family Medicine Residency, presented a talk on Feb. 4 titled “Family Medicine Cares: Helping Haiti Heal.”

Family Medicine Cares is a humanitarian program of the American Academy of Family Physicians, which works to provide sustainable health care to underserved populations in the United States and throughout the world.

The program first sent a group of physicians and educators to Haiti in 2010 after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated the country, one of the poorest in the Western Hemisphere. More than 100,000 people perished in the first 60 seconds of the earthquake. Rescue efforts were hampered by no electricity, no cellular phone reception, hospitals were overwhelmed and the country’s only airport was destroyed. Some 250,000 homes and 30,000 commercial buildings were destroyed or severely damaged. Tent cities struggled to accommodate more than 1.5 million people left homeless; that number remained at 150,000 as late as 2014.

“It’s been six years since the earthquake but there’s still a lot of need,” Weida said.

Weida was part of a group from Family Medicine Cares that traveled to Haiti in 2014. The group was comprised of 22 people, including 17 physicians, and they brought needed medications with them. Once in Haiti, the group divided into three teams to provide patient care, medical education and service projects.

The patient care team treated more than 550 patients, which included conducting more than 130 well-child checkups, a rarity in Haiti. The medical education team conducted a full-day symposium for health care providers there on geriatric and preventive medicine. The team also conducted a faculty development workshop for medical school faculty on teaching residents and medical students, accessing medical information on the intranet and funding research. The service team painted three schools and an orphanage, three exam rooms and distributed vitamins.

Weida said future plans for Family Medicine Cares and its work in Haiti include providing continued support for residencies via faculty development and donation of medical equipment, providing continuing medical education for physicians and increasing exposure to family medicine in medical schools.

“Are we making a difference? I think we are,” Weida said.

Dr. James Robinson, the College’s Endowed Chair of Sports Medicine, presented his talk, “Preventing Athletic Injuries in the Elderly,” on Feb. 11.

Robinson said the process of aging results in a decrease of VO2 max, which is the maximum volume of oxygen a person uses. By age 65, 60 percent of one’s VO2 max is lost, and the maximum heart beat is 40 beats per minute.

This can be countered by exercise, Robinson said. He said the recommended amount of exercise for the elderly is two and a half hours per week. He said both cardio and strength training are important forms of exercise.

“You don’t have to go out and run a marathon,” Robinson said. “Walking, gardening and dancing are good exercises. Bicycle riding is easy on the joints.”

He also suggested yoga or tai chi classes, which are good for balance, which is especially a concern for the elderly. Falls are leading cause of injury-related deaths and account for 10 percent of ER visits with the elderly, he said.

To prevent injury from exercise, Robinson said to choose an activity appropriate for one’s fitness level and to work gradually at it overtime. He said to allow time for recovery after exercise, and to be mindful of nutrition.

“Water is your best fluid, and carbohydrates are your main fuel for exercise,” he said.

Dr. Anne Halli-Tierney, a geriatrician and assistant professor of Family Medicine, presented a lecture Feb. 18 titled “Dementia and delirium: Evaluation and management.” Or: “I’ve lost my mind.”

She said dementia is a loss of cognitive functioning with symptoms lasting for at least six months. Dementia can result from Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia caused by large and small strokes, and traumatic brain injuries. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, she said, and over the course of the condition there is generally a clinical loss of memory, delusions and paranoia and a loss of ability to coordinate and swallow.

There is medication that can stabilize memory and treat dementia symptoms. Intellectual stimulation and good cardiovascular health are also important. “There are treatments for dementia, but no cure,” Halli-Tierney said. “People need to keep intellectually and physically active by reducing their cardiovascular risk and boosting their overall brain reserve.” She suggested reading, art, music, cross word puzzles, gardening and social interaction to stimulate the brain, and attention to diet and exercise to maintain good cardiovascular health.

Unlike dementia, many causes of delirium – fluctuating attention and level of consciousness – are reversible, Halli-Tierney said. Causes of delirium include infections, reactions to medication, sensory deprivation or overstimulation, metabolic disturbances and depression and anxiety.

She said delirium can often be countered by appropriate use of glasses and hearing aids, limiting noise, checking for infection and allowing for rest.

Dr. Jason Clemons, a third-year resident at The University of Alabama Family Medicine Residency, which the College operates, presented “Diabetes: Managing Your Sugars” on Feb. 25.

More than 25 million people in the United States have diabetes, Clemons said, and that by 2050, there will be 40 million Americans with type 2 diabetes.

“As physicians, we are supposed to be educating patients,” he said. “When you look at that number, it’s obvious we’re not doing something right.”

Clemons explained the science behind type 1 diabetes, which is a genetic disorder where the body doesn’t produce insulin, and type 2 diabetes, where the body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or is resisting insulin.

He said that the key to controlling diabetes is in exercise, diet and medications. Of the 25 million who have diabetes in the US, three-fourths manage it with lifestyle modifications, oral medications or both.

When it comes to eating right, Clemons gave the advice to shop the outside perimeter of the grocery store, and to eat a balanced diet. He provided handouts to participants with a food guide.

Three types of medications are used to manage diabetes: metformin, glyburide, and insulin. Metformin is the most common and the safest, he said. It is free at some grocery stores.

Exercising for 30 minutes four to five times a week is ideal, Clemons said.

“But be realistic. Start where you can. If you can only walk five minutes, start there. Then add one minute each week.”

Dr. Thomas Weida, chief medical officer of the College, will present on March 3, “To Be or Not to Be: Health Care Reform.”