Partnering for better health: UA partnership with Pickens County enters second year

The University of Alabama-Pickens County Partnership enters its second year with an increase in the number of fellowships and health-related projects as work continues to provide additional health-care resources to the rural county.

A second-year fellow along with five recent UA graduates were recently selected as partnership fellows, up from four last year, and they will serve through June 2018. The fellows will spend time working in Pickens County in community engagement and project development, and will participate in seminars about health and public policy, social determinants of health and leadership.

A total of 13 projects that address Pickens County health issues were funded for the second year, up from seven during the partnership’s initial year.

The goal of the UA-Pickens County Partnership is to provide sustainable health-care resources for Pickens County and real world training for the fellows and for UA students in medicine, nursing, social work, psychology, health education and other disciplines.

The Alabama Legislature during its recently completed session provided a second year of funding for the partnership. The money is being used to provide stipends for the fellows and to fund new and ongoing health-related projects that involve the fellows and UA faculty and students in collaboration with Pickens County organizations.

In Pickens County, nearly one-third of the population lives below the poverty line and health outcome rankings show that the county is 41st among the state’s 67 counties.

The UA-Pickens County Partnership came about when the county feared its hospital, the Pickens County Medical Center, would close. The Friends of the Hospital in Pickens County, a citizens committee, brought in UA and its College of Community Sciences to help.

The College’s mission is to improve and promote the health of individuals and communities in Alabama and the region, and one way it seeks to do that is by engaging communities as partners, particularly in rural and underserved areas.

Fellows 2017-2018:

August Anderson begins her second year as a fellow. During her first year, she worked with UA and Pickens County partners to establish sustainable programs to improve the overall health and well-being of residents, and she worked with children on comprehensive health and wellness education. Anderson has a bachelor’s degree in human development and family studies with a concentration in child development and addiction treatment.

Emma Bjornson graduated summa cum laude from UA in May 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in human environmental sciences/public health. As a fellow, she will help implement health programming and education to improve health outcomes in the county. She aspires to pursue a Master’s in Social Work with a focus on medically underserved populations and health disparities in rural and urban populations.

Crystal Bice is a registered dietitian and graduated from UA in May 2017 with a master’s degree in clinical nutrition. She earned a bachelor’s degree from UA in May 2016 in human nutrition. As a fellow, she will work to gain a better understanding of nutrition and health care in the county. She plans to become a physician’s assistant.

Steven Simmons graduated from UA in May 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. As a fellow, he will work to implement programs that improve access to mental health care for Pickens County residents. He is passionate about tele-mental health services and civic engagement with adolescents. He aspires to pursue a doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

Emily Stebbins graduated magna cum laude in May 2017 from UA with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. As a fellow, she will work to assess mental health awareness in the county and help educate residents about mental health, particularly as it relates to children, adolescents and county school systems.

Caroline Whittington graduated in May 2017 from UA with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in human development and family studies. As an undergraduate, she received the “Significant Contribution to Research in Psychology” award. As a fellow, she hopes to strengthen mental health resources within Pickens County, primarily for the elderly.

Projects (New) 2017-2018:

Women Wellness Workshops for Breast Cancer Awareness

Implement church-based, nurse-led educational sessions about breast cancer awareness and early detection among rural, African-American women, and train community health workers and undergraduate pre-nursing/nursing students to lead sessions.

UA partners: Drs. Mary Ann Kelley and Cassandra Ford, Capstone College of Nursing

Pickens County partner: Pickens County Medical Center

Effects of a Community-based Lifestyle Modification Campaign on Increasing Physical Activity and Diabetes Awareness

Evaluate the effect of a community-based lifestyle modification campaign on increasing physical activity and diabetes awareness.

UA partners: Matthew Leatherwood and Dr. Dan Avery, College of Community Health Sciences

Pickens County partner: Belinda Craig, Sapps Community Center, Inc.

Developing Awareness of Services Offered by Pickens County Medical Center

Better promote services offered by Pickens County Medical Center to address important health care needs in the county.

UA partner: Dr. Jef Naidoo, Culverhouse College of Commerce

Pickens County partner: Jim Marshall, CEO, Pickens County Medical Center

Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) for Pickens County

Place AEDs in areas where large numbers of people gather on a daily basis.

UA partners: Glenn Davis and Travis Parker, College of Community Health Sciences

Pickens County partners: Vicki McCrory, Pickens County Ambulance; Pickens County Board of Education; Pickens County and City Governments; Pickens County senior centers

EXPO Exploring Professional Opportunities in the Health Care Field

Continue this program for Pickens County 10th and 11th graders to explore health care careers.

Pickens County Partners: Patti Presley Fuller, Pickens County Extension Office; Jamie Chapman, superintendent, Pickens County Board of Education; Debra Wiggins and Shawn McDaniel, Pickens County Board of Education

Managing Frequent Attenders in Medical Care to Improve Patient Well-being and Reduce Provider Burden: Part 1 – Assessing the Scope of the Problem

Understand the degree and nature of unnecessary medical care in ambulatory medical practices and hospital settings in Pickens County.

UA partner: Dr. James Hamilton, College of Arts and Sciences/Department of Psychology

Pickens County partner: Jim Marshall, CEO, Pickens County Medical Center

Understanding Pain Management Needs among Community Dwelling Older Adults with Chronic Illness

Assess the need for pain management among older adults with chronic illness in Pickens County, and explore strategies to promote access to and use of palliative care in community settings.

UA partners: Dr. Hyunjin Noh, School of Social Work; Dr. Anne Halli-Tierney, College of Community Health Sciences

Pickens County partners: Ashley McGee, Aliceville Manor Nursing Home; Myra ShuffleBarger, Carrollton Senior Activity Center; Dr. Julia Boothe, Pickens County Family Medicine

UASSW-Pickens County Schools Partnership to Provide Behavioral Health Services to Students in the Context of a Positive School Climate

Increase access to behavioral health services for students.

UA partner: Dr. Laura Hopson, School of Social Work

Pickens County partner: Jamie Chapman, superintendent, Pickens County Schools

Projects (Ongoing) 2017-2018:

Improving Access to Cardiac Rehabilitation Services in Pickens County

Continue the partnership between UA and Pickens County Medical Center’s Cardiopulmonary Department to develop a sustainable, evidence-based cardiac rehabilitation program for county residents.

UA partners: Dr. Johnathan Wingo, College of Education/Department of Kinesiology; Dr. Avani Shah, School of Social Work

Pickens County partner: Sharon Wester, Pickens County Medical Center Cardiopulmonary Services

Disseminating the Power PATH Mental Health Preventive Intervention to the Pickens County Community Action Committee and Pickens County Schools

Provide the curriculum and training for school personnel at Pickens County Early Learning Center to implement the Power PATH mental health program with pre-school students and their parents.

UA partner: Dr. Caroline Boxmeyer, College of Community Health Sciences

Pickens County partners: Cynthia Simpson, Pickens County Community Action Committee and Community Development Corporation Inc.; Pickens County Head Start Program

Alabama Literacy Project: Supporting Early Literacy Development and Instruction

Continue support for early literacy and language development in Pickens County, including professional development for teachers, family literacy programs and vision and hearing screenings for young children.

UA partners: Drs. Carol Donovan and Nicole Swoszowski, College of Education

Pickens County partner: Fred Woods, Pickens County Head Start

Literacy Outreach as One Component of Health and Wellness

Expand literacy outreach to include community health.

UA partners: Drs. Nicole Swoszowski and Carol Donovan, College of Education

Pickens County partner: Jamie Chapman, Pickens County Schools

Improving Pickens County Residents’ Knowledge of Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease and Type 2 Diabetes through Increased Access to Screenings: The Pickens Health Improvement Program

Implement health promotion “clinics” in Pickens County to help change how residents think about risk factors, prevention and health behaviors, and to improve their knowledge of health risk factors.

UA partners: Drs. Michele Montgomery and Paige Johnson, Capstone College of Nursing

Pickens County partner: Patti Pressley Fuller, Pickens County Extension Office

CCHS Rural Programs Host Annual Rural Health Pipeline Programs

May 28–June 28, 2017

The University of Alabama’s Rural Programs recently hosted the 2017 Rural Health Scholars and Rural Minority Health Scholars annual summer programs, each comprised of select high-school-age students interested in pursuing medical and health care careers in rural Alabama. Part of the Rural Health Leaders Pipeline, each program ran for five weeks and offered on-campus living, college courses, field trips and seminars as an orientation for students as to what they might expect as they prepare to enter college.

The premise of the Rural Health Leaders Pipeline is that rural students trained in the medical field will be more likely to return and practice in their rural communities, thereby continuing the College of Community Health Sciences mission to improve and promote the health of individuals and communities in Alabama. In point, the College’s founding Dean William R. Willard posited that successful rural medical education in Alabama would, and should, begin with rural high school students.

Noteworthy this year is the celebration of the 25th class of Rural Health Scholars. The Rural Health Scholars program is an integral component of the Rural Health Leaders Pipeline because it serves as a way to recruit students from rural communities, with the goal of improving the production of rural health care professionals. Such is also true for the Rural Minority Health Scholars program, a spin-off of the Rural Health Scholars program initiated specifically to increase the number of minority students from rural Alabama who qualify for medical school and to provide opportunities for underserved populations and communities in the state.

The Rural Health Scholars program was a life-changing experience for me as a 16-year old girl growing up in rural Alabama. No one in my family was involved in the health care field, so it was my first exposure to medicine. The summer experience opened my eyes and gave me the confidence that I needed to continue down the path to become a doctor…without that experience I doubt I would have ever considered the medical profession. The state of Alabama healthcare is no doubt better because of the influence of this program.

Emily Feely, MD
Chief Medical Officer and Corporate Nephrologist
Naphcare, Inc. Birmingham, AL
3rd Class of Rural Health Scholars

Taken as part of the whole, these programs provide accessibility and support to rural students as they pursue future careers in the medical field. “It’s about the transitions that rural kids face as they near the end of high school, what looms before them,” said Dr. John Wheat, Director of Rural Programs. “The overarching hope is to offer opportunities for students to enter fields which they might otherwise have little access in their small communities.”


Learn about the Rural Health Leaders Pipelines and its affiliated programs.

2017 Rural Health Scholars

  • Mason Alexander Aldridge
  • Jessica Leanne Aplin
  • Annelise Grace Baker
  • JaKailyn Barnes
  • Keltanishaline Bates
  • Will David Bobbs
  • Shelby Gillis Juanita Boswell
  • Morgan Ashley Campbell
  • Makayla Ryann Coleman
  • Kayla Michelle Creighton
  • Rachael Ngozi Dike
  • Rebekah Chidinma Dike
  • Emmanuel James King
  • DaVonyae Lashae Miller
  • Lauren Katherine Moore
  • Jagger Dylan Morgan
  • Ivy Gabrielle Murphy
  • Ora Jocelyn Nelson
  • Emma Abigail Phillips
  • Joshua Kyle Raney
  • Lauren Destiny Shepherd
  • Taylor Elaine Skipper
  • Kaitlin Elida Truslow
  • Jakeira Shardell Washington
  • Shiann Nicole Weaver

2017 Rural Minority Health Scholars

  • Tomysha Danielle Boykin
  • Logan Aricie Broxton
  • Christopher Everett Daffin Jr.
  • Keyonna Dixon
  • Imberly Iesha Flowers
  • De’Larrian DeAnte’ Knight
  • Ciara Dawn Locke
  • Scott Nguyen
  • Jessica Brianna Richardson
  • Hillary Denise Strong
  • Garian Lucene Ware

Patient shares advice with new residents

Mary Jolly, a long-time patient of University Medical Center and a member of the University Medical Center Patient Advisory Council, spoke June 21 with the new class of residents at the College of Community Health Sciences. She shared thoughts and provided advice she gained from her experiences as a patient at UMC.

“From the very beginning, I’ve encountered medical students,” said Jolly. She said she enjoys working with students particularly because they are more likely to listen. CCHS also serves as the Tuscaloosa Regional Campus of the University of Alabama School of Medicine.

Jolly spoke with the students and told stories that described the important partnership between doctors and their patients.

She also shared a few thoughts and some ideas that she hoped the students would take along with them during their careers. Her main point was “being admitted to a hospital is the most vulnerable time in your life,” she shared, after telling a personal story about an experience in a hospital. Another important note was the power of empathy.

Empathy is a skill necessary for success in medicine because medicine demands human interaction. The need to tell stories is important because you can learn a lot about the patient from the stories he or she tells, said Jolly. Patients are often shy and uncomfortable around doctors (Jolly said she is not a typical patient because she is so comfortable talking with her doctors) but if a doctor asks the right questions, the patient can begin to feel more comfortable and start telling stories. It’s important for doctors to listen to those stories because they may reveal information about the patient’s condition that was previously concealed, Jolly said.

“Empathy is the key to high-value work,” she said. “Stories are powerful.”

Other advice Jolly gave to the students were tips she believed would help relieve patient anxiety:

  • Knock on the door before entering a patient’s room. Jolly believes, from her own experience, the ability to tell the doctor to come into the room gives the patient a feeling of strength and control.
  • Tell the patient your name and title. This is especially important for young doctors to establish credibility with the patient
  • Call the patient by his or her name.
  • Tell the patient why you are there. This is the most important because it lets the patient understand the role you play and how you will be able to help him or her.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk to the patient.

New Primary Care Track aims to increase Alabama primary care physicians

By Bob Shepard

To continue addressing the critical need for more primary care physicians in Alabama, the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine will offer a new track in its four-year medical degree program.

The Primary Care Track is designed to provide students a strong foundation in clinical medicine focused on preparation for residency training in primary care and other community-based specialty fields, through longitudinal experiences with patients, lasting relationships with mentoring physicians, and special programming on population health and physician leadership skills.

The Primary Care Track is in collaboration with the University of Alabama’s College of Community Health Sciences, which serves as the School of Medicine’s Tuscaloosa Regional Campus. Students in the Primary Care Track will spend their first two years completing the prerequisite basic science curriculum in Birmingham. Primary Care Track students will spend their third year in a model of clinical education called a longitudinal integrated clerkship, known as a LIC, based in Tuscaloosa or other communities around the state.

Beginning in 2017, students applying to the School of Medicine through the American Medical College Application Service will have the option to choose the Primary Care Track within the secondary application.

The School of Medicine has made increasing the number of students who pursue a career in primary care a key component of its mission to serve the state. A 2016 study by the Association of American Medical Colleges shows a drastic need for primary care physicians. The problem is especially acute in Alabama — in 2012, the state had 3,512 active primary care physicians for a ratio of approximately 73 per 100,000 people, ranking it 45th in the nation. The provider shortage is even worse in rural areas — 55 of Alabama’s 67 counties are considered rural, and eight Alabama counties have no hospital at all.

Primary care-oriented training is also an excellent experience for individuals who envision a community-based career in a variety of non-primary care specialties.

“The primary care needs in Alabama are important enough that we’ve created this track, not only to identify prospective medical students who are interested in primary care, but to offer students experiences, mentorship and guidance that will be valuable throughout their medical educations and into their careers,” said Craig J. Hoesley, MD, senior associate dean for Medical Education.

During the LIC, students learn clinical medicine, population health and the business of medicine in a community environment reflective of where most medicine is practiced. They work alongside faculty for a majority of the year to follow and care for patients longitudinally, learning across the core disciplines of medicine and in all settings, including outpatient clinics, hospitals, nursing homes and patients’ homes. This is a departure from the traditional model — a series of discipline-specific and hospital-dominant four- to eight-week clerkships. Students typically experience few encounters with the same patient and only single episodes of illness, very different from that of a community-based longitudinal experience.

“Most care is provided in the community, and all patients ultimately come from and return to the community, even when care is needed in tertiary settings,” said Richard H. Streiffer, MD, regional dean of the Tuscaloosa Regional Campus and dean of the UA College of Community Health Sciences. “Students in the LIC become part of the community, and hence have the unique opportunity to understand heath care, disease and wellness, and social influences on health over time and in the context of family, community and social influences. The fundamental unifying principle of this educational approach is continuity — continuity of teachers, of community and setting, of patient care. Relationships and trust build between students, their teachers and their patients, facilitating the learning and insight essential to the lifelong learner that community-oriented physicians need to be.”

“The addition of this program further emphasizes how UAB continues to innovate and grow,” said Selwyn Vickers, MD, FACS, senior vice president and dean of UAB’s School of Medicine. “Experience has shown that students who complete a LIC are highly competitive residency candidates — they graduate with self-directed learning skills, have a strong grasp of patient management and the consultation and referral system, and can effectively utilize community resources.”

The first group of Primary Care Track students will apply to the program this summer.

Residents, fellows honored at graduation

Nineteen physicians were honored June 17 at the 42nd annual graduation ceremony of The University of Alabama Family Medicine Residency and Fellowships.

The College of Community Health Sciences provides graduate medical education through both the three-year Family Medicine Residency and year-long fellowships for family medicine physicians seeking additional training in behavioral health, emergency medicine, geriatrics, hospitalist medicine, obstetrics, rural public psychiatry and sports medicine.

“Today is about celebrating excellence,” said residency Director Dr. Richard Friend, who welcomed graduates and their family and friends to the ceremony held at the Zone-South at Bryant Denny Stadium on the UA campus. “There is a lot to be proud of today.”

The graduating residents and fellows will soon begin their own practices in Alabama and other states, or will go on to complete fellowship programs.

To date, the UA Family Medicine Residency has graduated 478 family medicine physicians, and just over half practice in 48 of the state’s 67 counties, the majority in designated Health Professional Shortage Areas.

“Our College was founded because of a crisis – a need for family medicine docs all around Alabama,” said Dr. Richard Streiffer, dean of CCHS. “And there is still a need. There are still not enough family docs, and rural areas are still underserved.”

Dr. Dwight Hooper, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Florida State University College of Medicine and former professor and chair of obstetrics and gynecology at CCHS who taught many of the residents, was a guest speaker at the ceremony. He told residents that he hoped he provided them with life lessons.

“When I look out at you, I see well trained, highly intelligent residents. Perhaps I had something to do with you learning to be a better you,” he said.

Dr. Jennifer Greer, UA’s associate vice provost for Administration, thanked the graduating residents and the fellows “for the difference you’ve made in our community while you were here. Every time you go to work, you will change someone’s life that day. That is an amazing thing.”

Added Dr. Robin Wilson, chief medical officer of DCH Regional Medical Center, a residency partner: “I’ve seen the tremendous impact of this program at DCH, on our patient care. You have a bright future ahead of you.”

Awards were given to many of the graduating residents.

2017 Graduating Residents

  • Dr. Shawanda Agnew
  • Dr. Brittney Anderson
  • Dr. Joseph Brewer
  • Dr. Carrie Coxwell
  • Dr. Blake DeWitt
  • Dr. Eric Frempong
  • Dr. Keri Merschman
  • Dr. Remona Peterson
  • Dr. Michelle Pike-Hough
  • Dr. Brooke Robinson
  • Dr. Keirsten Smith
  • Dr. Stephen Smith
  • Dr. Justin Vines
  • Dr. Courtney Weaver
  • Dr. Aisha Wright

2017 Graduating Fellows

  • Dr. Roma Teekamdas – Hospitalist Fellow
  • Dr. Brett Bentley – Sports Medicine Fellow
  • Dr. Monica Bui – Hospitalist Fellow
  • Dr. Lindsay Harbin – Obstetrics Fellow

Residency Award Winners

  • William R. Willard Award – Dr. Cory Luckie
  • Internal Medicine-Intern Award – Dr. Hailey Thompson
  • Internal Medicine-Best Resident – Dr. Brittney Anderson
  • Pediatrics Award – Drs. Keri Merschman, Keirsten Smith
  • Psychiatry Award – Dr. Keirsten Smith
  • Psychiatry/R3 Award – Dr. Justin Vines
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology Award – Dr. Justin Vines
  • Research/Scholarship Award – Dr. Eric Frempong, Brianna Kendrick
  • William W. Winternitz Award in Geriatrics – Dr. Stephen Smith
  • Society of Teachers in Family Medicine Teaching Award – Dr. Blake DeWitt
  • Clinical Competency Committee Awards – Drs. Cory Luckie, Ashley Wambolt, Blake DeWitt
  • William F. deShazo III Award – Dr. Blake DeWitt
  • 360 Award – Dr. Justin Vines

Chief Residents Recognized

  • Dr. Shawanda Agnew
  • Dr. Carrie Coxwell
  • Dr. Blake DeWitt

Rural Medical Scholar Graduates Recognized

  • Dr. Brittney Anderson
  • Dr. Remona Peterson
  • Dr. Justin Vines

The College’s Rural Medical Scholars Program is designed to recruit students from rural Alabama who want to become physicians and practice in rural communities in the state.

CCHS faculty present at AAFP Annual Meeting

At this year’s annual meeting of the Alabama Academy of Family Physicians, faculty of the College of Community Health Sciences provided presentations to family medicine physicians about quality diabetes care, and to medical students preparing to apply to residencies.

The meeting, held June 22-25 in Sandestin, Florida, allowed family medicine physicians from throughout the state to connect, earn continuing medical education credit and learn more about representing family medicine in the legislative, regulatory and public arenas.

Quality care for diabetics

Quality care measures for diabetic patients generally include blood sugar screening, retinal eye exams and nephropathy monitoring. “But there’s more that we want to do for our diabetic patients,” said Dr. Jared Ellis, associate professor of family medicine at CCHS. “It makes a difference to provide quality care.”

To make quality care a reality, “we need to rethink health-care delivery,” Ellis said in his presentation, “Improving quality care delivery for diabetic patients.” Care, he said, needs to be evidence-based and pro-active, not reactive. Patients should be cared for by a team of health-care providers, and reimbursement models need to be driven by quality, not volume of services provided. And, “we need to teach our patients to take better care of themselves and to be more engaged in their care,” Ellis said.

He shared with the audience steps he has taken to further improve the care he provides diabetic patients, which includes screening for blood sugar levels, checking blood pressure, urine and lipid panels, providing foot exams, referring patients for retinal eye exams, and encouraging patients to take aspirin, get flu and pneumonia vaccines and, if they were smokers, to stop.

Ellis focused on three quality care measures that he felt he could improve – retinal eye exams, foot exams and recommending flu shots. Instead of referring patients for eye exams, he now has his office make appointments for patients, and he makes sure to receive an eye exam report afterward. He helped create a template and prompt for foot exams in his practice’s electronic medical record. And he now documents when patients take him up on his recommendation to get a flu shot, and when they don’t.

In addition, Ellis huddles with nurses before patient visits to conduct chart reviews and to order pre-visit lab tests. “It saves 10 minutes on patient visits,” he said.

Ellis said after a second assessment, there was improvement in all of his quality-care measures. “I got 100 percent on everything,” he said.

Interviewing for residency

The University of Alabama Family Medicine Residency, operated by the College of Community Health Sciences, accepts 16 new residents each year but annually receives approximately 2,000 applications.

Across Alabama, family medicine residencies accept a total of only 55 medical school graduates per year.

“There’s lots of competition for spots,” Dr. Richard Friend, director of UA’s Family Medicine Residency, a three-year program that provides specialty training for physicians, told an audience of more than 50 medical students who will soon apply to residencies.

When medical school graduates apply for residency positions, they use the Electronic Residency Application System, or ERAS, which is a system that collects common information from all graduates. Friend urged those in the audience to “spend a lot of time on your application. It’s the first snapshot we get of you, and we pay attention to every detail.”

He said the application allows students to showcase their strengths, and explain their weaknesses.

Of the several thousand applications the UA Family Medicine Residency receives, 150 applicants are interviewed. “When we get you into an interview, we start assessing you right away,” Friend said. “Be prepared. Learn about the program. Read about the people who will interview you and learn their roles in the program.”

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.”