Leeper, Paxon join College

Dr. Connie Leeper joined the College of Community Health Sciences as an assistant professor in the Department of Family, Internal, and Rural Medicine.

Leeper graduated cum laude from Duke University with a bachelor’s degree in Biology. She earned her medical degree and a Master’s of Public Health from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

She completed a family medicine residency at the Ventura Family Medicine Residency in Ventura, California, where she served as a chief resident. Leeper also completed an obstetric fellowship at Natividad Medical Center in Salinas, California.

Dr. Raheem Paxton joined the College of Community Health Sciences as an associate professor in the Department of Community Medicine and Population Health and as an investigator for the College’s Institute for Rural Health Research.

Previously, Paxton was an assistant professor in the School of Public Health at The University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth, Texas, with a joint appointment at the university’s Center for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Research in the Institute of Aging.

Paxton graduated cum laude from Morehouse College in Atlanta with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. He earned a master’s degree in Kinesiology from Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, and a PhD in Public Health/Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior from the University of South Carolina in Columbia, South Carolina.

His post-graduate training includes a research fellowship in Intervention Development/Dissemination Research at the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii in Honolulu, Hawaii, and a research fellowship in Health Disparities in Cancer Survivorship at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.

Courtney’s Final Blog Post

As my time as a UA-Pickens County Fellow comes to a close, I wanted to reflect on my experiences in the county over the last year. In July, I will start medical school, which will fulfill a dream that I have had since I was 7 years old. Though I have always known that I want to be a doctor, I have never been able to definitively say what field of medicine I want to pursue. After this last year working with the county, I am definitely closer to figuring that out; however, I’ve also learned something even more important this year: there is nothing more fulfilling or important to me than serving the underserved. After working in Pickens County, I now believe that the future of healthcare is outside of the hospital and in the heart of the community. As such, I anticipate a future career serving alongside community leaders, aiming to improve healthcare delivery so that all residents have access to quality health care, regardless of their social or economic status.

In the last year, I have taught nutrition education to high school and elementary students across Pickens County. On my very first day, I remember Dean Streiffer saying something that I will keep in mind forever: the word “doctor” actually means “teacher.” Although that initial connection may be hard to make, I have learned that the best doctors are really just outstanding teachers that dedicate their lives to teaching health. One of the best doctors I’ve ever met was an orthopedic surgeon I met when I was in high school. What makes him stand out in my memory was his willingness to teach me on a level that I would be able to understand as a 15-year-old.  Whether it was drawing a diagram of the ligaments in my knee on the paper lining the exam table, or explaining biologically why my knee was swollen, I learned from him.

This last year has taught me that education drives change and that the importance of a quality health education cannot be overstated; in the future, I envision a career in academic medicine in which I will be able to combine my passion for research with caring for patients and teaching, which has been one of the most genuinely fulfilling experiences I have had in Pickens County.

As evidenced by the recent addition of sociology and psychology on the MCAT and the evolving requirements for admission into medical school, medicine is becoming a more holistic field. Physicians are learning to treat “health” in a much broader sense. Witnessing the social determinants of health firsthand this year in Pickens County will undoubtedly make me a better physician in the future. As someone who has a background in the natural sciences, it was initially challenging for me to understand how things that are not biological in nature can have such a profound impact on physiological processes within our bodies; after spending a year away from the microscope and interacting with the people of Pickens County, I can definitively say that is no longer the case and my understanding of this will guide my medical practice in the future.

I am thankful that I was in Pickens County to witness the development of this project, and I anxiously await a reunion in which I can meet the people from Gordo to Carrollton—and every mile of Highway 86 in between—that have been impacted by the work of this partnership.

Thank you, Pickens County, for the opportunity of a lifetime.

Health fair provides information, free health screenings

The University of Alabama-Pickens County Partnership hosted a health fair earlier this month at the Pickens County Medical Center Healthplex in Carrollton, Alabama, to provide information about health care resources in the community.

There were also free health screenings available for blood pressure, weight and cholesterol, and people had the opportunity to review their results with a health coach, who also provided advice about how to better manage various health issues. The screenings were provided by the UA Capstone College of Nursing faculty and nursing students.

“This fair is a good example of the excellent resources available in a rural community,” said Dr. Richard Streiffer, dean of the College of Community Health Sciences, which leads the UA-Pickens County Partnership.

Streiffer said educating rural residents is vital to the existence of health care facilities like Pickens County Medical Center, which, like many rural hospitals, has faced tough economic times. “Without being able to serve people, hospitals like this and the facilities and services it has to offer are going to close and the access to health care for rural counties will be even worse.”

The UA-Pickens County Partnership works to place UA students in medicine, nursing, social work, nutrition, psychology and health education – and potentially other fields – in Pickens County for internships and experiences. Through the partnership, the rural, underserved county is provided with additional health resources, and UA students receive real world training in their respective areas of study.

“Having students in the county is beneficial for Pickens County,” said Wilamena Daily, partnership coordinator. “When you have those extra hands, it brings more resources.”

UA CCHS holds rural health fair in Pickens County

News clips from WBRC, WVUA, and WVTM covering the 2017 Pickens County Health Fair.

WBRC Clip:

 

WVUA Clip:

 

WVTM Clip:

WBRC: 18th annual Rural Health Conference sheds light on health care challenges in rural areas

Women in rural communities can face more challenges than most when it comes to getting quality healthcare.

Visit WBRC to read the full article.

UA partnering with Pickens County to host health fair

The University of Alabama-Pickens County Partnership is partnering with Pickens County Medical Center to host a health fair Thursday, April 6, from 10 am to 2 pm.

The health fair will be held at the Pickens County Medical Center HealthPlex, located at 241 Robert K. Wilson Drive in Carrollton, Ala.

The fair will include free health screenings for blood pressure, weight and cholesterol. Participants can also have their screening results individually reviewed and explained by a health coach, who can also provide advice about how to better manage various health issues. The screenings will be provided by The University of Alabama Capstone College of Nursing faculty and nursing students.

The UA-Pickens County Partnership, which is led by UA’s College of Community Health Sciences, works to place UA students in medicine, nursing, social work, nutrition, psychology and health education – and potentially others – in Pickens County for internships and experiences. Through the partnership, the rural, underserved county is provided with additional health resources, and UA students receive real world training in their respective areas of study.

The health fair will also include speakers, hospital tours, gardening tips, food, giveaways and more. For information, contact Wilamena Daily, project coordinator for the UA-Pickens County Partnership, at wshopkins@ua.edu.

Women’s health focus of Rural Health Conference

Women’s health is the focus of the 18th annual Rural Health Conference hosted by The University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences and its Institute for Rural Health Research.

“Empowering Women in Health: Bridging the Gap between Clinical and Community,” will be held March 30-31, from 8 am to 4 pm each day, at the Bryant Conference Center on the UA campus.

Keynote speakers include: Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, professor of Medicine and director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham; and Dr. Marji Gold, a faculty member in the Department of Family and Social Medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.

Marrazzo is internationally recognized for her research and education efforts in the field of sexually transmitted infections, especially as they affect women’s health. Her conference presentation is titled “Optimizing Infectious Disease Care for Women in Rural Settings: Current Challenges and Opportunities.”

Marrazzo conducts research on the human microbiome, specifically as it relates to female reproductive tract infections and hormonal contraception. Her other research interests include prevention of HIV infection using biomedical interventions, including microbicides. She recently led the VOICE Study, a National Institutes of Health-funded study that evaluated HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis to women at high risk for HIV infection in sub-Saharan Africa.

She obtained her medical degree from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia and completed a residency in Internal Medicine at Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut. She earned a master’s degree in Public Health with a concentration in Epidemiology at the University of Washington in Seattle, where she also completed a fellowship in Infectious Disease.

Gold was instrumental in integrating a women’s health curriculum into the family medicine residency at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and has focused on woman-centered language as an integral component of woman-centered care. Her conference presentation is titled “Reproductive Equality.”

Gold works with medical students, residents and fellows at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and also maintains a primary care practice at a community health center in the Bronx where she supervises medical students and residents. Gold received her medical degree from New York University College of Medicine and completed a Family Medicine residency at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Breakout sessions on issues related to the conference topic will also be offered. Sessions include: Lactation Support and Resources; Long-acting Reversible Contraceptives; Understanding the Link between Food Insecurity and Obesity among African-American Women; Sexual Health among Latinas in Alabama; and Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault on Women.

The annual Rural Health Conference is attended by health-care providers, researchers, community leaders, government officials and policymakers who hear from prominent speakers in the field and share information and knowledge about rural health issues.

The registration fee for the conference is $150 per person and $35 for students and includes breakfast and lunch on both days. Continuing education will be provided for some health care professionals.

For more information and to register online, visit the conference website or call (205) 348-9640.

The Institute for Rural Health Research was established in 2001 and conducts research to improve health in rural Alabama. The goal is to produce research that is useful to communities, health care providers and policymakers as they work to improve the availability, accessibility and quality of health care in rural areas. The Institute also serves as a resource for community organizations, researchers and individuals working to improve the health of communities in Alabama.

College receives grant to provide colonoscopy training to faculty and residents

By Kimberly Florence

The College of Community Health Sciences wants to increase the number of colonoscopy procedures performed by family medicine physicians in underserved communities of rural Alabama, and it plans to accomplish this goal through a grant from the American Cancer Society.

Dr. Richard Friend, director of the College’s Family Medicine Residency, applied for the grant in early 2016. In June 2016, the College received an endowment of $70,000 that matched an additional $70,000 from CCHS.

The money will be used to fund colonoscopy training for the Family Medicine faculty and residents, said Friend.

“The purpose of this grant is to train more providers to do colonoscopies throughout the state,” he said. “The way we are approaching that is by training more faculty who will in turn train more residents.”

The grant will fund the purchase of a high-fidelity simulator that faculty and residents will use to learn. The simulator uses computerized manikins to guide providers through performing the procedure and records proficiency. Once providers have met certain requirements, they can to move on to assisted cases in surgery with live patients. Friend says the simulator will be purchased in about a month.

Residents will begin their training under the direction of Friend. Dr. Drake Lavender, associate professor of Family Medicine.

Two faculty members will also receive training: Dr. Jared Ellis, associate director of the Residency, and Dr. Ed Geno, associate professor of Family Medicine. Once they complete their training, they will join Friend and Lavender in training residents.

The majority of residencies across the country do not provide colonoscopy training and family medicine physicians perform only 8 percent of colonoscopies in the state, said Friend. By training more family physicians to perform the procedure, the College hopes to provide greater access to patients in rural areas who may not be able to get to an urban setting where the majority of colonoscopies are performed, said Friend.

“There are people in our region who can’t get to the larger metropolitan areas like Tuscaloosa and Birmingham,” Friend said. “We hope to provide these services in smaller rural medical centers where they’re needed the most.”

The College’s mission is to improve and promote the health of individuals and communities in Alabama and the region through the provision of high quality, accessible healthcare, and one of the ways it does that is by sending its trained physicians into Alabama’s rural and underserved communities.

Rural Health Conference to focus on empowering women in health care

Empowering women in health care is the topic of the 18th Annual Rural Health Conference hosted by The University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences and its Institute for Rural Health Research.

The conference, titled “Empowering Women in Health: Bridging the Gap Between Clinical and Community,” will be held March 30-31 at the Bryant Conference Center on the UA campus.

The conference will feature keynote speaker Jeanne Marrazzo, professor of medicine and director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her talk is titled, “Optimizing Infectious Disease Care for Women in Rural Settings: Current Challenges and Opportunities.”

Poster and oral presentations may be submitted to the conference, and the deadline has been extended to Feb. 10. Encouraged submission topics include health disparities, sexual/reproductive health, intimate partner violence/social justice, cancer care and research, cardiovascular disease in women, and autoimmune diseases.

Click here to learn more about submitting presentations. For more information about the conference, click here.

Repealing without replacing Affordable Care Act will hurt rural hospitals, dean says in news report

As the Senate takes steps to fast track getting rid of the Affordable Care Act, Dr. Richard Streiffer, dean of The Univeristy of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences, says repealing the ACA without replacing it will hurt many rural hospitals struggling to stay open, according to a Fox 6 WBRC report.

Even a small change in coverage could even force some of these rural hospitals to close, Streiffer said in the report.

“I don’t believe that anyone, Republican or Democrat, is opposed to trying to improve it, but the rhetoric of ‘let’s get rid of it’ without knowing where we’re going to go and how we’re going to improve it is concerning,” Streiffer said in the report.

Streiffer says the United States should learn from the rest of the world and focus on regular check-ups and the prevention of illnesses in a WVUA report.

Streiffer says that when people have a primary care physician that they see yearly, chronic illnesses are less expensive to control and potential illnesses are caught and dealt with early, which means patients stay healthier, according to WVUA.

View both reports here: