Optometry could play informative role in return-to-play decisions after concussions

Since eyes can provide a window into the brain’s functioning after exposure to sports-related impacts, optometry could play an important, supportive role in return-to-play decisions after concussions, according to Dr. Katherine Weise, professor of Pediatric/Binocular Vision at the UAB School of Optometry and eye doctor for the UAB football team.

Weise presented, “Concussion: The Hype, the Headlines, and the Hyperbole vs. the Evidence, A Team Eye Doctor’s Perspective,” August 24 as part of the Ernest Cole Brock III Continuing Medical Education Lecture Series hosted by the College of Community Health Sciences.

For decades, optometrists have reported that visual deficits often occur as the result of concussions, but they also believe the eyes can help inform health professionals about the brain’s functioning after an impact.

“The eyes are definitely affected in concussions. The eye is built from the brain and courses through the brain,” Weise said. “In addition to consequences to the visual system, the eyes may provide a window to the brain’s function following impact exposure.”

Under Alabama law, concussed athletes cannot return to play for at least 24 hours and only after being cleared by a physician. Optometrist currently can’t weigh in on those return-to-play decisions.

“We want to help doctors determine if it’s good for players to go back into the game,” Weise said. “We need to take a multi-disciplinary approach to assessing concussions.”

Weise, who is also co-director of BlazerVision, is on the sidelines during UAB football games, assessing the vision of players who have sustained impacts. She shares this information with team doctors, who make decisions about whether players can return to the game. Currently, Weise is conducting pre-season eye screening of UAB football players to establish vision baselines for the athletes.

Weise, whose father was a high school football coach and uncle an optometrist, received her undergraduate degree at Iowa State University in Ames and her Doctor of Optometry degree from the Illinois College of Optometry in Chicago. “I was a little girl who grew up on the sidelines,” she said.

She completed a family medicine residency with a pediatrics emphasis at the UAB School of Optometry in Birmingham and earned an MBA from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Weise has published and lectured extensively about the impact of sports and concussions on vision. She received funding several years ago to develop an Alabama-based, multi-institution research trial using the eye as a proxy to the brain in concussions. She was selected in 2014 and continues to serve as the vision representative for the Children’s of Alabama Concussion Summit Steering Committee.

The Ernest Cole Brock III Continuing Medical Education Lecture Series was created by the late Dr. Ernest Cole Brock Jr. and his wife, Hannah Brock. The lecture series focuses on treating athletic injuries. The late Ernest Brock was an orthopedic surgeon who practiced in Tuscaloosa for many years. He was also a longtime physician for The University of Alabama football team and served as a preceptor for the College of Community Health Sciences, training resident physicians and medical students.

Flu season more active than usual

The current flu season has been unusually active, with approximately 6.4 percent of doctor visits in 2018 alone for flu or for flu-like illnesses, said Wyndy Looney, director of Nursing at University Medical Center. She said so far this year, flu activity is higher than peak flu activity observed during many previous flu seasons.

Looney made the comments during her Feb. 5 presentation, “Influenza,” at the Mini Medical School Program, a collaboration of OLLI (The University of Alabama’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) and the College of Community Health Sciences, which operates UMC.

Influenza, or the flu, is a virus that affects the nose, throat, and lungs. It produces mild to severe symptoms and can sometimes lead to death. Flu season typically begins in October/November and can last until May, with a peak in January or February.

Looney shared flu identification, prevention and treatment information.

The flu presents itself similarly to a common cold, but the flu often produces a high fever, has a sudden onset and lasts longer than a cold. She said if you have the flu and your symptoms are mild, stay home to prevent spreading the illness. Contact a health care provider if symptoms are severe enough for treatment, but she said not to go to a hospital emergency department unless you have emergency symptoms, such as chest pain or shortness of breath.

Staying home for at least 24 hours after fever is gone will also help prevent the flu from spreading.

Preventive measures include staying away from sick people, covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands often – and getting a flu shot.

The flu vaccine helps the body develop immunities to specific strands of the flu. When a large percent of the population is vaccinated and has developed an immunity, indirect protection from the infectious disease is created, Looney said. This is called “Herd Immunity” and can protect those who might not be immune.

University Medical Center to host fourth annual Brussels Sprout Challenge at Heart Walk

University Medical Center, which is operated by UA’s College of Community Health Sciences, will host its fourth annual Brussels Sprout Challenge during the American Heart Association West Alabama Heart Walk on March 3.

Partnering again with Manna Grocery and Deli in Tuscaloosa, which roasts and donates the Brussels sprouts served at the walk, University Medical Center uses the challenge to promote healthy lifestyle choices – a healthy diet and exercise – while complementing the American Heart Association’s mission to build healthier lives free of heart disease and stroke.

More than 900 Brussels sprouts were distributed at last year’s challenge.

To complete the Brussels Sprout Challenge, participants have to eat one roasted Brussels sprout at each mile marker of the 3.1-mile walk. Those who complete the challenge by eating all three Brussels sprouts are awarded a T-shirt at the end of the walk.

University Medical Center also provides handouts about the health benefits of Brussels sprouts, which include heart health and cancer protection, as well as Brussels sprout recipes.

The West Alabama Heart Walk begins at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater and continues along the downtown river walk. Registration begins at 8 am and the walk begins at 9 am.

The mission of University Medical Center and the College of Community Health Sciences is to improve and promote the health of individuals and communities in Alabama and the region.

Orientation for Health Profession Academy held at CCHS

West Central Alabama AHEC hosted an orientation session at the College of Community Health Sciences Feb. 24 for its Health Profession Academy, a program that works to recruit rural students into health care education programs in the state and help them return to their home communities, or similar communities, to practice.

About two dozen students attended from the West Central Alabama AHEC (Area Health Education Center) service area, which includes 13 counties, many in the Alabama Black Belt, and that suffer from high poverty, poor health outcomes and a severe shortage of health care providers.

As part of the Health Profession Academy, students will be able to participate in interactive workshops, receive individual health careers counseling and preparation for the ACT, a standardized test used for college admissions in the US, and earn allied health certification in phlebotomy and patient care tech.

Alabama is a largely rural state with tremendous health care needs. There are limited numbers of health care providers in rural areas, and 62 of the state’s 67 counties are designated as primary care health professional shortage areas. Regina Knox, executive director of the West Central Alabama AHEC said few students from counties with poor health rankings go into health professions.

“That’s why we’re here. We want to increase those numbers. We want to help you succeed,” she said.

According to statistics from the West Central Alabama AHEC, in the three counties in its service area with the poorest health rankings – Wilcox, Greene and Perry – only one student each from Wilcox and Green counties are enrolled in medical school and no students from the three counties are enrolled in nurse practitioner and physician assistant programs.

In health outcomes, Wilcox County ranks 67th out of Alabama’s 67 counties, while Greene County ranks 66th and Perry County ranks 65th.

“We want to help students from rural and underserved communities meet the needs of their communities,” Knox said.

Faculty to be honored by National Alumni Association

Dr. Heather Taylor, associate professor of Pediatrics and Director of Undergraduate Medical Education at the College, is being recognized by The University of Alabama National Alumni Association with the “Outstanding Commitment to Teaching” award.

Each year, four UA faculty members are honored based on their commitment to teaching and the impact they have had on students throughout their time as faculty.

“Teaching is my favorite part of my job by far,” said Taylor. “So, it is exciting to be honored for doing something I love.”

Alumni, faculty, and students are open to submit nominations.

“I had such fabulous teachers along that helped me along the way. I see teaching as my way of paying my mentors back in some way.”

The Spectrum of Heat-Related Illness


It’s a very common thing to hear about in the news. Heat-related illnesses are seen often in the summer months and athletes are not the only ones subject to this. People who participate in recreational activities outdoors are exposed to heat related illness as well.

“It’s not just athletes,” said Dr. Brett Bentley, assistant professor of Sports Medicine for the College of Community Health Sciences, during his September 14 presentation as part of the Mini Medical School Program hosted by the College and UA’s OLLI program.

Bentley’s presentation “The Spectrum of Heat-Related Illness” taught the signs and prevention of many common illness that are caused by heat.

The spectrum of illnesses ranges from minor illness, such as cramps and rashes, to the more serious, like heatexhaustion or heat stroke.

While more common in the summer, heat-related illnesses can occur throughout the year.

“You’re at a higher risk when its warmer because you’re sweating more and losing more salt through sweat,” said Bentley. “But you can absolutely get these in cool weather as well.”


Treatment for the majority of heat-related illnesses is the same. Put the person afflicted in a cool area, elevate their legs, remove excess clothing and ice them. Cool them down by pouring ice-cold water, or placing ice towels on the person. It’s also important to hydrate the person, so give them fluids orally if they can drink and only IV if necessary.


After addressing and treating symptoms of heat-related illnesses, it is important to monitor the person because they can slip back into suffering from the heat-related illness quickly.


Preventing heat-related illnesses are the most important part. Some ways to prevent heat-related illnesses include: acclimatize, be educated, wear proper clothing, be well rested, the timing of event, and being hydrated.

College leading UA’s United Way fundraising campaign

The College of Community Health Sciences is leading this year’s United Way of West Alabama fundraising campaign for The University of Alabama.

UA has set a goal of raising $375,000, just a little more than last year’s goal, which was exceeded.

“This University is very special,” Sarah Patterson, former head coach for UA women’s gymnastics, told University employee volunteers assisting with the fundraising effort during a meeting at CCHS earlier this month. “If it weren’t for you, this campaign wouldn’t be successful.”

Patterson is heading the overall United Way of West Alabama fundraising campaign, which has set a goal of raising $3.8 million.

United Way of West Alabama covers nine counties and has 26 partner agencies, including Good Samaritan Clinic, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Phoenix House and Temporary Emergency Services.

Patterson said another of her goals is to make people more aware of the services provided by United Way’s partner agencies. “There are things about United Way agencies that if you let people know about, you can make a difference in their lives.”

Longtime College supporter honored for contributions to community

Madeleine Hill, a longtime supporter of the College of Community Health Sciences and an alumna of UA’s School of Social Work, was honored at the 2017 Central Alabama Women of Distinction Awards Luncheon earlier this month.

Hill received the Karen LaMaoreaux Bryan Lifetime Achievement Award during the luncheon, held at the Harbert Center in Birmingham. The Women of Distinction Awards are presented to honor women who have made special contributions to their communities through civic, academic or professional efforts and who are exemplary role models for girls and young women.

Hill and her husband, Dr. William Winternitz, an internist and longtime CCHS faculty member, provided a significant gift to the College for a Geriatrics initiative that provided the initiative for establishing a Geriatric Fellowship at CCHS.

“There is an acute need for any viable medical school to address the surge in (the aging) population that we are experiencing,” Hill said at the time. She and her husband said they hoped their contribution would help the College create awareness about the need for the study of Geriatrics to deal with the distinct issues of older adults, and to promote care of their health. They also expressed hope that their efforts would help the College, which also functions as a regional campus of the University of Alabama School of Medicine, attract future medical students and resident physicians interested in practicing Geriatrics.

Hill has a degree from Huntingdon College and a Master’s in Policy and Planning from The University of Alabama School of Social Work. She has served as a consultant to United Way of West Alabama and Tuscaloosa City Schools.

She helped establish Hospice of West Alabama, one of the first hospices in the state. She also served as the executive director of West Alabama AIDS outreach.

Hill was the founding president of the board of directors for Habitat for Humanity and was a founding member of Tuscaloosa’s One Place board of directors. She was named a Pillar of West Alabama by the Community Foundation of West Alabama, and she received the Howard Gundy Award for Exceptional Service to the School of Social Work by The University of Alabama.

UMC offering transitional care to discharged hospital patients

When some patients are discharged from the hospital after being treated for an acute condition, they need help transitioning back into their everyday life—and making sure they are not readmitted.

University Medical Center, which is operated by The University of Alabama’s College of Community Health Sciences, is now helping these types of patients on a weekly basis with its new Transitional Care Clinic located in the Department of Family Medicine. The clinic is held every Thursday morning and is currently seeing about five to eight patients every week.

The clinic was developed through an interprofessional collaboration among the Family Medicine, Pharmacy and Social Work departments along with a partnership with DCH Regional Medical Center. The efforts have been spearheaded by Dr. Tamer Elsayed, assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine.

Elsayed, who is a recent graduate of the College’s Family Medicine Residency, says the aim of the clinic is to provide services to patients who face medical or social issues that require special attention in the transition. He says the clinic addresses barriers patients face when obtaining health care, such as transportation or the cost of medication.

“Our target is to provide the patients with the means to maintain health and avoid complications of chronic health problems,” he says.

From left, Amy Yarbrough, LPN, Dr. Tamer Elsayed, assistant professor in Family Medicine, and Kim McMillian, LPN

From left, Amy Yarbrough, LPN, Dr. Tamer Elsayed, assistant professor in Family Medicine, and Kim McMillian, LPN

Kim McMillian, LPN, a nurse in family medicine and a primary care patient advocate for University Medical Center, works with DCH to identify UMC patients who have been treated at DCH for chronic conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure, diabetes. The patients are contacted within two days, McMillian says.

“We’ll contact them to make an appointment, and make sure they have what they need at home,” she says. “We try to reconcile their medications and make sure they can get to their appointment.” The biggest issues facing patients are coping with their diagnosis as well as transportation, McMillian says.

An appointment must take place within seven to 14 days, and the patient will meet with Elsayed as well as a pharmacist or social worker. Also working the clinic are: Dana Carroll, PharmD, assistant professor in Family Medicine and the Pharmacy departments; Robert McKinney, LCSW, and Cynthia Tyler, MSW, both social workers for University Medical Center; and Amy Yarbrough, LPN, a nurse in Family Medicine. Suzanne Henson, a nutritionist and dietician for the College, and Calia Torres, a fellow in Behavioral Health, also assist.

The patient then must go 30 days without being readmitted to the hospital for the treatment to qualify as transitional care. The goal is for them to assimilate into their community setting and back to regular care with a primary care physician. The clinic will follow up with the patient and provide health education, a 24-hour answering service, a dedicated nurse, and walk-in care at UMC. McMillian also works to schedule an appointment with the patient’s primary care physician within two weeks.

“The clinic will serve patients as part of their patient-centered medical home,” Elsayed says. “It will provide patients with excellent care and avoid hospital readmissions at the same time.”


What’s On Your Plate?

Remember the Food Guide Pyramid from the 1990’s?  It was released by the USDA in 1992 as a tool to help us plan a healthy diet.  The Food Guide Pyramid divided foods into food groups and recommended the number of servings to eat daily.  While it was a great way to help us learn about the food groups, it didn’t show us how to plan each meal.  To remedy this, the Food Guide Pyramid was replaced with MyPlate in 2011.

What is MyPlate?

MyPlate focuses on one meal at a time and helps you build a healthy plate.  Again, it divides your plate into food groups, with your dairy on the side.  As you can see, half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables.  The other half of your plate should be proteins and grains.  Don’t forget to include dairy at each meal.

Here are some basic tips:

  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Make at least half of your grains whole grains.
  • Choose low fat dairy.
  • Choose lean meats.

Which foods fall into each food group? 

Check out the following link: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups

Here you can find information on each of the food groups, along with tips on making healthy choices from each group.

But what about my budget?

Many people want to eat healthier, but feel that healthy food just costs too much money.  Not to worry!  With a little planning, you can make healthy foods fit into your grocery budget.  Check out the following tool from the USDA, called ‘Meeting Your MyPlate Goals On A Budget’:  http://www.choosemyplate.gov/budget/downloads/MeetingYourMyPlateGoalsOnABudget.pdf

This booklet provides you with great ideas for healthy foods that are inexpensive and gives you tasty recipes on how to create the perfect plate!

For more information and meal planning tips, visit www.choosemyplate.gov.

-Joy Douglas, MS, RD, LD