Tuscaloosa Family Medicine Residency

Learn more about the second largest family medicine residency in the nation. TFMR prepares physicians to provide excellent care in family medicine.

Medical Student Education

The College, which also functions as a regional campus of the University of Alabama School of Medicine, offers third and fourth year medical students hands-on experience with patients, dedication of faculty and staff and a vibrant student life. 

Community and Rural Medicine

The College’s Department of Community and Rural Medicine seeks to understand the unique issues rural communities face, how those issues affect the quality of health of rural residents and what can be done to improve health and health outcomes.

Student Health Center

The University of Alabama Student Health Center, which is operated by the College, provides comprehensive patient-centered care designed to meet the health needs of students.

13th Annual Rural Health Conference – Rural Rebound

The 13th annual Rural Health Conference will be held on April 20th, 2012. This year’s topic is Rural Rebound: Emergency Preparedness and Crisis Response. Registration is available now.

40th Anniversary of the College of Community Health Sciences

The College of  Community Health Sciences will be celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. All alumni are encouraged to visit us for an entire weekend of events on April 20th and 21st.

Project Rebound UA Assists Students Affected by Tornado

Originally posted by UA News

The Project Rebound program at The University of Alabama is offering crisis counseling for students impacted by the April 2011 tornadoes.

Project Rebound UA can provide help for students who may be experiencing emotional and other issues resulting from the tornadoes. The program was launched in November in response to the deadly storms and will continue through this June.

The project is funded with a $536,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded to a partnership of the University’s Institute for Rural Health Research and the Alabama Department of Mental Health.

“Project Rebound UA represents the first time that FEMA has provided funding for an outreach effort focused specifically on a university campus,” said Dr. Melanie Tucker, assistant professor in the Institute for Rural Health Research and the College of Community Health Sciences’ department of community and rural medicine, who is directing the project.

Project Rebound UA crisis counselors Nan Fu, left, and Arlesia Malone provide information about the program to students during the University’s Get on Board Day event earlier this year.

FEMA has currently trained 20 UA graduate students from different areas of study to serve as crisis counselors for individuals and groups of people alike. They can be found across campus daily in locations such as the Ferguson Center, on the Quad and in campus libraries, dormitories and dining facilities. Their goal is to start conversations with students in an effort to gauge their need for further aid, such as community services, medical treatment or mental health assistance.

Disasters cause upheaval in many forms, often resulting in survivors’ loss of security, property, community, health, friends, loved ones and their sense of safety. They can therefore experience increased risk for anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other health conditions.

Rather than offering traditional psychiatric counseling for these issues, the crisis counselors simply listen to students and work to connect them to the resources they might need. They ask students how they are coping and offer them a chance to talk about what they might be going through, reassuring them that what they are feeling is common and part of the recovery process.

It really is unique,” adds Lisa Turley, state director for Project Rebound. “And part of the uniqueness is the way that the student team is reaching out to other students using Twitter, Facebook and texting, which is proving beneficial to students.”

Reports from the team indicate that students are comfortable with social media communication and that it helps lay the groundwork for easier face-to-face communication with the crisis counselors.

“When students see one of the team members on campus, it makes it easier to engage in conversation. The trust level has already been established,” said Turley.

Project Rebound UA also played a role in FEMA’s recent decision to incorporate a texting component to its Distress Help Line. It is currently available to disaster areas in Alabama and Joplin, Mo., where the agency is providing crisis counseling.

“The response the UA team has gotten gave FEMA a much stronger sense of confidence and comfort rolling out that texting piece,” said Turley. “We were thinking texting would be helpful for people who might have a communication disability issue, if they were hard of hearing or deaf. We were surprised at the number of students using texting.”

Turley reports that between Project Rebound UA’s launch in November and the end of January, 167 individual counseling encounters and 2,646 outreach encounters were recorded. FEMA plans to break down those numbers to determine how many of the encounters were via texting and other forms of social media.

“Project Rebound UA began its work at just the right time — when people really needed to talk, and to have that immediate contact, even if it’s a counselor texting back, reaching out, making a connection, being supportive and letting them know there are people who care,” said Turley.

Many UA students who may have been impacted by or witnessed the April tornados and their aftermath immediately left Tuscaloosa afterward without counseling, information and access to fellow victims with shared experiences. As a result, there were concerns that students might have a delayed reaction in dealing with the storm that might not emerge until after they returned to Tuscaloosa. Project Rebound UA is working to help make sure that trauma from the tornado does not impact students’ education, health and well-being.

Turley says she was curious why so many students would want to work as crisis counselors and be involved in something that can take such an emotional toll.

“When they told me that they just wanted to help others continue with their recovery, it amazed me. Their dedication to this is just phenomenal,” she said.

She says FEMA plans to use Project Rebound UA as a blueprint for similar outreach efforts at university campuses across the country.

“We’ve found something that works and we’re going to put it out there so people can replicate it on their campuses. We know that we can reach people and reach them effectively.

”For more information about Project Rebound UA, call 205/348-0025, visit www.projectrebound.ua.edu, or find Project Rebound UA on Twitter at Proj_ReboundUA.

Robotic Surgery: A Less Invasive Procedure

Faculty physicians in the College’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and University Medical Center are the first in Tuscaloosa to use robotic surgery to perform hysterectomies and other gynecological procedures. They say the robotic system allows them to operate with more precision and less fatigue, while patients experience improved outcomes, especially in shorter hospital stays, less pain and quicker recovery times.

Marion Reed, MD, an obstetrics and gynecology physician and assistant professor in the department, uses the robotic system for many of the hysterectomies he performs. He says the minimally invasive nature of robotic surgery and the resulting smaller incisions mean that “some of my patients have only had to do this procedure as an out-patient procedure. Others only need to stay in the hospital overnight.” Reed uses the da Vinci robotic system located at DCH Regional Medical Center in Tuscaloosa.

Robotic surgery was first introduced a decade ago by the U.S. military, which wanted surgeons to be able to operate on wounded soldiers on the battlefield without putting themselves at risk. While the military’s efforts were not successful as hoped, the robotic method was picked up by the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Intuitive Surgical Inc., maker of the da Vinci System.

The da Vinci System consists of a large device with four arms that hover over a patient-side cart and are controlled from a nearby console. Three of the arms are for tools that hold a scalpel, scissors and other surgical instruments and operate through small incisions in the patient’s body; the fourth arm is for an endoscopic camera with two lenses that give the surgeon stereoscopic vision from the console.

The surgeon sits at the console and looks through a viewfinder. With joystick- like controls in each hand, the surgeon manipulates the arms on the robotic system while looking at images captured by the camera on the viewfinder. The robotic arms’ joint-wrist design exceeds the natural range of motion of the human hand, and the view of the patient and the surgical area is magnified up to 10 times through the camera. “Use of this system has tremendously improved surgeon’s dexterity,” Reed says.

Since its introduction, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been expanding approval of the use of robotic surgery. Urologists were among the first to use robotic surgery, followed by cardiologists and gynecologists. Today, robotic surgery is used to perform minimally invasive heart, prostate, gynecological and other common operations.

Reed is quick to point out that the robotic system is not a self-driven device, but rather a tool in the hands of the surgeon. He says surgeons must go through special training to use the machines.

While robotic surgery is a natural progression from laparoscopic surgery for hysterectomies, Reed says he uses robotic surgery as an option and not a total replacement of laparoscopic surgery or vaginal hysterectomies.

Laparoscopic surgery is minimally- invasive surgery performed with the help of a telescope-like device that lets the surgeon see inside the abdomen or pelvis. But with laparoscopy, a surgical assistant must hold a camera, and the surgeon operates while standing, using hand-held instruments that have no wrists. The surgeon must also look up and away to a nearby video monitor to see an image of the surgical procedure being captured by the hand-held camera. Reed says with robotic surgery, there is a better view of the patient surgical area as well as more precision and less fatigue.

He acknowledges there is a “mixed reaction” to robotic surgery among surgeons and physicians because surgical procedures using a robotic system can take longer. But he believes that in many cases, the advantages of robotic surgery outweigh the additional time.

“I wish I could have done all my surgeries this way,” he says.

On Rounds – Fall 2011

The fall issue of On Rounds is available now! You can view the online version here.

College Selects Its First Endowed Chair Of Sports Medicine

Athletes are typically in peak physical condition, but even those at the top of their game get hurt sometime. And if they play for The University of Alabama or high schools throughout West Alabama, chances are they have been cared for by James Robinson, MD.

Robinson, a family and sports medicine physician, has served as head team physician for the University since 1989 and is the team physician for many area high schools. He has a private practice, West Alabama Family Practice and Sports Medicine in Tuscaloosa. He is also director of the College’s Dr. Bill deShazo Sports Medicine Center and oversees the College’s Sports Medicine Fellowship for Family Physicians.

In September, Robinson was named the College’s first Endowed Chair of Sports Medicine for Family Physicians.

As the endowed chair, Robinson will be responsible for administrative oversight of the Dr. Patrick Lee Trammell Sr. Excellence in Sports Medicine Program, which was developed in partnership with The University of Alabama Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. He will also teach and supervise sports medicine fellows, family medicine residents and medical students, provide patient care and community outreach and conduct research and other scholarly activities.

The sports medicine center, fellowship and newly endowed chair are all part of the College’s Dr. Patrick Lee Trammell Sr. Excellence in Sports Medicine Program. “The program is an incredible clinical experience,” Robinson says. “The fellows coming out of this program will be well trained and hopefully better trained than those in most other programs in the country.”

The program is named in honor of Trammell, a University of Alabama quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate who led the Crimson Tide to a National Championship title in 1961. Trammell graduated from The University of Alabama School of Medicine but as he prepared to start his residency in 1968, he was diagnosed with cancer and died later that year at the age of 28.

Sports Medicine Elective

Despite his obvious love of sports medicine, Robinson, a New Orleans native, did not plan on a career in medicine when he started at Louisiana State University. He chose Zoology as a major, and while he found the curriculum interesting, he knew he wanted to do more. Several of his friends planned on medical school after graduation. Robinson knew his grades were better than many in his classes, and he says the opportunity to go to medical school “just fell into my lap.”

Prior to entering medical school, Robinson worked as a surgical scrub technician in the operating room of a Baton Rouge, La., hospital, where he also learned to operate EKG machines and perform several basic medical procedures, which further sparked an interest in medicine. With the encouragement of co-workers and classmates in medical school, Robinson decided to study family medicine. He says the specialty appealed to him because “I could work in all aspects of medicine.” 

Robinson’s first exposure to sports medicine came during a rotation in orthopedics, but he was able to see the specialty up close because the LSU School of Medicine offered a fourth- year elective that focused on sports medicine. During this rotation, he worked with the New Orleans Saints medical team and was sent to the NFL team’s training camp in Vero Beach, Fla., to help supervise players’ health. He cared for Saints players, including Hall of Fame running back Earl Campbell and former University of Alabama quarterbacks Kenny Stabler and Richard Todd.

After graduating from medical school, Robinson applied to the College’s Tuscaloosa Family Medicine Residency. “I came here for the diversity of residents who were in this program,” he says. “There were residents from most states in the Southeast, which provided an opportunity to learn a variety of skills taught in different parts of the country.”

The late William deShazo, MD, one of the College’s first faculty members, offered Robinson a rotation in sports medicine. 

deShazo was also the team physician for the University’s Athletic

Department and a personal physician to Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. deShazo introduced the sports medicine rotation into the College’s curriculum.

During the rotation, Robinson spent time with the University’s athletic trainers, learning what they did on a day-to-day basis. He was particularly interested in how athletic trainers handled the University football team’s two-a-day practices. He enjoyed the work so much that he continued on even after his rotation was completed.

A Calling

By the final year of the three-year family medicine residency, Robinson knew sports medicine was his calling. He learned of a new field in medicine called primary care sports medicine and applied for and received a fellowship from the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, and, at least temporarily, left The University of Alabama.

During Robinson’s fellowship year, deShazo retired, which left a void in the care coverage of University of Alabama athletes. Robinson says he received a telephone call from then Head Athletic Trainer Sang Lyda and was offered the position of sports medicine physician for the Athletic Department.

Several years later, Robinson was approached by former College Dean E. Eugene Marsh, MD, about developing a sports medicine fellowship. Robinson 

accepted the challenge and the result was the creation of a year-long Sports Medicine Fellowship for Family Physicians offered through the College’s family medicine residency. Under the guidelines of the fellowship program, fellows spend half their time in a clinical setting, of which four half days each week are spent seeing patients at the Dr. Bill deShazo Sports Medicine Center, located at University Medical Center, which the College operates. The fellows also spend time with a variety of faculty members involved in the field of sports medicine, including physical therapists, dieticians, exercise physiologists and orthopedic surgeons. In addition, fellows devote 10 to 15 hours per week to the University’s Athletic Department and provide weekly coverage at University sporting events and area high school sporting events.

Protecting Young Athletes

Robinson is also passionate about his work with high school athletes, and he was instrumental in helping pass legislation in Alabama to protect younger athletes from concussions.

“I got involved due to my work with The University of Alabama and all of the local high school athletes that I have taken care of for the past 23 years,” Robinson says. He says he was adamant about getting involved because he thought young athletes were returning to sports too quickly after sustaining concussions and placing themselves at risk for further injury or permanent damage.

Robinson says he was asked to be a founding member of a task force created several years ago by the Neuropsychology Department at Children’s Hospital in Birmingham to look at how to better manage concussions in young athletes in Alabama. “A friend of mine is the team physician for the Seattle Seahawks and was instrumental in passing a concussion law in the state of Washington. We talked about doing that here and eventually presented a proposal to several state senators and representatives. With their help, we were able to propose a bill.”

The bill was passed by the Alabama Legislature and signed into law in June. The legislation contains three important provisions: athletes and parents must receive educational materials each year about the signs and symptoms of a concussion; coaches must also be educated about the signs and symptoms of concussions; and athletes who show signs or symptoms of a concussion cannot return to their sport until they see a physician and the physician approves.

National Recognition

Robinson believes the Dr. Patrick Lee Trammell Sr. Excellence in Sports Medicine Program and its Sports Medicine Fellowship for Family Physicians and Endowed Chair of Sports Medicine for Family Physicians will bring national recognition to the College and show that it is a leader in sports medicine. Robinson’s goal is for the program “to attract the best fellows and produce the best sports medicine physicians in the country.”

He also wants the program to honor all of those who came before who worked so hard to make sports medicine an important part of the College and the University – people like Trammell and deShazo. “This program will exemplify their hard work ethic and dedication to sports medicine and athletics,” Robinson says.