Dr. Alan Blum, founder and director of UA’s Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society, presented a lecture on January 28, 2016, as part of a series of lectures for the University’s OLLI Program provided by faculty from UA’s College of Community Health Sciences.
Blum, the Gerald Leon Wallace, MD, Endowed Chair of Family Medicine for the College and one of the nation’s foremost authorities on the history of smoking and cigarette marketing, provided his lecture, “Fighting Smoke with Fire: Successes and Failures, Myths and Realities in Taming the Tobacco Pandemic,” as part of OLLI’s Mini Medical School program.
The Mini Medical School program provides an opportunity for adults and community learners to explore trends in medicine and health, and the lectures by CCHS faculty offer important information about issues and advances in medicine and research.
OLLI, short for Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, is a member-led program catering to those aged 50 years and older and offers educational courses as well as field trips, socials, special events and travel.
Blum’s lecture covered the history of tobacco use, the impact of tobacco advertising and propaganda, and the health risks related to smoking, such as cancer, heart disease and respiratory diseases. He talked about the prevalence of cigarettes even in the health care industry, and recalled that his father, a family medicine physician, smoked cigarettes.
Blum also said that since 1964, the year of the Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health, more than 20 million people have died from causes related to smoking, and that 480,000 smoking-related deaths occur yearly.
He also compared the prevalence of smoking and the amount of smoking-related and second-hand smoking-related deaths, in Alabama compared to the rest of the United States.
“The smoking prevalence here (in Alabama) is astronomical,” he said.
He answered questions from the audience about addiction and the benefits of quitting tobacco. Blum said he wanted the audience to know that he understands the difficulties of quitting.
“I have a lot of sympathy for people who are addicted to cigarettes,” he said.
Blum’s lecture was the third in the Mini Medical School program. CCHS Dean Dr. Richard Streiffer presented the first lecture on January 14 titled “Choosing Wisely: Picking the Best Medical Care.”
Streiffer’s lecture was meant to equip learners with the resources to choose the best health care for their needs. He said to be wary of over-diagnosing, something many doctors may do to be on the safe side or to keep their patients happy, but that Streiffer said can lead to harm—physically, emotionally and financially. For instance, a doctor may recommend an unnecessary screening that could put a patient at physical risk. Or, a patient may request an antibiotic when it is unnecessary, but the physician still fills the request.
Streiffer said to expect clear information from a physician, to take an active role in one’s own health care, strive for mutually agreed upon goals and to find a physician who provides encouragement, empathy and praise.
“Familiarity and a having relationship with your physician is key,” Streiffer said. “If we know each other, we are more likely to do the right thing for your health.”
Dr. Joseph Fritz, a family medicine physician who practices at University Medical Center-Northport, which the College operates, provided the second lecture on January 21 titled “The Beat Goes On: Atrial Fibrillation.”
Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heartbeat that increases the risk of stroke and heart disease. Signs include dizziness, weakness and fatigue. The condition can be caused by long-standing hypertension, congenital heart defects, heart failure, inflammation of the heart, hyperthyroidism, pneumonia, alcoholism and drug abuse, Fritz said.
He said most people diagnosed with atrial fibrillation are older; less than 1 percent are under the age of 60. “Atrial fibrillation is more common among females, and sometimes there is a family history,” he said.
Fritz said treatment involves medication and lifestyle changes, and sometimes procedures such as ablation.
There are a total of eight lectures in the Mini Medical School program. Future lectures include: “Family Medicine Cares: Helping Haiti Heal” on February 4, presented by Dr. Jane Weida, a family medicine physician and associate director of the College’s Family Medicine Residency; “Preventing Athletic Injuries in the Elderly” on February 11, presented by Dr. Jimmy Robinson, the College’s Endowed Chair of Sport Medicine; “Delirium: I’ve Lost My Mind” on February 18, presented by Dr. Anne Halli-Tierney, a geriatrician who operates University Medical Center’s Geriatric Clinic; “Diabetes: Managing Your Sugar” on February 25, presented by Dr. Jason Clemons, a resident in the College’s Family Medicine Residency; and “To Be or Not To Be: Health Care Reform” on March 3, presented by Dr. Tom Weida, the College’s associate dean for Clinical Affairs and chief medical officer of University Medical Center.