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.