45 Years of Providing Family Medicine Physicians for Alabama and the Region

Educating a physician workforce, particularly family medicine doctors, is key to our mission of meeting the primary health-care needs and improving the health of Alabama and the Southeast, including rural and underserved communities.

This has been our mission for 45 years and we have never wavered.

As one of the nation’s oldest and largest family medicine residencies, The University of Alabama Tuscaloosa Family Medicine Residency Program has widespread impact across the state and the region. Established four-plus decades ago by a small group of prominent and forward-thinking physicians and educators, our residency has produced well-trained and highly skilled family medicine physicians for Alabama and other states in the Southeast region.

The Tuscaloosa Family Medicine Residency has graduated a total of 524 family medicine physicians, with the vast majority – 460 or 90% – practicing in the Southeast. Especially gratifying are the 276 graduates, or 54%, who have remained in Alabama to practice, with nearly half of those choosing to care for people in rural and medically underserved communities. In a state long plagued with serious shortages of health-care professionals and services, many of these Alabama communities now have access to quality health care and, most importantly, primary care.

Family medicine physicians are vital for good health and improved health of people and populations because they provide regular check-ups, immunizations and screening tests; diagnose and treat illness; manage chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and cancer; and coordinate care for patients with other specialists.

From our early days, with just a few residents in the program, to becoming one of the largest family medicine residencies in the country with 48 doctors in training annually and fellowships in a variety of specialties, we continue to produce well-trained family medicine physicians.

And we continue to dedicate ourselves to this mission because there is still much work to be done.

To that end, we are expanding and enhancing our partnerships with rural communities, particularly those in the Alabama Black Belt, where we work to assist struggling hospitals, develop sustainable health-care models and deploy innovative technologies to benefit rural patients. These collaborative endeavors also provide valuable medical education and training for our learners and important research opportunities for our faculty.

We are excited to bring new research opportunities to CCHS and UA, most recently with recruitment of three pre-eminent biomedical scientists from Texas A&M University who are pioneers in the design and engineering of advanced drug delivery systems. In addition, an expansion of University Medical Center, which the College operates, is slated for 2021 and will house UA’s MRI Research Center. The center will bring together researchers from across campus and expand the boundaries of knowledge of the human brain.

We will care for the UA community with continued COVID-19 testing, contact tracing and sentinel testing. And we have finalized a new strategic plan that will be included in the next issue of our Annual Report to be published in early 2021.

I invite you to read on about the history, growth and ongoing and future work of CCHS and the Tuscaloosa Family Medicine Residency – and how we are making a difference – in this, our first-ever digital On Rounds publication.

We are pleased to tell our story.

Dr. Richard Friend

Dr. Richard Friend is dean of The University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences, which operates the UA Tuscaloosa Family Medicine Residency Program. He served as director of the residency from 2013 to 2017.