Partnering for better health: UA partnership with Pickens County enters second year

The University of Alabama-Pickens County Partnership enters its second year with an increase in the number of student fellowships and health-related projects as work continues to provide health-care resources to the rural county.

Five recent UA graduates were selected as partnership fellows, up from four last year, and they will serve through June 2018. In addition, one prior fellow will remain for a second year to continue her work and also provide leadership for the new fellows.  The fellows will spend time working in Pickens County in community engagement and project development, and will participate in seminars about health and public policy, social determinants of health and leadership.

Along with the fellows, a total of 13 projects that address Pickens County health issues were funded in the second year, up from seven during the partnership’s initial year. Several of the projects are continuations from year one.

The overall goals of the UA-Pickens County Partnership are to expand health-care resources for Pickens County while simultaneously providing real world education and training for UA students in medicine, nursing, social work, psychology, health education and other disciplines.

During its recent session, the Alabama Legislature provided an additional year of funding for the partnership. The money is being used to provide stipends for the fellows and to fund new and ongoing health-related projects that involve UA faculty and students in collaboration with Pickens County organizations.

Rural counties throughout the country, especially in Alabama, face special challenges in sustaining health care services and addressing social factors that lead to a lower than average health measure. Pickens County is no different in that nearly one-third of its population lives below the poverty line and health outcome rankings show that the county is 41st among the state’s 67 counties.

The UA-Pickens County Partnership came about when the county feared its hospital, the Pickens County Medical Center, would close. The Friends of the Hospital in Pickens County, a citizen’s committee, worked with UA and its College of Community Sciences to help, resulting in this unique academic-community partnership.

The College’s mission is to improve and promote the health of individuals and communities in Alabama and the region, and one way it seeks to do that is by engaging communities as partners, particularly in rural and underserved areas.

Fellows 2017-2018:

August Anderson begins her second year as a fellow. During her first year, she worked with UA and Pickens County partners to establish sustainable programs to improve the overall health and well-being of residents, and she worked with children on comprehensive health and wellness education. Anderson has a bachelor’s degree in human development and family studies with a concentration in child development and addiction treatment.

Emma Bjornson graduated summa cum laude from UA in May 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in human environmental sciences/public health. As a fellow, she will help implement health programming and education to improve health outcomes in the county. She aspires to pursue a Master’s in Social Work with a focus on medically underserved populations and health disparities in rural and urban populations.

Crystal Bice is a registered dietitian and graduated from UA in May 2017 with a master’s degree in clinical nutrition. She earned a bachelor’s degree from UA in May 2016 in human nutrition. As a fellow, she will work to gain a better understanding of nutrition and health care in the county. She plans to become a physician’s assistant.

Steven Simmons graduated from UA in May 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. As a fellow, he will work to implement programs that improve access to mental health care for Pickens County residents. He is passionate about tele-mental health services and civic engagement with adolescents. He aspires to pursue a doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

Emily Stebbins graduated magna cum laude in May 2017 from UA with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. As a fellow, she will work to assess mental health awareness in the county and help educate residents about mental health, particularly as it relates to children, adolescents and county school systems.

Caroline Whittington graduated in May 2017 from UA with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in human development and family studies. As an undergraduate, she received the “Significant Contribution to Research in Psychology” award. As a fellow, she hopes to strengthen mental health resources within Pickens County, primarily for the elderly.

Projects (New) 2017-2018:

Women Wellness Workshops for Breast Cancer Awareness

Implement church-based, nurse-led educational sessions about breast cancer awareness and early detection among rural, African-American women, and train community health workers and undergraduate pre-nursing/nursing students to lead sessions.

UA partners: Dr. Mary Ann Kelley, Capstone College of Nursing

Pickens County partner: Pickens County Medical Center


Developing Awareness of Services Offered by Pickens County Medical Center

Work to better promote services offered by Pickens County Medical Center to address important health care needs in the county.

UA partner: Dr. Jef Naidoo, Culverhouse College of Commerce

Pickens County partner: Jim Marshall, CEO, Pickens County Medical Center

Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) for Pickens County

Place AEDs in areas where large numbers of people gather on a daily basis.

UA partners: Glenn Davis, College of Community Health Sciences

Pickens County partners: Vicki McCrory, Manager, Pickens County Ambulance; Pickens County Board of Education; Pickens County and City Governments; Pickens County senior centers

EXPO Exploring Professional Opportunities in the Health Care Field

Continue this program for Pickens County 10th and 11th graders to explore health care careers.

UA partner: College of Community Health Sciences

Pickens County Partners: Jamie Chapman, superintendent, Pickens County Board of Education; Patti Presley Fuller, Pickens County Extension Office

Managing Frequent Attenders in Medical Care to Improve Patient Well-being and Reduce Provider Burden: Part 1 – Assessing the Scope of the Problem

Understand the degree and nature of unnecessary medical care in ambulatory medical practices and hospital settings in Pickens County.

UA partner: Dr. James Hamilton, College of Arts and Sciences/Department of Psychology

Pickens County partner: Jim Marshall, CEO, Pickens County Medical Center

Understanding Pain Management Needs among Community Dwelling Older Adults with Chronic Illness

Assess the need for pain management among older adults with chronic illness in Pickens County, and explore strategies to promote access to and use of palliative care in community settings.

UA partners: Dr. Hyunjin Noh, School of Social Work; Dr. Anne Halli-Tierney, College of Community Health Sciences

Pickens County partners: Ashley McGee, administrator, Aliceville Manor Nursing Home; Myra ShuffleBarger, director, Carrollton Senior Activity Center; Dr. Julia Boothe, Pickens County Family Medicine

UASSW-Pickens County Schools Partnership to Provide Behavioral Health Services to Students in the Context of a Positive School Climate

Increase access to behavioral health services for students.

UA partner: Dr. Laura Hopson, School of Social Work

Pickens County partner: Jamie Chapman, superintendent, Pickens County Schools

Projects (Ongoing) 2017-2018:

Improving Access to Cardiac Rehabilitation Services in Pickens County

Continue the partnership between UA and Pickens County Medical Center’s Cardiopulmonary Department to develop a sustainable, evidence-based cardiac rehabilitation program for county residents.

UA partners: Dr. Johnathan Wingo, College of Education/Department of Kinesiology; Dr. Avani Shah, School of Social Work

Pickens County partner: Sharon Wester, Pickens County Medical Center Cardiopulmonary Services

Disseminating the Power PATH Mental Health Preventive Intervention to the Pickens County Community Action Committee and Pickens County Schools

Provide the curriculum and training for school personnel at Pickens County Early Learning Center to implement the Power PATH mental health program with pre-school students and their parents.

UA partner: Dr. Caroline Boxmeyer, College of Community Health Sciences

Pickens County partners: Cynthia Simpson, Pickens County Community Action Committee and Community Development Corporation Inc.; Pickens County Head Start Program

Alabama Literacy Project: Supporting Early Literacy Development and Instruction

Continue support for early literacy and language development in Pickens County, including professional development for teachers, family literacy programs and vision and hearing screenings for young children.

UA partners: Drs. Carol Donovan and Nicole Swoszowski, College of Education

Pickens County partner: Fred Woods, Pickens County Head Start

Literacy Outreach as One Component of Health and Wellness

Expand literacy outreach to include community health.

UA partners: Drs. Nicole Swoszowski and Carol Donovan, College of Education

Pickens County partner: Jamie Chapman, Pickens County Schools

Improving Pickens County Residents’ Knowledge of Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease and Type 2 Diabetes through Increased Access to Screenings: The Pickens Health Improvement Program

Implement health promotion “clinics” in Pickens County to help change how residents think about risk factors, prevention and health behaviors, and to improve their knowledge of health risk factors.

UA partners: Drs. Michele Montgomery and Paige Johnson, Capstone College of Nursing

Pickens County partner: Patti Pressley Fuller, Pickens County Extension Office

TelePlay: Connecting Physicians, Families, and Autism Professionals to Increase Early Autism Identification in Pickens County

Connecting a primary care provider and parents in Pickens County with The University of Alabama Autism Clinic team to identify children at risk for autism by piloting Teleplay, an interactive secure online communication system.

UA Partners: Lea Yerby, PhD, College of Community Health Sciences; Angela Barber, PhD, College of Arts and Sciences

Pickens County Partners: Julia Boothe, MD, Pickens County Primary Care