Wednesday, April 8, 2015

April Declared Autism Awareness Month in Mobile

The staff at the University of South Alabama Pediatric Developmental Medicine and Genetics ROP clinic wear t-shirts in honor of Autism Awareness Day on Apr. 2, 2015.
The City of Mobile and Mayor Sandy Stimpson recently issued a proclamation declaring April as Autism Awareness Month in Mobile.

The proclamation was presented to Dr. Hanes Swingle, director of the University of South Alabama’s Autism Diagnostic Clinic, and the staff at the USA Autism Diagnostic Clinic in recognition of their ongoing commitment to serving families in Mobile and the surrounding areas affected by autism spectrum disorders.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a group of development disorders that affect communication and social interactions. ASD occurs before three years of age and can be detected as early as 12 months.

Dr. Swingle said some parents delay getting their children with autism identified because they are fearful of the diagnosis, thinking it is an untreatable condition.  “Autism is treatable,” he said. “Early efforts at improving a child’s communication skills can dramatically alter a child’s developmental trajectory.”

Despite awareness, many children on the autism spectrum are not identified early, when interventions are most effective. Dr. Swingle said it is important for parents to be aware of the common red flags for autism:

1) No pointing, babbling or using gestures by 12 months of age
2) No single words by 16 months of age
3) No two-word utterances by 24 months of age
4) Loss of language at any age

The proclamation was presented to Dr. Swingle by Angel Loewen, community and program coordinator for the Autism Society of Alabama in Mobile.

“The mission of the Autism Society of Alabama is to improve services for persons with autism spectrum disorders and their families through education and advocacy,” Loewen said. “We continue to look for ways to increase community awareness and involvement during the month of April and throughout the year.”

Mobile Medical Museum Lecture Series Continues with 'Civil War Medicine'

The next lecture of the Mobile Medical Museum's Lecture Series will feature Dr. Kenneth Rettig, retired professor of pediatrics at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine and a pediatric endocrinologist with USA Physicians Group.

Dr. Rettig's presentation, titled "Civil War Medicine," will take place April 22, 2015, at 6 p.m. in the University of South Alabama Marx Library, Room 181. Light refreshments will be provided.

The lecture will explore how the Civil War helped to move American medicine from a poorly organized "cottage operation" to a more modern model. The presentation will kick off the opening of the Mobile Medical Museum’s new exhibit, War and Medicine, which will be on display from April 20 to Oct. 2, 2015, in the Mary Elizabeth and Charles Bernard Rodning Gallery on the third floor of the USA Marx Library.

For more information, call (251) 415-1109 or send an email to

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Med School Café - Expert Advice for the Community

Dr. W. George Rusyniak, associate professor of neurosurgery at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine and a neurosurgeon with USA Physicians Group, presented the March Med School Café lecture, “Surgical Treatment of Epilepsy."

During the talk, Dr. Rusyniak discussed epilepsy, a brain disorder in which a person has repeated seizures over time. He also explained available epilepsy treatments, including epilepsy surgery, an operation on the brain that can control seizures and ultimately improve the patient’s quality of life.

Dr. Rusyniak is part of an epilepsy team at USA. The comprehensive epilepsy program provides unique and highly specialized care with state-of-the-art technology for patients with epilepsy and other neurological conditions.

Watch the video below to view the lecture in its entirety.

Med School Cafe 3-13-15 from USA Health System on Vimeo.

The April Med School Cafe, "Choose Healthy," will feature
Dr. Alana Schilthuis, assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine and an internist with USA Physicians Group. The lecture will take place April 14, 2015, at the USA Faculty Club, located at 6348 Old Shell Road, on USA’s main campus. Lunch will be served at 11:30 a.m., and the presentation begins at noon. For more information or to make reservations, call Kim Partridge at (251) 460-7770 or e-mail 

USA Physician Shaves Head to Honor Patient

If you’ve bumped into Dr. Hamayun Imran recently, you can see that something is obviously missing – his hair. If you ask him what happened, he will probably tell you that although he lost his hair, he actually gained something special – an external visible cue that honors one of his former patients.

Dr. Imran is a pediatric hematologist/oncologist with USA Physicians Group. His work places him in one of the toughest medical situations – caring for children battling cancer. Most think of cancer as a disease impacting the aged. But in fact, last year in the United States, approximately 16,000 children faced the life-altering diagnosis of cancer. Here along the Gulf Coast, approximately 70 pediatric cases were diagnosed in 2014 – half of which were treated at USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital.

On March 29, 2015, Dr. Imran and several of his colleagues at USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital sat down in a makeshift barber’s chair in the hospital’s courtyard and volunteered to have their heads shaved – all to support a worthy cause called St. Baldrick’s for Caroline.

“Shaving my head reinforces the message that giving up some of your precious items is just one way to show solidarity to childhood cancer patients who go through many complications including hair loss,” Dr. Imran said. But for Dr. Imran, this gesture had an additional meaning. It honors one of his former patients who bravely fought her disease but lost.

Caroline Richmond, Dr. Imran’s former patient, lost her battle with leukemia in 2013. Following her death, her family reached out to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation to honor Caroline. This past weekend was Caroline’s weekend to be honored by those who loved and cared for her. In her memory, heads were shaved and money was raised to support childhood cancer research as everyone celebrated the life a young girl who bravely fought against cancer.

The St. Baldrick’s Foundation is an organization operated solely on volunteer- driven charity, committed to fund research to help find a cure for childhood cancers.

So if you see a slick-headed pediatric cancer specialist or any of his head-shaven coworkers in the USA Health System, you’ll understand the story behind the extreme haircuts.

Watch the video below to learn more about the event. Click here to view more photos.

St. Baldrick's Fundraiser at USA Children's & Women's Hospital from USA Health System on Vimeo.

April 9 DSS to Feature Dr. Hua Lu

This week's Distinguished Scientist Seminar at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine will feature Dr. Hua Lu, Ph.D., Reynolds and Ryan Families Chair of Translational Cancer Research and professor and chair of the department of biochemistry and molecular biology at Tulane University School of Medicine and Tulane Cancer Center.

The lecture, titled "Translating the ribosomal stress-p53 pathway into anti-cancer drug discovery," will take place April 9, 2015, at 4 p.m. in the first floor auditorium of the Medical Sciences Building on USA's main campus.

Dr. Lu's laboratory is interested in understanding the molecular and biochemical basis that underlies physiological and pathological signaling pathways (growth, metabolic, hypoxia, or DNA damage signals), which lead to gene expression and subsequent cell growth arrest, differentiation, senescence, autophagy, or apoptosis. One of his major contributions is to uncover the previously under-appreciated ribosomal stress-p53 signaling pathway together with two other scientists. Recently his lab has identified a novel small molecule called Inauhzin that can suppress tumor growth by activating the p53 pathway as a potential anti-cancer drug candidate.

Dr. Lu earned his medical degree from Jiangxi Medical College in Nanchang, China, and a master of science degree from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences in Beijing. He earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology from Rutgers University/University of Medicine and Dentistry in New Jersey.

Click here to learn more about Dr. Lu.

The lecture series is comprised of distinguished scientists from other academic institutions who are invited by the USA College of Medicine basic science departments to present a seminar showcasing their latest research findings. Faculty, staff and students are strongly encouraged to attend.