Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Class of 2019 Medical Students Begin Clinical Rotations

Dr. T.J. Hundley, assistant dean for medical education and student affairs at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, talks with third-year medical students (from left) Audrey Murphy, Hilda A. Watkins, Vikash Pernenkil, Natalie Carlisle and Connor Kimbrell during orientation at USA Medical Center.
The University of South Alabama College of Medicine recently held clerkship orientation for third-year medical students. Orientation week gave the students an introduction to their clinical years and included briefings on topics ranging from hospital policies to mini board exams.

This is the fourth class of students in the USA College of Medicine to use the re-designed curriculum. Students receive instruction in all competencies from the beginning of their educational experience. Milestones of achievement toward competency will be evaluated and documented throughout the course of the four years leading to graduation.

“We have been in the classroom for two years now, so it is definitely a comfort zone,” said Audrey Murphy, a third-year student at the USA College of Medicine. “I am most excited for the opportunity to interact with patients and putting the knowledge I have accumulated during the last two years to use.”

As she adjusts to the learning curve presented by the transition from the classroom to the clinical setting, Murphy said she plans to improve her skills and learn from these experiences. “I came to medical school because I enjoy working with people and supporting them on their best and worst days,” she said. “I am excited to start out in obstetrics and gynecology because I have been interested in that specialty for a while now. However, I am also excited to learn about specialties that I have never been exposed to before.”

Peter Oaks, another third-year medical student at the USA College of Medicine, said he is greatly looking forward to the increased patient interaction and establishing patient rapport. “At this point in our training we have very few useful clinical skills, as we cannot prescribe drugs or perform surgery,” he said. “However, one thing we can do is listen to our patients and lend a sympathetic ear.”

Oaks said he is equally excited to participate in his rotations. “I have heard it said many times that upon reaching the world outside of medical school, people don’t always assign certain levels of clinical knowledge to you based on your specialty,” he said. “Rather, they expect you to know a bit about everything. For this reason, I strive to be alert and studious in all of my clerkships. South provides a very supporting, positive and nurturing environment. I know my time here will be well spent.”

“I am excited and nervous about the new responsibilities the third year brings,” said medical student Hilda Watkins. “To me, working in the hospital with patients will help the information learned during the first two years become more meaningful and applicable.”

Watkins said alleviating patient’s pain and helping them cope during difficult health situations is why she chose to be a doctor. “Even though the work will be different and difficult, I look forward to gaining additional skills and knowledge, which will shape me into the physician I have always dreamed of becoming.”

Before beginning orientation, the students received their white coats at the annual White Coat Ceremony at the USA Mitchell Center.

Click here to view more photos from orientation.

Friday, June 23, 2017

USA Department of Pediatrics Hosts Pediatric Leadership Alliance Session


In collaboration with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Alabama Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the University of South Alabama Department of Pediatrics recently hosted a Pediatric Leadership Alliance Session at the Strada Patient Care Center.

The multi-day workshop provided both didactic and hands-on elements to help attendees understand their role in the Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) model and how they can be a leader in the process. More than 55 pediatric health care staff attended the event, including leadership from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“The workshop gave nurses, physicians, residents and administrators the opportunity to enhance the leadership skills needed to transform health care practices to align with the patient-centered medical home model,” said Natalie Fox, manager of clinical operations for pediatrics at USA Physicians Group. “The sessions were interactive and encouraged active learning for participants.”

The event was led by Dr. Gil Liu, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Pediatric Leaders Alliance, and featured five speakers: Dr. Daniel Preud’Homme, director of the USA Pediatric Healthy Life Center and professor of pediatrics at the USA College of Medicine; Dr. Michael Ramsey, a pediatrician in Dothan, Ala.; Dr. Francis Rushton, medical director for South Carolina Quality through Technology and Innovation in Pediatrics and professor of pediatrics at South Carolina School of Medicine in Columbia, S.C.; Dr. James Wiley, chief medical officer of Focus-MD in Mobile, Ala.; and Dr. Craig Pearce, Ben May Distinguished Professor at the USA Mitchell College of Business.

For more information about the American Academy of Pediatrics, click here.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Dr. Timothy Gilbert Named Assistant Dean of COM Accreditation and Planning

Dr. Timothy Gilbert recently was named assistant dean of accreditation and planning at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine.

In his new position, Dr. Gilbert will oversee the continuous quality improvement relevant to accreditation of educational programs in the USA College of Medicine. He will maintain current documentation relevant to accreditation, monitor compliance with accreditation standards and analyze trends and outcomes of key metrics related to accreditation.

“We are excited to welcome Dr. Gilbert to the USA College of Medicine.  He is a seasoned administrator who has a wealth of knowledge and experiences in education and academic medicine,” said Dr. John V. Marymont, vice president for medical affairs and dean of the USA College of Medicine. “In this new position, Dr. Gilbert will work with leadership throughout our organization to improve and maximize our planning processes with the ultimate goal of providing ongoing data to support quality improvement efforts.”

Dr. Gilbert previously served as director of quality enhancement plan and faculty development at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in Shreveport, La. From 2011 to 2013 he served as simulation coordinator at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center. From 2009 to 2011, he served as director of special projects at Comprehensive Neurosurgery in Shreveport, La.

Prior to serving in higher education development and health care, Dr. Gilbert worked as a teacher and then principal for 20 years. He was selected as the Louisiana Principal of the Year in 1996.

Dr. Gilbert earned his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree of arts in social studies education at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, La. In 1999, he earned his Ed.D. in educational leadership from Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Dr. Gilbert currently serves on the Association of Standardized Patient Educators. He is certified as a consultant and visiting committee chair for the Southern Association of College and Schools and has been a consultant to schools and districts at the local, state and national levels.

Dr. Gilbert and his wife, Marie -- a retired college administrator -- enjoy outdoor activities, family and time spent with their four dogs.

USA Family Medicine Presents Poster at Conference

Dr. Carol Motley, associate professor of family medicine at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, recently presented a poster at the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine annual conference with Dr. Jennifer Styron, assistant professor of community and mental health at USA, and Dr. Robin Risling-de Jong, assistant professor of physician assistant (PA) studies at USA.

The poster presentation, titled “Collaborating with the Wellness Homeless Center to Develop a Multidisciplinary Educational Experience,” showcased the efforts of the family medicine department at USA, which participated in a program focused on developing inter-professional care for patients at a local homeless shelter in Mobile, Ala. Those who participated in the program for a year were later recognized as inter-professional fellows  in a ceremony coordinated through an inter-professional collaborative practice initiative started by a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration to the College of Nursing.

The inter-professional program involved medical, PA and nursing students working within teams to make a greater impact on patient outcomes, as well as team-based learning exercises to encourage open communication among medical professionals who may feel that barriers such as professional hierarchy affect how they work with one another.

“We tend to be fairly isolated among our certain professional groups. In the future -- with the way things are moving -- we will work in teams,” Dr. Motley said. “To be able to work side-by-side, knowing what the other person does will facilitate better teamwork in the future, which will ultimately improve patient outcomes.”

During the program, students worked together to excel in responsibilities and roles that the core competencies of inter-professional practice teach. Those core competencies include inter-professional communication, values, ethics and teamwork.

Students participating in the program found that they were able to better appreciate diversity in the community, while they also gained better respect for their fellow medical professionals.

“One of the interesting things students said several times was that they learned how to not talk over one another but instead to listen and communicate with respect,” Dr. Motley said.

Dr. Motley hopes to bring more inter-professional programs to the USA College of Medicine in the future. “There are some ongoing things happening between the nursing school and the PA program, and we were proud to teach teamwork and respect to the students,” she said.

Mammography Moves to Strada Patient Care Center

The USA Children’s & Women’s Breast Care and Mammography Center recently moved into the Strada Patient Care Center, providing a more efficient imaging experience for women.

“All of the familiar and great features of our practice are still intact, including two of the only fellowship-trained radiologists in town, our friendly skilled technologists and same-day results,” said Dr. Joel Lightner, assistant professor of radiology at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine and director of breast imaging at USA. “With the move to our new facility we have added a beautiful outpatient setting, new equipment and the convenience of having all breast care services in the same building.”

According to Dr. Lynn Dyess, professor of surgery at the USA College of Medicine and a breast and endocrine surgeon with USA Physicians Group, the office enhances communication between radiologists and surgeons regarding individual patients.“I can review the images with radiology when the patient is in my clinic,” she said. “This allows for better planning and development of patient planning treatments.”

The center uses a Genius digital mammography system that is capable of detecting breast cancer earlier and in more women. “Breast tomosynthesis is a new technology that is used for breast cancer screening and diagnosis,” said Eduardo Rel, technical director of radiology at USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital. “It produces a 3-D image that allows the radiologist to see further into the breast compared to a 2-D image. The radiologist is able to screen the breast layer-by-layer in 3-D detail.”

Since dense breast tissue can create additional detection challenges, the Genius 3-D mammography exam is now the only mammogram that is FDA-approved as superior for dense breasts — detecting 20 to 65 percent of more invasive breast cancers when compared to 2-D alone.

Rel said both breast and plastic surgeons are now conveniently located next door to mammography, allowing the physicians to walk into the mammography reading room and discuss any case with the radiologist regarding patient care.

“For us — the breast cancer team — the benefit is increased direct communication between team members with the result of faster and better tailored management decisions,” Dr. Lightner said. “By upgrading to the Strada Patient Care Center, not only have we improved the overall patient experience, but we have also significantly improved our ability to efficiently and effectively treat patients with breast cancer.”

Monday, June 19, 2017

Class of 2019 Students Cloaked with White Coats

University of South Alabama cardiologist Dr. Bassam Omar helps his son Mazen with his white coat during the USA College of Medicine's White Coat Ceremony on June 17, 2017. During the ceremony, rising third-year medical students in the Class of 2019 are cloaked with their first white coats, the traditional dress of physicians for more than 100 years.
The University of South Alabama College of Medicine held its annual White Coat Ceremony for the Class of 2019 on Saturday, June 17, 2017. During the ceremony, rising third-year medical students were cloaked with white coats, the traditional dress of physicians for more than 100 years.

Several students in the Class of 2019 were celebrating the day alongside their parents who are members of the USA College of Medicine faculty. These faculty members -- Drs. Bassam Omar, Troy Stevens, Botros Rizk, Kelly Roveda and Carol Motley -- presented white coats to the students at the ceremony.

USA medical student Mazen Omar said his father, Dr. Bassam Omar, has provided to him a true example of what a physician should be. “I feel like by being a part of the ceremony he is giving me a chance to follow in his footsteps and one day be an example to others, too,” Mazen said.

Mazen considered medicine as a career path in high school, and began volunteering at USA Medical Center. He chose to study medicine at USA due to small class sizes and the hands-on learning experience that USA offers. To him, putting on the white coat symbolizes responsibility that a physician has to his or her patients and to the community. “Wearing the white coat is a constant reminder of the responsibility of making sure your words and actions are credible because many people are depending on you and looking up to you,” he said.

Dr. Bassam Omar, professor of internal medicine at the USA College of Medicine and a cardiologist with USA Physicians Group, said, “the white coat is perceived as a symbol of authority and professionalism, and therefore, with wearing it comes immense responsibility and honesty as to live up to its expectations.”

“I am proud of Mazen and every student who received their white coat during this astounding event. I congratulate them and their families and friends on such an admirable achievement,” Dr. Omar said.

Trevor Stevens, son of Dr. Troy Stevens, director of the USA Center for Lung Biology and Lenoir Louise Locke Chair of Physiology and Cell Biology, has learned continuously from his father’s advice and perspective on life. Trevor said he believes that excelling in medical school is the best way to honor his father. “I always thought that there is no greater way to honor someone or to tell them you love them than to be the best you can be every day,” he said.

After realizing his passion for service to others and for the sciences at a young age, Trevor decided to pursue his medical degree at USA in order to stay close to his community of Spanish Fort, Ala. He is grateful for his peers in the Class of 2019. “While I am extremely grateful that my father is a part of the ceremony, I also hope the ceremony may be used as a way for all of us to show our families the impact they have had on our lives, and that it is only the beginning of a commitment to being the best we can be,” he said.

David Roveda said he enjoys the bond that he shares for serving in medicine with his mother, Dr. Kelly Roveda, assistant dean of medical education and student affairs and assistant professor of pathology at USA. The White Coat Ceremony is a reminder to him of why he chose to serve in medicine and the goals he hopes to achieve. “The white coat instills a level of confidence and trust from your patient that should be both humbling and an honor to wear each day,” he said.

David grew up witnessing his mother practice medicine, but did not become interested in a career in the field until he spent a summer working with a local cardiologist in his hometown of Mobile, Ala. He chose to attend the USA College of Medicine after touring the campus and meeting instructors and students. He feels that USA has instilled in him the responsibilities that come with wearing the white coat. “At the end of my first two years at USA, I feel not only excited but truly prepared to put on the white coat and begin working with patients,” he said.

During the ceremony, 76 students in unison took the Medical Student Oath, a promise to uphold the human aspects of medicine, such as sensitivity, compassion and respect for patients.

Select rising seniors from the class of 2018, as well as residents and faculty, were inducted into the Gold Humanism Honor Society at the ceremony. Inductees are selected for practicing patient-centered medical care with integrity, compassion and altruism. Election to this organization is by vote of medical students.

Each year, the USA Medical Alumni Association sponsors this event.

Click here to view more photos.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

USA Medical Student Benjamin McCormick Receives AOA Research Fellowship

Benjamin McCormick, a rising second-year medical student at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, recently received the Alpha Omega Alpha 2017 Carolyn L. Kuckein Student Research Fellowship.

The $5,000 award provides research support for medical students to conduct research via clinical investigation, basic laboratory work, epidemiology, social sciences, health services, leadership or professionalism.

McCormick will be conducting his clinical investigation at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville, Tenn., in the division of hematology and oncology. Dr. Bipin N. Savani, professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University and director of the Long-Term Stem Cell Transplant Clinic, will serve as his primary mentor.

His research will explore the effects of matching a donor and recipient’s blood types on stem cell transplant success using various outcome parameters. Each day, McCormick and Dr. Savani will collect patient information for analysis from the Long-Term Stem Cell Transplant Clinic, as well as assemble information collected from previous patients. “I will then use various statistical methods to determine the specific outcome determinants for the population under study,” McCormick said. “These results will be presented at weekly group meetings and will culminate in me writing a manuscript for publication.”

According to McCormick, there are no large studies comparing outcomes for ABO mismatch in hematopoietic stem cell transplants. “Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, or bone marrow transplantation, is a common treatment option for leukemia, lymphomas and other immunological disorders,” he said. “My research is important because the results of this study will provide information for transplant physicians to improve survival and graft outcomes in their patients. It is proposed that major mismatches may predispose patients to graft failure.”

Although he has a master’s degree in chemistry and an extensive background in basic science research, McCormick said this will be his first exposure to clinically based medical research. He credits the extensive coverage of hematologic malignancies in the first-year curriculum and the weekly patient encounters through the clinical skills program at the USA College of Medicine for preparing him for this project.

“This will be an incredible opportunity for me to explore the realm of clinical research and potential career interests,” McCormick said. “I have been interested in hematology and oncology for many years after witnessing my father’s struggle with cancer, and Dr. Savani was one of his most impactful doctors. I look forward to exploring the field of stem cell transplant research from an academic research perspective and learning how patient outcome data and patient-doctor interactions impact future medical treatment.”

Each medical school with an AOA chapter can nominate one first-, second-, or third-year medical student for the fellowship. Each year, AOA allocates funds for about 50 awards. The name of the fellowship program honors Carolyn L. Kuckein, long-time administrator of AOA and an honorary member of the society, who died in 2004. To learn more, click here.

Dorothy Dickinson to Serve on Executive Committee of ARAS

Dorothy Dickinson, GME program coordinator in the department of surgery at the University of South Alabama, was recently appointed to the executive committee of the Association of Residency Administrators in Surgery (ARAS). She will serve as chair of the professional development and sunshine/event committee of that organization.

ARAS is a subcommittee of the Association of Program Directors in Surgery (APDS), which underwent a name change from the Association of Residency Coordinators in Surgery (ARCS) to better characterize their role as professionals, innovators and decision-makers within training programs.

“I am honored and humbled to be selected by my fellow ARAS colleagues,” Dickinson said. “I am hoping that my appointment will bring much-deserved recognition to our general surgery residency and fellowship programs and that we will be valued for our servant leadership. The residency administrator is the heart and soul of a program, and I am very grateful for the support of the surgical faculty and residents.”

“ARAS is a very integral and important part of surgical education, and being named to the executive committee of this organization is the highest honor that can be given to a program administrator,” said Dr. Jon Simmons, director of the USA General Surgery Residency Program and associate professor of surgery at the USA College of Medicine. “This also provides national recognition for the department of surgery and the College of Medicine.”

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

June Med School Café - Advanced Capabilities of the USA Gastroenterology Division

The June Med School Café lecture will feature Dr. Brooks Cash, professor of internal medicine at the University of South Alabama and a gastroenterologist with USA Physicians Group. He also serves as chief of the division of gastroenterology and director of the USA Digestive Health Center.

His lecture, titled “Advanced Capabilities of the USA Gastroenterology Division,” will be held on June 30, 2017, at the USA Strada Patient Care Center Conference Room on the first floor. Lunch will be served at 11:30 a.m., and the presentation begins at noon.

Dr. Cash will discuss hepatology, irritable bowel disease, clinical trials, PillCam COLON and other unique treatment options offered by the division of gastroenterology at USA.

Dr. Cash earned his medical degree from the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md. He completed his internship, residency and fellowship training in gastroenterology at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

Dr. Cash is a Diplomat of the American Board of Gastroenterology. He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, American College of Gastroenterology (ACG), American Gastroenterology Association and the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. He has chaired numerous professional society committees and has been course director for national and regional ACG postgraduate meetings. Dr. Cash has served on the Rome Committee for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders and has authored over 150 articles and book chapters on a wide variety of gastrointestinal topics. He serves as an associate editor for the American Journal of Gastroenterology, an editorial board member and reviewer for multiple internal medicine and gastroenterology medical journals and is a sought-after presenter at national and international medical education meetings.

The Med School Café lecture and lunch are provided free of charge, but reservations are required. For more information or to make reservations, call Kim Partridge at (251) 460-7770 or e-mail kepartridge@health.southalabama.edu.

Med School Café is a free community lecture series sponsored by the USA Physicians Group. Each month, faculty from the USA College of Medicine share their expertise on a specific medical condition, providing insight on the latest treatment available.

The USA Strada Patient Care Center is located at 1601 Center St. in Mobile. For more information, click here.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Medical Alumni Association Hosts Annual Medical Alumni Weekend


The University of South Alabama Medical Alumni Association hosted its annual Medical Alumni Weekend June 9-11, 2017, at Hilton Pensacola Beach in Pensacola Beach, Fla.

The event is a multi-day class reunion held every summer that reunites USA medical graduates on the Gulf Coast. It offers Continuing Medical Education (CME) accredited courses and an alumni dinner sponsored by the association.

Several USA alumni and faculty members presented lectures during the weekend. On Saturday, Dr. Lynn Dyess (COM ’82), professor of surgery at USA College of Medicine and a breast and endocrine surgeon with USA Physicians Group, presented “Advances in Breast Cancer Treatment” and Dr. Daniel Dees (COM ’07), assistant professor of neurology at the USA College of Medicine and a neurologist with USA Physicians Group, presented “Movement Disorders: Screening and Management.” On Sunday, Dr. Sidney Brevard (COM ’87), professor of surgery and a trauma and critical care surgeon with USA Health, presented “Inside Charity Hospital During Hurricane Katrina” and Dr. Edward Panacek (COM ’81), professor and chair of emergency medicine at the USA College of Medicine, presented “Sepsis in the Time of CMS.”

During the annual meeting and luncheon of the Medical Alumni Association Board of Directors, Dr. R. Michael Culpepper, professor of internal medicine at the USA College of Medicine, received the 2017 Distinguished Service Award.

The classes of 1977, 1982, 1987, 1992, 1997, 2002, 2007 and 2012 were honored at this year’s event.

Click here
to view more photos.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Med School Café- Expert Advice for the Community

Rachel Fenske Presents "Locating Consumer Health Information" - May Med School Cafe from USA Health on Vimeo.

Rachel Fenske, assistant librarian and information services/outreach librarian at the University of South Alabama Charles M. Baugh Biomedical Library, presented the May Med School Café lecture titled “Locating Consumer Health Information from the National Library of Medicine.”

Fenske discussed how to locate web-based resources that provide helpful and accurate medical information from the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health.

Med School Cafe is a free community lecture series sponsored by USA Physicians Group. Each month, faculty from the USA College of Medicine share their expertise on a specific medical condition, providing insight on the latest treatment available.

USA Medical Students Receive Scholarships to Attend 2017 AAP Spring Meeting

Five rising fourth-year medical students at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine — Lauren Nelson, Ashton Todd, Alexandria Broadnax, Samantha Lin and Adam Powell — recently received participation scholarships from the Alabama Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to attend the 2017 AAP Alabama Chapter Spring Meeting and Pediatric Update in Mirarmar Beach, Fla.

“The AAP’s Alabama Chapter has a program in which students across the state are invited to submit applications for educational scholarships to attend the meeting,” said Dr. Benjamin Estrada, professor of pediatrics at the USA College of Medicine and a pediatric infectious disease specialist with USA Physicians Group. “This year, five of our students applied and were granted a scholarship.

Participating in this meeting is not only a great learning opportunity, but also an opportunity to become familiar with different aspects of pediatrics across Alabama, to become engaged in child advocacy and to network with others in the field.”

Nelson said attending conferences is beneficial for medical students because they offer an abundance of useful information and networking opportunities. “Many of the talks are typically presented by experts in the field and are very relevant to medical students, residents and early career physicians,” she said.

According to Dr. Estrada, Nelson not only plays an active role in the Alabama Chapter of the AAP, but she is also the medical student committee district representative for the southeast region. She serves as the medical student district representative for district ten, which includes Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Puerto Rico.“This is the first time that I have attended an Alabama Chapter AAP meeting, and I really enjoyed meeting local pediatricians,” Nelson said.

Nelson said she especially enjoyed a lecture given by Dr. Haidee Custodio, assistant professor of pediatrics and a pediatric infectious disease specialist with USA Physicians Group, titled “Differentiating Mucocutaneous Symptom Complexes.”

During the lecture, the audience participated in an interactive activity led by Dr. Custodio to solve cases on different disease processes. “She covered five disease processes that all have similar presentations, but she was able to highlight what differentiates them so that pediatricians will know what to look for in the clinic,” Nelson said. “It was very effective and seemed to garner a great deal of enthusiasm from the audience as they tried to solve the cases.”

Dr. Estrada and Dr. David Gremse, professor and chair of pediatrics at the USA College of Medicine and a pediatric gastroenterologist with USA Physicians Group, also attended the meeting. “Dr. Estrada and Dr. Gremse are so supportive of medical students, especially those of us interested in pursuing a career in pediatrics,” Nelson said. “I feel very lucky to have such outstanding faculty who are so enthusiastic about involving medical students in an organization they love.”

The Alabama Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics is the only statewide member organization of pediatricians, with 780 members across the state, representing both academic and community pediatrics in both urban and rural areas.  To learn more, visit https://www.alaap.org/ .

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

University Physicians Group Clinic Recognized for Excellent Customer Service

The University of South Alabama Physicians Group hosted a celebration for the clinic scoring the highest for courtesy and respect on patient satisfaction surveys.

University Physicians Group, located at USA Commons, was recognized for having the highest score of 97.5 percent on the in-house survey.

“We realize that it can be very uncomfortable and scary to see the doctor, therefore, excellent customer service can help minimize the patient’s fear by having someone treat them with a smile, empathy and respect,” said Sandra Curtis, manager of quality improvement for USA Physicians Group. “The survey is a way to help us identify ways of improving our practice, which translates into better care and happier patients.”

The patient satisfaction survey includes questions concerning ease of appointment, courtesy of staff, wait time to see the physician, respect shown and privacy needs met. Responses for courtesy, respect and meeting patients’ privacy needs are mathematically averaged to determine scores.

The purpose of these quarterly awards is to keep customer service in the forefront of USA Physicians Group clinics. “Our goal is to receive a 90 percent rating in our clinics,” Curtis said. “The University Physicians Group clinic recently was rewarded with an ice cream party to show our appreciation of their commitment to excellence.”

To qualify for the customer service award, the clinic must receive at least 50 patient satisfaction surveys for the quarter. For USA Physician Group clinics interested in improving their customer service skills, training sessions are available. To learn more, contact the Office of Compliance at 471-7836.

Pediatrics Hosting Grand Rounds June 16

Dr. Mitchell Cohen, professor and chair of pediatrics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in Birmingham, Ala., will present “The Many Feces of Clostridium Difficile” for June’s pediatric grand rounds.

The event will take place Friday, June 16, at 8 a.m. in the conference room on the first floor of the Strada Patient Care Center.

Dr. Cohen will discuss how to recognize and treat clostridium difficile infections, as well as how to differentiate approaches for recurrent infections.

The event is open to faculty, staff and students at USA. A light breakfast, coffee and beverages will be provided. For additional information, contact Katie Catlin at kncatlin@health.southalabama.edu.

The Strada Patient Care Center is located at 1601 Center St. in Mobile.

USA Welcomes Dr. Judy Blair-Elortegui

Dr. Judy Blair-Elortegui recently rejoined the University of South Alabama as the internal medicine residency program director, associate professor of internal medicine and adjunct professor of pediatrics at the USA College of Medicine.

Prior to rejoining USA, Dr. Blair-Elortegui served as a physician with Greater Mobile Urgent Care in Mobile, Ala. She served previously at USA from 2000 to 2011 as an assistant and associate professor of pediatrics and internal medicine at the USA College of Medicine. She also served as program director for the Combined Internal Medicine-Pediatrics Program during that time.

Dr. Blair-Elortegui earned her bachelor of science degree from Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. She earned her medical degree and completed residency training in internal medicine and pediatrics at USA.

Dr. Blair-Elortegui is a member of the American Board of Internal Medicine and the American Board of Pediatrics. Her previous research was centered on cardiovascular health promotion in children and adolescents. She has participated in many community service projects, including working in children’s rehabilitation services at the Teen Transition Clinic in Mobile, Ala. and serving as a board member of our local Ronald McDonald House.

Dr. Blair-Elortegui’s clinical work will be in conjunction with residents and medical students on the hospital teaching services at USA Medical Center and resident continuity clinic at USA Stanton Road Clinic.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Dumping Medical School Debt: Tips from a USA College of Medicine Alum

Dr. Caleb Butts and his wife, Tricia, pose for a photo with their children Joshua, Abby and Ella. In March, Dr. Butts, a chief surgery resident at USA, paid off his medical student loans in full just four years and 10 months after graduating from the USA College of Medicine.
It’s no secret that medical school can be a costly investment. Today, medical school graduates leave with more than just a degree and an eagerness to begin residency training – on average, they also leave with $200,000 in student loan debt.

Practicing good money habits early is important so medical school graduates can spend more time focusing on the practice of medicine and less time worrying about their personal finances.

In March, Dr. Caleb Butts, a chief surgery resident at the University of South Alabama, paid off his medical student loans in full just four years and 10 months after graduating from the USA College of Medicine.

“You have two options with student loans,” he said. “You can say, ‘I’m going to pay as little as I can for as long as I can and try student loan forgiveness,’ or you can say, ‘I don’t want to have my entire life based upon my student loans.’”

Dr. Butts and his wife chose the latter, wanting to pay them off as quickly as he could. “We knew we didn’t want to be surrounded by debt,” he said. “We wanted to be different.”

From the beginning, Dr. Butts and his wife, Tricia, made it their mission to borrow as little as they could for tuition and to pay off what they did borrow as quickly as possible. He said the key to paying off debt is to stay disciplined and to have a goal in mind.

“Our goal was to be able to have flexibility to allow our family to do the things that were important to us – things like adoption and giving back to others,” Dr. Butts said. “We realized that once we became debt free, we would have the freedom for options.”

Last month, Dr. Butts presented “Real Talk about Student Loans,” to current USA medical students, explaining how student loans can negatively impact their life and providing tips on how to pay the loans off early.

Dr. Butts recommends medical students address student loans early on. “I know there are a lot of things going on when you’re a medical student, but it is extremely important to be actively involved in your finances,” he said.

One survey he discussed showed that nearly half of academic attending surgeons said their educational debt still affects their quality of life and 35 percent of them said it places a significant strain on the relationship with their significant other.

“Your educational debt affects your happiness, your relationships and your family,” Dr. Butts said. “It seems daunting, but the earlier you start thinking about these things, the easier it is. Treat it as being one more thing you must learn while in medical school.”

During medical school and residency, Dr. Butts and his wife, a former teacher, made paying off debt a priority. They lived below their means, created a budget and placed extra money they earned toward the student loans.

Over time, small changes make a big impact. “Budgeting helped us find extra money to put toward the loans,” he said.

The Butts’ learned to live off of one income by keeping their living expenses low. “The average family in the U.S. makes $40,000 a year. My wife was a teacher, making about that much. If the average family could do it, we knew we could, too.”

Also during that time, the Butts’ adopted two children, Abby and Joshua. Two days after they brought Joshua home, they found out they were pregnant with their third child, Ella.

“Luckily, because we learned to live off of one teacher’s salary, we had paid down my student loans and had enough flexibility within our budget to be able to afford adoptions,” he said. “By making that right decision early, we were able to do something that we really wanted to do. We put money into things we valued – like family – and we did it intentionally.”

To prepare for Dr. Butts’ next step in his medical training – an acute care surgery fellowship at Wake Forest University in Salem, N.C. – the family sold their house and decided to use that money to pay the last payment on their student loans. “It was such a relief and really awesome because we were totally debt free,” he said.

Dr. Butts suggests the following tips for medical students who want to dump their debt:

1.    Begin with the end in mind.
If you don’t know where you’re going, you are never going to get there. If you don’t have a goal in mind, you are never going to reach it.
2.    Budget, budget, budget.
If you do a zero-based budget every month, you’ll be able to do more with your money.
3.    Live within your means.
Don’t feel social pressures to live a lifestyle commiserate with being a physician.
4.    Be disciplined and intentional.
Use extra money from raises, side jobs or skills to pay down your debt.
5.    Avoid attaching your wealth to things, especially things that lose value – like vehicles – and grow into your salary slowly.

Most importantly, Dr. Butts said for medical students to think about and always remember why you chose a career in medicine. “Money problems lead to unhappiness, and unhappiness leads to burnout. Practice good money habits so you can focus on the real things that matter – things like being a good doctor, a good mother or father, a good spouse and a good community member.”

USA Radiology Utilizes Samsung Digital X-Ray Equipment

A radiologic technologist with USA Health prepares to take an X-ray using one of the new state-of-the-art digital X-ray machines in the Strada Patient Care Center.
The radiology department at the USA Health Strada Patient Care Center recently began using Samsung Digital X-ray equipment, increasing diagnostic accuracy with innovative smart detectors, smart vue and smart stitching features.

Joey Baggett, supervisor of radiology and teleradiology at the Strada Patient Care Center, said the new equipment is a step forward for patient care at USA. “With Samsung Digital X-ray equipment, we are able to maintain high quality images in various conditions for enhanced flexibility,” he said. “The improved sharpness and clarity produced by the equipment also supports highly accurate diagnoses.”

According to Baggett, the stitching feature allows for scoliosis imaging and leg length all in one image. “An integrated wireless system features remote control and a wireless foot peddle that provides instant data transfer and minimizes movement,” he said. “The convenient system allows table positioning from anywhere in the room. This streamlines workflow to enhance productivity and patient throughput.”

Additional benefits of the new X-ray equipment include clarified regions of interest for procedures such as spine exams. Baggett said the Samsung machines provide a clear view of thick and thin bones, tissues, contours, orthopaedic implants and bone overlaps, which display sharply and without artifacts.

According to Baggett, the move to the Strada Patient Care Center provided radiology patients and employees with benefits that were previously unavailable. “Patients benefit from the fact that we are all housed under one roof and can provide accurate exams with minimal wait time,” he said. “Also with faster exposure times, we are able to promote a lower dose of radiation to the patient.”

Baggett said the radiologic technologists enjoy working in a new facility with new equipment. “The best part is the ability to work face-to-face and hand-in-hand with the other departments instead of remotely,” he said.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

USA College of Medicine to Host Second Annual Case Report Symposium

University of South Alabama College of Medicine student Grant Willis explains his and fellow classmate Tung Vu's (pictured at far right) research to Dr. Philip Almalouf, assistant professor of internal medicine, during last year's Case Report Symposium.
The University of South Alabama College of Medicine will present its second annual Case Report Symposium on Friday, June 9, 2017, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the first floor conference room at the Strada Patient Care Center.

The USA College of Medicine Case Report Symposium will feature interesting and unique cases observed by the College of Medicine Class of 2018 during their third-year clerkship rotations. Students will present their findings via poster presentation. Awards will be given for the best presentations and most interesting cases.

“The symposium provides students with a chance to not only discuss topics of interest in their desired field of medicine, but also encourages students to become more active in research experiences,” said Alex Wiles, a rising fourth-year student at the USA College of Medicine. “We are excited for the event and are looking forward to showcasing our third-year experiences to faculty, guests and fellow students.”

Admission is free to the public. The Strada Patient Care Center is located at 1601 Center St. For more information, contact Alex Wiles at caw807@jagmail.southalabama.edu.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Class of 2019 Medical Students to Receive White Coats June 17

The University of South Alabama College of Medicine will host its annual White Coat Ceremony at the USA Mitchell Center on June 17, 2017, at 10 a.m. During the ceremony, rising third-year medical students in the Class of 2019 will be cloaked with their first white coats, the traditional dress of physicians for more than 100 years.

The keynote speaker will be Dr. Lee Grimm, assistant professor of surgery at USA.

For students, the White Coat ceremony serves as a reminder of the responsibility they take by dedicating themselves to the care of patients. During the ceremony, the students take the Medical Student Oath, a promise to uphold the human aspects of medicine including sensitivity, compassion and respect for patients.

Ten select rising seniors from the class of 2018, as well as three residents and two faculty, including Dr. Grimm, will also will be inducted into the Gold Humanism Honor Society at the ceremony. Inductees are selected by the outgoing third-year medical students for practicing patient-centered medical care with integrity, compassion and altruism.

Each year, the USA Medical Alumni Association sponsors this event. Read about last year's White Coat Ceremony here.

A reception for students, family members and friends will take place at the Waterman Globe following the ceremony.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

USA Welcomes Dr. Jennifer Cole

USA College of Medicine alum Dr. Jennifer Cole recently returned to USA as an adjunct assistant professor of pediatrics and serves as an attending physician in the general pediatrics residency clinic.

She previously served as assistant professor in the USA Department of Pediatrics from 2005-2008, where she supervised the USA BreathMobile asthma outreach and the community pediatrics rotation.

Prior to her appointment to USA in 2005, Dr. Cole served as a pediatrician at the Mobile County Health Department Semmes Outreach Clinic. From 2002 to 2004, she served the pediatric population of the Fort Peck Reservation at the Fort Peck Service Unit in Poplar, Mont., as a pediatrician with Indian Health Service.

Dr. Cole earned her medical degree from USA. Afterward, she completed residency training in pediatrics at Cook Country Children’s Hospital in Chicago.

Dr. Cole served as a board member of the Alabama American Academy of Pediatrics from 2006-2009 and supervising physician of the Alabama Baby Coalition at the Mobile County Health Department from 2007-2008. Her area of interest is pediatric asthma.

To make an appointment with Dr. Cole, call (251) 410-5437.

Graduate Medical Education and Obstetrics and Gynecology Hosting Grand Rounds June 2

Dr. Julie Estis, director of the quality enhancement plan (QEP) at USA and associate professor of speech-language pathology at the University of South Alabama, will present a team-based learning (TBL) faculty development workshop for June’s obstetrics and gynecology Grand Rounds lecture hosted by the Graduate Medical Education (GME) office.

The event will take place Friday, June 2, 2017, at 7:30 a.m.  in the Atlantis Room in the CWEB-2 building behind USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital.

The TBL workshop will be structured not only to familiarize faculty participants with TBL techniques, but also will help participants develop a TBL activity on patient safety during the workshop that they will be able to use with residents, fellows and medical students.

Seating for the event is limited. CME is available for faculty. For more information and to register, email Dr. Joyce Guest at jguest@health.southalabama.edu.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Medical Research: Ensuring the Infrastructure of Hope

By Selwyn M. Vickers, M.D., FACS; John V. Marymont, M.D., MBA; and Richard M. Myers, Ph.D.

Author information: Vickers, University of Alabama at Birmingham senior vice president of Medicine and dean of the School of Medicine, is a world-renowned surgeon, pancreatic cancer researcher and pioneer in health disparities research. Marymont, University of South Alabama vice president for medical affairs and dean of the College of Medicine, is a nationally known academic leader and orthopaedic surgeon. Myers, HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology president and science director, is an internationally renowned genomics and genetics researcher who was a key contributor to the Human Genome Project.


Medical research means hope for millions of Americans and their families affected by a life-changing disease like Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cancer or heart disease — diseases that certainly have an impact in Alabama. As we look to the future, it is important for Congress to continue to fund the National Institutes of Health to provide for the critical infrastructure needed by our nation’s medical research enterprise.

Today, the physicians, scientists and patients at the UAB School of Medicine, USA College of Medicine and HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology urge Congress to continue its commitment to sustained, robust growth in the NIH by creating a sustainable model for funding the NIH moving forward. Congress responded in a bipartisan and positive way to the extreme cuts proposed by the administration. Investment in scientific discovery is crucial to improve the health of patients, strengthen the economy in the near and long terms, and maintain the United States’ global pre-eminence in medical innovation.

The nation invests less than $100 per person annually for all of the research conducted and supported by the NIH, yet the return on investment has been spectacular for us all. The quality of life for millions of Americans has been improved by innovations in treatment, technology and care resulting from NIH-supported research across the country.

Because of NIH-funded research, the HIV transmission rate in the United States from infected mothers to their babies has fallen from 27 percent in 1990 to less than 1 percent in 2017. Childhood cancer patients with lymphocytic leukemia now have a five-year survival rate of 90 percent as a result of available treatments. People battling high cholesterol can take statins to manage their health. Vaccines have been developed to prevent hepatitis A, rotavirus and the human papillomavirus (HPV). The emerging field of genomics is the foundation for countless discoveries. While there is tremendous potential, advances in genomics have identified key factors in widespread, costly diseases such as Alzheimer's and have provided prevention strategies for breast and other cancers.

The federal government, primarily through NIH, plays an irreplaceable role in supporting medical innovations by funding the research that serves as the foundation for these and other lifesaving advances. Given the uncertainty of discovery — the next important insight into a disease could come from a number of different avenues or organisms — industry relies on this investment to inform our fundamental understanding of medicine. This research is a springboard that speeds and makes possible the development of treatments and cures.

Physicians and scientists at U.S. medical schools and teaching hospitals such as the UAB and USA Schools of Medicine conduct more than half of all external research funded by NIH. Because of NIH support, these investigators are a force for translational discovery through their ongoing research of techniques such as deep brain stimulation, an important treatment for patients with Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders; exploration of molecular changes that happen to the body during and after exercise; and design of cutting-edge clinical trials to advance discovery and new therapies.

The proposed cuts to NIH funding not only affect medical research, but they affect the very fabric of academic medical centers and nonprofit research institutes— institutions across the country employing faculty and staff to conduct this scientific research and provide the best possible care for patients. At UAB, USA and HudsonAlpha, less than 15 percent of funding comes from the state of Alabama. More than 25 percent of revenue comes from federal grants, including those from the NIH and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Removing or reducing that funding would be devastating for patients, researchers and works alike.

Forty-five of the nation’s 50 states have academic medical centers, each making large economic impacts, both in  its local and regional communities and in its state as a whole. UAB and USA are among the largest employers in Alabama. 

This kind of economic development has made the United States the world leader in medical research, but its stature may be slipping as other countries have been increasing their public investment in research. While Congress recently took important steps to help the NIH regain some of its lost purchasing power, flat — or even worse, reduced — future appropriations threaten to undermine these key efforts. Because research cannot be turned on and off like a spigot, there must be sustained and predictable NIH budget growth so that researchers can build on previous progress and investment.

Millions of Americans depend on medical research to provide hope in the face of potentially devastating diagnoses. The UAB and USA Schools of Medicine, HudsonAlpha, and the nation’s medical schools, teaching hospitals and nonprofit research institutions urge Congress to help us to maintain the infrastructure of hope.

Our patients — and all Americans — deserve it.

USA Neurologists First in Region to Earn Board Certification in Epilepsy

Dr. Dean Naritoku (left), professor and chair of neurology at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine and Dr Juan Ochoa, associate professor of neurology at the USA College of Medicine, received board certification in epilepsy from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.
Dr. Dean Naritoku, professor and chair of neurology at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, and Dr. Juan Ochoa, associate professor of neurology at the USA College of Medicine, recently earned a board certification in epilepsy from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN).

Currently, they are the only diplomates in the Mobile region who are board-certified in epilepsy. “USA attracts the leaders in the field,” Dr. Naritoku said. “This certification recognizes our expertise in the field of epilepsy and reflects the competency and knowledge of our faculty.”

The process of earning a board certification in epilepsy includes the completion of an accredited medical school and specialized training requirements in psychiatry, neurology or child neurology programs that are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education or approved by the ABPN. To achieve certification in epilepsy, candidates must also hold a valid certification in neurology or child neurology. The final step of the board certification process includes successfully passing the subspecialty examination.

According to Dr. Ochoa, specializing in a narrow field such as epilepsy is beneficial because it equips physicians with in-depth knowledge about a specific problem or disease.“About 1 percent of people have epilepsy,” Dr. Ochoa said. “It is a very complex disease that requires a high level of expertise. We definitely have a great advantage at USA.”

Dr. Ochoa said being one of only two physicians certified in epilepsy in the region is very rewarding. “I have now become a point of reference for complex cases,” he said. “When traditional treatment options fail them, patients from surrounding areas often get referred to me because of my level of expertise in the field.”

Dr. Naritoku earned his medical degree from the Chicago Medical School in Chicago, in 1981 and completed an internship in internal medicine at the University of Illinois in Chicago. He then completed his residency training in neurology, and a fellowship in neuropharmacology and epilepsy at Washington University in St. Louis.

Dr. Naritoku is also board-certified in neurology, clinical neurophysiology and pharmacology, and he currently serves as president of the Southern Epilepsy and EEG Society.

His clinical interests include comprehensive epilepsy management, clinical neurophysiology and sleep. His research interests include developing new therapies for epilepsy, studying brain mechanisms of seizures and dysautonomia. He has active laboratory, translational and clinical research programs and has received research funding from the NIH and the Epilepsy Foundation of America.

Dr. Ochoa earned his medical degree from the Universidad Javeriana Medicine in Bogota, Colombia, in 1988. He completed his residency training in family medicine at Jamaica Hospital in New York and his residency training in neurology at the State University of New York at Brooklyn. In addition, he completed a fellowship in clinical neurophysiology and epilepsy at Montefiore Medical Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, N.Y., and a fellowship in medical education at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla.

He is also board-certified in both neurology and clinical neurophysiology by the ABPN. Dr. Ochoa is the director of the neurology residency program at the USA College of Medicine and director of the SouthCEP Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at USA Medical Center. His clinical interests include clinical neurophysiology and epilepsy surgery evaluations, and his current research interests include advance seizure source localization and high frequency brain activity associated with seizures.

The American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology approved the application sponsored by the American Board of Medical Specialties to offer a subspecialty certification in epilepsy in 2010. The purpose of offering this certification is to officially establish the field of epilepsy as a definite area of sub-specialization in neurology and child neurology and to provide a means of identifying physicians properly trained and experienced in treating epilepsy.

Learn more here.

Register Now: Pediatric Leadership Alliance Session

In collaboration with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Alabama Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the University of South Alabama Department of Pediatrics is hosting a Pediatric Leadership Alliance Session on Friday, June 16, from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday, June 17, from 7:45 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Strada Patient Care Center.

A networking reception with heavy hors d’oevres, drinks and live music will follow Friday’s session until 8:00pm. Breakfast and lunch will be served during Saturday’s session.

The session will focus on the Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) model within the context of the leadership model from the book “The Leadership Challenge," written by James Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner. The workshop includes both didactic and hands-on elements to help attendees understand their role in PCMH and how they can be a leader during the process.

The session is open to physicians, residents, advanced practice providers and licensed nursing staff. Register here by June 1. For more information, call (251) 434-3919.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

‘I’m Tackling Medical School Like I Tackled My Opponents’

Just two days before the start of freshman orientation, Jeremy Towns’ journey to medical school at the University of South Alabama was interrupted when he was offered a contract with the National Football League. Two years later, he is now fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming a doctor.

“I realized I wanted to help people at a young age,” Towns said. “One year, I dressed up as a doctor for Halloween. I remember asking my mom what I had to do to become a real doctor, and she told me that I had to work harder than anyone else.”

Towns took his mother’s advice to heart. He received his acceptance letter from the USA College of Medicine shortly after earning his undergraduate degree in sports medicine from Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., where he played football as a defensive lineman.

“I received my medical school acceptance letter the day before NFL pro-day,” Towns said. “My mother opened the letter and told me the great news. We were both so excited.”

With plans to attend medical school in place, Towns traveled to Dominica for a week-long mission trip. While traveling back home, he noticed a voicemail from a Washington Redskins scout. “Since the voicemail was a week old I thought I missed my opportunity and they moved on to the next person,” he said. “To my surprise, I called them back and they wanted to send me up there to do a workout in a few days.”

Ultimately, Towns was offered a free-agent deal with the Redskins and chose to postpone medical school.

After he left the Redskins, Towns was signed by the Buffalo Bills and the Philadelphia Eagles before he made his way to the USA College of Medicine. Towns said he is thankful for the opportunity to play professionally as it prepared him for the rigors of medical school.

Towns said his approach to medical school is to meet every challenge with overwhelming force, a strategy he often utilized on the field. “Playing defense taught me that you have to get back up every time you get knocked down,” he said. “It also showed me that I can do all of the preparation in the world, but at some point I have to play the game. Now, I use that same mentality by thinking of every test as my opponent. I have to tackle it."

As the first person to attend medical school in his family, Towns said he immediately felt at home during the interview process at the USA College of Medicine. “People suggested that some medical schools would not allow me to keep my dreads, but South welcomed me with opened arms,” he said. “I am always going to be thankful for the opportunity to be in the presence of such great people.”

Compared to professional football, Towns said the rigors of medical school are far more demanding but will be extremely rewarding.

“I love that USA is very serious about medicine and every students’ success,” he said. “To be able to walk into any professor’s office for help or clarification is amazing. I can tell that this is not a job they do just for a paycheck. They genuinely love coming to work every day.”

Although his professional football career temporarily delayed his childhood dreams of attending medical school, Towns said he never lost sight of his ultimate goal in life. “I have always wanted to impact the community through medicine,” he said. “And it all started with a Halloween costume."


‘I’m Tackling Medical School Like I Tackled My Opponents’ from USA Health on Vimeo.

COM Faculty Assembly Meeting Set for May 25

The USA College of Medicine Faculty Assembly meeting will take place May 25, 2017, at 4:30 p.m. in the first floor conference room at the Strada Patient Care Center.

The College of Medicine Faculty Assembly provides a forum for all faculty in the College of Medicine to participate in discussions and express views on issues that have an impact on their work and the academic environment within the College.

The Strada Patient Care Center is located at 1601 Center St. in Mobile.

For more information, contact Dr. Ehab Molokhia, president of the USA College of Medicine Faculty Assembly, at emolokhia@health.southalabama.edu.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Pediatrics Hosting Grand Rounds This Week

Dr. Steve Cordina, associate professor of neurology at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine and an interventional neurologist with USA Physicians Group, will present “Pediatric Neurointervention” for May’s pediatric grand rounds.

The event will take place Friday, May 19, 2017, at 8 a.m. in the Atlantis Room in the CWEB-2 building behind USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital.

Dr. Cordina will discuss how to identify patients who would benefit from stroke intervention.

The event is open to faculty, staff and students at USA. A light breakfast, coffee and beverages will be provided. For additional information, contact Katie Catlin at kncatlin@health.southalabama.edu.

Local Art Featured at Strada Patient Care Center

Several pieces of art are now on display in the waiting areas and hallways of the Strada Patient Care Center, creating an inviting and relaxing atmosphere for patients.

Vernon Reinike, a local impressionist artist, recently toured the Strada Patient Care Center to view his work, which is displayed on every floor of the building.

Reinike said he seeks to express the beauty and feeling of nature through his art. He works primarily in acrylic and oil to create impressionistic canvases of landscapes, still life and portraits.

“The pieces displayed at the Strada Center are all very calm and serene,” he said. “I hope my artwork will provide a moment of focus for the patients, helping to take their mind off of any worries, even if just for a second.”

Both patients and employees are enjoying the artwork seen throughout the building. “Everyone loves the painting of the koi pond,” said Joey Baggett, supervisor of radiology and teleradiology at the Strada Patient Care Center. The painting, named “Ann’s Pond,” is broken up into three separate canvases displayed down the length of the hall.

Ashton Hennig, who currently serves as an administrative resident for USA Health, said Reinike’s paintings of Mobile’s cityscape originally drew them to his art. One of his favorite pieces, “Mobile Skyline from Felix’s, Windy Day,” was placed in the radiology waiting area, which overlooks downtown Mobile. “We thought that this was the perfect spot for this painting because you can look out of the windows and see the same buildings that are in the painting,” Hennig said.

According to Reinike, the inspiration for this painting came about while eating at Felix’s Fish Camp. “I was looking out of the window, and I thought the view would make a great painting,” he said. “I asked the waiter for a pencil and paper and sketched it at my table.”

Both “Dauphin at Cathedral Square” and “Sunday Morning on Dauphin” are displayed in the first floor conference center at the Strada Patient Care Center. “We decided to put these paintings in the large conference room because we wanted to showcase Mobile,” Hennig said. “We have hosted local conferences in this room and hope to also host national conferences here in the future. We have received so many compliments on these pieces.”

The Strada Patient Care Center features 10 of Reinike’s pieces, some of which are also on display at the Mobile Museum of Art.

To learn more about the Strada Patient Care Center, visit www.usahealthsystem.com/strada

Learn more about Vernon Reinike here.

Steffani Fitzpatrick Awarded National Eye Institute Travel Grant

Steffani Fitzpatrick, a basic medical science student at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, was awarded a National Eye Institute travel grant from the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO).

The grant was used to assist with travel funds to this year’s 2017 ARVO annual meeting in Baltimore, Md. Travel grants are awarded to investigators who have an accepted abstract with a high score for the ARVO annual meeting and whose research findings are considered to be of high interest to the vision and ophthalmology research community.

Fitzpatrick said her research focuses on understanding the early immune response to herpes simplex virus one (HSV-1) in the eye. Dr. Robert Barrington, associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the USA College of Medicine, is her primary mentor. Her research is a continuation of more than 30 years of eye research led by Dr. Robert Lausch, former professor of microbiology and immunology at the USA College of Medicine.

“Our goal is to better understand how the body responds to HSV-1 during an eye infection so we can identify possible vaccine targets,” Fitzpatrick said. “This project is important because HSV-1 is the leading cause of infectious blindness in developed countries.”

According to Fitzpatrick, current treatment options are limited to a few anti-viral medications that limit the spread of the virus, but there are no vaccines available to eliminate the virus.

The ARVO Annual Meeting provides a unique opportunity for trainees and early career investigators to discuss their research with leaders in their fields and receive encouragement to continue their work. The meeting is the largest gathering of eye and vision researchers in the world, attracting more than 11,000 attendees from more than 75 countries. Learn more here

Thursday, May 11, 2017

‘The USA Community Helped Me Get Back on My Feet’

Harrison Dilworth, a second-year student at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, was among the five USA students affected by a fire that severely damaged two buildings at the Timber Ridge Apartments on April 23, 2017.

“I was taking a nap when I heard someone beating on my door,” Dilworth said. “When I opened the door, I was hit with a wave of heat. I saw the building next to me was engulfed in flames and the trees in between our buildings were on fire as well, so I immediately ran out of my apartment.”

Dilworth said he called his close friend and medical school classmate, Fareed Rifai, who also lives in the apartment complex but was not affected by the fire. “I asked if I could stay at his apartment for a while and he agreed without hesitation,” he said. “Later that night, some of my closest friends and classmates came to check on me and study with me.”

By the next day, Dilworth said he had clothes, food, supplies and monetary donations from numerous classmates. “More than 100 people have lent a helping hand, most being my classmates who I am extremely grateful for,” he said. “They also spread my story like wildfire—no pun intended—and in the following days numerous faculty and staff members were donating also. I can’t tell you how much the USA community helped me get back on my feet.”

The fire happened during one of the busiest times of the year for medical students, just as the semester was coming to an end. “It was a hiccup at the worst possible time, but thanks to family and friends it did not have that big of an impact on my journey,” he said. “The way the USA College of Medicine students and faculty banded together to help me made a major difference in my life and how I was able to weather the storm.”

According to Dilworth, the fire made a huge impact on his life, teaching him lessons that he will utilize once he is a physician. “I know what it is like to be in need of a helping hand,” he said. “I want to be that physician that is there to help those in need, regardless of their limitations.”

The fire also caused Dilworth to realize his determination and resilience in the face of adversity, which will also be beneficial in the future. Dilworth said he could have easily folded and put studying on the back burner, but he decided to keep pushing forward. “It was a devastating event, but I was able to keep a level head and tell myself that no matter the outcome, I was blessed to be alive and I would be OK,” he said. “I will use this lesson to always try to remain calm and collected when treating patients and no matter how bad things get, keep a level head, give the patient the best care I possibly can and keep pushing forward.”

Dilworth said all donations, supplies, thoughts and prayers are appreciated and he cannot thank everyone enough. “I would not be in the place I am today if it was not for each and every one of you and the love and support you showed me,” he said. “My heart is full and I am extremely proud to be a part of the USA family—Go Jags!”

An emergency fund has been established through the USA Office of Development and the division of student affairs as a way for members of the jaguar family to show their support to affected students. Click here if you would like to donate.  

May Med School Café- Locating Consumer Health Information

The May Med School Café lecture will feature Rachel Fenske, assistant librarian and information services/outreach librarian at the University of South Alabama Charles M. Baugh Biomedical Library.

Her lecture, titled “Locating Consumer Health Information from the National Library of Medicine,” will be held on May 26, 2017, at the USA Health Strada Patient Care Center Conference Room on the first floor. Lunch will be served at 11:30 a.m., and the presentation begins at noon.

Fenske will discuss how to locate web-based resources that provide helpful and accurate medical information from the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health.

Fenske earned her bachelor of arts in communications from USA, and a master of library service degree from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala. She is a member of the Alabama Health Libraries Association, Medical Library Association and the Southern Chapter of the Medical Library Association.

The Med School Café lecture and lunch are provided free of charge, but reservations are required. For more information or to make reservations, call Kim Partridge at (251) 460-7770 or e-mail kepartridge@health.southalabama.edu.

Med School Café is a free community lecture series sponsored by the USA Physicians Group. Each month, faculty from the USA College of Medicine share their expertise on a specific medical condition, providing insight on the latest treatment available.

The USA Health Strada Patient Care Center is located at 1601 Center St. in Mobile. For more information, click here.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Medical School Graduates Participate in Honors Convocation Ceremony

Medical students recite the Hippocratic Oath during the University of South Alabama College of Medicine Honors Convocation Friday, May 5, 2017.
The University of South Alabama held commencement ceremonies on May 6, 2017. The 2017 College of Medicine graduates were among the students participating in commencement—marking the 42nd class to earn medical degrees from USA.

The day before, the medical school graduates participated in honors convocation where they were “hooded” by an individual of their choice, signifying the awarding of a doctoral-level degree. During the honors convocation ceremony, students were also recognized for their academic achievements.

Dr. T.J. Hundley, assistant dean for medical education and student affairs and associate professor of internal medicine at the USA College of Medicine, delivered the address to the class. Both ceremonies took place at the USA Mitchell Center.

Including the 2017 class, 2,616 physicians have graduated from the USA College of Medicine since its opening in 1973. Approximately one-third of the physicians practicing in the Mobile area earned their medical degree from USA or completed residency training in USA Hospitals.

Click here to view all photos from this year’s events and here to see the award recipients.

Sandra Curtis Appointed Manager of Quality Improvement

Sandra Curtis, RN, BSN, a trauma nurse case manager at USA Health, recently was appointed manager of quality improvement at USA Physicians Group.

As a manager of quality improvement, Curtis will work to monitor and maintain institutional compliance with regulatory rules and regulations related to quality; coordinate plans of correction for deficiencies; serve as a resource person and educate personnel about patient safety and regulatory issues; and collaborate with multidisciplinary health care teams regarding development and implementation of the Quality Management program at USA.

“Through the management of quality improvement, we continue to elevate the degree of care patients and the community receive and expect from USA Health,” said Rebekah Bailey, director of compliance and reimbursement at USA Health.

Curtis studied communication and business at USA and earned her bachelor’s degree in business management from Faulkner University in Montgomery, Ala., in 2002 and earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Mobile in Mobile, Ala., in 2006.

Mark Your Calendar: OFA Junior Faculty Lunch

The University of South Alabama College of Medicine Office of Faculty Affairs is hosting a junior faculty lunch session on Wednesday, June 7, 2017, from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. in the USA Children’s & Women’s boardroom.

The lunch session will feature Dr. Mary Townsley, senior associate dean of the USA College of Medicine, and Susan Sansing, assistant vice president of financial affairs at the USA College of Medicine. They will discuss faculty collaboration with the USA Center for Strategic Health Innovations, health informatics, physician outreach, bio-monitoring and the Medicaid program.

Housed in the USA College of Medicine, the Center for Strategic Health Innovation (CSHI) is a nationally recognized leader in the delivery of advanced health care emergency preparedness teaching and training, as well as innovative health care technology applications and the development and deployment of health care technology platforms.

The lunch session is open to all USA College of Medicine junior faculty members. For more information or to RSVP contact Nicole Shultz at nschultz@southalabama.edu by Friday, May 19, 2017.