Monday, October 23, 2017

This Week: Rainbow Cancer Walk-A-Thon

Through the University of South Alabama Center for Healthy Communities, Community Health Advocates (CHAs) are hosting the 6th annual Rainbow Cancer Walk-A-Thon on Oct. 27, 2017, from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. at Revelation Missionary Baptist Church.

Gloria Carter, a CHA with the USA Center for Healthy Communities, started the event as a way to memorialize lives lost to cancer, celebrate cancer survivors and educate the community on the different forms of cancer.

At the event, representatives from the Board of Health and the American Cancer Society will be available to provide cancer education.

Community outreach is a core function of the USA Center for Healthy Communities. The CHA program is comprised of volunteers that support the development of future health care providers and researchers. The volunteers provide health education to their communities with the hopes of reducing health disparities in underserved communities.

The Center for Healthy Communities is the lead entity within the University for coordinating community education, research, public service and health activities to help eliminate health disparities, foster access to health care for underserved populations and enhance the capacity of individuals to better participate in decision making about their health.

The event is free and open to the public. For more information, call 471-7708.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

USA Welcomes Dr. James E. McKinley

Dr. James E. McKinley recently was appointed assistant professor of family medicine at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine and will serve as a family medicine physician with USA Physicians Group.

Prior to his position with USA, Dr. McKinley served as the chief physician and chief medical officer with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in Atmore, Ala. He has also served as an assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in Hunstville, Ala.

Dr. McKinley earned his bachelor of science degree in chemistry at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in Huntsville, Ala. He earned his master of science degree in biological science at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in Huntsville and his medical degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in Birmingham, Ala. He completed his master’s of business administration in May from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Dr. McKinley is a member of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the Alabama Academy of Family Physicians.

Dr. McKinley sees patients at the USA Family Medicine Center at 1504 Springhill Ave. To make an appointment with him, call (251) 434-3475.

USA Office of Continuing Medical Education to Present Ethics and Opioids Conference

The University of South Alabama College of Medicine Office of Continuing Medical Education will present the Ethics and Opioids Conference on Nov. 3, 2017, from 8 a.m. to 5:20 p.m. at the USA Faculty Clubhouse on main campus.

Participants will gain a better understanding of opioids, addiction and the ethics of care concerning patients who use opioids.

Speakers from USA will include Dr. Valerie Bryan, associate professor of social work; Dr. Luke Engeriser, residency training director for the psychiatry department; Dr. Anne Jeffrey, assistant professor of philosophy; John F. Kilpatrick, founder and executive director of Veterans Recovery; and Dr. Christine Talerico, a child and adolescent fellow in psychiatry.

In addition, the event will feature guest speakers Dr. Scott Sanders, program director and professor of social work at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Mich., and Dr. Edwin Salsitz from Beth Israel Medical Center and Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York.

The cost for registration is $35, which includes food and refreshments for the day.
Continuing education credits are available for physicians, pharmacists, and social workers. Application for various professional regulatory boards have also been submitted.

To register online, click here. For more information, email Sharrie Cranford at or call (251) 414-8080.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Crossing Paths: High School Friends Reunite in Medical Field

Dr. Antwan Hogue and Dr. ShaRhonda Watkins look through their high school yearbook at USA Medical Center. Drs. Hogue and Watkins graduated from Leflore High School in 2004 and now work together on Green Medicine, an internal medicine multidisciplinary team at USA Medical Center.
Less than two miles away from their high school alma mater, Drs. Antwan Hogue and ShaRhonda Watkins have crossed paths again, working together on Green Medicine – an internal medicine multidisciplinary team at USA Medical Center. Dr. Hogue serves as the attending physician and Watkins is the pharmacist.

The two graduated from John L. Leflore High School in 2004, where Dr. Hogue was named valedictorian and Dr. Watkins was named salutatorian. In addition to graduating at the top of their class, former classmates also named Dr. Hogue ‘most likely to succeed’ and Dr. Watkins ‘most intelligent.’ While the two remained friends after graduation, they lost contact as they completed their college career.

Dr. Hogue earned both his undergraduate and medical degree from USA, while Dr. Watkins completed her undergraduate degree at Xavier University in New Orleans. Dr. Hogue then completed his residency training in internal medicine at Palmetto Health Richland in Columbia, S.C. — 680 miles away from Xavier University College of Pharmacy, where Dr. Watkins completed her doctor of pharmacy degree.  After completing his residency training, Dr. Hogue served as a hospitalist and internal medicine physician at West Florida Hospital in Pensacola, Fla., before joining USA last year.

On Dr. Hogue’s first day at USA, Dr. Errol Crook, professor and Abraham Mitchell Chair of Internal Medicine at the USA College of Medicine, took Dr. Hogue around USA Medical Center to get acquainted with faculty. “Dr. Crook told me that we had a pharmacist on the team and that we graduated from the same high school,” he said. “I immediately knew he was referring to the ShaRhonda Watkins I went to school with.”

Dr. Watkins was on vacation during Dr. Hogue’s first day and they met later in the week during rounds. “I walked into rounds and to my surprise I saw Dr. Hogue sitting at the table looking over charts,” Dr. Watkins recalled. “He looked up and realized who I was, and then he immediately stood up and gave me a big hug. We told the residents that we have known each other since we were 15 and had not seen each other since graduating from high school.”

Now, they have been working together on the same team for almost a year. “Our relationship is the same as it was in high school,” Dr. Watkins explained. “Working with Dr. Hogue definitely challenges me to do my best at all times.”

Each day, Drs. Watkins and Hogue — along with residents and medical students — conduct morning rounds at USA Medical Center.  “Rounding serves as a teaching opportunity,” Dr. Watkins said. “While we go through each patient’s information and discuss their medication with the group, Dr. Hogue may ask me for my input or I may make recommendations on different treatment options.”

Dr. Watkins said their dynamic reminds her of the many honors courses she and Dr. Hogue completed together during high school. “He is one of the smartest people I know,” she said. “Working with Dr. Hogue encourages me to read more medical studies so I can contribute to the group and anticipate any questions. It is almost as if I am in school again.”

According to Dr. Hogue, Dr. Watkins is also a valuable asset to the team. “If we need any updates or recommendations on what medications a patient could benefit from, she always knows the answer and keeps us informed,” he said. “Often times you don’t see people that you graduate with in a professional setting. To see your life come full circle is very rewarding.”

A native of Mobile, Dr. Hogue said he is both proud and grateful to be back, making an impact in his community. “I always knew I wanted to come back to Mobile,” he said. “It has been a blessing to come back and work with so many familiar faces. I love being in this neighborhood because it made me exactly who I am today. Knowing that I am the attending physician over the team that is caring for the people of this community is extremely fulfilling.”

Dr. Hogue credits his previous friendship with Dr. Watkins for helping him to adapt to his new position. “Having a familiar person that you know outside of work enabled me to acclimate to the team with ease,” he said. “I know she will always have my back, and I definitely have hers as well.”

Friday, October 13, 2017

College of Medicine to Hold Research Forum Nov. 17

The 11th annual University of South Alabama College of Medicine Research Forum will be held Friday, Nov. 17, 2017, at the Medical Sciences Building on USA's main campus. The deadline for abstract submission is Friday, Oct. 20, 2017.

The Research Forum provides a venue for researchers from the College of Medicine and the Mitchell Cancer Institute to present their work to the university’s biomedical community.

“Since the Forum’s inception, we have seen many new ideas generated, as well as new collaborations develop among our community,” said Dr. Donna Cioffi, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the USA College of Medicine.

The forum consists of two sessions - the morning session for oral presentations in the first floor auditorium, and the afternoon session for poster presentations in the second floor south hallway. Lunch will be served in the Joseph Bitzer Conference Room.

“The poster session in particular is highly interactive and is an excellent opportunity to foster new collaborations,” Dr. Cioffi said.

Participation is required for all basic medical science graduate students in their second year and beyond.

In addition to graduate students and post-doctoral fellows, clinical fellows, residents and junior faculty are encouraged to participate.

“For undergraduate students thinking about graduate school, the forum is a great venue to learn about research and also to talk with current graduate students,” Dr. Cioffi said.

Travel awards will be given for the two overall best presentations: one for graduate students and one for postdoctoral fellows. These awards are to be used for travel to national or international meetings.

The event is co-sponsored by the USA College of Medicine and the USA Mitchell Cancer Institute.

For more information and to view abstract forms, click here.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Dr. Xiangming Zha Awarded NIH Research Grant

Dr. Xiangming Zha, associate professor of physiology and cell biology at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, recently was awarded a $1.8 million five-year grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke to study molecular mechanisms underlying acid signaling in the brain.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) is an institute within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that aims to seek fundamental knowledge about the brain and nervous system to reduce the burden of neurological disease. The Research Project Grant, or R01 grant, is the original and historically oldest grant mechanism used by NIH. The R01 provides support for health-related research and development based on the mission of NIH.

Dr. Zha said this is his first R01 grant, which scored in the second percentile. “The grant will allow us to investigate the signaling mediated by ovarian cancer G protein coupled receptor 1 (OGR1), and whether targeting it may have therapeutic potentials in stroke or in acidosis-incurring disease in general,” he said.

Brain pH is tightly regulated but can fluctuate under both physiological and pathological conditions. Various conditions including seizure, stroke, mitochondrial dysfunction and neurodegenerative diseases all lead to a decrease in extracellular pH, or acidosis. “Given the prevalence of acidosis in disease, determining molecular mechanisms underlying acid signaling may have broad translational value,” Dr. Zha said. “It has been known for decades that acidosis is one key contributing factor to neuronal injury. Paradoxically, a relatively mild acidosis can be protective.”

According to Dr. Zha, a lot of progress has been made on understanding how increased acidity in the brain leads to neuronal injury. This is in part due to the discovery of acid-sensing ion channels (ASICs), which are a group of channels that respond to a reduction in pH. “A series of data, including ours, shows that ASICs are the major postsynaptic proton receptor in brain neurons and are a key mediator of acidosis-induced neuronal injury.”

Dr. Zha said these findings on ASICs have greatly advanced the knowledge of acid signaling, but do not explain the protective effect of acidosis. “In our preliminary studies, we found that OGR1 is widely expressed in the brain,” he said. “In addition, OGR1 mediates acid-induced signaling in hippocampal slices. Our data further suggests that OGR1 mediates a protective pathway in neurons.”

According to Dr. Zha, Dr. James Downey, professor emeritus of physiology at the USA College of Medicine, is an expert in cardiac protection and has provided insightful suggestions on ischemia signaling. “Dr. Thomas Rich, associate professor of pharmacology at the USA College of Medicine, and Dr. Zhi-Gang Xiong, professor of neurobiology at the Morehouse School of Medicine, are co-investigators on the grant,” he said. “Dr. Rich will provide his expertise on imaging of intracellular signaling, while Dr. Xiong will provide knowledge on in-vivo rodent ischemia experiments.”

Dr. Zha said the results obtained from the study will likely uncover novel protective mechanisms in response to pH reduction, and provide potential molecular targets for the design of novel therapeutic approaches to alleviate ischemia-induced brain injury.

To learn more about Dr. Zha’s research, click here.

USA College of Medicine Office of Diversity and Inclusion Hosting Sixth Annual Diversity and Inclusion Lecture Series

The University of South Alabama College of Medicine Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) will host its sixth annual diversity and inclusion lecture series on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017.

The lecture series will feature guest speaker Dr. Edward Callahan, associate vice chancellor for academic personnel for the Schools of Human Health and Sciences and professor of family and community medicine at the University of California Davis School of Medicine in Sacramento, Calif.

The first lecture will be a USA College of Medicine Internal Medicine Grand Rounds lecture on Oct. 19 from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. at the USA Medical Center Conference Center. This lecture is titled “Implicit Biases on Clinical Care and Health Disparities.”

Dr. Callahan’s second lecture will be held in the Medical Sciences Building auditorium from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Oct. 19. This lecture is titled “Diversifying Our Institutions to Reduce Health Disparities.”

A licensed clinical psychologist, Dr. Callahan’s professional experience will bring an awareness of unconscious bias and how it influences decision making in clinical practice and in administrative decision making. Dr. Callahan will also address the relationship of social stigma to health disparities.

Dr. Callahan earned his Ph.D. from the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vt. He serves on several steering committees and has received a number of honors including the Chancellor’s Achievement Award for Diversity and Community and the Excellence in Education Award from the University of California Davis School of Medicine.

A reception will follow the lecture series to recognize the new office location for the USA College of Medicine's Office of Diversity and Inclusion. The office was established in 2011 and has moved to its new location in the Medical Sciences Building, Suite 1164.

Please call (251) 460-7334 to RSVP or for more information.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Pediatrics Hosting Grand Rounds Oct. 20

Dr. Ivan J. Lopez, professor of neurology at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, will present “Migraine Variant/Episodic Syndromes” for October’s pediatric grand rounds.

The event will take place Friday, Oct. 20, at 8 a.m. in the conference room on the first floor of the Strada Patient Care Center.

Dr. Lopez will discuss the different presentations of migraines in children and the diagnostic and management approach in children affected by migraines.

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

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

‘One patient, one record’

This past weekend, USA Health transitioned to record-keeping unity within the system, reaching the goal of “one patient, one record.”

Termed the Unity project, the endeavor involved transitioning from five different electronic medical records systems and three different revenue cycle systems into one coordinated system that touches every part of USA Health.

“This transition gives our employees an integrated system that helps them do their job in an efficient manner so that ultimately they can focus on providing the best possible care to patients,” said Owen Bailey, chief executive officer at USA Health.

Unity, by design, makes care more convenient and safer for patients and at the same time empower providers. Representatives from every corner of USA Health have been working on the project since its inception, ensuring that each area would benefit from the change. Joining the USA Health staff was a team of expert consultants from around the country who combined familiarity with the new system and expertise in various phases of healthcare.

Cerner – the largest health care IT company in the world – built its system around best practices, incorporating methods that work well for health care systems around the nation. These methods were then tailored to USA Health’s needs. During the transition process, the team reviewed current procedures to see what was unique to USA and therefore needed to be localized, and also found places where USA Health would be better served by changing its procedures to conform to best practices.

Once the system was localized for USA, the next step was testing – looking at the adaptations Cerner made and making sure the actual system accomplished the goals envisioned during the development process.

The new Unity system affects everyone in USA Health. While Unity represents a step forward for everyone, for some it will be leaps and bounds. Emergency and surgery, for example, were still keeping records on paper.

Another feature of the new system is that it incorporates an additional level of safety each time medications are administered. The physician order will be matched with both the drug itself and the patient identification band. The system will question anything that doesn’t match or that doesn’t conform to best practices. The provider can override the computer, but they will have to stop and evaluate.

The key change for patients, however, are the simplified records. Before the switch, a patient who first visits a clinic and is then admitted to the hospital for tests has to fill out complete information at each place – allergies, medications, history and more. In the new system, the patient provides the information only once and simply verifies it at the next stop, saving time for both patient and caregiver. Moreover, once the information is in the system, it’s available quickly if the patient goes to the emergency room or visits a different clinic.

The convenience is a real benefit for a cancer patient, for example, who may see a primary care physician, have a hospital stay and receive treatment at USA Mitchell Cancer Institute, all in a relatively short span of time. The new system integrates care and billing.

In addition, patients can now access their health records online via a personalized patient portal, as well as make online payments.

Bailey said the continued commitment shown by USA Health staff was vital during the Unity implementation process. “These tools represent not only a change to our applications but also an improvement to our processes, efficiency, and the potential for what we can achieve together,” he said. “I'd like to thank our employees for their hard work and commitment to this important effort, and for all that they do for USA Health and for those they serve.”

View more photos from the Unity implementation here.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

USA Welcomes Dr. Anna Foust

Dr. Anna Foust recently was appointed assistant professor of internal medicine and pediatrics at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine and serves as a hospitalist with USA Health.

Dr. Foust earned her medical degree from USA in 2013. She then completed her residency training in internal medicine and pediatrics at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pa., where she served as chief resident.

Dr. Foust is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Physicians.

Mark Your Calendar: Randall W. Powell Endowed Memorial Lectureship

The 2017 Randall W. Powell Endowed Memorial Lectureship in Pediatric Surgery hosted by the University of South Alabama Department of Pediatrics will feature Dr. Michael G. Caty, Robert Pritzker Professor and Interim Chair of Surgery at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn.

Dr. Caty will present his first lecture on Oct. 12, 2017, at 4:30 p.m. in the first floor conference room at the Strada Patient Care Center. His second lecture, titled “Management of Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia,” will take place Oct. 13, 2017, at USA Medical Center in the second-floor conference room.

Dr. Caty also serves as the surgeon-in-chief at Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital. He completed his residency training in pediatric surgery at Children’s Hospital of Boston and Harvard Medical School, where he also served as chief resident.

Dr. Caty has contributed over 130 articles and chapters to pediatric surgical literature and is the editor of the multi-author textbook, Complications in Pediatric Surgery. He has been involved in the leadership of several pediatric surgical societies, including serving as president of the Pediatric Surgery Biology Club, chair of the Organization of Children’s Hospital Surgeons-in-Chief, and chair of the Surgical Section of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He also is a member of the American College of Surgeons, American Pediatric Surgical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, Association for Academic Surgery, and the American Surgical Association.

Dr. Randall Powell, former professor of surgery and pediatrics at the USA College of Medicine, passed away in 2017. As a pediatric surgeon, Dr. Powell belonged to a very small group of surgeons who trained beyond general surgery residency in order to care for neonates and children with all the complex congenital defects and the different physiology of the growing child. While at USA, Dr. Powell was director of the division of pediatric surgery and professor of physician assistant studies. He touched the lives of countless medical students, residents and patients through his work as a faculty member and pediatric surgeon at the USA College of Medicine.

For more information on both lectures, contact the USA Department of Surgery at (251) 445-8230.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Basic Medical Sciences Graduate Program Student Receives Edwin R. Hughes Award

Lina Abou Saleh, a second-year student in the University of South Alabama College of Medicine Basic Medical Sciences Ph.D. Graduate Program, recently received the annual Edwin R. Hughes Memorial Award.

Dr. Mary Townsley, senior associate dean of the USA College of Medicine, presented Saleh with the award on Aug.16, 2017.

The award is named in memory of Edwin R. Hughes, who served as director of the Basic Medical Sciences Graduate Program at the USA College of Medicine from its inception in 1978 until 1990.

The award recognizes the student with the best performance in the first-year core curriculum.

Saleh is completing her graduate studies under the direction of Dr. Wito Richter, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the USA College of Medicine. She earned her bachelor of science degree in biochemistry at Temple University in Philadelphia.

The Edwin R. Hughes Memorial Award was established through donations from the Basic Medical Sciences Graduate faculty members and graduates of the program. To make a contribution to the Edwin R. Hughes Memorial Award, call (251) 460-7032.

October Med School Café - ‘I’m Short of Breath - Let’s Talk About Asthma’

The October Med School Café lecture will feature Dr. Philip Almalouf, assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine and a pulmonologist with USA Physicians Group.

His lecture, titled “I’m Short of Breath - Let’s Talk About Asthma,” will be held on Oct. 20, 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.

During the lecture, Dr. Almalouf will discuss the characteristics of asthma and how it is diagnosed. He will also review the current treatment options.

Dr. Almalouf earned his medical degree from the University of Damascus School of Medicine in Damascus, Syria. He completed his internship and residency in internal medicine at Saint Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor, Mich. He then completed his fellowship in pulmonary and critical care medicine at USA.

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

USA College of Medicine Business Office Shows School Spirit with Jagfeast

The University of South Alabama College of Medicine Business Office recently held a Jagfeast to celebrate Jaguar football season at USA.

The most recent event, which is always held the day before a home game at USA, was held on Sept.23 before the Jags played the University of Idaho.

Jagfeast is an all-day tailgate party held in the USA College of Medicine Business Office breakroom. Food is served at 7:45 a.m. and continues through a potluck lunch ending at 2:30 p.m.

Sue Reinhardt, faculty resource specialist at the USA College of Medicine Business Office and Susan Sansing, assistant dean of finance and administration at the USA College of Medicine, lead efforts to coordinate the events every year.

Both women are proud USA employees with a strong connection to the school and community.

Reinhardt has worked for USA for 22 years. Her two children attend USA and will both graduate in May. Sports and band have an important place in their family as her daughter Rebecca is a music education major who plays in the Jaguar Marching Band and her son David is a javelin thrower for the USA track team.

Sansing has worked for USA since 1991. Her husband and daughter are both alumni and her son is in his first year at South in the Jaguar Marching Band. The entire family feels strongly about the sense of family and community the school has given them.

The office’s Jagfeast started during the beginning of the football program at USA in 2009 and has been popular every year since. Both women view the events as a wonderful way to boost morale in the office and to show students and the team that they are supportive of the Jags.

As the safety coordinator of the building, Reinhardt stays in contact with everyone in the building on a regular basis and said it was a natural fit for her to coordinate her efforts into the tailgate events. She said she enjoys cheering on the Jags and coordinating the tailgate because she feels like it brings her closer to coworkers.

“Since we spend so much of our lives at work, it’s nice to take a little time to share stories, recipes and a few laughs,” Reinhardt said.

Sansing said cheering on the Jags is one of those moments when everyone is focused on the same purpose and outcome, which brings everyone together. She said she loves the Jags because it is a young program and the majority of fans have been cheering on the team together since the beginning.

Employees decorate the hallways with posters and banners painted with Jag colors and messages of school spirit. Breakfast is a popular affair, with Belgian waffles being made by David Wiik, radiation safety officer for the College of Medicine, and bacon-wrapped conecuh sausage with a brown sugar topping prepared by Reinhardt.

“Our Jagfeast would not be complete without these two staples,” Reinhardt said.
Reinhardt and Sansing hope to continue the tradition of Jagfeast for many years to come.

“As long as there is football at USA and there are people enthusiastic about participating in Jagfeast, we plan to continue our tradition,” Reinhardt said.

Jagfeast Bacon-Wrapped Conecuh Sausage

1lb conecuh sausage
1lb bacon
A few handfuls of brown sugar

Cut a pound of bacon in half to make short strips.  Cut the conecuh sausage into bite-sized pieces (as wide as the bacon).  Wrap the bacon around each conecuh sausage piece and place in a glass baking dish.  Generously sprinkle brown sugar on each piece. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour until golden brown and caramelized. Reinhardt advises transfering the cooked pieces to a crock pot to keep warm. She then sprinkles them again with brown sugar for an extra-sugary crunch.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

USA College of Medicine Implements Wellness Initiative

The University of South Alabama College of Medicine recently created a new wellness initiative, promoting mentorship and enhancing the health and wellbeing among medical students.

The student-led initiative – first introduced at the Class of 2021’s freshman orientation – assigns all first- and second-year students at the USA College of Medicine to one of five wellness ‘houses,’ which they will remain in for the duration of medical school.

“Over the next two years, the houses will grow as the current first- and second-year students move into their third and fourth year,” said Dr. Susan LeDoux, associate dean of medical education and student affairs at USA. “Many of our current third- and fourth-year students have volunteered to serve as upper level mentors in the houses.”

According to Dr. LeDoux, the wellness committee recently hosted two events that gave students, faculty and staff the opportunity to have fun and interact in an informal manner. The mentor and mentee luncheon, which introduced each first-year student to their mentor in the second-year class, was held Sept. 18.  Following the luncheon, the wellness committee hosted the Inaugural USA College of Medicine Fall Cookout where medical students were able to connect with faculty and fellow students.

Dr. LeDoux said the houses – Mobile, Spanish, Tensaw, Apalachee and Blakeley – are named after the five rivers that flow into Mobile Bay, and they represent the mission of the school, which is to provide outstanding health care to the individuals in this region.

According to Dr. LeDoux, one of the primary components of the program is peer-to-peer mentoring. “To enhance peer-to-peer mentoring, each first-year student was paired with a second-year student within the same house who will serve as their mentor throughout medical school,” she said.

“The wellness committee is a new initiative for the 2017-2018 academic year,” said Ben McCormick, a second-year student at the USA College of Medicine. “Several third- and fourth-year students, along with USA College of Medicine faculty members, are also assigned a wellness house. Having representation from both students in their clinical years and from USA faculty members provides us with insight on what we can expect as we progress through medical school, while also cultivating relationships with upperclassmen and physicians in the USA medical community.”

In addition to the wellness houses, students at the USA College of Medicine also have access to individual, couples or group counseling led by a new health and wellness counselor. “Dr. Marjorie Scaffa recently joined the USA College of Medicine and will serve in this roll,” Dr. LeDoux said. “In her new position, Dr. Scaffa will conduct monthly wellness forums covering topics such as managing the transition to medical school, emotional wellbeing, healthy relationships and mindfulness. There will also be a monthly newsletter and wellness blog, along with the opportunity for mental health first aid training.”

McCormick, who also serves as president of the Class of 2020, said the wellness committee is responsible for organizing small group events to promote student wellness throughout the year.

Dr. LeDoux, Dr. Scaffa and Dr. T.J. Hundley, assistant dean of medical education and student affairs, serve as faculty mentors for the student-led initiative, which is being financially supported by Dr. John Marymont, vice president for medical affairs and dean of the USA College of Medicine.

View more photos from the cookout here.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Dr. Natalie Bauer Awarded Research Grant to Study Pulmonary Hypertension

As a graduate of the University of South Alabama Basic Medical Sciences doctoral program and an assistant professor of pharmacology at the USA College of Medicine, Dr. Natalie Bauer calls South her “home.”

She leads groundbreaking research on pulmonary hypertension, a progressive disease in which high blood pressure in the lungs leads to right heart failure. Recently, her research led to her first R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health. The $1.5 million four-year grant will allow her to study how circulating factors contribute to pulmonary hypertension.

There are currently no curative treatments for pulmonary hypertension, and the disease affects men, women and children of all ages. The grant will allow Dr. Bauer’s lab to continue studies in models of the disease and begin translating findings to patients.

Dr. Bauer said the circulating factors her lab investigates are called microparticles, or extracellular vesicles. “These vesicles are smaller in diameter than the size of a single hair,” she said. “However, they carry a great deal of information about the cells they come from, such as the endothelial cells that line the blood vessels.” This information ultimately can provide clues about the health of the lung vessels.

Dr. Bauer’s research is some of the first to suggest that the microparticles contribute to damage in the lung blood vessels. “If we can understand the mechanisms of this damage, we can then block the injury and prevent pulmonary hypertension progression and heart failure,” she said.

The current gold standard for identifying patients with pulmonary hypertension is an invasive heart catheterization procedure. This test often comes late for the diagnosis because pulmonary hypertension presents with symptoms similar to more common diseases.

“Our models of pulmonary hypertension allow us to follow this progressive disease from significantly earlier states,” Dr. Bauer said. “We are working toward identifying microparticles circulating in blood that can tell us the health and status of the lung blood vessels earlier in the course of the disease and, hopefully, as an alternative to the invasive procedure.”

In addition, the work Dr. Bauer has already done suggests that microparticles can contribute to the worsening of pulmonary hypertension. By understanding the ways in which microparticles impact the pulmonary circulation, new drug targets can be identified – ultimately leading to the development of better therapies.

Dr. Bauer will collaborate with Dr. Karen Fagan, director of the USA Pulmonary Hypertension Center, to collect samples from patients in the clinic and determine whether the findings in the models are corroborated in patients.

Dr. Bauer said the R01 awards are invaluable for the development of research programs. “Although this is an individual award for the work in my laboratory, this award speaks highly of the advanced scientific research in the USA College of Medicine, the USA Department of Pharmacology and the USA Center for Lung Biology,” she said. “I am proud to be a part of this research community.”

Monday, September 25, 2017

Dr. Mary Hulihan to Present Two Lectures at USA College of Medicine

The University of South Alabama Sickle Cell Center is hosting two lectures featuring Dr. Mary M. Hulihan, health scientist in the division of blood disorders with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017.

Dr. Hulihan will present “Sickle Cell Disease and the CDC Guidelines for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain” at the USA Department of Internal Medicine Grand Rounds lecture at 8 a.m. in the USA Medical Center second floor conference center.

She will also present “Health Disparity Reports: Should Sickle Cell Disease Be Included?” at the Distinguished Scientist Seminar at 4 p.m. in the first floor auditorium of the Medical Sciences Building on USA’s main campus.

Dr. Hulihan earned her master of public health degree from The George Washington University in Washington D.C. and her doctorate of public health from The University of Georgia in Athens, Ga. She joined the CDC in 2009 and has served as project officer for the Registry and Surveillance System for Hemoglobinopathies and Public Health Research and Surveillance for Hemoglobinopathies.

The DSS lecture series is comprised of distinguished scientists from other academic institutions who are invited to present a seminar showcasing their latest research findings. Faculty, staff and students are strongly encouraged to attend.

Class of 2018 Medical Students Named to Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society

Seven fourth-year medical students at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine were named to the USA chapter of the Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA) Honor Medical Society.

The following students were selected: M. Heath Haggard, Richard Huettemann, Adam Powell, David Steadman, Elizabeth Terry, Chandler Van Dyke and Rebecca Young.

AOA, a professional medical organization, recognizes and advocates for excellence in scholarship and the highest ideals in the profession of medicine. Members have a compelling drive to do, to advance the medical profession and to exemplify the highest standards of professionalism.

“Being elected into AOA is one of the highest honors that can be achieved by a medical student,” said Dr. Jon Simmons, USA AOA chapter councilor and a trauma and critical care surgeon with USA Health. “In addition to proving academic excellence, the student must also display humanistic characteristics like honesty, honorable conduct, morality, virtue, unselfishness, ethical ideals, dedication to serving others and leadership.”

The top 25 percent of a medical school class is eligible for nomination to the society, and up to 16 percent may be elected based on leadership, character, community service and professionalism.

Members also may be elected by chapters after demonstrating scholarly achievement and professional contributions and values after medical school and during their careers in medicine.

Six additional medical students in the Class of 2018 were elected into AOA earlier this year. Learn more here.

The AOA motto is “Be Worthy to Serve the Suffering.” To learn more, visit

Thursday, September 21, 2017

USA Department of Pediatrics Improves Patient Access, Focuses on Quality Improvement

The University of South Alabama Department of Pediatrics recently completed a quality improvement project, which aimed to decrease the number of no-show patient visits and improve patient access.

Dr. Curtis Turner, professor of pediatrics at the USA College of Medicine and medical director of the primary care division of the department of pediatrics, led the project.

“Patients need continuous care,” Dr. Turner said. “If we are unavailable to care for our patients, then they are seen in urgent care or emergency rooms and receive fragmented care. We also miss the opportunity to prevent issues if we are unable to perform well-child visits and immunizations.”

According to Dr. Turner, there was a need to conduct a quality improvement project because access to primary care was limited and a backlog of appointments was evident. “Both parents and providers were frustrated with the long wait to get appointments in a timely manner,” he said.

Over a span of 22 months, the USA Department of Pediatrics made several changes to decrease the amount of no-show acute-illness and well-child visits, increase the overall number of visits and improve scheduling.

The department utilized the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) tool to accomplish their goals. The PDSA cycle included developing a plan to test the change, carrying out the test, observing and learning the results, and determining what modifications should be made to the test.

To determine the most common reason for no-show appointments, the department administered a survey to patients in the office who had previously missed an appointment. “The major reason indentified from the questionnaire was that the appointments were usually made several months in advance and the patients simply forgot,” Dr. Turner said.

Each month, the department also gathered data from electronic medical records and billing software to determine the amount of no-show appointments. According to Dr. Turner, electronic health record data showed an increase in the number of appointment no-shows for each period of 30, 60, or 90 days in advance.

To help decrease the amount of no-show visits, the department changed their appointment policy. Now, patients are unable to make appointments more than six weeks in advance. This change resulted in an increase in the overall number of visits by 10 percent.

Overall, the quality improvement project was successful in meeting all of the improvement goals. “Before, we experienced a 30 percent no-show visit rate, and currently we are down to 18 percent,” Dr. Turner said. “The no-show rate for well-child visits also decreased from 50 percent to 25 percent.”

Dr. Turner said this project was beneficial for both patients and USA Health. “The changes in this pediatric clinic benefit the educational opportunities for our students and residents,” he said. “The morale for clerks, nurses, residents and faculty has also increased.”

Dr. Turner said the changes also caused an improvement in patient flow and scheduling, helping USA Pediatrics to become financially solvent. In addition, the project led to changes that were noted outside of the stated goals including fewer dropped phone calls, decrease in time to answer phone calls and better rate of medical record completion.

Multiple pediatricians with USA Physicians Group – Dr. Kari Bradham, assistant professor of pediatrics at the USA College of Medicine; Dr. Jennifer Cole, adjunct assistant professor of pediatrics at the USA College of Medicine; Dr. Rosina Connelly, associate professor of pediatrics at the USA College of Medicine; Dr. LaDonna Crews, associate professor of pediatrics at the USA College of Medicine; and Dr. Paola Maurtua-Neuman, assistant professor of pediatrics – also participated in the project.

Click here to learn more about the USA Department of Pediatrics.

Dr. Elizabeth Minto Guest Speaker to Annual MS Leadership Class

Dr. Elizabeth Minto, assistant professor of neurology at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine and a neurologist with USA Physicians Group, recently was the guest speaker for an awards ceremony hosted by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society of Greater Mobile for the Greater Mobile MS Leadership Class.

Members of the MS Leadership Class are professionals throughout Mobile who have demonstrated the ability to make a difference in the quality of the lives of others. Because of their efforts, these leaders were invited to partner with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in its movement to create a world free of MS. Through participation in the campaign, members have an opportunity to build a network with other business professionals who are also committed to a vision of a better community and a better world.

As a participant in the program last year and the highest earning fundraiser in last year’s program, Dr. Minto was asked to speak at this year’s ceremony about things that MS patients wish others knew, such as how many of the symptoms of MS are invisible and that the disease is extremely variable from one individual to another. It is also important for patients to know that there are many current treatments available to alter the progress of the disease.

“None of our currently available treatments for MS can reverse or prevent the disease; that is what makes work like that of the MS Leadership class so vital.  This year's class has raised almost $60,000 toward MS research and programs for patients living with the disease in South Alabama,” Dr. Minto said.

Devon Walsh, news anchor for WKRG News Five of Mobile, was the emcee for the event.

For more information about Greater Mobile MS Leadership Class, click here.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

USA College of Medicine Welcomes Coordinator of Student Affairs

Hope Nickols recently was appointed coordinator of student affairs at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine.

In her new position, Nickols will perform duties including providing administrative support to the College of Medicine clerkship programs, functioning as course representative, creating and maintaining clerkship course records, schedules, and course materials; and coordinating the third- year medical student orientation and other administrative duties for the student affairs office.

Nickols will work with Karen Braswell in the student affairs office at the Mastin Building.

Prior to her position at USA, Nickols served as an accountant at Cunningham Bounds in Mobile, Ala. and as a financial services specialist at Regions Bank in Mobile.

Nickols earned her bachelor of science degree in human resource management from Troy University in Troy, Ala.

Winners of Clyde G. ‘Sid’ Huggins Medical Student Research Awards Announced

Pictured from left: Dr. Mark Taylor, associate professor of physiology and cell biology; Dr. David Weber, associate professor of physiology and cell biology; first-year medical student Stuart McFarland; second-year medical student Patricia Connor; Dr. Sidney Brevard, professor of surgery; and Wito Richter, assistant professor of biochemistry. McFarland and Connor were awarded the USA College of Medicine's Clyde G. Huggins Medical Student Research Award for 2017.
The University of South Alabama College of Medicine hosted its 44th annual Medical Student Research Day on July 28, 2017.

Rising first- and second-year students at the USA College of Medicine presented the findings of their 10-week long summer research projects in eight oral presentations and 41 poster presentations to a diverse group of faculty, students and guests.

The Clyde G. ‘Sid’ Huggins Medical Student Research Awards, honoring the memory of Dr. Huggins, who served as the first Dean of Students for USA’s College of Medicine, were presented to Patricia Connor and Stuart McFarland.

“The main purpose of the Medical Student Summer Research Program is to expose students to basic science, translational and/or clinical research,” said Wito Richter, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and chair of the Summer Research Committee at the USA College of Medicine. “In addition, the students receive instructions on presenting their research findings to an audience in weekly seminars. I think the ability to communicate research findings clearly to the public is more important than ever, as scientific facts are frequently misrepresented or disputed in public discourse.”

According to Richter, there were many excellent research projects this year. “Judges were not only impressed with both Patricia and Stuart’s findings, but also their clear and convincing presentations,” he said.

Connor, a second-year medical student at the USA College of Medicine, was recognized for the best poster presentation. She was sponsored by Dr. Sidney Brevard, professor of surgery at the USA College of Medicine and a trauma and critical care surgeon with USA Health, and Dr. Ashley Williams, a third-year general surgery resident at USA Health.

Connor’s project, titled “Trauma Patients Have Improved Access to Post-Discharge Resources Through the Affordable Care Act,” compared the level of insurance coverage and the use of post-discharge services of trauma patients treated at USA Medical Center before and after implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). “If you look at surveys covering the years just prior to the implementation of the ACA (2005-2009), you’ll find that hundreds of trauma centers across the United States closed, in part because they served many uninsured patients who were unable to pay the hospitals for their services. Now that a few years have passed since the insurance mandate was implemented, it was important to look back and ask whether passing of the Affordable Care Act’s insurance mandate in 2010 helped our highly vulnerable trauma patient population get the insurance they need,” she said.

Connor found that after the implementation of the ACA, trauma patients treated at USA Medical Center were more likely to have health care coverage and utilize post-discharge services, compared to the pre-ACA period. In addition, Conner determined that Medicaid patients were more likely than uninsured patients to receive home health services or intermediate nursing care. “However, given that Alabama opted out of the Medicaid expansion, this still leaves 40 percent of our trauma patient population without health insurance coverage,” she said.

McFarland, a first-year medical student at USA, won the prize for the best oral presentation for his talk titled “Role of Endothelial TRPV4 Channels in Carotid Artery Function and Low-Flow Remodeling.”

McFarland’s project was sponsored by Drs. Mark Taylor and David Weber from the Department of Physiology and Cell Biology at the USA College of Medicine and explored how the blood vessels of mice without the TRPV4 protein, a critical ion channel protein, respond to various drug stimuli. “One of the functions of this protein is to sense blood flow through the arteries,” McFarland said. “We were interested in comparing blood vessels from normal mice to those that had the TRPV4 channels genetically removed. This study is unique because it is the first to look at an animal model that lacks TRPV4 channels in the endothelium, but retains TRPV4 in other cells and tissues of the body.”

Ultimately, McFarland found that blood vessels lacking TRPV4 channels contracted more. “This implies that in normal endothelium TRPV4 channels serve to alleviate vessel contractions.”

According to McFarland, this research is important because it helps understand the body’s progression from a normal state to a disease state. “We are particularly focused on atherosclerosis, which is linked to endothelial dysfunction,” he said. “The goal is to better understand the progression of a healthy blood vessel to one that has endothelial dysfunction and may eventually develop atherosclerosis. If we can better understand that transition, we hopefully can prevent it from occurring and keep people from developing the disease."

Winners of the Clyde G. ‘Sid’ Huggins Medical Student Research Awards receive a plaque and a cash award of $100 each.

Click here to learn more about this year’s event.

Monday, September 18, 2017

USA Mourns Loss of Dr. Paul Dyken

Dr. Paul Richard Dyken, former professor and chair of neurology at the University of South Alabama, passed away on Sept. 11, 2017, surrounded by his family after a courageous battle with cancer.

A memorial service will be held on Sept. 19, 2017, at Springhill Avenue United Methodist Church at 3:00 p.m., with visitation starting at 2:00 pm.

Dr. Dyken was a distinguished physician, specializing in pediatric neurology. He served as the chair of the neurology department at USA for 10 years, retiring in 1994. He previously practiced at Washington University, the University of Chicago, Indiana University, the Medical College of Wisconsin and the Medical College of Georgia.

He also performed sabbaticals at Harvard University in the early 1980s to study the new field of electron microscopy and in Saudi Arabia in the 1990s to further his lifelong study of the rare neurological disease SSPE.

Dr. Dyken was a past president of the Child Neurology Society, founded the Southern Child Neurology Society in 1975, and published numerous academic papers, chapters, and a textbook in his field of expertise.

After retirement, Dr. Dyken continued his lifelong love of learning through educational pursuits at USA, Springhill College and home-based video seminars. He discovered a talent for art, and enjoyed painting. Dr. Dyken was known for his adventurous spirit, integrity, and his love for his family. He was active in physical fitness and ran several marathons. He was a member of Springhill Avenue United Methodist Church and enjoyed watching Indiana University basketball, Atlanta Braves baseball, and Alabama Crimson Tide football. He also traveled extensively and enjoyed seeing the world on several cruises with his wife and other family members.

He is survived by his loving wife of 56 years, Linda (Bertsch) Dyken; three children, Michele "Shelly" (Dyken) Nimtz of Mobile, Jason R. Dyken and wife Renee of Gulf Shores, and Jill (Dyken) Baska and husband Harold of Decatur, Ga.; as well as five beautiful grandchildren, Cora Nimtz, Jace Dyken, Landon Dyken, Colton Dyken and Carmon Dyken. In addition, he precedes his brother Mark Dyken, Jr., wife Beverly, and their six children. In lieu of flowers, the family asks donations be made to the USA Mitchell Cancer Institute or Springhill Avenue United Methodist Church.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

USA Health Staff Dancing For Patients’ Health

Dr. Lynn Batten, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine and a pediatric cardiologist with USA Physicians Group, has a plan to help her pediatric patients get excited about fitness.

During the past several months, she and her staff, along with other medical professionals throughout USA Health, have appeared on the YouTube channel Dr. Fun’s Dance Party USA. The channel is a series of videos featuring USA staff dancing along to hit pop songs. The goal is for the videos to inspire young patients to get up and move with the videos.

“For the past few years, I’ve been interested in creating dance parties for my patients as a way to inspire them to have fun while they exercise,” Dr. Batten said.

After a young patient was hospitalized while waiting for a heart transplant in Birmingham, Ala., the mother of the child emailed Dr. Batten and said their days were very long, and that her daughter could use something to make her smile.

Dr. Batten found inspiration in YouTube. “My son Lucas has been making YouTube videos for quite some time, and so I came to him with the idea of creating a channel where my patients can smile and dance with me no matter where they are,” she said.

With her son’s filming and editing expertise, Dr. Batten was able to get her staff up and moving for their first video, a dance to the pop artist Bruno Mars’ song “24K Magic,” which was the patient’s favorite song.

“The patient passed away soon after the video went up,” Dr. Batten said. “However, her mother did let me know that she in fact saw it and it made her heart shine.”

Four videos later, Dr. Batten remains committed to getting her patients excited about getting up to move. Most recently, staff from the entire first floor of the Strada Patient Care Center came together to film a  choreographed video featuring the song “Shut Up and Dance” by the pop group Walk the Moon.

“We’re thrilled to have so many colleagues, including physicians, residents, nurses and medical students who are stepping up to make patients smile and exercise with us,” Dr. Batten said. “Plus,” she laughed, “You should see some of their incredible dance moves. Have you seen Dr. Maertens’ freestyling moves? They are great.”

Dr. Batten feels that by connecting with her patients through popular music and dance, maybe she can make them more excited about incorporating exercise in their lives. “There was a young patient who would not talk to me at all about walking or any form of exercise, but when I asked him what his favorite song was, he lit up and wanted to tell me all about his dance moves,” she said.

Dr. Batten plans to continue making the videos, and hopes that other physicians will branch out to make their own videos for patients. “Other physicians’ patients do not know me and would not be interested in seeing me dance in their videos, but they would be very excited to see their doctor being silly and having a great time,” she said.

Dr. Batten takes song requests during every appointment with her young patients. She also includes the link for the YouTube channel in the patients’ paperwork when they check out. “Most of the time they find the link before they even get home,” she said. She said she remains committed to making her patients feel good about themselves, their fitness and their visit to the clinic.

To view Dr. Fun’s Dance Party USA videos, click here.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Mark Your Calendar: Mobile Medical Museum Lecture to Feature Dr. Paul Kelton

Dr. Paul Kelton, Robert David Lion Gardiner Chair in American History at Stony Brook University in New York, will present a lecture on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017, at 6 p.m. at Stewartfield at Spring Hill College.

Dr. Kelton is the author of "Cherokee Medicine, Colonial Germs: An Indigenous Nation's Fight against Smallpox."

This lecture is part of a series of events dedicated to Sally Green, former Mobile Medical Museum board of trustee’s president and director, who passed away earlier this year.

The lecture is free of charge and open to the public. The program has been made possible by the Sally Clark Green Memorial Fund and by a grant from the Alabama Humanities Foundation, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

For more information, contact the Mobile Medical Museum at (251) 415-1109.

Dr. Jonathan Rayner Appointed Director of Laboratory of Infectious Diseases

Dr. Jonathan Rayner recently was appointed associate professor of microbiology and immunology and serves as director of the Laboratory of Infectious Diseases (LID) at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine.

As director, Dr. Rayner is responsible for general administrative oversight of the LID to help ensure compliance with all federal, state and University policies. He will also promote the use of the facility in support of innovative new science that can be applied to addressing concerns with infectious diseases of importance in public health and biodefense.

“Dr. Rayner provides the department with needed expertise in virology, an underrepresented research area, especially for viruses that are a potential threat to the gulf coast area,” said Dr. David Wood, professor and chair of microbiology and immunology at the USA College of Medicine. “In addition, his experience in the private sector with public and private contracts offers the opportunity to expand our infectious disease research at the Laboratory of Infectious Diseases.”

Dr. Rayner said he plans to implement the University’s current Good Clinical Practice Program at the LID to support infectious disease diagnostics and surveillance as well as human clinical trials for infectious disease vaccines. He will also apply his extensive experience in Good Laboratory Practice regulations to the development of animal models and assays that can support early stage discovery and evaluation of medical interventions against new, emerging, and re-emerging infectious diseases like Zika virus, Chickungunya virus and antimicrobial resistant bacteria.

Dr. Rayner received his Ph.D. in microbiology at Colorado State University in 1998 as part of the Arthropod-borne and Infectious Diseases Laboratory where he studied the factors influencing vector-competence for yellow fever virus and dengue viruses. He then completed two post-doctoral research programs with the American Society for Microbiology/National Centers for Infectious Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Division of Arthropod-borne Infectious Diseases where he studied the role of non-structural protein mutations on attenuation of dengue virus. He then evaluated the use of a replicon based vaccine platform based on the genome of Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) for vaccine development with the National Research Council at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Frederick, Md.

Dr. Rayner continued his research on the VEEV replicon systems as a research scientist at AlphaVax, Inc., where he was responsible for optimizing the platform and developing vaccines targeting infectious diseases and cancer. After transferring to MRIGlobal, Dr. Rayner received extensive training in Good Laboratory Practice, ISO 9001, and program management. He served as principal investigator, program manager and study director on several large Department of Defense contracts to determine the bioweapons threat posed by neurovirulent and hemorrhagic fever viruses.  He also participated in numerous commercial contracts to assess the efficacy of pre- and post-exposure therapies and stability and safety of candidate vaccines in animal models.

Immediately prior to joining the University of South Alabama, Dr. Rayner served as the Director of Infectious Disease research at Southern Research in Birmingham, AL where he extended his experience to include support of human clinical trials for new vaccines against influenza and Zika; and the development of an immunopotency assay for lot release and stability testing of vaccines under Current Good Manufacturing Practice regulations.

“As director, Dr. Rayner will establish model systems for a variety of infectious diseases that can be made available to public and private investigators around the country,” Dr. Wood said. “His extensive biosafety and biosecurity background will also complement existing expertise in the department.”

USA Health Honors Employees at Jags Game

USA Health Game Day 2017.mp4 from USA Health on Vimeo.

Dr. Errol Crook, professor and Abraham Mitchell Chair of Internal Medicine at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, waves to the crowd as he and several other employees of USA Health are recognized at USA Health Game Day on Sept. 8, 2017.
USA Health recently showed appreciation to its employees at the USA Jaguars vs. Oklahoma State football game on Sept. 8, 2017.

Each USA Health employee and volunteer who registered for the event received two complimentary tickets to the game. Prior to the game, employees also enjoyed a tailgate dinner provided by Sonny’s BBQ.

This year, approximately 3,000 USA Health guests attended the tailgate dinner and game.

Ten USA Health employees were selected to walk onto the field during the game to be recognized: Eduardo Rel, USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital; Ingrid Lawson, USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital; Fuh Tzer (Alice) Jong, USA Mitchell Cancer Institute; Vanessa McMillian, USA Mitchell Cancer Institute; Roderick Nobles, USA Medical Center; Terry Rose, USA Medical Center; Dr. Natalie Fox, USA Physicians Group; LaSandra White, USA Physicians Group; Dr. Errol Crook, USA College of Medicine; and Charlene Jordan, USA College of Medicine.

Click here to view more photos from USA Health Game Day, and watch the video below that was played during the game.

USA Health from USA Health on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

September Med School Café - ‘The Importance of Taking Your Medications Correctly’

The September Med School Café lecture will feature Emily McCoy, adjunct assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine and associate clinical professor at the Auburn University Harrison School of Pharmacy.  McCoy also serves as a pharmacist with University Physicians Group on University Boulevard.

Her lecture, titled “The Importance of Taking Your Medications Correctly,” will be held on Sept. 22, 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.

During the lecture, McCoy will review the interactions of common medications and supplements, as well as describe how the environment can affect medication safety and effectiveness. She will also discuss how timing of medication administration can impact medication effectiveness.

McCoy earned her doctor of pharmacy degree from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis. She also completed an ambulatory care pharmacy residency with an emphasis in academia at the University of Tennessee.

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

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.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

USA Medical Center Gala 'A Night Honoring Heroes' Set for Oct. 10

Highlighting the courage and dedication of first responders and medical professionals who help patients survive after a traumatic injury, the University of South Alabama Medical Center will host “A Night Honoring Heroes,” a gala scheduled from 5:30 - 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 10, at the Mobile Convention Center.

“A Night Honoring Heroes” will include a reception, dinner and inspiring video presentations of two patients who suffered traumatic injuries and those who cared for them. University of South Alabama Foundation is the title sponsor for the inaugural event, which will benefit USA Medical Center’s Level 1 Trauma Center.

USA Medical Center holds a unique role as the region’s only Level 1 Trauma Center, the epicenter of the highest level of care when the unexpected happens. USA Medical Center is the only area hospital that has an in-house, around-the-clock trauma team, which includes specialized surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, respiratory therapists and others. Working together, they utilize the resources of all medical specialties for a patient’s benefit, greatly improving the chance of survival.

USA Foundation President John McMillan said the Foundation is honored to support “A Night Honoring Heroes.”

“We applaud the commitment and selfless work of those first responders, physicians, nurses and support staff, providing 24-7 life-saving care for the Mobile and surrounding communities,” McMillan said. “We particularly support the unique health care efforts of those involved in the trauma service of the USA Medical Center.  All of us with the USA Foundation are humbled to be a part of this event of special thanks to those who give of themselves tirelessly.”  

Ralph Hargrove, who leads Mobile-based Hargrove Engineers + Constructors, and his wife, Kimberly, are serving as community co-chairs. Through their company, the Hargroves have had personal experience with the exceptional treatment received at USA Medical Center.

“Last year, several of my teammates were in a horrific car accident in Baldwin County and were airlifted to USA Medical Center where they received outstanding, life-saving care,” Ralph Hargrove said.

USA Vice President of Medical Affairs and Dean of the College of Medicine Dr. John Marymont said, “When a life-changing trauma occurs, a team of heroes springs into action for a patient. From police, firefighters and EMS crews to health care professionals throughout the hospital, they stand ready to offer this vital service. This event will honor them as the heroes they truly are.”

USA Medical Center also serves as a key component for economic development efforts in the region. Without its Level 1 Trauma Center and Arnold Luterman Regional Burn Center, the area would not be able to support existing large manufacturing or chemical companies or attract new ones.

Additional sponsorships and event tickets are available. For more information, contact Margaret Sullivan, vice president of development and alumni relations, at or (251) 460-7616.

USA College of Medicine Research Lab Recognized with ‘Blue Flame’ Award

Dr. Mikhail Alexeyev, associate professor of physiology and cell biology at the USA College of Medicine, holds the "Blue Fame" award with research assistant Viktoriya Pastukh. The award was presented to the lab by international nonprofit repository Addgene.
The lab of Dr. Mikhail Alexeyev, associate professor of physiology and cell biology at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, was presented a “Blue Flame” award by international nonprofit repository Addgene.

Addgene repository facilitates the sharing of molecular biology resources such as plasmids. Plasmids are DNA-based research reagents commonly used in the life sciences. When scientists publish research papers, they deposit their associated plasmids at Addgene. Then, when other scientists read the publication, they have easy access to the plasmids needed to conduct future experiments.

The “Blue Flame” award is issued to a lab when one of the deposited DNA molecules (plasmids) is distributed to at least 100 labs nationally and internationally. Dr. Alexeyev said the plasmid that led to his lab’s award was generated to enable regulated gene overexpression and knockdown in cell lines of interest. “Initially, it was used to express DNA repair enzymes in mitochondria and to knock down expression of lactate dehydrogenase in rodent pulmonary microvascular endothelial cells (PMVECs).  Since then, it has been used by several labs at USA to overexpress or downregulate various genes in the PMVECs and to study mitochondrial biology.”

Dr. Alexeyev said this award recognizes the national and international impact of research at USA. “This award means that at least 100 labs in the world use this particular plasmid and, therefore, are aware of research conducted at USA,” he said. “Together with other plasmids, results of our research have been distributed to more than 350 labs, which helps put research conducted here on the global map.”

The plasmids in Dr. Alexeyev’s lab have been requested by researches from several world premier institutions such as Harvard, CalTech, MIT, Yale, Princeton, Imperial College London, NIH (several institutes), McGill University, Korea Institute of Science and Technology, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Case Western Reserve University, University College London, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Duke, University of Oxford, Cornell, National Taiwan University, and National University of Singapore, among others.

For more information on Addgene, visit .

USA Medical Student Spends Summer at Johns Hopkins CUPID Program

Kyle Clark, center, at the CUPID Oncology Program.
Kyle Clark, a second-year medical student at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, recently returned from the Cancer in Under-Privileged, Indigent, or Disadvantaged (CUPID) Summer Translational Oncology Program at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

The program accepts upcoming second-year medical students from across the country. For seven weeks, students work in an intensive, structured, laboratory-based research environment and present their research in a symposium at the end of the program.

“I was excited to be selected by Johns Hopkins and to participate in the program during the summer,” Clark said.

Clark’s research focused on selecting appropriate patients in the pediatric oncology unit for referral to genetics. Clark said the literature shows that about 10 percent of pediatric oncology patients have an underlying genetic predisposition for their cancer. “Not only that, it turns out half of those patients are not noticed by the treating physician,” he said. “I researched how Johns Hopkins can improve genetic referral for this cancer population.”

Clark and fellow student researchers attended daily lectures on cancer and cancer disparities over the course of the program. “I learned many things about cancer and how cancer treatment and management can possibly improve the lives of cancer patients,” Clark said.

Clark’s favorite experience while in the program was a trip to Washington D.C. to meet with members of the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (NCCS). During the meeting, Clark and fellow students met with cancer survivors to hear their stories and experiences. They also met with representatives at the federal level, which allowed Clark to meet with Representative Bradley Byrne of Alabama’s first congressional district, as well as Senators Luther Strange and Richard Shelby of Alabama.

Clark recommends the program to any medical student interested in research and oncology. “It was a great experience, and I learned so much.”

For more information about CUPID, click here.

USA Family Medicine Center Becomes Reach Out and Read Program Site

Dr. Ashlen Aggen, a family medicine resident at USA Health, gives away a book at USA Family Medicine Center's “Champions of Reading” themed kick-off event. The USA Family Medicine Center recently became a Reach Out and Read program site.
The University of South Alabama Family Medicine Center recently became a Reach Out and Read program site, providing age-appropriate books to children at their well-child appointments.

Reach Out and Read (ROR) is a national non-profit organization that advocates for child literacy by working with primary care clinics.

Dr. Ashlen Aggen, a family medicine resident with USA Health, said she is excited for USA Family Medicine to participate in the program. “All of our providers went through training to learn about the importance of helping children build their home libraries and to learn how to select age-appropriate books for children based on their level of development,” she said. “Our first year of the program will be funded by ROR, and USA Family Medicine will take on the expense of continuing the program.”

According to Dr. Aggen, it is important to emphasize the importance of reading to children at a young age. “Reading teaches children to imagine, explore and look at the world in a different way,” she said. “Reading unlocks the door to higher education and becoming whatever you want to be in this world. As a primary care team, the greatest thing we can do is be advocates for our patients. A program that will help set them on a path to achieving their dreams allows us to be the advocates our pediatric patients deserve.”

The Family Medicine Center recently held a “Champions of Reading” themed kick-off event. “At the event, we encouraged children to decorate their own capes and masks to become their own reading superheroes before ‘defending the city’ and taking pictures at our photo booth,” Dr. Aggen said. “Our clinic staff dressed up as various superheroes and fictional characters.”

To learn more about Reach Out and Read, click here

Friday, September 1, 2017

USA Health Connects with Harris Health in Houston

USA Health Harris Health from USA Health on Vimeo.

Last week, Hurricane Harvey unleashed devastation upon Texas that decimated many communities. USA Health recently reached out to the leadership of the Harris Health System and learned that many of their employees have been severely affected.

The LBJ and Ben Taub Hospitals form the Harris Health System, an academic health system similar to USA Health serving 4.5 million people in Harris County and the greater Houston area. They provide high quality, compassionate care and serve all members of society equally with respect and dignity without distinction. 

We encourage you to support our fellow colleagues in Houston as they care for their community and work to put their lives and homes back together. Like us, they help people live longer, better lives.

If you wish to contribute, click here. Once you are on the web page, there is a drop down menu where you can select Employee Disaster Assistance. Further down the page, check “make this gift on behalf of an organization” and type in USA Health.

USA Health to Host Inaugural EBP Symposium

USA Health will host the inaugural evidence-based practice (EBP) symposium on Friday, Sept. 22, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Atlantis Room in the CWEB-2 building behind USA Children's & Women's Hospital.

The symposium, titled “EBP in Action,” is open to nurses and nursing students.

The keynote speaker will be Dr. Linda Roussel, professor of nursing at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in Birmingham, Ala. She will discuss EBP, a problem-solving approach to clinical decision-making within a health care organization. EBP integrates the best available scientific evidence with the best available experiential (patient and practitioner) evidence.

The event is $20 for nurses and $12 for nursing students. Lunch is included. 5.7 contact hours will be available to those who attend.

Click here to register. For more information, email