Thursday, March 30, 2017

‘Kindness is a Universal Language’

They were immersed into another culture where resources were scarce, poverty was abundant and a language barrier forced them to step outside of their comfort zone. Despite these challenges, the group instantly felt at home due to the abundance of joy that radiated throughout the community.

“Kindness is a universal language,” said Kristen Schultz, a fourth-year medical student at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine. “You don’t have to speak the same language to show love and compassion.”

Schultz—along with fellow classmates and attending physicians— recently returned from a month-long medical mission trip to Rwanda, Africa, where they directly helped patients in the area and at the same time received hands-on experience.

The group, including 11 USA medical students and five USA physicians, spent a month working at Kibogora Hospital, a roughly 230-bed self-supported facility in Southwestern Rwanda. They worked alongside Rwandan physicians in a variety of fields, including surgery, pediatrics, internal medicine, ophthalmology, obstetrics and dentistry.

According to Schultz, experiencing a shortage on supplies such as alcohol, anesthetic, bandages and sterile gowns was very common. She spent most of her time taking care of patients in surgical wards, helping out in the minor procedure room and scrubbing into cases.

Schultz said her interaction with a 10-year-old-boy who had a congenital deformity on his right leg was one of the most memorable moments of her trip. The young boy required an amputation, but the hospital was out of anesthetic. “Although the patient was already prepped and in the operating room, we could not begin the procedure until the anesthetic arrived from the neighboring town,” Schultz said.

As they waited, Schultz thought of ways to comfort him. “He was cold and definitely scared,” she said. Schultz began showing the patient photos on her phone to take his mind off of surgery. She then showed him Snapchat, using the camera to change the appearance of his face using filters. “At first he tried to act like he wasn’t interested, but once Snapchat turned him into an old man he couldn’t help but smile and laugh,” she said.

Fourth-year USA medical student Alex Kesler said his hope for the trip was to serve others in need and to learn the joys and struggles of the people in Rwanda. “I also wanted to grow in my faith and have the opportunity to address the faith of the patients in Kibogora Hospital,” he said.

Kesler said many hospital employees walked for hours to get to work each day, yet they were always seen with a smile on their face. “They love their work and the people they serve,” he said. “The most important thing I learned was that across the world there are always different struggles we face, and in the midst of the hardships there are amazing stories of faith and perseverance that can be seen through the daily actions of people.”

Mission trips have always been of great interest to Carter Tisdale, another fourth-year medical student at the USA College of Medicine. “This was my fourth medical mission trip through the Christian Medical Ministry of South Alabama during medical school,” he said. “Ever since going to Honduras during my first year of medical school, I have wanted to mold my future profession in medicine around medical missions.”

Tisdale said the most memorable part of his trip was participating in spiritual rounds that took place every Sunday afternoon in the hospital’s surgery ward. “Members of our team and local Kinyarwandan translators would voluntarily give up their afternoons to walk around at patients’ bedsides, talking and praying with them,” he said. “Upon being asked by one of the translators who wanted to be prayed for, every hand in the ward shot up enthusiastically and song and dance broke out among the patients.”

“Being a health care professional gives you a passport into people’s lives,” Tisdale added. “This experience was a perfect punctuation to our medical education at South Alabama, serving as a reminder of the relational aspect of patient care before we enter residency training.”

Dr. Keith Peevy, professor of pediatrics at the USA College of Medicine and a neonatologist at USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital, said the group’s commitment to service was unwavering. “They were a great, warmhearted group who were very supportive of each other and the larger team,” he said. “They shared the duties of living communally with no complaint and did their clinical duties enthusiastically. Overall, they made the trip pleasure for the faculty.”

Dr. Peevy said he highly recommends medical students and faculty members to participate in medical mission trips in the future. “The opportunity for personal growth is not something that one can foresee, but its occurrence is virtually certain,” he said. “You come back changed.”

The mission trip is sponsored by the Christian Medical Ministry of South Alabama (CMMSA). To learn more about CMMSA and supporting medical mission trips like these, visit

Click here to view more photos from the trip.

Vote for Best Gumbo, Chili at the Showdown April 8

The 2017 Gumbo Chili Showdown will be held April 8, 2017, preceding the University of South Alabama Jaguars Spring Game at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

The event supports a scholarship at the USA College of Medicine created in memory of Regan Robinson Young, a medical student at USA who was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer in 2008 at the age of 23. She passed away four months shy of graduation. The scholarship provides assistance to a rising senior medical student who embodies Regan’s spirit and character.

Teams will compete against one another for the crown of Best Gumbo or Chili as judged by both the audience, faculty and celebrity judges.

Tickets to attend the event are $10 day-of, and kids under 10 years of age are admitted for free. Tickets can be pre-ordered for $8 by emailing
Click here for more information.

Register Now: 26th Annual OBGYN Conference

The University of South Alabama Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology will host its 26th annual Continuing Education Conference in Obstetrics and Gynecology on April 20-21, 2017. The event will take place at the Daphne Civic Center in Daphne, Ala.

The event will be of particular interest to OB/GYN physicians, family medicine physicians, advanced practice nurses, physician assistants, nurse midwives, social workers and others interested in the health care of women and newborns.

USA speakers include Dr. Susan Baker; Jessa R. Blount, MS, CGC; Dr. Kevin Bradley; Dr. Brian Brocato; Dr. Benjamin Estrada; Dr. Karen Fagan; Dr. Charles Hanes; Dr. Johnson Haynes; Dr. Nicolette Holliday; Dr. Leigh Minchew; Dr. Botros Rizk; Dr. Jennifer Scalici; and Dr. Christina Talerico.

Special guest speakers include Dr. Joanie Hare from Houston Perinatal Associates in Houston, Texas; Birdie Gunyun Meyer, RN, MA, from Indiana University Health in Indianapolis, Ind.; and Allison Todd, MSN, RN, from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Register for the conference here. Registration cost includes a syllabus on flash drive, free parking, continental breakfast, lunch and a snack.

USA PsychSIGN Hosting Drive for Homeless Community

The University of South Alabama College of Medicine Psychiatry Student Interest Group Network (PsychSIGN) recently partnered with the USA Student-Run Free Clinic to host a spring donation drive to benefit homeless patients. The drive ends Saturday, April 15, 2017.

The student-run free clinic is in need of the following items: white socks, travel size deodorant, insect repellent, sunscreen, reusable water bottles, granola bars, and other to-go snacks. Donations can be placed in the blue bins located at the Medical Sciences Building in the first-and second-year lecture halls and the Mastin Professional Building in Suite 202.

Blake Tennant, a fourth-year medical student at the USA College of Medicine and PsychSIGN president, said giving back to the community is important for medical students. “It reminds us that the calling of a physician is not about the salary or social status, but rather about dedicating our time and expertise to the betterment of our patients,” he said.

PsychSIGN is a national network of medical students interested in psychiatry, from those with a rough interest in the brain and mind to those already in the residency application and match process. “The purpose of PsychSIGN is to encourage interest in psychiatry, increase mental health awareness, provide leadership and service opportunities, foster networking opportunities and attend psychiatric conferences and events,” Tennant said.

The USA Student-Run Free Clinic was created entirely by students and provides free wellness services to the homeless population of Mobile. The clinic is in the process of moving to the Salvation Army of Coastal Alabama. It is one of the only free, inter-professional student-run clinics in the nation where students from multiple health professional schools collaborate to provide care to the community’s homeless population.

Contact Kevin Putinta, PsychSIGN community service chair, at for more information.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

'What You Can Learn about a Heart Attack from a Microbiologist'

The next Distinguished Scientist Seminar at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine will feature Dr. Jonathon Audia, associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the USA College of Medicine.

The lecture, titled “What You Can Learn about a Heart Attack from a Microbiologist,” will take place March 30, 2017, at 4 p.m. in the first floor auditorium of the Medical Sciences Building on USA’s main campus.

Dr. Audia earned both his undergraduate degree and master’s degree in science from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and his Ph.D. in basic medical sciences from the USA College of Medicine. His research interests include the physiology and gene regulation of rickettsia.

Learn more about Dr. Audia here.

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