Thursday, May 10, 2018

Medical School Graduates Participate in Honors Convocation Ceremony

The University of South Alabama held commencement ceremonies on May 5, 2018. The 2018 College of Medicine graduates were among the students participating in commencement – marking the 43rd 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.

“This is the beginning of a long journey, rather than an end to one,” said Dr. John V. Marymont, vice president for medical affairs and dean of the USA College of Medicine. “As you transition from a student to alum, you will join a group of accomplished, revered and respected physicians who have dedicated themselves to the care of others. I ask that you always give your patients your very best – drawing from both the foundation of knowledge you received here and the wisdom shared with you by our outstanding faculty.”

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

USA Health joins NIH All of Us Research Program to advance precision medicine

Enrollment open nationwide for historic research effort

On May 6, the National Institutes of Health opened national enrollment for the All of Us Research Program — a momentous effort to advance individualized prevention, treatment and care for people of all backgrounds — in collaboration with USA Health and other partners. People over the age of 19 and older regardless of health status, are able to enroll.

The overall aim is to enroll 1 million or more volunteers and oversample communities that have been underrepresented in research to make the program the largest, most diverse resource of its kind.

“The time is now to transform how we conduct research—with participants as partners—to shed new light on how to stay healthy and manage disease in more personalized ways. This is what we can accomplish through All of Us,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.

Precision medicine is an emerging approach to disease treatment and prevention that considers differences in people’s lifestyles, environments and biological makeup, including genes. By partnering with 1 million diverse people who share information about themselves over many years, the All of Us Research Program will enable research to more precisely prevent and treat a variety of health conditions.

“All of us are unique, but today we live mostly in an era of ‘one-size-fits-all’ medicine,” said Eric Dishman, director of the All of Us Research Program. “I’m alive today because of precision medicine and I think everyone deserves that same opportunity no matter the color of your skin, your economic status, your age or your sex or gender. In other words, it will truly take all of us.”

All of Us seeks to transform the relationship between researchers and participants, bringing them together as partners to inform the program’s directions, goals and responsible return of research information. Participants will be able to access their own health information, summary data about the entire participant community and information about studies and findings that come from All of Us. 

“All of Us is an exciting endeavor that promises to bring about major changes in how we prevent and treat disease in America, and USA Health is proud to be part of this effort,” said Dr. Errol Crook, Professor and Abraham Mitchell Chair of Internal Medicine at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine. “The program is building a data resource that will accelerate biomedical research for all Americans. We want participants to reflect the rich diversity of the United States. It’s important that groups underrepresented in biomedical research have an opportunity to contribute to and benefit from health studies.”

Participants are asked to share different types of health and lifestyle information, including through online surveys and electronic health records (EHRs), which will continue to be collected over the course of the program. At different times over the coming months and years, some participants will be asked to visit a local partner site to provide blood and urine samples and to have basic physical measurements taken, such as height and weight. To ensure that the program gathers information from all types of people, especially those who have been underrepresented in research, not everyone will be asked to give physical measures and samples. In the future, participants may be invited to share data through wearable devices and to join follow-up research studies, including clinical trials.

Also in future phases of the program, children will be able to enroll, and the program will add more data types, such as genetic data. In addition, data from the program will be broadly accessible for research purposes. Ultimately, the All of Us Research program will be a rich and open data resource for traditional academic researchers as well as citizen scientists—and everyone in between.

NIH has funded more than 100 organizations throughout the U.S. to be partners in the program, including USA Health.

To learn more about the program and how to join, please visit

“All of Us” is a registered service mark of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS).

Dr. Chip Hartin Raising Funds for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Man of the Year Competition

Dr. Charles "Chip" Hartin, associate professor of surgery at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine and pediatric surgeon with USA Physicians Group, was nominated by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) of South Alabama as 2018 Man of the Year.

Man and Woman of the Year is a philanthropic competition to support blood cancer research across the United States. Candidates form fundraising teams and compete in honor of two local children who are blood cancer survivors. The man and woman who have raised the most funds during the 10-week campaign are awarded the title of Man or Woman of the Year in their community.

"We are so close to having a cure for blood cancers and have made many advancements over the last few years," Dr. Hartin said. "Unfortunately, many times drug companies invest in research for treatment drugs rather than drugs that cure. I believe that enough children have lost a parent, and parents have lost enough children to this disease, that we have to end this."

This year the South Alabama chapter of LLS is raising money in honor of Hali Temple and Keaton Krebs, both of whom are receiving treatment for leukemia at USA Children's and Women's Hospital. Keaton was diagnosed in 2017 with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He remains strong and plans to study to become an oncology nurse in the future. Hali was diagnosed in 2017 with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. She is now in remission and is planning to pursue a career as a physician when she grows up.

"Both of these children touched my life when they required my services as their surgeon and also touched the lives of many of the staff at Children's & Women's Hospital," Dr. Hartin said.

Dr. Hartin said his goal is to bring hope to and meet the financial needs of those in the community who are fighting blood cancer. “Each of us has the power to bring hope and light to families walking through the isolating and financially draining season that cancer causes,” he said.

The goal is personal for Dr. Hartin, as he lost his mother to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma when he was 11 years old.

"Had my mother not died of leukemia when I was 11, I would not be in Mobile and would not be a doctor," he said. "Having a career where I get paid to fix children and love every minute of it, I consider myself a winner already. Expanding further on this victory, I get to work alongside the brightest, most caring, and nation's best collection of pediatric specialists, hospital staff and nurse practitioners."

If his team raises $50,000, the LLS will fund and name a research project after his mother, Robajeen Richardson Hartin. "This would be a special honor for our family and another example of something positive being born of a tragic event," he said.

To donate or find other ways to get involved, visit Dr. Hartin’s Man of the Year fundraising page.

COM Alumni to Reunite at Annual Alumni Weekend

The University of South Alabama Medical Alumni Association will host its annual Medical Alumni Weekend June 8-10, at the Pensacola Beach Hilton in Pensacola, Fla. All alumni and their family members are invited to attend.

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. The classes of 1978, 1983, 1988, 1993, 1998, 2003, 2008 and 2013 will be honored at this year’s event.

If an attendee requires special accommodations or dietary considerations, contact the USA Office of Medical Alumni Relations by May 28, 2018 by email at For additional information, contact the Medical Alumni Office at (251) 460-6805 or click here.

Monday, May 7, 2018

USA Medical Students Present Research at MASA Annual Meeting

Mariah Sankey (left) and Perrin Windham, two rising fourth-year students at the USA College of Medicine, recently participated in the Medical Association of the State of Alabama 3rd annual Research Symposium in Montgomery, Ala. At the conference, Sankey received second place and Windham received third place for their poster presentations.
Four rising fourth-year students at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine recently participated in the Medical Association of the State of Alabama (MASA) 3rd annual Research Symposium in Montgomery, Ala.

The students – Mariah Sankey, Perrin Windham, Josh Kay and Lauren Chastian – were among the 39 students and residents chosen to present their research.

At the conference, Sankey received second place for her poster presentation titled “Value of CRP Monitoring in Detecting Clozapine-Induced Myocarditis.” Her research project examined the relationship between c-reactive protein (CRP) levels and impending myocarditis – an inflammatory process of the heart – among patients being treated with clozapine.

“Although clozapine is an efficient anti-psychotic drug used to treat patients with treatment refactory schizophrenia, it is highly underutilized due to the potential side effects of low blood cell counts and myocarditis,” Sankey said.

Sankey said an encounter with patient who was prescribed clozapin during her psychiatry rotation inspired her to conduct research on clozapine-induced myocarditis. “The progress made by the patient was remarkable. He was like night and day after we prescribed clozapine,” she said. “Unfortunately, due to signs and symptoms of myocarditis we discontinued the medication due to lack of resources being immediately available.”

According to Sankey, her overarching goal is to help mental health patients who cannot help themselves. “If there is more research done to establish protocols to detect clozapine-induced myocarditis, patients will have more access to the drug and doctors would feel more comfortable administering it.”

Windham received third place for her presentation on “The Significance of PKGIB in cGMP Induced Death of Breast Cancer Cells.”

She completed his research as part of the McNair Scholars Program while earning his undergraduate degree at the University of Montevallo. “I became interested in cancer at a young age, because my father passed away from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma when I was 8,” she said. “When I was presented the opportunity to conduct research during my undergraduate career, I knew I wanted it to relate to oncology.”

Windham conducted her research on breast cancer with Dr. Heather Tinsely, associate professor of biology at the University of Montevallo. Together, they studied PKG – a specific protein in the cells – to see if it was necessary for cell death to occur. “We knew the activation of a certain pathway by high dose NSAIDs would cause cell death, especially in triple negative breast cancer cells – one of the more aggressive forms,” she said. “However, the drugs used cause many side effects, so our goal was to find a novel target for treatment with less adverse effects.”

Ultimately, their research found that PKG helped to cause death of the triple negative breast cancer cells and could be a novel target for drug therapy in the future.“Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and is the second leading cause of cancer related death in women in the United States,” she said. “Identifying proteins that play important roles in breast cancer development and progression is paramount in the quest for improving detection and preventing development.”

Kay’s research project, titled “Complex Management of Acute Gastrointestinal Bleed in the Setting of Multiple Risk Factors for Venous Thromboembolism,” focused on deep venous thrombosis – an obstructive thrombin clot most commonly located in the deep veins of the lower extremities.

Chastain presented “Access to Care in the Spanish Universal Healthcare System: Gynecology and Cardiology Appointments and Hospitalizations in the Canary Islands,” at the conference. Her project focused on affordable access to and efficient provision of cardiology and obstetric and gynecology care at the Hosptial Universitario Nuestro SeƱora de Candelaria on Tenerife, Spanish Canary Islands.

The Medical Association of the State of Alabama is the professional association for some 7,000 physicians of all specialties throughout Alabama. The association exists to serve, lead and unite physicians in promoting the highest quality of health care for the people of Alabama through advocacy, information and education.

To learn more about MASA, visit the website.