Thursday, July 30, 2015

USA Welcomes Dr. Maximilian Pyko

Dr. Maximilian Pyko recently was appointed assistant professor of radiology at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine and will serve as an interventional radiologist with USA Physicians Group.

Dr. Pyko earned his medical degree from Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine. He completed his internship at St. John Macomb Hospital in Warren, Mich., and his residency in diagnostic radiology at McLaren Macomb in Mt Clemons, Mich., where he served as co-chief resident. In addition, he completed a fellowship in interventional radiology at Indiana University Hospital in Indianapolis.

Dr. Pyko is a member of the Society of Interventional Radiology, Radiological Society of North America, the American Osteopathic College of Radiology, and the American Osteopathic Association.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Dr. Barrington Receives Grant Award from American Lung Association

Up to 25 percent of people with pulmonary alveolar proteinosis (PAP), a rare autoimmune disease that affects lung function, die within five years of their diagnosis.

Dr. Robert Barrington, assistant professor in the department of microbiology and immunology at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, recently was awarded a two-year research grant totaling $80,000 from the American Lung Association to explore ways to improve this statistic.

Current therapy for PAP patients involves whole lung lavage, an invasive procedure that often must be performed every 1-2 years.

In the process of researching lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease, Dr. Barrington and his lab discovered what he described as “a little bit of serendipity.”

“We found the study models became extremely ill but not from lupus.  We started examining other tissues and discovered autoimmune PAP was the cause.  We are excited because this is the first observation of this autoimmune disease in lab models and we are therefore positioned to learn how this disease originates,” Dr. Barrington said. “By identifying underlying mechanisms of autoimmune PAP, we hope to identify new therapeutic targets in treating this disease and to also establish whether there are shared mechanisms between PAP and other autoimmune diseases such as lupus.”

PAP is a potentially deadly disease whereby disease-causing antibodies impair the functions of key cells in the lungs. This process leads to a buildup of fluid in the lungs, which in turn causes the patient to have difficulty breathing.  Currently it is not known how these antibodies are generated. The goal of Dr. Barrington’s work is to understand this process and explore potential ways to block antibody production thereby improving patient care.

With this grant award, Dr. Barrington and his lab will have the support they need to continue their research on PAP. “It is a real honor to have our work recognized by the American Lung Association and to represent a nationally renowned foundation,” Dr. Barrington said.  “Without our ongoing support from the University, the department of microbiology and Immunology and the USA Center for Lung Biology, the progress on this research would not have been possible.”

Dr. Barrington says he is preparing to submit the first manuscript for publication on this project, with his work’s ultimate goal of having a positive impact on patients with PAP. Dr. Barrington hopes this new model can be applied to helping those with PAP and potentially other autoimmune diseases.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

SouthMed Prep Scholars Present Research at USA

SouthMed Scholar Randon Campbell from Morehouse College presents his research during the SouthMed Prep Scholars Research Day at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine on July 21, 2015.
Students in the SouthMed Prep Scholars Program recently presented their research at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine on July 21, 2015.

The SouthMed Prep Scholars Program is a pre-medical school enrichment program designed for a select number of college freshman who aspire to become physicians and who are enrolled at one of the following partnering institutions: Dillard University, Morehouse College, Spelman College, Tuskegee University and Xavier University. The program continues through the students’ senior year of college and is comprised of two eight-week summer sessions that focus on research, MCAT preparation and the interview process.

In addition to research activities, SouthMed scholars also participate in mock interviews; network with USA College of Medicine faculty, staff and students; and are introduced to the simulation lab and the clinical skills lab at USA.

View more photos from the SouthMed Prep Scholars Research Day here.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Tobacco Cessation - Staying on Track

Dr. Robert Hanks, director of counseling and testing services at USA
On Aug. 1, 2015, the University of South Alabama and USA Health System will become tobacco-free campuses. As part of this transition, the university will offer assistance to employees and students who wish to stop using tobacco products, including smokeless and e-cigarettes, through several tobacco cessation programs. This article is the third of a four-part series about tobacco cessation. Part 1 can be found here and Part 2 can be found here.

Once you quit smoking or stop using tobacco products, the next step in the process is staying on track. 

Dr. Robert Hanks, director of counseling and testing services at USA, said the main component for quitting smoking and staying tobacco free is identifying your personal barriers and ways to avoid or cope with those barriers. 

“Being confident in one’s ability to quit is important and key to successful cessation efforts,” Dr. Hanks said. “Even if you slip, it is best to be able to put that in perspective and not allow that to result in you giving up. Slips are a natural part of quitting. It is best to view it not as a failure, but as an opportunity to learn.”

Another way to avoid slipping back into tobacco use is by avoiding triggers, or behaviors that become linked to smoking.

“People who are quitting will need to evaluate their mood and environmental conditions that might lead to an urge to smoke,” Dr. Hanks said. “They will often have to change their regular routine. For example, they will need to substitute smoking after eating a meal with another activity to fill the void. This could be a wide range of things such as relaxation strategies, calling a friend, pleasant diversions or exercise.”

For those who are breaking the smoking habit, one way to avoid triggers is to stay away from smoking areas and get soft materials like rugs and upholstered furniture deep cleaned to remove the smell of cigarettes.

Dr. Hanks encourages those who are contemplating quitting to reflect on their prior quitting efforts and think about some of the things that were helpful in quitting, as well as the things that weren’t helpful. This will help you evaluate what works best for your next attempt.

Counseling is another successful method for staying on track. Counseling provides a supportive face-to-face discussion. Esther Rogers, employee assistance program counselor at USA, said the first thing she does with a person who is trying to quit tobacco is assess their situation. “I will start by asking them if they have family support,” Rogers said. “Are they planning on seeing a doctor? Have they tried to quit before, and if so what worked then?”

From there, Rogers said she and the person will make a plan about what to do when they face a trigger and when they have a craving. The final part of the assessment is getting the person to set a goal for when they want to quit.

The main aspect of quitting is to discuss the realistic things that are going to happen. People who are trying to quit tobacco are going to go through withdrawal symptoms and will possibly relapse before they quit for good. Rogers explains that it is a process – keep the positives in mind, and remember your motivation for quitting.

Withdrawal symptoms can include jitteriness, irritability, headache, insomnia, anxiety, increased appetite, weight gain, depressed mood, restlessness and anhedonia – no longer taking interest or pleasure in things in which you previously derived interest or pleasure.

“These symptoms usually peak at three to five days, resolve around two weeks and diminish overtime,” said Dr. Alana Schilthuis, assistant professor of internal medicine at the USA College of Medicine and an internist with USA Physicians Group. 

There are several ways to combat these withdrawal symptoms. Dr. Ehab Molokhia, associate professor of family medicine at the USA College of Medicine, recommends asking your primary care physician about medications approved for smoking and tobacco cessation.

Medications are designed to help reduce withdrawal symptoms. The combination of different methods such as counseling and medication is more effective than either alone.

Other ways to manage withdrawal symptoms are visiting a counselor to help you through the quitting process; staying active and exercising to relieve tension; using relaxation exercises; making plans beforehand on how to deal with stressful situations; making friends with ex-smokers and non-smokers to provide support and keep you on track; and keeping in mind that quitting smoking is a process.

For more information on quitting, visit For help locating a primary care physician with USA Physician Group call (251) 434-3711.