The University of Alabama’s College of Community Health Sciences celebrates 50 years of responding to the state’s acute need for more doctors for small towns and rural communities that have suffered from a severe lack of care health.
Founded in 1972 by Dr. William R. Willard, who served as the college’s first dean, CCHS focused on the specialty of family medicine.
“In many ways it was the hardest job I’ve had…because we were trying to train a new kind of doctor, a family doctor,” Willard said in a 1979 interview for “Point in Question”, a UA TV production. “But at the same time, I think it’s perhaps one of the most rewarding because I think we have the opportunity to have a significant impact on an important social issue, which is people’s health care. small towns and rural areas. ”
Since opening its doors five decades ago, CCHS has done just that. The college has educated thousands of medical students and resident physicians, created programs to recruit and mentor high school and rural Alabama students interested in medicine and wanting to practice in their hometown or similar communities, and added graduate programs in population health, and community and rural health.
The Tuscaloosa Family Medicine Residency Program has graduated 527 family physicians. More than half of the graduates have remained in Alabama to practice, and about half of them practice in rural communities across the state. In fact, one in seven family physicians practicing in Alabama graduates from residency. CCHS has also developed fellowships through residency to provide additional training for family physicians in behavioral health, emergency medicine, geriatrics, hospital medicine, obstetrics, pediatrics, and sports medicine – the highest number of scholarship offers from any institution in the country.
A key CCHS initiative during the 1990s was the creation of a sequence of programs, the Rural Health Leaders Pipeline, to recruit and train high school and college students in rural Alabama who wanted to return home, or in similar communities, to practice medicine. To date, hundreds of students have participated in these programs, and many are now practicing as doctors and other health care providers in rural Alabama communities. The college has also made a commitment to rural health and awareness by establishing the Rural Health Research Institute in 2001.
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The college built a community medical practice, University Medical Center, which is now the largest in western Alabama with locations in Tuscaloosa, Northport, Demopolis, Fayette, Carrollton, and Livingston. The college recently formed Capstone Hospitalist Group, whose physicians treat inpatients at DCH Regional Medical Center in Tuscaloosa and Northport Medical Center.
Along with its Capstone Hospitalist Group and as operator of UA’s student health center and pharmacy, the college’s medical practice saw nearly 250,000 patient visits last year.
“It is exciting to see the College prosper and expand in the areas of medical education, patient care and research,” said Dr. Richard Friend, Dean of CCHS and physician at family. “Going forward, we are committed to further elevating the distinction of our medical students’ training and residency, the care of our patients, and the translation of research and discovery to improve the health of Alabama. and South East.
This story originally appeared on the University of Alabama website.
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