CCHS Feature

University of Alabama’s CCHS has been expanding health care across Alabama for 50 years

The University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences is celebrating 50 years of responding to the acute need in the state for more doctors for small town and rural communities that have suffered from a severe lack of health care.

CCHS, which was founded in 1972 by Dr. William R. Willard, who served as the college’s first dean, looked to the specialty of family medicine.

1907007 BH 001 Richard BFriend
Dr. Richard Friend is dean of the University of Alabama’s College of Community Health Sciences and a family physician. (contributed)

“In many ways it was the hardest job I 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” said. UA television production. “But at the same time, I think it might be one of the more rewarding because I think we have an opportunity to make a significant impact on an important social problem, which is the health care of the smaller towns and rural areas . “

Since opening its doors five decades ago, CCHS has done just that. The college has trained thousands of medical students and resident physicians, created programs to recruit and mentor rural Alabama high school and college students interested in medicine who want to practice in their hometowns or similar communities, and added graduate degree 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 stayed in Alabama to practice, and about half of those practice in rural communities in the state. In fact, one in seven family physicians practicing in Alabama graduated from residency. CCHS has also developed fellowships through the residency to provide additional training to family physicians in behavioral health, emergency medicine, geriatrics, hospital medicine, obstetrics, pediatrics, and sports medicine—the most fellowship offerings of any institution nationwide.

A key CCHS initiative during the 1990s was the creation of a series of programs, the Rural Health Leaders Pipeline, to recruit and nurture high school and college students from rural Alabama who wanted to return home, or to similar communities, to practice medicine. to practice To date, hundreds of students have participated in these programs, and many are now practicing as physicians and other health care providers in rural Alabama communities. The college further committed itself to rural health and outreach by establishing the Institute for Rural Health Research in 2001.

RELATED: New University of Alabama program prepares pre-med students for rural health care

The college built a community medical practice, University Medical Center, which is now the largest in West Alabama with locations in Tuscaloosa, Northport, Demopolis, Fayette, Carrollton and Livingston. The college recently established Capstone Hospitalist Group, whose physicians care for hospitalized patients at DCH Regional Medical Center in Tuscaloosa and Northport Medical Center.

Together with its Capstone Hospitalist Group and as operator of the UA Student Health Center and Pharmacy, the college’s medical practice logged nearly 250,000 patient visits last year.

“It has been exciting to see the college flourish and expand in medical education, patient care and research,” says Dr. Richard Friend, dean of CCHS and a family physician. “Looking forward, we are committed to further elevating the distinction of our medical student training and residency, the care of our patients, and the translation of research and discovery to improve the health of Alabama and the Southeast.”

This story originally appeared on the University of Alabama website.

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