UAB medical school awarded $7 million to improve primary care in rural Alabama

UAB awarded grant to expand in rural areas

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - UAB school of medicine received a $7 million grant to expand their programming for rural and urban underserved areas.

The grant comes from the Health Resources and Services Administration, part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. It is to address the need for training additional family medicine physicians to serve in rural and under-served areas of the state in the years to come.

Chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine, Dr. Irfan Asif, M.D., said the grant will enable the department to develop novel high school and college pipeline programs, medical student programming, and faculty development programs to enhance curriculum and mentoring efforts.

Dr. Asif said 180 students every year graduate from the UAB school of medicine, but only around 10 percent go into primary care or family medicine.

“While it’s not going to be the answer to everything, I think it will do quit a bit for the urban and rural under-served communities” Dr. Asif said. “They actually awarded grants to programs within states where there are huge primary shortages. In Alabama we actually are one of the worst states for primary care numbers.”

Dr. Asif said Alabama needs more than 600 primary care providers in the next 10 years.

“One of the issues that happens when you don’t have primary care is you actually don’t have people who want to prevent disease,” Dr. Asif said.

The grant will give $1,750,000 each year over the next four years to expand curriculum at all campuses.

“Whats nice is that Huntsville and Tuscaloosa already have rural programming, so we are going to enhance the programs that they have, and then we are ultimately going to build out new programs in Birmingham and Montgomery,” Dr. Asif said.

Dr. Asif said the program is called The Comprehensive Urban Underserved and Rural Experience. It will address six core areas related to inter-professional education, behavioral health, social determinants of health, cultural and linguistic competency, practice transformation, and telehealth.

Dr. Asif said this year, the department will be implementing a pilot program that will draw students into a medical student urban under-served pathway to complement existing rural programming. Over the next year, both urban and rural under-served programming will expand.

“What they are going to do is create a patient panel of at least 10 patients that they are going to follow for their 4 years and essentially act as health coaches,” Dr. Asif said. “It’s really a jump start for what we can do here in Alabama, if you look at our health ranking, we are 47 out of 50 overall.”

Copyright 2020 WBRC. All rights reserved.