Breast Cancer Survivor Organizes Charity Walk in Calhoun City

Precious Thompson tries to use her experiences to help others fight disease

Precious Thompson

OXFORD, Miss. – A breast cancer survivor who is determined to make a difference for north Mississippi women is organizing a charity walk this weekend in her hometown of Calhoun City to help patients get to doctor appointments and treatment centers.

Precious Thompson, administrative coordinator in the Small Business Development Center state office at the University of Mississippi, is hosting the Power of Pink Walk on Saturday (Oct. 27) at Calhoun City Park. Active in several other efforts to raise awareness about breast cancer and to help fund research and treatment efforts, Thompson said this project is more personal.

“When I was sick, (former Calhoun Cares charity operator) Tammy Tutor Tallant donated a $25 gas card for every doctor’s appointment I had,” she said. “That helped me so much because all of my doctors were at least a 30-to-45-minute drive from my house.

“I want to help others because it meant so much to me when I was going through treatments.”

Since being declared cancer-free in December 2015, Thompson has maintained a busy schedule in her advocacy efforts. 

She regularly works with Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi in Oxford to speak with women and spread the word about breast cancer awareness. This month, which is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, she has completed six speaking engagements and participated in the annual Cancer Awareness Research and Eradication Walk on the Ole Miss campus.

CARE Walk, sponsored by the UM Panhellenic Council, began 14 years ago and has become the council’s largest philanthropic event. With support and donations from many Oxford businesses and campus organizations, the event raises money for the North Mississippi Cancer Center.

Thompson is working on a bachelor’s degree in social work from the university. Besides working full time and attending college, she also serves on the Calhoun County School Board and the UM Staff Council and manages the Calhoun County Prancers, a competitive dance team of 35 girls.

Thompson was 43 years old in 2015 when she called her doctor about a painful mass in her right breast. The mother of four had a clean mammogram only a few weeks earlier and no history of breast cancer in her family, so she wasn’t worried.

The lump was soft and painful, instead of hard and painless like she’d heard cancerous lumps are. When it didn’t go away in a few weeks, she went for a checkup that led to a biopsy-lumpectomy. During the follow-up visit, the doctor informed her that she had a rare form of cancer, stage 2 invasive ductal carcinoma.

Thompson took the news in for a moment and then asked about her next steps, how was she going to get her health back. “What is the plan?” she wanted to know.

The doctor said he’d never seen anyone react like that so soon after being diagnosed with breast cancer. She didn’t cry a single tear. But friends and family say this is typical of Thompson, never dwelling on a problem, focusing only on how to get to the solution.

Breast cancer survivors Linda Brassell (front left), Tracy Hannaford and Precious Thompson participate in the annual CARE Walk with Ole Miss students in the Grove. Photo by Precious Thompson

Thompson had her right breast removed in December 2015 and began a yearlong regimen of chemotherapy and radiation. She lost all her hair and fingernails. Before losing her long hair, though, she cut and donated her ponytail to Locks of Love, a nonprofit that provides wigs for children who have lost their hair because of illness.

“It was hard to lose my hair,” she said. “I loved my hair but I wanted to be able to donate it, so I went ahead and cut it short.”

Not long after that, Thompson had her sister shave her head. Her sister cried, but Thompson didn’t.

“I knew I was going to make it, that I was going to get better,” she said. “I never for one minute let myself think anything but positive thoughts.”

A positive attitude and lots of support and prayers from her family and church carried Thompson through 2016, a hard year of treatments. The chemo made her sick and extremely tired, and 33 straight days of radiation burned her skin.

She forced herself to eat and kept up appearances in front of her children, but it was a difficult time. Treatments were on Thursdays so she could recover over the weekends and be back at work on Monday, sometimes Tuesday.

“You can’t let it stop you; you have to keep on being involved in life,” she said. “I refused to stop working.”

Thompson’s tenacious spirit and positive attitude touched everyone she knew during this time.

“Precious amazed me with her strength and perseverance during her diagnosis, surgeries, treatment and recovery from breast cancer,” said Judy Forester, interim director of the Small Business Development Center. “She never let it define her. Her smile and positive spirit are compelling to all who know her!”

It’s been three years since Thompson learned of her diagnosis and had surgery. Recent scans indicate that she remains cancer-free.

When asked what she learned from having cancer, she said, “I believe this experience is all about me being able to help others. When I speak at events, sometimes I get emotional looking back on it all, but I still haven’t cried.

“I know that God is using me. Eight people contacted me since I have been speaking and told me they went to get mammograms, found cancer and had it treated. They are all alive today.”

The Power of Pink Walk is scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday (Oct. 27), with all proceeds going to help local residents get to the many medical appointments required for fighting cancer. The event has no entry fee, but participants are asked to order a pink T-shirt or make a donation.

To order a T-shirt or sign up for the event, email Thompson at ppthomps@olemiss.edu.

Pharmacy School Remembers Anne Marie Liles as ‘Shining Star’ Teacher

School's director of experiential affairs passed away late last week

Anne Marie Liles (third from left) attends a musical performance with colleagues from the School of Pharmacy. Photo courtesy of Scott Malinowski

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy family is mourning the loss of Anne Marie Liles, director of experiential affairs and clinical associate professor of pharmacy practice, who died Thursday (Aug. 23).

Liles was beloved by students and colleagues. Student pharmacists, faculty and staff have expressed how much Liles meant to them as a mentor, friend and pharmacist, many of them noting her constant practice of going above and beyond in every aspect of her work.

“I could never have imagined the impact that Dr. Liles would have on my life,” said Dominique Dairion, a second-year student pharmacist. “Dr. Liles became my role model and one of my greatest supporters. She truly encouraged me to be my best and to get out of my comfort zone.”

Liles was a friend and supporter to all she met, never hesitating to reach out to students to make sure they were doing well, said Mikhayla Harris, a third-year student pharmacist.

“If she hadn’t heard from me in a little bit, she would check on me and see how I was doing,” Harris said. “She always made me feel like the school believed in me and wanted me to succeed.”

In July, Liles accepted the position of director of experiential affairs, a position for which Seena Haines, chair of the Department of Pharmacy Practice, said she was “very well-qualified.”

“Anne Marie shared an intention to advance experiential programs that would maximize our strengths and harness the possibilities of practice experiences, preceptor development and interprofessional education,” Haines said. “Her long history as an academician and her involvement with curriculum assessment aligned very well with the experiential director role.”

Since transitioning into the position, Liles was working to improve program advancement and quality assurance.

“She had a great vision for academia in general, but especially experiential education,” said David D. Allen, UM pharmacy dean. “She did a great job of bringing together the academic and experiential aspects of the curriculum, and that was an important part of the goals she was hoping to achieve in the experiential education program.

“Anne Marie was a delightful person whom I’m going to miss a great deal.”

Anne Marie Liles

Liles was recognized by peers as a national leader in pharmacy practice and had recently been selected to chair the Pharmacy Practice Section of American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. The American College of Clinical Pharmacy announced earlier this month that Liles would be named a fellow of the organization at its October meeting, recognizing the excellence she demonstrated in clinical pharmacy practice.

She was also nationally known for her medication expertise in renal disease and had worked with the Indian government to advance its pharmacy practice in that area.

“She was passionate about everything pharmacy-related and extremely dedicated to her work,” said Kris Harrell, associate dean for academic affairs. “She was always willing to mentor some of the other more junior faculty members.”

After earning her Doctor of Pharmacy from Auburn University’s Harrison School of Pharmacy, Liles completed her residency training at the UM Medical Center in Jackson, working with clinical associate professor of pharmacy practice Lauren Bloodworth, as well as then-faculty members Harrell and Leigh Ann Ross, associate dean for clinical affairs.

“As a resident, Anne Marie was one of the very best,” Bloodworth said. “I was thrilled to have the opportunity several years later to serve with her as a faculty member at Ole Miss. Throughout her career, she excelled in all things, and I am grateful to have worked with her so closely.”

Liles had a heart for community service and was the adviser for the student group Prescription for Service, helping student pharmacists serve patients in the community and ensure they received quality medical care. A Type 1 diabetic herself, Liles had a special interest in helping diabetes patients manage their condition.

In her role as clinical director of pharmacy health services, she counseled patients with diabetes, hypertension and other chronic diseases at the Ole Miss Student Health Center. She was instrumental in adding clinical pharmacy services to the health center, including working with a Cough and Cold Clinic that counseled and provided prescriptions to students with minor health concerns, leading wellness efforts and working with the annual immunizations.

“I learned a great deal from Anne Marie as a fellow pharmacy educator, but also from a personal perspective,” said Ross, who oversaw the health center’s clinical pharmacy services when Liles worked there. “She always thought of others, cared for others and supported others – whether it was a student, a patient, a friend or her family.

“How fortunate for our students to have such an outstanding role model.”

Victoria Miller, third-year student pharmacist, credits Liles with inspiring a research project that Miller presented at the American Pharmacists Association meeting earlier this year on evaluating college students’ knowledge of medication.

“I was immediately interested in this topic for my research because of the passion that Dr. Liles showed for helping students in Student and Employee Pharmacy Health Services,” Miller said. “She wanted to do anything she could to make students comfortable and knowledgeable about managing their health.”

Above all, Liles was dedicated to teaching the next generation of pharmacists and advancing pharmacy clinical services.

“She was an advocate for learning and she always encouraged students to understand why and how we treat patients with the pharmacotherapy that is available today,” fourth-year student pharmacist Dylan Ware said. “I will never forget the impact Dr. Liles made on me as student and future pharmacist by asking the questions of why and how.”

“Even when things felt overwhelming, she always reminded me that the patients were the reason for the hard work,” Harris said. “She always had an encouraging word to say to make you feel better. She made it her mission to do whatever she could to help you succeed.”

Outside of work, Liles enjoyed musicals and theater, often organizing groups of faculty and staff to see shows at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts and when traveling to national pharmacy meetings.

“She and I bonded instantly because of her warm and welcoming nature,” said Dawn Bradley, the school’s operations coordinator who became close with Liles when they shared an office suite. “She was always positive in every aspect. I could talk for days about Anne Marie.”

Services for Liles were held Monday (Aug. 27) in Birmingham, Alabama. The School of Pharmacy is planning memorial services for later in the fall semester on both the school’s Oxford and Jackson campuses to celebrate Liles’ life and impact on the school.

“Anne Marie was dedicated, passionate, creative, balanced and selfless,” Haines said. “The loss of her presence on both campuses will be missed immensely.

“She is a true shining star and I will be forever grateful to have known and worked with her.”

Local HR Professionals Excel in National Certification Exam

UM prep class aids north Mississippi companies and employees

Dylan Wilmoth, of Oxford, recently earned the Society of Human Resource Management Certified Professional certification after completing an SHRM certification prep course offered by the UM Division of Outreach and Continuing Education. UM photo by Pam Starling

OXFORD, Miss.­­­ – Human resource professionals in north Mississippi are increasing their knowledge and skills to help employers after participating in the Society of Human Resources Learning System professional development course offered at the University of Mississippi.

“Going through this course helped me to better understand my job and do it in the best way possible,” said Mallory House of Hernando.

House works with payroll, insurance, worker’s compensation and various other HR tasks for the DeSoto County Board of Supervisors’ office. She passed her SHRM Certified Professional Exam in June.

“I think the class not only prepared me to take the certification exam, but it also prepared me for the day-to-day issues and challenges that will come up in my work,” House said.

The SHRM exam prep course that House completed last spring is enrolling participants for the fall 2018 group that will be offered on Tuesday evenings, Sept. 11 through Dec. 11, on the Oxford campus.

Taught by local human resource manager Christopher Byrd, the course not only prepares human resource professionals to take the SHRM-Certified Professional or SHRM-Senior Certified Professional Exams, but it also helps participants strengthen their understanding of core behavior and competencies that will help increase productivity in the workplace.

“Pursuing a nationally recognized certification in HR is one of the best ways to show you care about your career, your employees and your organization,” Byrd said.

Dylan Wilmoth is an operations leader with Human Technologies Inc. in Oxford. He completed the course and passed his SHRM exam in the spring of 2017.

“Anyone who is managing people or working in the HR field needs this course,” Wilmoth said. “Participating in this program has given me the knowledge to bridge the gap between what employees want and what the employer needs.

“After earning this certification, I have the knowledge I need to be an advocate for employees while still helping my company meet its goals.”

The SHRM organization has been active in the human resources community for seven decades and has more than 285,000 members worldwide.

“There has been a great success rate for enrollees in the SHRM certification course offered at Ole Miss,” said Mary Leach, UM director of professional development and lifelong learning. “These short workshops and courses are ideal for those who want to gain current and relevant knowledge to impact their job immediately.”

The registration fee for the course is $1,099 for non-SHRM members and $999 for members. Special discounts are available for Ole Miss alumni. Many businesses and organizations are offering educational tuition benefits for employees interested in completing the prep course.

Admission to the university is not required for this noncredit course.

For more information and to register, visit http://www.outreach.olemiss.edu/SHRM or contact Griffin Stroupe at 662-915-3121.

Professor Studies Public Education’s YouTube Portrayal

Study of video-sharing site finds negative depiction of public education

Burhanettin Keskin, UM associate professor of early childhood education, has published a paper examining how public education is portrayed on YouTube. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – YouTube is the second most popular website in the world, nestled right behind Google and ahead of sites such as Facebook, Baidu (a Chinese language internet search engine) and Wikipedia.

The video-sharing site states it has more than a billion users worldwide – almost one-third of all people on the internet – and every day those users watch a billion hours of video.

But what exactly is all that video watching telling viewers about the world, specifically when it comes to public education? That’s a topic recently explored by Burhanettin Keskin, a University of Mississippi associate professor of early childhood education. The result is his paper, “What Do YouTube Videos Say About Public Education?” which was published as an Editor’s Choice article in SAGE, a leading independent, academic and professional publisher of innovative, high-quality content.

Keskin’s study shows that the content of selected, English-language YouTube videos examined portray public education in a mostly negative light.

“As an educator, I’m worried about the future of public education and how it is portrayed in media,” he said. “Oftentimes I see blunt attacks on public education. I will be the first to say that public education is not perfect. I will say that, but I think it is something we need to protect.”

For his study, Keskin typed the term “public education” into the YouTube search bar and analyzed the top 60 search results provided by the site. (YouTube uses a non-disclosed algorithm to display its user-generated content.)

Keskin and a graduate student then independently coded the videos (59 were evaluated because one video repeated itself in the search results) as portraying public education as negative, neutral or positive. The videos were coded on the thumbnail cover image, title and content, which involved Keskin watching enough YouTube videos to give him “dreams at night of YouTube.”

When Keskin and the graduate student disagreed on nine videos, an opinion from a third coder – a professor from another university – was obtained.

The study showed that 67.8 percent of the selected videos’ content portrayed public education negatively, 22 percent of the cover images portrayed public education negatively (64.4 percent were found neutral) and 45.8 percent of the titles were negative (44.1 percent were neutral).

“I was troubled by the findings of Dr. Keskin’s research,” said Susan McClelland, UM chair of teacher education. “Public perception is important to any career as it often reflects the level of respect and value the public places on that career.

“Today, public education is under an increasing amount of public scrutiny, which places educational systems in a position to create effective school public relations campaigns. … I do believe positive perceptions begin at the local level, and teachers and administrators must learn to be action-oriented in sharing positive information about themselves, the successes of all children and the impact education is having on their communities – a role perhaps we have not been comfortable doing.”

Some of the titles from Keskin’s May 31, 2016, search (8.2 million videos were found) were bluntly, if not outrageously negative, of public education, with titles such as “Public ‘Education’ Has Become Indoctrination and Distraction” and “Common Core: UN Agenda 21, Communitarianism & The Public Education Plan to Destroy America.”

While some videos only had a few thousand views, others had been viewed more than a million times.

“Perception in recent years regarding public education is down,” said David Rock, dean of the School of Education. “Unfortunately, negative stories fuel strong sentiment, especially on social media and therefore seem to be heard like a roar. This fire can spread into an ugly fight at times on social media.

“Positive successes are shared but seem to be heard like a normal, friendly conversation. We seem to be more likely to share positive news in a friendly manner.”

With many educators using YouTube in their classrooms, Keskin points out that the danger is that both reputable and impartial sources, and untrustworthy and biased sources share the same platform with YouTube. Also, anyone can upload videos to YouTube, and some of the unreliable videos are professionally rendered, which is confusing to children and teens, who are a large YouTube audience.

A May survey from the Pew Research Center on teens, social media and technology reports that 85 percent of U.S. teens ages 13 to 17 say they use YouTube, more than Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

Since YouTube is a teaching tool in today’s classrooms, young children might think all YouTube videos are credible, especially subjective material placed at the top of search results.

“Pretty much anyone can post anything,” said Keskin, who joined the UM faculty in 2013. “Some academics, some doctors, some professionals can post it. So can someone who has some really bad intentions. They can just post it and bend truths.

“The danger is (YouTube) is a mixture of things. For a young mind, it might be really hard to distinguish if this is reputable, especially if you are not very good with media.”

Even after viewing the results of his research, though, Keskin, who has a personal YouTube cooking channel called KeskinCookin, said YouTube can be a valuable teaching tool. Others agree.

“I certainly believe YouTube videos are an effective tool for teaching,” said McClelland, who also serves as an associate professor of leadership and counselor education. “You can learn to do just about anything by watching a YouTube video – from tying a bow tie to changing a tire to improving your writing skills, YouTube has videos on how to be successful.

“YouTube is a powerful source of information – all the more reason we need images and videos reflecting the positive, innovative and successful work public school educators are doing.”

The study also reinforces the importance of teaching critical thinking, especially when it comes to social media, Keskin said.

“When you teach critical thinking to students – young students or college students or the general public – then you have a better chance of not falling into the hands of the people who are posting very negative, false information out there,” he said. “Informed citizens is what we want. Who can think for themselves. Who can look for things to find out if the information is true or not.”

Red and Blue Celebration of Achievement Set for May 9

Inaugural event to recognize 32 UM staff for earning degrees while working

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi staff who earned degrees while working will be recognized for their accomplishments Wednesday (May 9) at the inaugural Red and Blue Celebration of Achievement.

Thirty-two employees who are receiving either a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree during doctoral hooding on Friday (May 11) and at Commencement on Saturday (May 12) will be honored. The celebration, which is free and open to the public, begins at noon in Auditorium A of the Jackson Avenue Center, 1111 West Jackson Ave.

Co-sponsors include the Office of the Provost, Division of Outreach and Continuing Education, Office of University and Public Events, and the UM Staff Council.

“This is an opportunity for the university community to come together and honor staff members who have successfully navigated the college experience while simultaneously working as an employee at the university,” said Anne Klingen, who co-organized the event. “During the ceremony, we will honor graduating seniors and graduate students with red-and-blue cords and a reception.”

The event was conceived after orientation for new Staff Council members in April 2017. Klingen and Kevin Cozart, operations coordinator in the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies, began discussing ideas about how to recognize staff member achievements.

“As someone who has earned more than one degree while working full time for the university, I understand the unique challenges that staff members face while on the path to a degree,” Cozart said. “I thought that it was time for graduating staff members to receive special recognition of their efforts.

“The Red and Blue Celebration and the red-and-navy honors cords are just a small way of achieving this goal.”

The cords will be presented by Donna West-Strum, chair and professor of pharmacy administration. Other program participants are Gazel Giles, immediate past president of the Staff Council; Je’Lisa McGee, Staff Council treasurer; Premalatha Balachandran, Staff Council scholarship coordinator; Deetra Wiley, Staff Council marketing coordinator; and Cozart, a Staff Council member.

Departments with graduating employees who have registered to participate are Applied Sciences/ Outreach, Athletics, Campus Recreation, Center for Student Success and First-Year Experience, Center for the Study of Southern Culture, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Ford Center, Health Professions Advising Office, Marketing and Fan Experience, Office of Admissions, Office of the Chancellor, Ole Miss Athletics Foundation, Office of Information Technology, Sports Production, Student Disability Services, Technology and Interactive Video, Graduate School, The Inn at Ole Miss, UMMC-Office of Academic Affairs, University Communications and University Police Department.

Several of the graduating employees shared their stories.

“It was very challenging trying to work, go to school and be a full-time single mom with two boys,” said Sirena Morgan, senior secretary for the chemistry department who will receive her Bachelor of Business Administration in Human Resources with an emphasis in entrepreneurship. “You have to find a balance in it all.

“I was so determined to get my degree, so I made it work. I would work eight hours a day, and after work, I would take care of my other responsibilities. It took a lot of discipline, but I did it.”

Learning to balance work, school, family and outside activities also was a challenge for Rebecca Lauck Cleary, a senior staff assistant at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture who will be receiving a Master of Arts in Southern Studies.

“I tried to focus on projects one week at a time so I never felt overwhelmed with anything,” she said. “Luckily, everyone I work with has been extremely supportive, which is nice.”

Completing a terminal degree, career advancement opportunities and a desire to make their families proud were all motivations for Sovent Taylor and Peter Tulchinsky, who receive their Ed.D. in Higher Education.

“My job isn’t always just 8 to 5,” said Taylor, assistant director of the Health Professions Advising Office. “I have student organizations that meet at night and recruitment events on the weekend. My children are involved in travel sports, so my time after work was spoken for as well.”

To overcome his challenges, Taylor worked during lunch, often late at night and during holiday breaks writing his dissertation.

“I am blessed to have a wife that helped pick up the slack while I was writing,” Taylor said. “She also had to deal with an exhausted husband quite often.”

Tulchinsky, director of campus recreation, agrees.

“I wanted to set an example for my kids,” he said. “I encourage them to do their personal best academically, and I felt that I could role model that expectation by going back to school and acquiring my terminal degree.

“It means a lot that they can call me ‘Dr. Dad’ and that I’ve been able to show them that you can accomplish your goals through effort and commitment.”

Having a great support system at home and at work is what helped Shayla Love McGuire complete requirements for her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

“A big motivation for me to complete my degree was for my children to see me being successful,” the UPD patrol sergeant said. “This degree will help me achieve promotions at work, and I am very grateful for the opportunity to finally graduate.”

For Jennifer Phillips, who receives her Ph.D. degree in higher education, writing her dissertation was her biggest challenge.

“Much of the Ph.D. is on your own after written comps,” said Phillips, assistant director for retention in the Center for Student Success and First-Year Experience. “It was incredibly difficult to find the personal motivation to continue, especially when I also had trouble nailing down a topic.”

Phillips said she went to her adviser, Amy Wells Dolan, to quit last year after almost nine years of work.

“She inspired me to keep going by simply telling me she would not let me quit,” Phillips said. “Two weeks later, I had 25 pages written.”

Wiley, an applications analyst and business communications specialist who will be hooded and receive her Ed.D. degree, said the opportunity to earn her terminal degree at no cost while working full time was worth the hard work, determination and commitment.

“This is probably the most rewarding policy/program that any institution or place of work can provide to its employees,” Wiley said. “To God, I give the glory and honor. I give great thanks to the University of Mississippi for its further education policy.”

UM Town Hall Features Strategic Plan Unveiling

Chancellor, provost share vision for university's future, invite ideas for achieving goals

Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter delivers the ‘State of the University’ address during the university’s second Town Hall event Wednesday (Oct. 11) at The Inn at Ole Miss. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Responding to ideas and hopes expressed more than a year ago at the University of Mississippi’s first-ever universitywide Town Hall, UM officials unveiled a new strategic plan for the institution’s future success Wednesday (Oct. 11) at the second Town Hall.

Similar to the inaugural event, hundreds of students, faculty, staff and alumni attended the two-hour gathering in the Gertrude C. Ford Ballroom of The Inn at Ole Miss. Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter opened with a “State of the University” address.

“We can see higher peaks, but to reach those peaks, we must continue having the important conversations about, ‘How do we go from great to greater?’ and ‘How will we get there?'” Vitter said. “The four pillars that emerged from the Flagship Forum last year are academic excellence; healthy and vibrant communities; people, places and resources; and athletics excellence.

“Our road map to the future focuses upon these four pillars.”

Audience members posed questions to Ole Miss administrators during a question-and-answer session following Vitter’s address.

Members of the UM community share ideas for the university’s future at the second Town Hall event Wednesday (Oct. 11) at The Inn at Ole Miss. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Also during the assembly, Provost Noel Wilkin unveiled the “Flagship Forward” strategic plan, born from the 550 ideas shared at the first Town Hall in August 2016. Wilkin outlined details about the transformative initiatives and goals around the four pillars.

Attendees were among the first in the university community to receive a copy of the new strategic plan.

“Each pillar has its own transformative initiative and specific goals,” Wilkin said. “For example, the academic excellence initiative is to accelerate and inspire solutions to society’s grand challenges. Our goals are to enhance the quality of academic programs, support faculty excellence, enhance student success and increase research and creative achievement.”

UM faculty and staff members discuss ideas and share feedback for the university’s future at the second Town Hall event Wednesday (Oct. 11) at The Inn at Ole Miss. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

During the interactive segment of the Town Hall, participants were asked to brainstorm future “headlines” they hope will be achieved within the next five years and beyond. By the end of the event, more than 150 “headlines” focused around the pillars and goals were shared.

Anne Klinger, a staff member in the Division of Outreach and Continuing Education who attended last year’s Town Hall, said she felt the new strategic plan definitely reflected ideas expressed last year.

“I think that the committee looked at all the great ideas submitted and narrowed them down to these achievable ideals,” she said. “I am inspired by many of them and I can’t wait to see where we are at by the next Town Hall.”

Students in attendance expressed similar hopefulness.

“The thing I most look forward to is achieving a goal within the people, places and resources pillar,” said Abigail Percy, a junior journalism major from Carthage. “I’d most definitely like to see more appreciation for theater and film.”

Logan Williamson, another junior journalism student from Byrum, said the academic excellence pillar is important to him.

“My hope is that as Ole Miss continues to grow, the campus culture will continue to evolve in order for everyone to rise,” he said.

The session was moderated by David Magee, longtime Oxford resident, Ole Miss alumnus and publisher of The Oxford Eagle.

“This is a moment when we all get to actively participate in the future of this great university,” Magee said. “We all love Ole Miss and everything that it has accomplished, but were poised to achieve more than we’ve ever dared to imagine.”

Vitter urged participants to recognize their responsibilities as Ole Miss Rebels and members of the state’s flagship university as they face the world’s many challenges.

“Being an Ole Miss Rebel means we stand up for one another, it means we do not shy away from difficult discussions, it means every voice matters and it means we move forward together in a shared vision for our future,” Vitter said.

UMMC Earns National Telehealth Center of Excellence Designation

The standard of care and record of leadership at the Center for Telehealth has led to UMMC being named a Telehealth Center of Excellence. UMMC photo by Joe Ellis

JACKSON, Miss. — For 14 years, the Center for Telehealth at the University of Mississippi Medical Center has been a national trailblazer in providing high-quality health care, especially for those with little access to both primary and specialty services.

Its leadership, body of work and mastery of telecommunications technology is being recognized by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration. The Medical Center has been designated one of two Telehealth Centers of Excellence, the agency’s top award given only to programs at public academic medical centers.

“The University of Mississippi Medical Center’s successful program is already a model for national telehealth expansion,” said U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss. “As a Center of Excellence, UMMC will be able to demonstrate to a broader audience how to use telehealth to increase patient access to care and decrease costs.

“Mississippians can be proud that our state’s telehealth investments have set a high standard for improving health care everywhere.”

The recognition from the Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, was announced during an Oct. 5 news conference in Washington. It includes an initial $600,000 in funding, with the opportunity for an additional $2 million over two years.

The designation allows UMMC’s Center for Telehealth to serve as a national clearinghouse for telehealth research and resources, including technical assistance to other telehealth providers.

The Center for Telehealth connects patients and caregivers to Medical Center health care providers remotely, in real time, using video calls and interactive tools. More than 500,000 patient visits in 69 of the state’s 82 counties have been recorded since the center began with just three sites, expanding to more than 200 sites today, not including the homes of patients.

“UMMC’s selection as a national Telehealth Center of Excellence is affirmation of our mission and responsibility to bring high-quality health care to all Mississippians, especially those in rural, underserved areas,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, UMMC vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.

“We look forward to using our experience to help advance best practices for this increasingly vital service.  I’m grateful for Senator Cochran’s support of our application.”

The Medical University of South Carolina was also selected as a Telehealth Center of Excellence.

Mississippians will directly benefit from the honor, said Michael Adcock, the Center for Telehealth’s executive director who joined the operation in 2015. The designation “sets us apart. We were selected because we have one of the most comprehensive telehealth programs in the country.”

Adcock said the designation allows the center to focus on four work areas: assessing the impact of telehealth on health care spending; creating new and/or refining payment methods; improving physician and patient awareness; and expanding its overall research portfolio.

“While our center has been able to show some impressive outcomes, we have not had the staff to focus on researching telehealth delivery models and outcome comparisons,” Adcock said.

“That is vital work that needs to be done, and we are well positioned to do it.  This funding and designation will allow us to build on our comprehensive program and develop the research to support further changes in models of delivery.”

The Telehealth Center of Excellence honor brings with it the responsibility to create a new knowledge base for telehealth through research, said Dr. Richard Summers, UMMC professor of emergency medicine and associate vice chancellor for research. 

The grant funding “will help UMMC to build the infrastructure for research in telehealth and allow us to bring a national leadership to this emerging special area of medical practice,” he said.

The Center for Telehealth provides remote, on-site access to caregivers in more than 35 specialties, including urgent care, trauma, mental health, dermatology, cardiology, infectious diseases, and Alzheimer’s and dementia care.  Pediatric telehealth specialties include remote concussion evaluation, cardiology, neurology, psychiatry, genetics and urology.

Telehealth nurse practitioners are stationed in the emergency departments of 17 rural Mississippi hospitals to treat patients via a multidisciplinary team that includes a certified emergency medicine physician on the UMMC campus.

And, the center recently debuted its “UMMC 2 You” online minor medical care program offered throughout Mississippi to those who are on the state employee insurance plan and their families. It’s also offered through select schools and companies.

“Our drive to address health care challenges with innovation is what has allowed us to be recognized as a leader in telehealth, nationally and internationally,” Adcock said.

Dedication of New Medical School Bodes Well for Health Care’s Future

Building will allow UMMC to increase class sizes, help fill state's need for new doctors

Johnny Lippincott, a fourth-year student in the UM School of Medicine, addresses a
crowd of dignitaries, students and faculty during dedication ceremonies for the new medical school.

JACKSON, Miss. – Elected officials and other dignitaries attending Friday’s (Aug. 4) dedication of the University of Mississippi’s new, $74 million School of Medicine building celebrated a new era in medical education and health care for the state.

The breadth of the 151,000-square-foot facility on the University of Mississippi Medical Center campus means more space for students, more students for each class and, consequently, more doctors for Mississippi.

“This remarkable building will be filled with students endowed with the seeds of greatness,” said Gov. Phil Bryant, who addressed a gathering of an estimated 200 officials, students, faculty members and other guests in the ground-level entrance lobby, before the formal ribbon-cutting.

The facility presents these students with “the greatest opportunity for success,” Bryant said.

Featuring the institution’s familiar, yellow-brick facade, the building’s five stories offer its students something they haven’t had for many years: a single, purpose-built facility, a home of their own.

Dr. Ford Dye, a member of the board of the State Institutions of Higher Learning, said, that as a graduate of the medical school in the 1990s, “I look around at this building and I realize my timing was bad.”

The medical students’ new home replaces a disjointed collection of accommodations and services, including classrooms, labs, lecture halls and training centers – a dispersal resulting from six decades of expansion.

“A glorious chapter is beginning in the history of education in Mississippi,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.

“History is all around us and is part of this day. It reminds me that we are doing something important. … Something that future stories will be made of.”

The new School of Medicine stands five floors high and has square footage of about 151,000 feet.

For many of those who worked for and supported the construction of the building, this is part of the story that resonates the most: The dimensions allow for a boost in the size of each entering class, and larger classes mean more physicians will be trained each year in Mississippi, a fact noted by Jeffrey Vitter, UM chancellor.

Adding physicians to the state’s workforce, he said today, will “improve access to quality health care for the citizens of Mississippi.”

Mississippi ranks last, at roughly 185 doctors per 100,000 residents, as reported in 2015 by the Association of American Medical Colleges. The only other medical school in the state is at William Carey University in Hattiesburg, which opened in fall 2009 and awards the Doctor of Osteopathy degree, while the university’s offers the Doctor of Medicine, or M.D.

The hope is that many of the school’s graduates will stay in the state, which U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper encouraged them to do in his address: “I say this to the medical students, ‘There’s no place like Mississippi. … There’s no place better.'”

With the new school building, plans are to expand entering class sizes from around 145 students to 155, and to eventually top off at approximately 165 – the total considered necessary to meet the state’s goal of 1,000 additional physicians by 2025.

“This is a project that had unanimous support in the Mississippi Legislature,” Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said. “Everyone in the Legislature recognized the need.”

Located on the north side of the campus, between the Student Union and the Learning Resource Center, the site is the educational core of the Medical Center. The building’s neighbors include the schools of Dentistry, Pharmacy and the Health Related Professions, along with the emerging School of Population Health housed in the new Translational Research Center.

The two other schools represented on campus are nursing and graduate studies in the health sciences.

Financing of the new medical school included state funds and a $10 million Community Development Block Grant awarded through the Mississippi Development Authority and administered through the Central Mississippi Planning and Development District for site and infrastructure work.

Construction was the job of general contractor Roy Anderson Corp., headquartered in Gulfport. Two architectural firms worked in tandem: Cooke Douglass Farr Lemons Architects and Engineers P.A. in Jackson, and Eley Guild Hardy Architects P.A., which has offices in Jackson and Biloxi and designed the Robert C. Khayat Law Center in Oxford.

In Jackson, the task was to build and design the replacement for a school housed in the original Medical Center complex, which opened in July 1955 and, at 490,000 square feet, was considered one of the biggest, and most modern, buildings, in the state.

Over the years, demands for space grew, and, as the Medical Center spread out, the medical school splintered into a network of disconnected sites, including some makeshift offices and labs.

 On top of that, by the early 2000s, the AAMC had predicted a nationwide doctor shortage and asked medical schools across the country to pump up class sizes by about 30 percent. Accreditation standards were also changing, and in order to meet them, the School of Medicine would need more room, an increase and upgrade in simulation facilities, additional classrooms that accommodate interactive group learning, and more.

It was clear to Medical Center officials that a new, state-of-the-art facility was more likely to meet the future needs of medical students. A succession of vice chancellors, including Woodward, guided the venture, starting with Dr. Dan Jones and Dr. James Keeton.

Promoted by administrators as a potential economic development boon, the project gained the support of lawmakers and Bryant, who was lieutenant governor at the time.

After years of planning, UMMC officials staged a ceremonial groundbreaking Jan. 7, 2013 in the parking lot that has been transformed into a new medical school.

“Who would think you would have an emotion about a building?” said Keeton, a 1965 medical school alumnus who retired with emeritus status this year. One of those emotions is “joy,” he said today.

As for the new crop of medical students arriving next week, he said, recalling his own first days as a first-year medical student, “Let me tell you what their emotion is right now: fear.”

Students were among the members of a steering committee that brought back ideas from other medical schools when this one was being planned. For instance, the twin amphitheaters, which function as lecture halls, are modeled after Emory University’s and offer advanced AV equipment, integrated sound systems and sound-dampening features.

Overall, in the words of architect Rob Farr, the design is “student-focused.” The building’s southern face overlooks a courtyard and brings in natural light to student work and study areas.

The second level is organized for “student movement,” while the upper floors are focused on teaching stations and support areas that frame a space-organizing central atrium.

Some architectural details are homages to tradition, as well as to the medical profession: Certain areas are appointed with glass etched with rolling lines simulating an EKG; on the floor of the lobby where the dedication was held is a representation of the great seal of the university: a human eye surrounded by the sun; a wall of the student lounge is decorated with medical terms.

The cutting-edge simulation training area has a dedicated floor and was made possible in great part by nearly $5 million in grants from the Hearin Foundation. It is equipped with a mock operating theater – funded by the UMMC Alliance and the Manning Family Foundation – virtual reality spaces with high-fidelity task trainers, a clinical skills center, flexible-use spaces and more.

“Over the course of the next 50 years, we’re going to deliberately wear it out,” said Dr. Loretta Jackson-Williams, professor of emergency medicine and vice dean for medical education, referring to the building as a whole.

Fourth-year medical student Johnny Lippincott, president of the class of 2018, said he’s particularly proud of the way the building’s technological components are designed to be able to adapt to future updates.

In his remarks today, he also praised the facility’s spaciousness and homage to “natural light.”

Ultimately, though, he said, “This is all about what we do for our future patients.”

The upshot, from the ground up:

Ground floor: Office space, student lounge, cafe, storage lockers

First floor: Classrooms, group studies, twin amphitheaters, Legacy Wall (bearing the names of donors and relating the history of UMMC)

Second floor: Classrooms and group studies (mostly repeats first-floor layout)

Third floor: Basic and Advanced Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation Training Center, wet and dry labs, training and group study rooms, expandable conference rooms

Fourth floor: Office of Interprofessional Simulation Training Assessment Research and Safety, exam and simulation rooms, Standardized Patient training (with actors who portray patients)

The public is invited to explore the building, 9 a.m.-noon Saturday during an open house with self-guided tours and hosts on each floor.

UMMC Chief’s Clout Extends to Nation’s, Canada’s Medical Schools

Dr. LouAnn Woodward start one-year term as chair of accrediting body

Dr. LouAnn Woodward

JACKSON, Miss. – Dr. LouAnn Woodward, University of Mississippi vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine at the UM Medical Center, will help set the course for medical education in this country and beyond as chair of a powerful accrediting body.

For a one-year term that begins July 1, Woodward chairs the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, which sets standards for U.S.- and Canadian-chartered medical education programs run by universities or medical schools.

Having led UMMC since March 1, 2015, Woodward served simultaneously as chair-elect of the LCME for a year after being confirmed unanimously by its board.

Since 2013, she has worked on the executive committee and as chair of the subcommittee on International Relations for the LCME, which is sponsored by the Association of American Medical Colleges and the American Medical Association.

“I am honored to serve at a time when overall national changes to heath care and health care delivery are in full swing,” Woodward said. “We want to try and mitigate the impact on medical education and on students.”

As the head of the nation’s authoritative accrediting body, she will help set the tone for medical education during a critical time for health care in this country.

“There are a few things we always worry about,” Woodward said. “Right now, student debt load is becoming a concern as schools become more financially strained and they look to students to help cover those shortfalls; we want to protect against that as much as we can.

“Also, we continue to pay attention to the way students interface with electronic health records; it’s a balance between training them on the use of EHRs and keeping the EHR from distracting from their learning and clinical experiences.”

During the previous 12 months, when Woodward served as LCME’s chair-elect, about a dozen medical schools were added to the AAMC’s membership, for a total of 147 accredited U.S. schools. Also on its rolls are around 400 major teaching hospitals and health systems, including 51 Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers, and more than 80 academic societies.

Another 17 M.D. programs in Canada are accredited by the LCME in cooperation with the Committee on Accreditation of Canadian Medical Schools, on which Woodward will serve as a voting member.

Since 2002, first-year enrollment at the U.S. schools has ballooned by 28 percent, the AAMC reports, for a total of 21,030 students for 2016-17; 22 schools have been created and accredited since that year.

“While I am chair, I’ll still be functioning as a member of the LCME, doing site visits and reviews, but also as chair, organizing and helping determine the direction of meetings,” Woodward said.

“I believe my role as chair, beyond all of that, is to help guide the LCME in shaping the strategic direction of medical education, making sure it is relevant and continues to realize positive changes.”

Most state boards of licensure require that medical schools earn LCME accreditation, indicating that they meet national standards for the awarding of a medical degree.

Accreditation usually occurs every eight years and covers standards in these areas: institutional setting, educational programs for the M.D., medical students, faculty and educational resources.

An institution must be accredited by the LCME in order to receive federal grants for medical education and participate in federal loan programs.

“As vice chancellor for health affairs, Dr. Woodward is ideally suited to lead the LCME as it adapts to meet many challenges,” said LCME board member Dr. Roger Hadley, dean of the Loma Linda University School of Medicine in California and executive vice president for medical affairs and chief medical officer for Loma Linda University Health.

“Economic demands and unprecedented advancements in technology will force many changes in the role of medical doctors.”

A native of Carroll County, Woodward is also a professor of emergency medicine. She earned her undergraduate degree from Mississippi State University and, in 1991, her M.D. at the UM School of Medicine in Jackson, where she also completed her residency training.

Dr. John Fogarty, who served as LCME chair for the 2015-2016 academic year, said that in the four years since Woodward was selected to be a member of the organization, “she has been a tireless contributor and dedicated professional.

“Dr. Woodward is a highly knowledgeable and experienced LCME member, and it was a delight to work with her,” said Fogarty, dean of the Florida State University College of Medicine in Tallahassee, who just completed six years on the LCME.

“I am confident that the LCME is in great hands under Dr. Woodward’s excellent leadership.”

Pharmacy School Remembers Associate Dean Emeritus Charlie Hufford

Professor, researcher and administrator influenced many over 43-year Ole Miss career

Charlie Hufford

OXFORD, Miss. – Charles D. Hufford, associate dean emeritus for research and graduate programs and professor emeritus of pharmacognosy at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, died Monday (May 15) at the age of 72. His career at Ole Miss spanned 1972 to 2015.

Faculty and alumni remember him as an encouraging and effective leader who quietly supported the careers of many throughout his 43 years at the school. Colleagues called him trustworthy, competitive and energetic.

“Charlie was an incredibly talented, yet humble individual,” said David D. Allen, dean of the School of Pharmacy. “He was the example of servant leadership, mentoring others so they could succeed while never seeking recognition for himself. He dedicated himself to serving the students and the school, and was responsible for many of the school’s achievements.”

Originally from Sycamore, Ohio, Hufford earned his pharmacy degree and Ph.D. from Ohio State University and served as a pharmacist in the Air Force Reserve before joining the UM faculty as an assistant professor of pharmacognosy in 1972.

He became chair of the Department of Pharmacognosy in 1987 and the school’s first associate dean for research and graduate programs in 1995. He retired Feb. 1, 2015, but still made time to visit with students and faculty.

During his time at the School of Pharmacy, Hufford was credited with transforming the school’s natural compounds and drug metabolism research, patenting compounds and helping to bring in more than $7.4 million in grants to the university.

He was instrumental in helping the school acquire eight nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy machines that identified complex natural products. This boosted the school’s drug and agrichemical discovery, which helped build the infrastructure necessary to make the school a leader in natural products research.

Charlie Hufford is remembered by colleagues as a dedicated teacher, administrator and researcher, who helped transform the UM School of Pharmacy’s natural compounds and drug metabolism research. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

One of Hufford’s signature initiatives was research aimed at removing side-effects of the antimalarial drug primaquine. Faculty and scientists at the school have continued this research, resulting in the school’s first-ever clinical trial on May 18, 2017, testing primaquine in human volunteers.

Another of Hufford’s accomplishments was updating the pharmacy curriculum to include information on dietary supplements several years before Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act in 1994 to regulate the supplement market. The National Center for Natural Products Research at the School of Pharmacy works closely with the FDA to determine the safety and legitimacy of dietary supplements.

Hufford also contributed countless hours to the renovation of the school’s Faser Hall facility. In 1999, then-dean Ken Roberts entrusted Hufford to oversee the project, and Hufford spent the next 14 years securing funds, working with builders and keeping records of the construction, all while maintaining his responsibilities as associate dean.

“He was by far one of the most dedicated and hard-working individuals I’ve ever been associated with,” Roberts said. “I have no doubt the School of Pharmacy rose in stature because of the untiring devotion of Dr. Charles Hufford and those who were influenced by his strong character and leadership.”

Hufford was an avid bowler who recorded more than 30 perfect games over his career.

Hufford was awarded for his accomplishments throughout his career, winning the 1994 School of Pharmacy Faculty Research Award and the 1995 Jack Beal Award for most distinguished graduate of the Ohio State University College of Pharmacy graduate program. He held leadership positions within the American Society of Pharmacognosy and was a fellow of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists.

“It was such a pleasure and honor for me to work with Dr. Charles Hufford for 10 years,” said Barbara Wells, dean emeritus of the pharmacy school. “In all matters, his counsel was always informed and on-target, and his judgement was excellent.

“He worked hard to advance the School of Pharmacy, and he was just as committed to the mission and vision of the university. Unlike most leaders who step away from their teaching as they assume greater and greater responsibilities, he never gave up his teaching because he loved working with bright young minds.”

At the end of his career, he was even able to present a student award named for him. The Charles D. Hufford Graduate Student Award is given each year to a graduate student who excels in pharmacognosy.

Hufford was a favorite with students, offering his signature combination of humor and patience as he mentored and encouraged those who came through his doors. He spent most of his early years teaching graduate students, saying it was “rewarding to … get them accustomed to thinking on their own and seeing (their) joy from the gratification of solving whatever problem we were working on.”

“Dr. Hufford as a teacher had a tremendous influence on me in my care of patients,” said David Gregory, associate dean for academic affairs. “I was uniquely blessed to have the unexpected opportunity to return to UM and work with our offices side-by-side.

“He used practical and common sense in his leadership, and even maintained his sense of humor and mentorship when he asked me to be on his bowling team. I thought I had arrived, but we both knew it was for my very high handicap.”

Hufford was a competitive bowler who approached the sport as he did everything else – with commitment to constant improvement. He held 10 championship tournament titles with the Senior All Star Bowling Association, logged more than 30 perfect games and was a member of both the SASBA Hall of Fame and the Mississippi State Bowling Association Hall of Fame.

Upon his retirement in 2015, he planned to spend even more time at the lanes, as well as with his family, including children Gary and Jennifer, grandchildren Ryan and Andy and his wife of 32 years, Alice Clark.

Marvin Wilson, associate dean emeritus of academic and student affairs, spent nearly 40 years working alongside Hufford in the pharmacy school, both progressing from assistant professors to associate deans.

“Even though he was committed to the school, it paled in comparison to his dedication to Alice, his children and his grandchildren,” Wilson said. “He and Alice probably spent years in gyms, at ballfields or traveling to and from such activities to be with and support their family.”

Wilson added, “I would implore you when you hear thunder, to think of Charlie rolling another strike in heaven.”

Services are set for 2 p.m. Friday (May 19) at Waller Funeral Home in Oxford. Visitation begins at noon. Memorial contributions in his memory may be made to the Charles D. Hufford Graduate Student Fellowship Endowment at the University of Mississippi Foundation.