Pharmacy Professor Selected for Nelson Order

Scott Malinowski was one of 20 inductees chosen for the UMMC honor

Scott Malinowski (left), clinical assistant professor of pharmacy practice, is welcomed into the Nelson Order by Rob Rockhold, deputy chief academic officer at the UM Medical Center, during ceremonies at the medical center. Photo by Joe Ellis/UMMC Photography

JACKSON, Miss. – Scott Malinowski, clinical assistant professor of pharmacy practice at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, has been inducted into the Norman C. Nelson Order of Teaching Excellence at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.

Named for Norman C. Nelson, who served as UMMC’s vice chancellor for health affairs for 21 years, the award honors faculty members from each of UMMC’s six schools. Awardees are selected based on their dedication to students through innovative teaching, engagement, mentorship and setting expectations for professional behavior.

 “This is truly a great honor,” Malinowski said. “It is very special to be selected by students and colleagues in recognition of my teaching contributions.

“The existence of the Nelson Order shows just how committed the Medical Center is to teaching excellence. I am proud to be considered one of its members.”

Nominees for the Nelson Order were inducted at a luncheon where each received a stole from LouAnn Woodward, UM vice chancellor for health affairs, that they will wear Friday (May 25) during the Medical Center’s commencement ceremony.

“This is a significant achievement and well-deserved recognition of Dr. Malinowski’s many contributions to education on the UMMC campus,” said Seena Haines, chair of the Department of Pharmacy Practice. “He has demonstrated commitment to excellence in teaching and engaging students and residents in their clinical and professional growth.”

Leigh Ann Ross, associate dean for clinical affairs at the pharmacy school’s UMMC campus, said she is “thrilled” about Malinowski’s induction.

“In all practice environments, he has precepted pharmacy students and served as a role model,” Ross said. “Scott provides quality educational opportunities for our students by leading courses and serving as a facilitator in our problem-based learning curriculum.”

Ross went on to say that Malinowski’s long-term involvement in heart failure management in the ambulatory clinic, providing nutrition support in the inpatient setting and participating in the Community-Based Research Program shows his desire for student success.

“I am passionate about teaching because I enjoy helping students realize that they can successfully learn this vast amount of material that they are confronted with and use it to help others,” Malinowski said. “It is amazing to watch them grow into confident health care professionals.”

Crowdfunding Effort Aims to Offer Music as Medicine

Columns Society campaign focuses on pediatric health care

Batson Children’s Hospital School teacher Allyn Self works with patient Colin Henderson of Brandon. Photo courtesy UMMC

OXFORD, Miss. – Organizers of an online crowdfunding campaign want to supplement medicine with music for young patients being treated at Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.

Members of the Columns Society, a group of UM students who serve as the university’s official hosts and hostesses, have created an Ignite Ole Miss campaign, hoping to raise $1,400 to cover the cost of Rhythm Pax gifts for children undergoing treatment at Batson.

A Rhythm Pax is a canvas sack filled with age-appropriate percussion instruments and other music-related items. The proposed gifts include a kalimba, a thumb piano; sound shapes; rain sticks; bells; triangles; hand bells; a Blue Man Group/”Stomp” DVD; finger drum; an iTunes gift card; and more.

“The therapeutic benefits provided by music are endless and allow families to cope and be together while creating and enjoying the gift of music,” said Ingrid Valbuena Alcina, philanthropy chair of the Columns Society and a senior majoring in integrated marketing communications.

Though acknowledging the role of music in addressing illness is not new, recent research is illuminating how music affects the brain and other body systems in a measurable way. Using that knowledge, practitioners can now integrate music with medicine to augment healing.

Leading the research in this area is the Johns Hopkins Center for Music and Medicine in Baltimore.

“It’s fascinating and powerful to think that music, something that has been floating around in our environment forever – that this natural, omnipresent human activity has demonstrable benefit as treatment,” said Sara Hoover, the center’s co-director.

Batson Children’s Hospital is the only medical facility in Mississippi devoted exclusively to the care and treatment of sick and injured children and adolescents. The hospital averages 9,000 admissions a year and nearly 80,000 children are treated in its clinics and emergency room annually.

Patients come from all of Mississippi’s 82 counties to receive comprehensive medical care for everything from common childhood illnesses to serious trauma and life-threatening or chronic illnesses.

Batson Hospital provides care in more than 30 specialty areas, including newborn medicine, pediatric cardiology, neurology and surgery. It houses the state’s only pediatric intensive care unit and emergency department along with Mississippi’s only pediatric treatment programs for cancer, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, congenital heart defects and more.

Ground has been broken on a $180 million new pediatrics tower adjacent to Batson Children’s Hospital, further expanding top-tier medical care for Mississippi’s youngest citizens.

To join the Columns Society’s effort to provide Rhythm Pax to hospitalized children, click here to visit the campaign’s Ignite Ole Miss page.

Dual-Campus Research Day Fosters Collaborative Science

Researchers from Oxford and Jackson share ideas, results

Caroline Canarios of the Center for Population Studies talks with Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter (left) and Josh Gladden, UM vice chancellor for research, about the ‘Right! from the Start’ breastfeeding program, which includes investigators from the Oxford and Medical Center campuses. UMMC Public Affairs photo

JACKSON, Miss. – Members of the Jackson and Oxford research communities gathered April 4 for the fourth annual UM/UMMC Research Day in the Norman C. Nelson Student Union at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

Research Day, held in alternating years at University of Mississippi’s Oxford and Medical Center campuses, is an opportunity for members of the university community to learn more about the scientific and scholarly research being conducted on both campuses. More than 150 attendees learned about the work of more than 80 faculty, administrators and trainees, ranging from artificial neural networks to health in Zambia.

“Research is the glue that holds our university’s missions together,” said Dr. Richard Summers, UMMC associate vice chancellor for research. Without the new knowledge generated by research, advances in education, health care and service would stall.

“The future is in our hands,” Summers said.

“I cannot overstate my confidence that we, as an institution, will continue to grow,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said.

The day’s presentations took the form of three-minute lectures, poster sessions and keynote addresses. Some presenters discussed their resources and results, inviting new partners to join in their work.

“How can we more actively treat patients, as opposed to seeing them in a doctor’s office every three to six months?” asked Kourtland Adams, nurse manager for the UMMC Center of Telehealth. His lecture discussed the potential of remote patient monitoring for managing chronic health conditions.

After providing patients in Sunflower County with digital monitors for daily check-ins, Telehealth’s diabetes project observed a decreased HbA1c after three months, he said.

Others arrived at Research Day with explicit requests for help.

“I came here looking for a medical physicist, and my presentation happens to follow one,” said Dwight Waddell, UM associate professor of electrical engineering.

Jeremiah Blough (left), a graduate student in the School of Applied Sciences, discusses his research with Jeremiah Reese, a first-year medical student, during a poster session. UMMC Public Affairs photo

Waddell, director of the new undergraduate biomedical engineering program, shared his “first-world” problem: lots of qualified students, but not enough research opportunities for them in Oxford alone. What better place to find potential mentors than the Medical Center, he said.

This year’s Research Day also included a forum on the Flagship Constellations, an initiative formalized in November 2017 to cluster research teams around broad challenges. Co-leaders from the Big Data, Brain Wellness, Community Wellbeing and Disaster Resilience constellations updated attendees on plans for cross-disciplinary work.

Nowadays, research requires this kind of collaborative approach. The image of a solo scientist bent over a lab bench is faded and outdated.

“One thing we have learned about research is that no man or woman is an island,” Summers said. “We need to leverage our strengths to make progress.”

“There’s no more low-hanging fruit in research,” said Josh Gladden, UM vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs. “We are now looking at complex, multidimensional problems that require a multidisciplinary approach.”

Gladden illustrated the importance of forums such as Research Day with a story about a meeting between UMMC clinicians and Ole Miss acoustic researchers that occurred a few years ago. He saw an engineer and a neurosurgeon “huddled at a table drawing on a napkin,” he said, sketching out an idea for a device.

That kind of informal brainstorming can be the start of great ideas and partnerships, he said. With that, he encouraged Research Day attendees to find their own tables.

“We have plenty of napkins,” he said.

UMMC Distinguished Professor Earns SEC Faculty Achievement Award

Jane Reckelhoff honored for teaching and research

Jane Reckelhoff

JACKSON, Miss. – Jane Reckelhoff, Billy S. Guyton Distinguished Professor and chair of cell and molecular biology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, is the 2018 Southeastern Conference Faculty Achievement Award winner for the university.

“I am truly honored to receive this recognition and am humbled to be a part of this distinguished group of scholars,” Reckelhoff said. “I extend my gratitude to those who nominated me for this distinction.”

To be eligible for the SEC Faculty Achievement Award, an individual must hold the rank of full professor at an SEC university. They must also have an extraordinary teaching record and be a nationally or internationally-recognized scholar in their field.

A graduate of the Medical College of Virginia with a Ph.D. in biochemistry, Reckelhoff joined the Medical Center in 1991 as an assistant professor of physiology and biophysics. She rose to the rank of full professor before becoming chair of the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology in 2017.

Reckelhoff researches sex- and gender-based differences in blood pressure control and kidney function, as well as the mechanisms responsible for postmenopausal hypertension. Her research has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health since 1998.

She is co-principal investigator on a multi-institutional award to study hypertension in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. She also serves as principal investigator on a National Institute for General Medical Sciences grant to study perinatal health and disease.

Reckelhoff is dedicated to training the next generation of biomedical scientists, mentoring students ranging from high schoolers to postdoctoral fellows. Many of her former trainees have gone on to become faculty members at universities in several countries.

Reckelhoff is director of the Women’s Health Research Center and director of the Mississippi Center for Excellence in Perinatal Research at UMMC. She also served as president of the American Physiological Society in 2016.

“Dr. Reckelhoff is a distinguished scientist and teacher widely respected by her peers and loved by her students,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, UMMC vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. “These qualities and her outstanding leadership on our campus and in the broader scientific community make her exceptionally deserving of this honor.”

“Dr. Jane Reckelhoff helps define excellence at the University of Mississippi and we are so pleased she is being recognized and honored as an SEC Faculty Achievement Award winner,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “This recognition is a testament to her outstanding contributions as an award-winning researcher, respected academic leader, nationally-recognized health advocate and an empowering mentor.” 

Selected by a committee of SEC provosts, the Faculty Achievement Awards are part of SECU. This academic initiative of the Southeastern Conference sponsors, supports and promotes collaborative higher education programs and activities involving administrators, faculty and students at its 14 member universities.

SEC Faculty Achievement Award winners receive a $5,000 honorarium from the conference and become his or her university’s nominee for the SEC Professor of the Year Award. The SEC Professor of the Year, to be named in April, receives an additional $15,000 honorarium and recognition at the SEC Awards Dinner.

Reckelhoff is the third UMMC faculty member to win the Faculty Achievement Award for the university.

Dr. John Hall, Arthur C. Guyton Professor and Chair of physiology and biophysics, received the honor in 2014 and was later named SEC Professor of the Year. Dr. Joey Granger, professor of physiology and biophysics and dean of the School of Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences, received the honor in 2016.

UM Professors Receive IHL Excellence in Diversity Awards

RoSusan Bartee, Dr. Leandro Mena and Dr. Helen B. Barnes lauded at ceremonies in Jackson

Dr. Leandro Mena (center), UMMC professor and chair of population health science, receives an IHL Excellence in Diversity Award from trustee Shane Hooper (left) as Charles S. O’Mara, UMMC associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs, congratulates him. Photo by Jay Ferchaud/UMMC

OXFORD, Miss. – Faculty members at the University of Mississippi and the university’s Medical Center have been honored with diversity awards by the board of trustees of Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning.

RoSusan Bartee, professor of leadership and counselor education, and Dr. Leandro Mena, professor and chair of population health science, were recognized at the IHL’s Excellence in Diversity Awards ceremony Feb. 15 in Jackson. Dr. Helen Beatrice Barnes, a retired UMMC physician and administrator, also was awarded the Karen Cummins Community Service Award.

Each was presented a plaque by Shane Hooper, IHL trustee and chair of the Diversity Committee.

“Dr. Bartee and Dr. Mena make a profound difference on the students at the University of Mississippi and the University of Mississippi Medical Center,” Hooper said. “They are committed to ensuring that all students are welcomed and provided every opportunity to succeed. Their dedication creates a better campus climate for all students, faculty and visitors.”

Bartee said she is humbled by her recognition.

“The IHL Excellence in Diversity Award is particularly meaningful because narrow pathways of access and opportunity continue to plague the institution of higher education and the constituencies served,” Bartee said. “I believe my contributions have been experienced in the manner they were purposed whenever, wherever and however my contributions generate either broadened access or more opportunity for those served and subsequent public recognition – or not – occurs as a result of impact.”

Mena echoed similar thoughts.

“I recognize that I am just one member of a much larger community of very passionate people in our health center who collectively are doing an amazing work promoting inclusiveness and equity not only in our health center but throughout our state,” he said.

“I have seen how UMMC has become a leader in the promotion of tolerance, diversity and inclusiveness in our state and our region, so it felt very special and meaningful to receive this recognition from my own institution where so much work is being done by others promoting diversity.”

Barnes, professor emerita of the UM School of Medicine and co-founder of the Primary Care Clinic at the Jackson Medical Mall Thad Cochran Center, was honored for her longtime commitment to improving the health and lives of Mississippi women.

After joining the UMMC faculty as an assistant professor of medicine in 1969, Barnes served as professor and chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology until her retirement in 2003. After that, her vision and passion to provide comprehensive health care for women led to the founding of the Primary Care Clinic for Women at the Medical Mall, which became the primary clinical site for the National Center for Excellence in Women’s Health at UMMC.

Doug Rouse, IHL trustee, presents Dr. Helen Barnes, UMMC professor emerita, with the Karen Cummins Community Service Award. Submitted photo by Jay Ferchaud/UMMC

The board voted last year to name the community service award in memory of trustee Karen Cummins in recognition that her life epitomized what the award is all about, helping to improve Mississippi’s communities with a welcoming and inclusive spirit.

The IHL honors enhance the university’s ongoing efforts to promote diversity, said Katrina Caldwell, UM vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement.

“The IHL Excellence in Diversity Award is special because it celebrates the often-invisible labor of faculty and staff in our community who are deeply dedicated to helping us honor our stated commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion on our campuses,” she said.

Each IHL member institution, as well as UMMC and Mississippi State University Division of Agricultural, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine, submitted one nomination for consideration to the board’s Diversity Committee. Nominees were evaluated based on positive contributions to the campus and the state and advancing diversity among their respective institutions.

Bartee became the first African-American to receive tenure and promotion to professor in the Department of Leadership and Counselor Education at Ole Miss. She is listed in Top 40/Under 40 in Mississippi, Who’s Who in Black Mississippi, Who’s Who Among Executives and Professionals and Who’s Who in America.

A School of Education researcher of the year, Bartee previously served as program coordinator for the master’s, specialist and doctoral programs in educational leadership. She utilizes every opportunity to champion equality and equal rights.

RoSusan Bartee (center), UM professor of leadership and counselor education, receives an IHL Excellence in Diversity Award from trustee Shane Hooper (left) and congratulations from Noel Wilkin, UM provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs. Photo by Jay Ferchaud/UMMC

“My commitment to diversity simply mirrors my commitment to humankind,” Bartee said. “Human beings are our greatest resource, yet most underutilized asset.

“To the extent that our intellectual, interrogative and inspirational capacities are used to advance all humankind is the extent to which campuses and society alike will fulfill the potential with-in and with-out.”

Associate professor of medicine with the Division of Infectious Diseases, Mena graduated from the Universidad Nacional Pedro Henriquez Urena in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and from Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans. He is director of the Center for HIV/AIDS Research, Education and Policy for the Myrlie Evers-Williams Institute for the Elimination of Health Disparities.

Mena served 14 years as the medical director of Crossroads Clinic, the only publicly funded exclusive STD/HIV clinic in the state, and co-founded Open Arms Healthcare Center, a community-based clinic that offers primary care services with an emphasis in health care needs for LGBT populations in Jackson.

He has more than 26 years of experience in clinical and epidemiological research in the area of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, with special interest in the dynamics of transmission and the role that social determinants of health play in perpetuating these epidemics in sexual and gender minority populations.

“My commitment to diversity comes from the firm believe that we all deserve to be welcomed and valued for the contributions that we make,” Mena said. “I applaud IHL for recognizing efforts in the public institutions of higher education in our state to promote diversity and inclusiveness. Such recognition elevate the conversation and, hopefully, encourage others to get involved.”

For more information on diversity and inclusion efforts at UM, go to For more information about the IHL, contact Caron Blanton at

Medical Education Building to Be Named in Honor of Gov. Phil Bryant

Move recognizes leadership role and commitment to constructing facility

The new medical education building at the University of Mississippi Medical Center was dedicated in August 2017. UMMC photo by Joe Ellis

OXFORD, Miss – The University of Mississippi has announced the naming of the medical education building at its Medical Center campus in Jackson in honor of Gov. Phil Bryant. The naming of Phil Bryant Medical Education Building became official today (Nov. 16) with approval from the Board of Trustees of Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning.

The new building – a 151,000-square-foot, $76 million state-of-the-art facility – was dedicated Aug. 4, 2017. Working with the Legislature, Gov. Bryant was instrumental in securing funding for the project, including $10 million in federal Community Development Block Grant funding through the Mississippi Development Authority to launch the effort, as well as helping to secure $66 million in state bonds.

Gov. Bryant’s commitment to bringing more physicians to Mississippi and to growing the state’s health care economy extends back to his term as lieutenant governor.

“Gov. Bryant has worked tirelessly over many years to ensure that the new medical education building would become a reality,” said Jeffrey Vitter, UM chancellor. “He recognized the vital need to train additional doctors as well as the tremendous impact this medical school will continue to have upon our state for generations to come.

“The new building and expanded classes will stand as a part of his legacy.”

At roughly 185 doctors per 100,000 residents, Mississippi is the most medically underserved state in the nation. Addressing this issue has been one of the governor’s highest priorities. His commitment to increasing the state’s number of physicians was a focal point of his 2013 State of the State address in which he observed that having more providers will create better health care access for Mississippians, resulting in lower costs.

“This honor is incredibly humbling and unexpected, and I am so grateful,” Gov. Bryant said. “I will continue to serve the university and its medical community in every way possible in order to be deserving of this distinction.

“It is my hope that this wonderful new facility will help grow and sustain our ability to provide the best health care possible for the people of Mississippi.”

Medical school leaders began increasing class sizes several years ago in anticipation of the new building. With the opening of the facility last summer, the entering class size grew from around 145 students to 155 this year, and will eventually top off at approximately 165 – the size considered necessary to meet the goal of 1,000 additional physicians by 2025.

It is projected that the larger class sizes accommodated by the new facility will generate about $1.7 billion in economic impact by 2025 and that the additional physicians trained will support more than 19,000 new jobs by the same year. The economic impact of practicing UMMC-trained physicians is more than $6.3 billion annually, and those physicians are estimated to support more than 60,000 jobs in the state.

Governor Phil Bryant

“Gov. Bryant has been a great champion of the effort to build a new medical education building, which will ultimately lead to more physicians for Mississippi and greater access to health care for more of the state’s residents, particularly those in rural areas,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. “We are extremely grateful for the governor’s exceptional leadership in helping us achieve our mission of training Mississippians to take care of Mississippians.”

Besides his central role in garnering funding for the new building, Gov. Bryant has more broadly supported medical education efforts in the state. During the 2012 legislative session, Gov. Bryant signed House Bill 317 into law to establish more medical residency programs throughout the state, a move intended to allow more Mississippi-trained physicians to remain in the state.

That same year, Gov. Bryant championed and signed legislation creating Health Care Industry Zones to spur expanded access to health care and grow health care jobs.

Gov. Bryant also has a longstanding history of leadership and advocacy in support of growing Mississippi’s health care economy, including two years of legislation that removed barriers to the full adoption of telehealth as a means of providing patient care. As a result, Mississippi has been recognized by the American Telemedicine Association as one of only nine states with an A-rating as a top state for telehealth.

UMMC also was recently designated one of only two Telehealth Centers of Excellence nationwide by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration.

Gov. Bryant also was instrumental in passing the Health Care Collaboration Act, which will provide new opportunities for UMMC to partner with rural hospitals and others to further expand medical services. During his terms, the governor has also devoted significant support to growing the Mississippi Healthcare Corridor, which includes UMMC as an anchor institution.

Gov. Bryant’s commitment to a healthier Mississippi is shared by first lady Deborah Bryant, whose career in health care spanned more than three decades. Health care is one of the pillars of her platform to improve the quality of life for Mississippians of all ages. 

She is active in a number of health-related causes, including serving as a board member for the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi, which honored her in 2014 as a recipient of the “Women of Excellence” Award. She is also a frequent volunteer at Batson Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Ford Dye, member of the board of the State Institutions of Higher Learning and an alumnus of the UM School of Medicine, praised Gov. Bryant for his commitment to improving medical education in the state.

When Gov. Bryant first came into office, he set as a top priority the need to increase the physician workforce in our state to provide quality health care for our citizens,” Dye said. “He led the way to obtain necessary funds to build this incredible new building, which will house the School of Medicine at UMMC.

“Without his strong leadership, this new building would not have been completed. We are grateful to Gov. Bryant for his vision and service to the people of this state and are delighted this building will be named in his honor.”

The new medical education building was designed and built to house the School of Medicine, which was originally in the Medical Center complex that opened in July 1955. Over the years, demands for space have grown, and, as the Medical Center expanded, the medical school splintered into a network of disconnected sites, including some makeshift offices and labs.

“Naming the building housing the medical school after Gov. Bryant is a fitting tribute,” said Glenn Boyce, commissioner of higher education. “He has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to improving the health of all Mississippians and has pursued this goal with vision and passion. His vision will change the medical landscape of our state and help generations of Mississippians lead healthier lives.”

The medical education facility includes a cutting-edge simulation training area, which was made possible in part by grants totaling nearly $5 million from the Hearin Foundation. It is also equipped with a mock operating theater – funded by the UMMC Alliance and the Manning Family Fund for a Healthier Mississippi – virtual reality spaces with high-fidelity task trainers, a clinical skills center, flexible-use spaces and more.

Located on the north side of campus, between the Student Union and the Learning Resource Center, the Phil Bryant Medical Education Building will house the educational core of the School of Medicine. The building’s neighbors include the schools of Dentistry, Pharmacy and Health Related Professions, along with the Bower School of Population Health in the new Translational Research Center.

UM Medical Center Partners in Fight to End Child Hunger

Hospital joins Children’s HealthWatch with funding from the Kellogg Foundation

Dr. Justin Davis (center) confers with resident Dr. Eric McDonald in the Pediatric Emergency Department of the UM MEdical Center. Davis, assistant professor of pediatric emergency medicine, is co-investigator of a research project exploring child hunger. UMMC photo by Joe Ellis

JACKSON, Miss. – Come January, some parents of children seen in the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Pediatric Emergency Department will be asked a revealing, two-pronged question – and given help, depending on their answers.

The verbal queries: “In the last 12 months, have you worried about food in your household running out before you have money to buy more?” And, “Within the past month, did food run out, and you didn’t have money to buy more?”

Their answers will add to a critical pool of data that will be used to gauge food insecurity affecting children treated in the Pediatric ED. Those numbers represent just one factor influencing child health outcomes, and one more area where policy influence is needed to improve their lives.

UMMC has been chosen as a new expansion site for Children’s HealthWatch, a Kellogg Foundation-supported project that collects data – typically in pediatric emergency rooms – to fuel research into factors that shape child health outcomes. Dr. Bettina Beech, professor of population health science and pediatrics and dean of the John D. Bower School of Population Health, and Dr. Justin Davis, assistant professor of pediatric emergency medicine, are co-principal investigators for the local research project.

Being named an expansion site is affirmation of the Medical Center’s research prowess and the Kellogg Foundation’s desire to target its grant dollars where they have the chance to effect change, Beech said.

“Here, we have plenty of opportunities to make a difference,” said Beech, also executive director of the Myrlie Evers-Williams Institute for the Elimination of Health Disparities at the Jackson Medical Mall.

Mississippi ranks last in the nation in child food insecurity, or what the federal government defines as limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, or the inability to get nutritious food because of a lack of transportation, money or sheer availability.

Children’s HealthWatch is a Boston-based nonpartisan network of pediatricians, public health researchers and children’s health and policy experts that gathers data from hospitals in seven cities: Boston; Baltimore; Little Rock, Arkansas; Minneapolis; Philadelphia; and new sites Jackson and Battle Creek, Michigan.

It’s a unique organization focused on improving the health and development of all children, particularly young children who often aren’t included in public policy discussions, said Stephanie Ettinger de Cuba, the nonprofit’s executive director.

“We’re trying to bring together science and policy in an attempt to allay hardships among families,” she said.

UMMC was chosen as an expansion site for multiple reasons, she said.

“We don’t have anyone who focuses on population health like Dr. Beech, and she has an incredible advisory board,” de Cuba said. “And Dr. Davis’ interest in driving more research … They’re a really impressive pair.” 

Stephanie Ettinger de Cuba

Children’s HealthWatch also considered needs in the community, such as not being able to afford food, housing and utilities. Beech and Davis “know the neighborhood disparities,” de Cuba said. “We can hopefully drive some change with the combination of their experience and expertise.”

Trained research assistants will use a random selection process to approach parents in UMMC’s Pediatric Emergency Department and confidentially ask them to join the research cohort, Davis said. The research assistants will complete a minimum 800 interviews annually.

“What’s exciting for us is that we feel like our population in the emergency department will help us better understand social determinants” that relate to hunger, Davis said.

Families coping with food insecurity will receive information on local food banks and other resources, Beech said.

Because UMMC has the state’s only children’s hospital and Pediatric Emergency Department of its type, Davis said, information gleaned will be unique.

“This will give us access to data that we couldn’t get locally,” he said. “It will give us the ability to understand where our children are at, and what we can do to help them.”

Data will be recorded electronically and securely and will be used in different forums, such as policy advocacy and other work that could improve children’s health outcomes, Davis said.

One of the most powerful studies performed by Children’s HealthWatch, Beech said, was development of the trademarked, two-question Hunger Vital Sign screening tool used by all its sites.

“Typically, those questions aren’t asked in a clinical system,” Beech said. “UMMC is moving in a very progressive direction to consider factors not addressed in the usual health care situation so that we can address the factors that affect health outcomes.”

The Hunger Vital Sign screen also is used at UMMC’s Adolescent and Young Adult Health Clinic at the Jackson Medical Mall. The goal: identify social, economic and environmental factors that leave children hungry, sick or continuously unwell, and give the family resources to break that cycle.

Dr. Bettina Beech

UMMC won’t just collect local data for use by Children’s HealthWatch. “We take part in the research as well, and we publish it with the whole Children’s HealthWatch group,” Beech said. “We can also include questions of local interest that other sites might not include.”

“What we’re moving to is a deeper dive on the questions,” de Cuba said. “As Dr. Davis sees a trend in the emergency room, or Dr. Beech sees things in the community, they can generate local data and be able to comment on local issues.”

Beech and Davis are pondering their own questions addressing health literacy and the concept of numeracy, or the ability to reason and apply simple numerical concepts. One example is understanding labels on food or over-the-counter drugs.

“Can you figure out how many calories are in one serving based on the amount of food?” Beech asked. “How much medication should be used for a child of a certain weight?

“It’s not just ‘Can I read?’ but ‘Do I understand very complex information?'” Beech said. “We’ve found that is an independent factor, regardless of someone’s education level.”

Another potential question would gauge perceptions of crime and how it influences behavior in terms of health, Beech said. “If you’re concerned about criminal activity in your neighborhood, will that impact the amount of exercise you get?” she asked.

“We don’t plan to stop there,” Davis said. “We will harness data to help address interventions that we can employ.”

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.

Annual Awards Program Honors UM Faculty and Students

HEADWAE recognizes academic achievement, contributions to higher learning

Austin Powell, UM Associated Student Body president, and John Czarnetzky, Ole Miss professor of law, were among those honored at the 30th annual Higher Education Appreciation Day- Working for Academic Excellence program in Jackson. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi students and faculty were among the honorees at the 30th annual Higher Education Appreciation Day-Working for Academic Excellence, or HEADWAE, awards program Feb. 21 in Jackson.

Austin Powell, a senior from Corinth majoring in public policy leadership and philosophy, and Ben Carroll, a member of the UM School of Medicine class of 2017, were the university’s student honorees. John Czarnetzky, professor of law, and Dr. David Norris, associate professor of family medicine at the UM Medical Center, were the faculty representatives on the awards program.

“I am surprised and honored,” said Powell, the Associated Student Body president. “I think receiving this honor is a testament for everyone who has believed and supported me because I could not have done any of this by myself.”

Carroll, also a 2016 Gold Humanism Honor Society inductee from Jackson, said it is a great honor to be recognized for his commitment not only to the content of his own education, but also to the future of all students at the UM Medical Center.

“I was excited to meet with students and faculty from around Mississippi who share a similar passion for helping our state’s higher learning communities reach for greater and greater heights,” Carroll said.

Czarnetzky is a four-time professor of the year honoree and the 2016 recipient of the Elsie Hood Award, which is the highest award received for teaching at the university.

“To be invited to participate with similar awardees from higher education institutions throughout Mississippi is an honor and great privilege,” Czarnetzky said.

Norris, a Gold Key Honor Society member, said it is gratifying to have his efforts rewarded.

“For me, this award is a double honor because it comes from my fellow faculty and the administration, and it is always a pleasure to have your peers notice your hard work,” he said.

HEADWAE was established by legislative resolution to honor students and faculty from the state’s public and private institutions of higher learning who have made outstanding contributions in promoting academic excellence.

The UM and UMMC honorees were among 62 others from Mississippi’s 34 public and private universities and colleges.

The winners were welcomed by Gov. Phil Bryant at the state Capitol and given a tour of the historic building. They also attended an awards luncheon where Rod Paige, interim president of Jackson State University, gave a keynote address.

UM Professors Receive IHL Excellence in Diversity Awards

Sociologist Willa Johnson and health clinician Hamed Benghuzzi lauded at ceremonies in Jackson

Willa Johnson (center), UM associate professor of sociology, receives the IHL Excellence in Diversity Award. She is congratulated by (from left) IHL trustee Shane Hooper and Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Faculty members at the University of Mississippi and the university’s Medical Center have been honored with diversity awards by the Mississippi Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning.

Willa Johnson, associate professor of sociology, and Hamed Benghuzzi, professor and chair of clinical health sciences, were recognized at the IHL’s Excellence in Diversity Awards ceremony Feb. 16 in Jackson. Each was presented a plaque by Shane Hooper, IHL trustee and chair of the Diversity Committee.

“Dr. Johnson and Dr. Benghuzzi make a profound difference on the students at the University of Mississippi and the University of Mississippi Medical Center,” Hooper said. “They are committed to ensuring that all students are welcomed and provided every opportunity to succeed. Their dedication creates a better campus climate for all students, faculty and visitors.”

Both Johnson and Benghuzzi said they were humbled by their recognitions.

“I was surprised by the news,” Johnson said. “It is a wonderful honor. None of what has been done would be possible without the stalwart support of my department chair, Dr. Kirsten Dellinger, and my friends and colleagues in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, who are always willing to do whatever they can to further the work of awareness and learning about diversity and inclusion.”

“I was extremely surprised and had no idea who nominated me,” Benghuzzi said. “I am so humbled and thankful to all who nominated me and to the UMMC leadership for allowing me to be part of a team that promotes diversity and inclusion.”

Each IHL member institution, as well as UMMC and Mississippi State University Division of Agricultural, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine, submitted one nomination for consideration to the board of trustees Diversity Committee. Nominees were evaluated based on positive contributions to the campus and the state and advancing diversity among their respective institutions.

Johnson serves on the Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Women and in other university capacities. However, she considers her diversity-related work as a natural extension of her research and teaching.

Dr. Hamed Benghuzzi (second from right), professor and chair of clinical health sciences at UMMC, receives the IHL Excellence in Diversity Award. He is congratulated by (from left) Shane Hooper, IHL trustee; Dr. Ralph Didlake, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs; and UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter. Submitted photo

She teaches courses on Judaism, the Holocaust and anti-Semitism, disability, racism and religion, and also mentors students and faculty on the UM campus and at other universities. She utilizes every opportunity to champion equality and equal rights.

“In other words, this is not a ‘me’ award; it is a campuswide award,” Johnson said. “We live in a space that has a painful racial history, but as folks who have inherited that history we are focused on making a positive difference in the state of Mississippi.

“I simply try to cobble together different groups of campus partners and outside funders to work on issues of mutual concern.”

Benghuzzi’s achievements in diversity include serving as adviser to more than 40 Ph.D. students, a mentor to Jackson-area high school students in UMMC’s Base Pair program and a mentor for Jackson State University’s Bridges to the Baccalaureate program. He also was a mentor for a National Science Foundation-funded biomedical science program for minority high school students.

“I have always believed diversity constitutes strength in the academic setting,” Benghuzzi said. “I have received many national and state awards throughout my career, but this award is most meaningful because I was nominated by people who believe I have demonstrated that all people, regardless of their social status, gender, race or religion, should be treated equally.”

The Board of Trustees voted unanimously to name the Community Service Award in memory of trustee Karen Cummins in recognition that Cummins’ life epitomized what the award is all about: helping to improve Mississippi’s communities with a welcoming and inclusive spirit. Cummins was appointed to the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning in 2012 by Gov. Phil Bryant and served with commitment and dedication until her recent death.

Johnson was nominated by Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter and Don Cole, assistant to the chancellor for multicultural affairs. Benghuzzi was nominated by Ralph Didlake, UMMC associate vice chancellor for academic affairs, and LouAnn Woodward, UMMC vice chancellor for health affairs.

For more information on diversity and inclusion efforts at UM, go to For more information about the IHL, contact Caron Blanton at