UAB medical graduates celebrate history and impact

Published 12:09 am Sunday, June 21, 2009

The UAB Selma Family Medicine Center held its 30th anniversary of the residency program and 116th graduation ceremony at the Larry D. Striplin Performing Arts Center on Saturday evening.

The program is affiliated with the University of Alabama’s School of Medicine in Tuscaloosa. The physicians of the program provide primary care for the entire family.

Dr. Monica Newton, a graduate of the residency program and local doctor of osteopathic medicine, said despite the residency program bringing in $90 million for Selma per year, the impact is more than just a dollar sign.

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“It’s not just the money,” said Newton. “It’s about the community.”

The UAB Selma residency program contributes $750 million to Alabama per year, and it has 51 graduates who began their career in Alabama. The program is responsible for $1.6 billion nationally. The Family Medicine Center has community initiatives such as the “Family Doc in a Bus,” which provides medical attention to people free of charge.

Jeff Cothran, the executive director of the Selma/Dallas County United Way, said the Doc in a Bus program had its 20th clinic on Friday.

“We have had 536 visits since we began 10 months ago,” said Cothran. “That is 6 1/2 patients per hour.”

The program also sponsors the Faith Based Solution for the Drug Epidemic in conjunction with Circuit Court Judge Bob Armstrong. The UAB Selma Family Medicine Center helps people with substance-abuse problems with the physicals and blood work necessary to enter the program.

“About 85 percent of our graduates get rid of their substance-abuse problems,” said Armstrong. “It’s either they go to jail or go into the program for these individuals.”

Selma Mayor George Evans thanked the UAB program for its work in Selma.

“The program could have gone anywhere,” said Evans. “It chose to stay in Selma and we have some of the best health care anywhere.”

Along with Evans, state Rep. Yusuf Salaam and Selma City Schools Superintendent Dr. Austin Obasohan also spoke of the impact that UAB Selma Family Medicine has on the area.

The program began in 1975 with Dr. Don C. Overstreet, who now has an office in Valley Grande.

“Dr. Overstreet poured his heart and soul into this practice,” said Newton.

The program is designed to meet the special needs of physicians who are going to practice family medicine, especially in rural and semi-rural communities.

The graduation ceremony honored seven residents and their time in Selma. Dr. Sajuma Bhaju received the Dr. Donald Overstreet Living Memorial Award for her contribution to the health care of the region, which included hours working in the Doc in a Bus program.

Dr. Boyd L. Bailey Jr., director of the UAB program, said the family medicine and primary-care field is one of the most important fields of medicine, though it needs physicians.

“There are not enough primary-care doctors,” said Bailey. “Currently 30 to 35 percent of doctors are primary-care doctors and that number needs to be at 50 percent.”