Posted by William Nunnelley on 2008-09-18

Samford University's McWhorter School of Pharmacy is an "integral partner" in a program to fight diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity in west Alabama funded by a new grant of up to $3.9 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The five-year grant to the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) for its Strategic Alliance for Health Program will begin Sept. 30, with approximately $360,000 awarded for the first year. Sowing Seeds of Hope, a Perry County program, and the Health and Wellness Education Center of Sumter County are other integral partners in the program.

The ADPH will work closely with Dallas, Perry and Sumter county health departments and the three partners to develop model interventions, according to Heidi Hataway, manager of Steps to a Healthier Alabama, which will administer the program. Steps to a Healthier Alabama operates under the ADPH through a cooperative agreement with CDC.

"The strengths of our partners and their activities contributed hugely to the success of our (grant) application," said Hataway.

Samford's pharmacy school, in collaboration with the university's Exercise Science and Sports Medicine Department, has worked for more than five years to improve the health of people in Perry County, which has no hospital or emergency room, and west Alabama. On occasion, Samford's Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing also has been involved.

The school involves students and faculty members to operate free weekly diabetes and cardiovascular risk reduction clinics and Walk for Wellness programs. Two years ago Samford began a program of having four pharmacy students reside in Marion, the county seat, for a month at a time to volunteer in the Perry County Health Department and in local pharmacies and doctor's offices.

"The programs provide meaningful preventive medical services to the people of Perry County and invaluable clinical experience for our students," said Dr. Charles Sands III, interim pharmacy dean who has worked in the program four years.

The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) recognized the program earlier this year by presenting the pharmacy school one of its eight national Crystal Apple Awards for providing "quality experiential education in an exemplary patient-care clinical teaching environment."

Samford will build on this background to fulfill its role as partner in the new five-year program. Hataway noted that in years three through five of the CDC grant, Dallas, Perry and Sumter counties will mentor two new counties to adopt initiatives. By the end of the fifth year, she said, the healthcare initiatives should span 21 counties.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.