Mississippi Public Universities support community engagement through health initiatives

Ask Mississippians what Mississippi’s greatest challenges are and many are likely to answer, “health.” The Mississippi State Department of Health reports that 15 percent of Mississippians report having diabetes, 70 percent report being overweight and 82 percent report taking medication for high blood pressure.

Another health challenge facing Mississippians is addition to opioids. StandUp Mississippi reports that there were 342 overdose deaths reported in the state in 2018, with 62 percent of those resulting from opioids.

Mississippi Public Universities are helping Mississippians overcome these challenges through community outreach and research that leads to breakthroughs and products that solve problems and have the added benefit of contributing to the economy.

The University of Mississippi recently partnered with Emerald Biosciences to license cannabis-derived drugs technologies that may provide nonaddictive pain management, prevent blindness and alleviate the threat of irreversible vision loss from glaucoma and other eye diseases. This could be a game-changer for those struggling with addiction and may even save lives

The cannabis research program at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy has partnered with pharmaceutical company Emerald Bioscience Inc. to license two new drug technologies that may provide nonaddictive pain management, prevent blindness and alleviate the threat of irreversible vision loss from glaucoma and other eye diseases.

Earlier this month, Mississippi University for Women held its annual II+C Symposium, which has focused on heart disease in underserved communities. This year, the symposium focused on stem cell therapies and their place in modern medicine. Internationally known researchers and medical professionals discussed their work and the latest developments, while members provided insights about current stem cell research and its impact on the future.

All Symposium events were held on The W campus and were free and open to the public. Practicing professionals from around the region, as well as university and high school students, were invited to attend and interact with those at the top of their STEM fields.

A unique partnership between the Mississippi State University Extension Service and the University of Mississippi Medical Center is making a positive impact on health and wellness in Humphreys County.

The UMMC Community Care Clinic in Belzoni, which opened its doors to patient care in December 2017, is much more than an after-hours, acute-care medical facility. It offers a range of services to help people of all ages live healthier lifestyles — from family education and disease prevention to nutrition and fitness guidance.

Staffed by nurse practitioners and registered nurses, the clinic is open from 2:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. on weekdays and 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on weekends. It is equipped to treat acute illnesses and injuries that are not life-threatening and do not require emergency room visits. The clinic’s capabilities are augmented by telehealth services that provide access to 35 specialties based at the Medical Center in Jackson in addition to remote patient monitoring equipment.

With a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, UMMC formed a consortium with MSU Extension, the State Department of Health and Mississippi Delta Community College to expand the clinic’s focus to include preventive care, healthy living and health care job training. The grant also funded the addition of classroom space, a fitness room and a walking track.

In 2019, The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) College of Nursing and Health Professions received renewal of a federal grant worth $2.8 million over four years as part of the Advanced Nursing Education Workforce (ANEW) Program.

The ANEW Program provides funding to support innovative academic-practice partnerships to prepare primary care advanced practice registered nursing students to practice in rural and underserved settings through academic and clinical training.

The partnerships support traineeships, as well as infrastructure funds to schools of nursing and their practice partners who deliver primary care clinical training experiences with rural and/or underserved populations for advanced nursing education programs.

To increase the number of qualified health care professionals serving the public, USM has launched a new fully online degree, Public Health with Allied Health emphasis, designed for health professionals. The program is designed to meet the needs of students who have graduated from an accredited two-year allied health program with an associates degree and are eligible to sit for a national certification examination in the specific discipline area for the associate degree level allied health professional. The online allied health emphasis focuses on helping students in health care careers who want to move their careers forward, a key mission for Southern Miss.

The DuBard School for Language Disorders and Children’s Center for Communication and Development at USM provides Mississippi parents and families with access to high-quality services that improve the lives of children and young people.

The DuBard School for Language Disorders was established in 1962 and is a clinical division of USM’s School of Speech and Hearing Sciences. The school was designed to serve students with severe language-speech disorders, including developmental aphasia and childhood apraxia of speech, deafness and hearing impairments, as well as those with the written language disorder of dyslexia. DuBard School services include full time enrollment for children ages three to 13, out client therapy to clients of all ages, evaluations and referrals, as well as professional development opportunities to individuals throughout the country.

The Children’s Center for Communication and Development at USM provides communicative and developmental transdisciplinary services to infants, toddlers, and preschoolers while educating, training and supporting families, university students, and professionals. The transdisciplinary team includes experienced early intervention specialists in speech-language pathology, early oral intervention, audiology, special education, behavioral therapy, physical therapy and occupational therapy.

A grant made possible through the Asbury Foundation Distinguished Professor in Nursing fund is helping USM nursing faculty and students provide healthcare to an under-served area of Hattiesburg, Miss. Dr. Elizabeth Tinnon, associate professor in the USM College of Nursing and Health Professions, is coordinating the grant project in partnership with the University’s Institute for Disability Studies.

Fellowship Health Clinic (FHC) is located on Edwards Street in southeast Hattiesburg and provides high quality medical, dental and pharmaceutical care at no cost to eligible uninsured and underinsured residents of Forrest and Lamar counties.

Delta State University’s Department of Social Work includes the following evidence-based, ongoing healthcare initiatives in its BSW program in partnership with various campus colleagues. They also can be taken into the community and provided in healthcare agencies for a fee.

  • The DSU Virtual Dementia Tour gives participants a glimpse of what it feels like to experience physical and cognitive impairments associated with old age and dementia.
  • The DSU Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder Simulator/Research Project educates participants about long-term health effects of smoking/secondhand smoke.
  • A new Obesity Simulator allows participants to feel what it is like to be obese or at-risk for obesity to underscore related healthcare, dietary, exercise, and environmental needs.
  • In the three-hour DSU Poverty Simulation Project, participants learn how to survive on a very low income for a month. Participants navigate various community resources, including healthcare, and the lack of them.
  • The “In Her Shoes” Domestic Violence Simulation walks participants through scenarios that depict the reality of domestic violence and the difficulty of getting help for victims and offenders.

DSU’s Social Work Department also teaches an elective course, Integrated Health and Mental Health for the Helping Professions, for the provision of appropriate prevention and intervention services. Many DSU social work graduates are employed in healthcare settings.

Delta State’s Speech and Hearing Clinic is a primary practicum component for the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, providing a clinical/educational environment in which to train students. The patient population includes children and adults in the surrounding Delta communities.

In January, DSU’s Student Affairs opened The Statesman’s Shelf food pantry for current students to help combat food insecurity. It provides non-perishable food and beverages, along with disposable dinnerware, to any DSU student who wants to partake. Students do not have to qualify for need to participate. The sole requirement is a valid student ID. Transactions are confidential.

Similarly, last summer, the Robert E. Smith School of Nursing began installing “Blessings in a Box” food pantries throughout the local Bolivar County for those in need. “If you need it, take it. If you have it, give it,” is the premise.

Also at Delta State’s School of Nursing, senior nursing students will conduct two-hour teaching projects at the campus childcare center, Hamilton-White Child Development Center, this semester. Through games, crafts, the reading of books, and other creative activities, they’ll teach 2-4-year-old children about dental care, hand washing, healthy foods, and the importance of physical activity/exercise.

In early 2019, Assistant Professor of Nursing Dr. Donna Hill received a Delta State Faculty Research Grant to teach adults ways to recognize child sexual abuse and react responsibly to prevent it. She and other nursing faculty members presented a program, Darkness to Light, Stewards of Children, to almost 700 individuals in the Bolivar County school system.

Last year, Delta State Athletics received a second six-figure grant from the Bolivar Medical Center Foundation to continue a highly-regarded initiative that has provided sports performance and health and wellness treatment and education to the physically active on campus and in the community. The most recent $120,000 gift follows an initial installment of $250,000 in September 2018 and extended the project for a second year.

The project, a joint venture between the Bolivar Medical Center and Delta State Sports Medicine and Strength and Conditioning, emphasizes a proactive approach to prevent sports-related injury and disability and to promote health and wellness by offering DSU student-athletes, high school athletes, and their coaches and parents more access to certified athletic trainers and strength and conditioning personnel. There is a shortage of these professionals in Bolivar County and surrounding areas.

Experts administer healthcare education, injury evaluation, rehabilitation strategies, and event coverage in both collegiate and secondary school settings. They also address related topics such as heat illness, sleep patterns, and cardiac vigilance, plus concussions, nutrition, hydration, warmup, equipment, supplements, emergency action plans, and rest and recovery, among others.

Delta State Athletics used most of the $250,000 grant to fortify staffing needs for campus student-athletes, who total 385 for 2019-20. It created a Strength and Conditioning Department by hiring a head coach and four graduate assistants. And it expanded the Sports Medicine Department from two to three full-time athletic trainers and added four 10-month positions.

The $250,000 grant also enabled Delta State Athletics to host clinics for the wider community last year on subjects such as hydration information and stress relief. The $120,000 infusion furthers these efforts.