School of Medicine Faculty, Alumna to Receive Dr. Fayth M. Parks Rural HIV Innovation Award

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MACON – Mercer University School of Medicine (MUSM) faculty members Dr. Jeffrey L. Stephens and Dr. Betsy E. Smith and recent graduate Dr. Sahra Ahmadi were selected to receive the Dr. Fayth M. Parks Rural HIV Innovation Award at the seventh annual Rural HIV Research and Training Conference Sept. 20-21 in Savannah.

Dr. Stephens, Dr. Smith and Dr. Ahmadi were selected for the award, which recognizes innovative ideas and solutions in the fight against the HIV epidemic in rural communities, for their project, titled “Assessing Cardiovascular Disease Risk in a Southern/Semi-rural HIV Clinic Population.”

The study grew out of an MUSM fourth-year medical student research elective led by Dr. Stephens in which two screening tests for cardiovascular risk were assessed at the HOPE Center, a clinic in Macon for individuals living with HIV/AIDS.

“Since 50 percent of patients living with HIV in the U.S. are older than 50 years of age, cardiac disease is a huge issue among that patient population,” said Dr. Stephens. “We highlighted the difference in cardiovascular risk assessment by using two different screening algorithms.”

Dr. Stephens is professor of infectious diseases at Mercer and staff physician at the HOPE Center. Dr. Smith is an assistant professor of biostatistics at Mercer, and Dr. Ahmadi is a first-year internal medicine resident at WellStar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta after graduating from MUSM in May.

The Rural HIV Research and Training Conference is a two-day forum for exchanging the latest information and learning the newest tools to address the challenges of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in rural communities.

About Mercer University School of Medicine (Macon, Savannah and Columbus)

Mercer University’s School of Medicine was established in 1982 to educate physicians and health professionals to meet the primary care and health care needs of rural and medically underserved areas of Georgia. Today, more than 60 percent of graduates currently practice in the state of Georgia, and of those, more than 80 percent are practicing in rural or medically underserved areas of Georgia. Mercer medical students benefit from a problem-based medical education program that provides early patient care experiences. Such an academic environment fosters the early development of clinical problem-solving and instills in each student an awareness of the place of the basic medical sciences in medical practice. The School opened a full four-year campus in Savannah in 2008 at Memorial University Medical Center. In 2012, the School began offering clinical education for third- and fourth-year medical students in Columbus. Following their second year, students participate in core clinical clerkships at the School’s primary teaching hospitals: Medical Center, Navicent Health in Macon; Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah; and The Medical Center and St. Francis Hospital in Columbus. The School also offers master’s degrees in family therapy, preclinical sciences and biomedical sciences and a Ph.D. in rural health sciences.

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Kyle Sears