Salvation-Army-with-Credit-217x300It’s been almost six months since Christmas and many of us might find it difficult to even remember what we were able to accomplish during the rush of the holiday season.  On May 17, 2010, the Consumers of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Engel Adult Day Treatment Program received a nice reminder of what they accomplished, when they were awarded the 2009 – 2010 Volunteer Group of the Year by the Salvation Army.  This award is in recognition of each Consumer’s outstanding service and commitment to help others.

For the last nine years, Consumers and staff have participated in the annual Angel Tree Christmas activity in Birmingham.  It began as an opportunity for the Consumers to provide a service to their community and over the years, it has also become an avenue to educate others regarding mental illness.

With popular Christmas carols playing in the background, each Consumer worked side-by-side with other community volunteers to quickly transform the empty warehouse into Santa’s Workshop.  No matter what the assignment, the Consumers were always eager to lend a helping hand.  From the first days of sweeping floors and assembling boxes to the last days of organizing and filling the requests of each ”Angel”, the Consumers were there to ensure that Christmas would be a joyful time for all.

Each year, the comments made by the Consumers have a common theme, “I feel good knowing that I’ve been able to help other people”.  This experience has encouraged several of the Consumers to volunteer their time to other community projects.  As one Consumer said, “every time I go out and volunteer, I’m doing my part to reduce the stigma of mental illness”.

Vivian-Friedman-on-the-Oil-Spill-300x167Gail Short with UAB’s Media Relations interviews Dr. Vivian Friedman about the emotional effects the gulf oil spill has on children.  To read the full article and watch the interview with Dr. Friedman, visit:  UAB Media Relations

Mgbodile-Accepting-AwardThe Department of Psychiatry would like to congratulate Dr. Francisca Mgbodile on winning the Physician of the Year award at the 2010 Alabama Black Achievers Gala in Montgomery, Alabama. Dr. Mgbodile is an attending pediatric psychiatrist at UAB and at Children’s Hospital of Alabama, co-director of pediatric psychiatry, consultation liaison for UAB and at the Children’s Hospital along with being the President and founder of the Maria Regina Foundation. Please join us in congratulating her in this wonderful achievement. Her hard work and dedication to patient care has truly made a difference in our community and with others.

Engel-School-Staff-ed-401x200On April 30th, 2010 the Association for Child Psychoanalysis (ACP), Inc. recognized the Engel Therapeutic School, a segment of the UAB Department of Psychiatry, with the 2010 Award for Excellence.  Special recognition was given to the UAB Engel Therapeutic Preschool as an early intervention program.

The ACP is a national organization of child psychoanalysts. At its annual meeting each year, the organization recognizes a program committed to analytic developmental principles applied in a community setting.  The Engel Therapeutic School was recognized for the unique service it provides integrating the educational and therapeutic needs of children and adolescents from the preschool level through high school.  Students at the school come from across Jefferson and Shelby Counties, and represent a full spectrum of diversity reflected in these areas.  A requirement for this recognition is that a child psychoanalyst be involved in the program’s implementation.  Both Dr. Sam Rubin and Dr. Lee Ascherman are child psychoanalysts in consultative roles with the Engel School classrooms.  They, along with Dr. Vinita Yallamanchilli, are available to the dedicated teachers of this school to think about the unique developmental challenges these students face, and how best to help them advance in their education and treatment.

The Maria Regina Foundation (MRF) is a non-profit organization that delivers health services to the most vulnerable and poorest segments of Africa and Alabama.  They also provide educational opportunities to children and adolescents.

To better understand the goal of the MRF, its founder Dr. Francisca MgBodile, Assistant Professor Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, describes its history:
I was born and raised in a remote village of Abor in the eastern part of Nigeria.  I moved to the United States as an adult, after completing medical school in Africa. My life improved upon coming to the United States, but I never forgot my experiences in Africa.  From my own life, I knew all about the importance of a good education.  Also, I knew about the poor health situation in Abor and the whole continent of Africa.  Visits to my village in the past years have increasingly opened my eyes to the great need for more help. During a trip in 2008, I visited local schools and health clinics. The children in the villages are eager to learn, even though their parents are struggling to send them to school for a bright future. Poverty, ill health, and lack of basic medical care are some of the struggles families deal with each day.  Personally, I feel that part of the solution is helping individuals.  However, I sincerely believe that it is better to launch a community based approach to ensure self-sufficiency and to foster independence.  Empowering people toward independence makes more sense and is more sustainable than tackling problems individually.  My family has been helping individuals since 2003, when we started “Mission Africa.”  We have provided scholarships to grade school children, medications to elderly villagers who came to our house, and clothing and food to poor families for Christmas.  From these beginnings, one person at a time, I have developed a network of people sharing my desire to assist in a more comprehensive and community-based manner.  Thus, the Maria Regina Foundation was formed in December 2008.

With the brief yet poignant history of the MRF, Dr. Mgbodile established a solid mission that is dedicated to mobilizing resources to empower poor communities in Africa.  Education and improved access to health care services are critical in empowering people to escape the cycle of poverty and become independent.

Last year 2009, marked the foundation’s first project, raising funds and other resources toward improving education and access to basic medical care.  Funds raised by the foundation were used to provide, among other things, three weeks of free medical clinics in four villages in Enugu state of Nigeria: Abor, Ukana, Awhum, and Nsude.  Services were provided using already existing church buildings, schools, and village squares.  Activities featured include free medical screening, treatment of minor illnesses, and referrals for people experiencing more serious medical problems.  Local doctors, nurses, medical students, and other non-profit organizations volunteered in providing those services.

The foundation’s first education project will include summer and fall education programs for children in grades K-6.  The foundation’s focus will be on increasing children’s mastery of basic reading, writing, and math skills; raising student academic expectations and self-esteem; and empowering parents to develop effective mentoring relationships with their children.

For children and adolescents in grades 7-12, the focus will be on providing remedial instructions for students performing below grade level.  This will help prepare these learners to take the West African Examination Certificate (WAEC) and increase the odds that they will pass it.

These projects highlight the foundation’s ultimate mission:
“We strive to serve communities by creating schools and bolstering existing ones. We provide basic medical and mental health services to less privileged undeserved communities.”

For more information please feel free to contact Dr. Francisca MgBodile at: Phone: 205-908-5874 or e-mail:

Dr. Mgbodile (center) with children at their school
The pharmacy at one of the outdoor clinics
Dr. Mgbodile (left) handing out medicine to the villagers at the outdoor clinic