Harold Jones, Ph.D., says the School of Health Professions (SHP) has the expertise among its five departments to address many community needs related to health care-related problems. Now Jones, dean of the school, has found the point person for a new initiative — one that will lead to greater opportunities for faculty and students and serve the community.
|Jamy Ard, right, recently was named associate dean for clinical affairs in the School of Health Professions. One of Ard’s responsibilities will be to search for opportunities to consult and develop programs for businesses and the community on health-related issues.|
Jamy Ard, M.D., medical director for EatRight by UAB and associate professor in the Department of Nutrition Sciences, now is associate dean for clinical affairs for Health Professions. He will work to identify opportunities to consult and develop programs for businesses and the community on health-related issues.
“Dr. Ard has a record of developing innovative programs to address the health-care needs of businesses and communities,” Jones says. “We are looking to his leadership to help our faculty and students find ways to use their talents to make a difference in addressing business and community needs at the local, state and regional level. We believe that the future of our school is, in many ways, tied to tailoring innovative solutions to real-world problems, and this is one step farther in that direction.”
Ard will invite faculty from clinical and diagnostic sciences, health services administration, nutrition sciences, occupational therapy and physical therapy to be part of multidisciplinary teams to partner with businesses and community groups in myriad consulting and community-service enterprises.
“We’re open to help local businesses and community groups try to solve practical problems.” Ard says. “We’re talking about using teaching and research to augment and create opportunities for the delivery of health care and vice versa. It’s a two-way street. When we have an opportunity for engagement in the health-care process, we want to use that to better our teaching and research missions.”
One tool is consulting arrangements in which UAB faculty and students design and implement wellness programs for private businesses. Through these services, UAB would be helping local businesses cut or minimize the costs associated with diseases, including diabetes and obesity.
Alabama ranks No. 6 in the nation in the number for diabetes deaths each year (32 per 100,000 deaths) and is No. 1 in the nation with the highest rate of people with diabetes within total population statistics (8.9 people out of every 100). Alabama also ranks No. 6 nationally for obesity; 31 percent of the state’s population is considered obese.
The new program also will enable faculty and students to conduct research and design a range of programs from occupational therapy to nutrition for schools, businesses and nonprofits.
“With the type of health-care providers we have within our school, it makes sense to pull those folks together to look at a particular program along the lines of safety in the workplace for example,” Ard says. “Yes, that’s an occupational therapy issue primarily. But there is benefit from physical therapy — by helping people return to work after injury — or injury prevention from strength and flexibility programs. You can fold in nutrition and better weight management to decrease risk of injury. There are any number of ways you can pull these disciplines together to solve practical problems.”
Ard says these expanded opportunities also will aid UAB students’ preparation for life after school.
“For a student, the ultimate goal for a graduate or undergraduate program is to prepare them for the next level or entry into the workforce,” Ard says. “With the economy as it is and things being so competitive, just having a degree won’t necessarily get you in the door. Having real-world, practical experience as part of your training will make a difference. We’re talking about increasing the variety and depth of opportunities our students will have for real-world experiences.
“If you are a dietician interested in workplace wellness and you have an opportunity to spend a portion of your training creating workplace wellness programs in a corporate setting, that’s a huge advantage over other dieticians without that experience,” Ard says.
The program also will expose these students to research and provide new research opportunities for faculty.
“It will be a boost for faculty working to research and develop new services. Our faculty who have new ideas and projects can come to us and say, ‘I’ve got something. Here’s the business plan. I need some time, or money or infrastructure to get this up and going,’” Ard says. “And we invest in those things in a strategic way.”
Ard will notify alliances, partnerships and groups the department previously has worked with professionally to apprise them of the expanded services.
“That may be continuing to work with Viva, for example,” he says. “EatRight does a program for Viva. Now I can offer them opportunities to include physical therapy, occupational therapy and other services to the contract we have.”
Ard hopes the program will be fully engaged this spring.