Rick Kilgore PA White Coat CeremonyRick Kilgore at the
UAB PA White Coat Ceremony
University of Alabama at Birmingham’s James “Rick” Kilgore, Ph.D., PA-C, is 1 of only 16 people in the U.S. to be named to the first cohort of the PA (Physician Assistant) Foundation’s Mental Health Outreach Fellows. The program is designed to connect UAB PA’s clinical expertise with their compassion for their community.

“In light of the recent and devastating deaths in schools and businesses it is clear that we have a mental health issue and that many people do not know how to assist those who are in need of help,” said Kilgore, an assistant professor in the UAB School of Health Professions Department of Clinical and Diagnostic Sciences who has been practicing clinical medicine for more than 35 years. “I see this as a great opportunity to address the needs of those who have a mental disorder in our communities but even more so, this will allow us to ensure that there are more people in Birmingham who are better prepared to help and act.”

“I applaud Rick for this honor and his desire to help others because so much can come from this fellowship with its special focus of education in the area of mental health,” said Janelle Chiasera, Ph.D., senior executive associate dean, UAB School of Health Professions, and chair, Department of Clinical and Diagnostic Sciences. “This is an excellent example of how we listen to our community and seek opportunities to pair our strengths with community needs to create timely and innovative solutions to real-world problems.”

The Mental Health Outreach Fellows program requires Kilgore to create a business plan and form a community partnership to train a minimum of 100 people over the course of the next year.

Rick Kilgore Firehouse ShelterKilgore with a client at the Firehouse ShelterIn 2016, the UAB School of Health Professions, home of the UAB Physician Assistant Studies program, began hosting a student-led healthcare screening clinic at the Firehouse Shelter – Birmingham’s largest continuum of services to the homeless. Kilgore, who serves on the Board of the Firehouse Shelter has developed strong relationships with everyone at the shelter and saw first-hand the need for assistance with mental health care.

Kilgore will use this fellowship program to bring mental health care education to the Firehouse Shelter staff and volunteers so they can better serve their clients. This month, he attends a three-day Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) instructor training and his plans to implement the program will begin immediately after.

“MHFA courses are non-existent in Alabama and I want to change that,” said Kilgore. “We have Area Health Centers, we have colleges and community colleges – there is no excuse for these courses to not be offered. In order to reach even more people, I plan to employ a model that we can encourage others to become certified to teach the courses in their community.”

At the end of the Mental Health Outreach Fellows program, Kilgore and the other Fellows will submit a final assessment of the year-long efforts to impact knowledge and attitudes associated with mental health. They will also submit a report with insights to refining and expanding the Fellows program.

The PA Foundation, and Kilgore, hope the Fellowship builds a strong network of PAs across the United States but an even stronger network of people who are better prepared to serve those in need of mental health help.