A Champion for Rural Health

After graduation, Sheena Champion returned home to rural Wilcox County, Alabama where her advanced training in primary care is sorely needed
Sheena Champion, MSN, ANP, graduated from UAB last May and returned home to rural Wilcox County, Alabama. Here only three doctors serve over 12,000 people. Champion works with Willie White, MD, at the Wilcox Medical Clinic in Camden, where her advanced training in primary care is sorely needed.

"When I was growing up, we had more doctors in Thomasville, but now they've closed the hospital there," Sheena Champion says. "So for people on my side of the county, the only hospital and ambulance service is in Camden, which is 30 minutes away—30 minutes to reach you and another 30 to get you to the hospital."

Because Dr. Willie White, with whom Champion collaborates, must divide his time between the clinic and the emergency room, any serious emergency at the hospital used to mean a two-hour wait for his clinic patients. Now

Champion can care for clinic patients, consulting with White, who is within walking distance at the hospital. This is interprofessional teamwork at its best. White helps

Champion understand the needs of the community and hone her assessment skills, while she, as a nurse practitioner, enables the clinic to offer better access to quality health care and improve patient outcomes.

Champion says White also grew up in a small town and has been a wonderful mentor. "Everybody in the county knows him," she says with a smile. "It's amazing when we go out. People will flag him down on the street, tell him about that pain in their elbow, and ask, 'How's the flow in your office, Doc?' You would never see that in Birmingham."

Her work with White has opened her eyes to the great need in her community. "I knew we needed health care, but now I see so many other things," Champion says.

"We have many youth with diabetes, mainly because of obesity—no exercise and poor eating habits. Kids need recreational activities, but there's no gym here. The rate of hypertension and diabetes among people in their thirties is incredible. I also see people who need mental health services, but seeking help is kind of taboo here. So you have to spend extra time with patients, explaining that counseling can really help and that they need to get over their fear of being labeled."

Champion spends five days a week at the medical clinic. She stays with her grandmother in Wilcox County during the workweek but spends some of her weekends at her own home in Birmingham to be closer to her friends.

Already, she has gotten an invaluable education in the power of caring in patient-provider relationships. She remembers a local woman who called the clinic and asked that the "nice young lady" do her pap smear instead of

White. "That was her first pap smear in years," Champion said. "I didn't realize some people would avoid aspects of their care just because Dr. White is a man."

Another patient had all kinds of reasons why he couldn't take the medication she was trying to give him.

"Between doing his assessment and persuading him to take his medication, I must've spent 40 minutes with him," Champion said, "but he finally said, 'Okay, I'll take it just for you.' He showed up for his follow-up visit, too. So with a little extra effort, I made him much more aware of his health. That's one win for me —and one for him, too!"

Clearly, Champion's experience in Wilcox County has taught her the best way to improve the health and quality of life for any community—one patient at a time.
Read 6695 times Last modified on October 06, 2014

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