Selleck trains students, gives back to community through nursing collaborations

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cindy selleck streamCynthia Selleck, Ph.D.In her role as professor in the School of Nursing and associate dean for clinical and global partnerships, Cynthia Selleck, Ph.D., has used her clinical training as a nurse practitioner to only train UAB students for the workforce and also to give back to Birmingham’s most diverse and under-served populations by continuing to work in primary care settings.

Her work in the community has earned her the 2018 Odessa Woolfolk Community Service Award, established by UAB to recognize a faculty member who has rendered outstanding service to the Birmingham community through education, economic development, health care delivery, the arts, social services, human rights or urban and public affairs. She will be recognized during the annual Faculty Convocation to be held 4 p.m. Oct. 22 in the Doubletree Hotel.

Early in Selleck’s career, she worked as a staff nurse, then as a family nurse practitioner. While on faculty at the University of South Florida, she began visiting more federally qualified health centers and rural clinics, where she saw how many people have trouble getting access to health care and how appreciative they are of the care they do receive. From then on, care of under-served populations became her passion, she said.

“Health is so much more than just providing health care," Selleck said. “For the past 25 to 30 years, I’ve been working with medically under-served populations, and in most instances, they want to be healthy if they could, but they’re impacted by so many social determinants,” Selleck said. “I’ve gotten to see that this could be any of us.”

“If we’re going to change health outcomes in Alabama, we’ve got to get more of our young people prepared to pursue health careers and to stay here in the state.”

Creating collaborations

Selleck has helped several programs that both serve the community and give UAB nursing students the opportunity to receive training. She was instrumental in starting the PATH Clinic in 2011, which serves uninsured patients recently discharged from UAB Hospital who need treatment for diabetes. Through grant funding and ongoing partnership with UAB Hospital and Health System, the PATH Clinic — and more recently, the nurse-managed Heart Failure Transitional Care Services for Adults (HRTSA) Clinic — provide interprofessional, team-based care for vulnerable patients.  

“These clinics provide not just good care for the patients, but they’ve saved the hospital quite a bit of money over the years because our patients are uninsured; they would have just kept showing up in the emergency department.”

Selleck also partnered with the Foundry Ministries, a faith-based nonprofit based in Bessemer, to operate The Foundry Clinic for several years, which served both the Foundry and the local community. More recently, she helped facilitate partnerships between the School of Nursing, Aletheia House, a community-based organization that provides substance-abuse treatment and prevention services to low-income individuals, and Cooper Green Mercy Health Services to create the Bessemer Neighborhood Health Center, a federally qualified health center that opened in 2017. The School of Nursing transitioned its prior operations at the Foundry Clinic into the work now being done at Bessemer Neighborhood Health Center.

“In our backyard here in Birmingham we have plenty of people who are under-served and need access to care, and these clinics provide a needed service while also allowing us to educate the next generation of health care providers interested in caring for the under-served,” Selleck said. “They’ve been great partnerships, and have been the right thing for the School of Nursing to do.”

“Health is so much more than just providing health care.”

This past year, Selleck led the school’s effort to create the Nurse-Family Partnership of Central Alabama (NFP), an evidence-based, community health program administered by SON that partners vulnerable first-time mothers with a registered nurse early in their pregnancy to receive ongoing nurse home visits that continue through the child’s second birthday. Alabama has the second-highest infant mortality rate in the United States and is similar to rates found in third-world countries, Selleck said, so the service was a natural fit for this area.

“The School of Nursing was looking to get involved, as were various community members, and somehow we all came together,” Selleck said. The NFP is a community-based partnership between SON, the Jefferson County Department of Health, the MG Goodrich Foundation.

the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, the Daniel Foundation and the Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Alabama Caring Foundation.

A two-way street

Selleck said that one of the most gratifying parts of her job is forming those partnerships between UAB and the community — which is never difficult, she says, because people at UAB and in the Birmingham area have a passion for working together. A partnership with the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama and funded through UAB’s Benevolent Fund fosters access to healthy foods for patients involved in the NFP and PATH and HRTSA Heart Failure clinics.

“If we’re going to change health outcomes in Alabama, we’ve got to get more of our young people prepared to pursue health careers and to stay here in the state.”

“The most fun part is being able to create collaborations with entities in the community here in Birmingham and beyond,” Selleck said.

Now, students in the School of Nursing and other schools on campus get hands-on opportunities to learn while also providing a service to the community.

“The great thing is that all these different projects build on each other,” she continued. “It’s positive for the school to provide good learning opportunities for students, and it’s positive to be able to provide the care that people need. If we’re going to change health outcomes in Alabama, we’ve got to get more of our young people prepared to pursue health careers and to stay here in the state.”