Screening Information

When: Thursday, April 20, 2023 at 5:30 p.m. CST

Where: Ryals Public Health Building Room 107

Registration is required. More information is available on the UAB Calendar.

David R. Buys, PhD, alumnus of the UAB School of Public Health, is the associate producer of On the Farm, a mini-series documentary showcasing the lives of southern farmers and the stressors they face. The series first aired on Mississippi Public Broadcasting in June 2022 and subsequently won two Southeast Emmy Awards.

Buys earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Mississippi College and a master’s in sociology from Auburn University before attending UAB, where he earned a graduate certificate in gerontology, a MSPH in epidemiology and PhD in medical sociology. He is currently an associate professor at Mississippi State University and a state health specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

In 2017, the MSU Extension Service received grant funding to focus on rural opioid misuse in Mississippi. The same year, the America Farm Bureau Federation reported that three out of four farm workers in the United States were directly impacted by opioid misuse. With this knowledge, Buys and his colleagues pivoted their focus specifically to farmers and farm workers, having direct connections to the farming population through the MSU Extension Service. In 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that farmers have the fourth highest rate of suicide of any industry among men. These findings made it clear to Buys that more awareness and research are needed to mitigate suicide rates and opioid misuse among the farming population.

A farmer stands with back to camera, hands on his hips, as a tractor plows a dusty field. While the state of Mississippi launched a state-wide social marketing campaign to reduce opioid misuse among the public, Buys and his colleagues met with the Mississippi State University TV Center about ways to tell the story of farm stress and opioid misuse among farmers to a wider audience. On the Farm is the product of those discussions.

Buys is an emphatic advocate for storytelling as a way to connect with audiences for educational purposes. “We often talk about multidisciplinary work in public health with nursing or health professions or medicine,” Buys said. “But filmmaking is also a discipline, and this is a way to stretch the way we think about that multi- and interdisciplinary approach to the work we do. I think that we’ve been able to move the needle, not just in the content of rural health and farm stress, but also in thinking about what it means to do interdisciplinary work.”

The series features four farmers residing in Mississippi and Alabama, documenting their stories of everyday stressors, including volatile markets, unpredictable weather, and work injuries. Their insights shed light on the prevalence of opioid availability and substance misuse, but also the hope for successful recovery.

After airing in Summer 2022, the series won a Southeast Emmy Award in the category of Public Affairs Program – Series under its original title, Isolated on the Farm. The program Will Gilmer from within the series also won in the category of Public Affairs Program – Program.

The UAB School of Public Health is hosting a screening of On the Farm on Thursday, April 20, 2023 at 5:30 p.m. CST in the Ryals Public Health Building Room 107, located at 1665 University Blvd, Birmingham, AL 35233. Buys will be in attendance to give a brief presentation and answer questions about the series and his work. Guests will also hear from Suzanne Judd, PhD, professor in the Department of Biostatistics, about current projects focused on rural health and next steps. This event is open to the UAB community and the public. Registration is required; to register, visit

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