2020 Bridge Magazine

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Rethink Your Drink! Are you pouring on the pounds? Sugary beverages increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, cancer and high blood pressure. It’s time to Rethink Your Drink! The Healthy Active Arkansas Rethink Your Drink Educational Campaign Toolkit offers information, activities, social media and challenges that can help people make healthier beverage choices while fighting obesity and chronic disease. The toolkit features activities for:

Youth and schools Faith-based groups

Worksites Health care organizations

Visit healthyactive.org/download-resources to download a free PDF. You may also request print copies of the toolkit via the Contact Us form on the Healthy Active Arkansas website. HEALTHYAC TI VE. O RG

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2020 Annual Issue || Table of Contents

Leading Diversity & Inclusion at UAMS 26


Brian Gittens, EdD, MPA, has a mission to demonstrate that UAMS is serious about diversity and inclusion. Six months into his new role, he is creating new committees and reaching out to community partners­—and more— to get the job done.


scholarships aim to 8 AMHC increase the diversity of the health care workforce in Arkansas.

SOUTHERn AIN’T FRIED SUNDAYS RELAUNCH 14 What to eat or not to eat is still a


and understand about their health can lead to a better quality of life.

gets a trimmer profile with skim milk and whole wheat pasta and enough cheese to please!



16 Misinformation about prostate

18 The virus that causes AIDS

cancer can be deadly, but the right information along with a network of support for men can save lives.

24 • KION Pediatrics

26 • Support Amid

an Opioid Crisis

32 • Remembering John W. Walker

A new committee will review pregnancy-related deaths occuring up to one year after pregnancy to discover why they happen and to reduce them.

Walker was a powerhouse civil rights attorney and state representative who fought for the rights of people because “it was the right thing to do,” according to State Senator Linda Chesterfield.

6 || Director’s Letter

disproportionately affects African Americans, but timely testing can lead to a better and longer life.

Programs in the Delta, along with other diverse state initiatives, are combating the serious opioid crisis in Arkansas, giving people hope for brighter futures.

30 • Investigating the Maternal

Mortality Rate in Arkansas

PLEASING MAC AND CHEESE 12 This gooey, yummy classic dish

10 What patients obtain, process

weighty matter for many, which is why Southern Ain’t Fried Sundays is relaunching with a new app and other resources to make the decisions easier.

Kris Nwokeji, MD, always believed he would become a pediatrician, not only caring for children’s health but motivating them toward leadership by creating an inspirational doctor’s office visit.


7 || Governor’s Letter

37 || AMHC Commissioners


Arkansas Medical Dental & Pharmaceutical Association

AMDPA is Arkansas’ leading minority health provider association. Fighting over 120 years to eradicate health disparities

P.O. Box 55104

Little Rock, AR 72115



2020 Annual Issue aMhc LeadeRShiP

ShaRhonda Love, MPH aMhc StaFF Amond Baker, BSN Brittany Desmuke, MA Este Frazier, MPA Onekia Freeman Daphne Gaulden, MPA, MPH Earl Keeton, BSE Beatriz Mondragon, BS LaCoya Stewart, BS Mallorie Boswell aMhc BoaRd oF diRectoRS Kelly Bryant, MS Larry D. Bishop, BS Mattie P. Collins, MA Markeith Cook Sen. Jack Crumbly, MA, EdS Layza Lopez-Love, BA Rhonda Mattox, MD Rickey McCauley, BS Kris Ikenna Nwokeji, MD Louis Portlock, MA Sederick Rice, PhD MaGaZine PRodUction

Kathy Schienle, Copy Editor Ashan R. Hampton, Writer Heather Honaker, Writer Marisa Jackson, Graphic Designer Melanie Jones, Writer

WELCOME AND THANK YOU for your commitment to reading the 2020 edition of our BRIDGE magazine. The Arkansas Minority Health Commission’s (AMHC) goal is to be a catalyst in bridging the gap in the health status of the minority population and that of the majority population in Arkansas. The AMHC strives to be innovative in our implementation of minority health initiatives statewide. These innovative programs include our Southern Ain’t Fried Sundays program, dIrector’s Camp iCAN and our Mobile Health Unit. We corner continuously seek to find new partners and ways to collaborate to eliminate health disparities and advance health equity. This publication will address health topics impacted by those disparities, as well as the leaders working to address health equity. We will provide a glance into the UAMS Division for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, along with the AMHC Healthcare Workforce Diversity Scholarship and ways to diversify the health field. It is a privilege to spotlight Rep. John Walker posthumously for his work as a civil rights leader and AR General Assembly member. In addition, the issue will provide information about HIV, opioids, health literacy, immunizations, prostate cancer and food insecurity. My goal for BRIDGE magazine is to connect you to individuals and resources to make a healthy Arkansas. The AMHC Board of Commissioners and staff are the reason we can reach all corners of the state, and I am thankful for each of them. Through our partners, we can work at the community level to meet people where they are. We can make your health our priority with the support of Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the AR General Assembly. Cordially,

Sheryl Lallemand, Writer Charlotte Lobuono, Writer Rose Mackey, Writer L. Marie Trotter, Project Manager Niguel Valley, Photographer Content in BRIDGE magazine is for informational purposes only. © 2020 Arkansas Minority Health Commission All Rights Reserved. 501-686-2720 arminorityhealth.com

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ShaRhonda J. Love, MPH dIrector

from tHe GoVernor

most of tHe rules that lead to good health are familiar and easy to follow.

Those screenings can alert us to problems that aren’t obvious such as diabetes and hypertension. Early detection leads to better outcomes.

• Eat your vegetables and fruit. • Drink lots of water. • Exercise. • Get enough sleep. • Brush your teeth. • Don’t use tobacco or vaping products. • Don’t use illegal drugs and don’t abuse legal drugs.

Since the Minority Health Commission was created in 1991, members of the staff have studied health care issues and found ways to fill the gaps in service. The Commission has worked with other agencies and the legislature to improve access to health care.

But sometimes good health is more than following rules. The Arkansas Minority Health Commission is here for those times when health care becomes more complicated.

While our health is a personal responsibility, each of us can encourage one another to make good choices. My administration has looked for ways to help. We are five years into our 10-year Healthy Active Arkansas campaign to reduce the rate of obesity in Arkansas by teaching about healthy lifestyles. Healthy Active Arkansas promotes a variety of good-health campaigns, such as Rethink Your Drink: Choose Water! This emphasis is part of Healthy Active Arkansas’s Priority 7: To cut down on the amount of sugary beverages that we drink. The Healthy Active website notes that one twenty-ounce soda has more

Since the Minority Health Commission was created in 1991, members of the staff have studied health care issues and found ways to fill the gaps in service. The Commission has worked with other agencies and the legislature to improve access to health care. Preventive health care is critical to good health. With physical examinations, we can assess the quality of our health, which sometimes leads us to adjust our diet or other routines. The Commission offers screenings at its offices and through its mobile health centers. Staff members check blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose, A1C, body mass index, and oral health.

sugar than twenty cookies. Delta Dental has partnered with Healthy Active Arkansas to install water-bottle-filling stations at schools. I am a healthy, active Arkansan, and I try to lead the way to good health by example. I appreciate the many ways that the Arkansas Minority Health Commission also leads by example as it works to improve health for everyone throughout Arkansas. Sincerely,

Asa Hutchinson GoVernor

AMHC 2020

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MINORITIES in medicine

When the Numbers Don’t Add Up Scholarships aim to increase diversity of health care workforce in Arkansas By Melanie Jones The data make two things clear: Arkansas suffers from a shortage of health care workers, and minorities are sorely underrepresented in health care fields. In its Health Workforce Report, the Arkansas Minority Health Commission (AMHC) compiled data for 18 health professions in Arkansas. It found that 11 of those 18 fields were 90% predominantly white. To help address the disparity, the

AMHC is awarding scholarships, funded by Tobacco Settlement money, to minority students desiring to pursue careers in health. ShaRhonda Love, director of the AMHC, discusses the scholarship opportunities and how aspiring health care workers can apply. She also shares why better minority representation is necessary in health fields.

BRIDGE: Explain to us why AMHC’s health care scholarship is so important.

AMHC reports on; therefore, the numbers are not reflective of our state’s diversity.

LOVE: All health fields in Arkansas are lacking minority representation. Arkansas has a 15% African American population statewide. However, there’s not a 15% African American representation in any of the health-related fields the

The AMHC has been directed to conduct an annual review of health care workers and report on the demographics. Each year, we are finding that women and racial minorities are underrepresented. Because of our legislative mandate, the

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AMHC has a duty to improve health care workforce diversity for minorities. One way our board of commissioners seeks to bridge the gap is by offering funds to encourage minorities to pursue careers in the health-related fields. RIDGE: Which health-related fields will the scholarship B cover? LOVE: We want to offer scholarship funding for those 18 professions that our legislation mandates we review. Of course, we want to encourage minorities to enter all health and allied health (EMTs, radiology technicians, etc.) professions. One reason this would be beneficial is that we see a disparity in numbers among populations with chronic diseases, and research shows that when people are able to visit a health professional that shares a similar background and culture, they’re more comfortable asking questions and opening up about their health history.

RIDGE: What’s another type of disparity that’s less B obvious but still problematic? LOVE: The AMHC Health Workforce Report shows that every county has pharmacists, social workers and nurses. But we lack primary care physicians in three counties. If you live in one of those counties, it takes you 15 to 20 minutes to get to your primary care doctor. If you have no car, that’s an access disparity.

“Arkansas has a 15% African American population statewide. However, there’s not a 15% African American representation in any of the health-related fields the AMHC reports on; therefore, the numbers are not reflective of our state’s diversity.”

BRIDGE: How do you persuade providers to practice in underserved areas of the state? LOVE: Research shows that people who are either raised or trained in an area are more likely to serve in that area. So, if we can get individuals educated either in Arkansas or in Delta communities, they’re more likely to practice in those communities. BRIDGE: How many scholarships will you be able to offer, and how are you recruiting applicants?

L O V E : We c a n a w a r d approximately 50 $1,000ShaRhonda Love, Director, AMHC BRIDGE: What’s a specific scholarships for 2020. We example of that? have contacts at colleges LOVE: We recently published and universities in the state who can talk to students about our five-year ethnic and racial health disparity survey, which specifically looks at Hispanic culture. It shows that Hispanics, the application. Also, the application form is available on our when working with a translator, do not want to ask questions website at arminorityhealth.com and on our Facebook page at or reveal health history to a physician twice. If there were more facebook.com/arminorityhealth. Hispanic physicians, patients could talk directly to the provider. That alone begins to improve health disparity in our state.

To find scholarship eligibility criteria and download a scholarship application, go to arminorityhealth.com/initiatives/workforce-diversity-scholarship.

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OPTIONS AND OPPORTUNITIES IN ARKANSAS the university of arkansas for medical sciences center for Health literacy What you understand about your health can help save your life By Charlotte LoBuono The mission of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Center for Health Literacy (CHL) is to improve health by making health information easy to understand and use. Says Alison Caballero, director of CHL, “Health literacy is optimal when the system and its professionals provide health information that is useful, and the person receiving it has the skills to use it to improve their health.” HealthyPeople.gov defines health literacy as “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.” Alison Caballero, CHL director

Katie Leath, CHL program administrator for health literacy services & communication

kEEPING PATIENTS SAFE Educating patients so they stay safe is key to CHL’s mission. For example, medication use is essential to patient safety. “People who don’t understand what meds they need to take, and how to take them properly, are at risk for serious, potentially fatal medication errors,” explains Katie Leath, program administrator for health literacy services and communication at the CHL. Leath says the CHL does provider training for hospitals and health systems, public health entities and others who communicate health information to patients or the public. “Health systems are interested in keeping their patients safe. They know that patients can play a big role in safety, but this requires effective communication,” says Caballero. To assist health communicators, the CHL trains on topics like shared decision-making and plain language writing.

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anyone can struggle with health information Only 12 out of 100 adults in the U.S. have all the skills they need to find, understand, and use health information. So, anyone can struggle with health information. But certain groups are more likely to struggle with health literacy, says Leath. Those groups include: • • • • •

Individuals living in rural areas Individuals with less education Members of minority groups People in lower income brackets People whose first language is not English

kNOWLEDGE IS POWER The CHL also writes and edits health booklets, brochures and content for apps and websites, as well as other types of communication, such as appointment letters and billing statements. “We work with our partners to identify what they want their readers to know or be able to do. Behavioral change is complex, but clearly written information is the foundation for change and deserves attention,” says Caballero. The Arkansas Minority Health Commission (AMHC) enlisted CHL’s help to develop a series of fact sheets for their mobile screening program. The fact sheets cover topics like blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol and HIV. “When someone attends a community screening event and learns their blood pressure is 135/90, for example, they need to know what those numbers mean,” says Caballero. “But more importantly, they need to know what they should do in response to those numbers.” She goes on to explain, “Our approach to plain language writing results in materials that are both readable and actionable.”

“I eat right, so how did I develop that condition?” “Did the nurse understand my concern?”

CULTURAL COMPETENCE Cultural beliefs influence a person’s decisions about health care services. “Your perception of what a certain disease is, what causes a certain disease, and how you might manage a certain disease are very much influenced by what you’ve learned and seen growing up,” says Leath. The CHL provides its products and services in both English and Spanish. The center has bilingual staff who are not just native Spanish speakers but are also trained in plain language writing. Through its training and outreach programs, the center encourages health care providers and other communicators of health information to keep their audience in mind when they convey information. “So, before they speak to a patient or create a new fact sheet, we recommend health professionals learn about their audience, and do all they can to provide culturally relevant information in the preferred language of their audience,” Leath says.

How to Talk to Your Doctor HANDbook The CHL created a series of how-to guides to help patients improve their ability to get and use health information. One of these, How to Talk to Your Doctor HANDbook, helps people prepare for and get the most benefit from a doctor’s visit. The guide is also available in Spanish. How to Talk to Your Doctor HANDbook and other community and patient engagement resources are available at: https://healthliteracy.uams. edu/for-healthcare-professionals/patientengagment-resources/.

Information about the CHL is available at https://healthliteracy.uams.edu/

AMHC 2020

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Classic Macaroni and Cheese


Almost everyone loves a gooey mac and cheese made with whole milk and white flour pasta. However, skim milk and whole wheat pasta combine to make a mac and cheese dish that is lower in fat and just as delicious. INGREDIENTS


140 calories


2 cups whole wheat macaroni ½ cup chopped onions ½ cup evaporated skim milk 1 medium egg, beaten ¼ tsp. black pepper 1¼ cups (4 oz.) low-fat sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded Nonstick cooking oil spray

2 g total fat

• Cook macaroni according to directions. (Do not add salt to the cooking water.) Drain and set aside. • Spray a casserole dish with nonstick cooking oil spray. Preheat oven to 350°F.

130 mg sodium 30 mg cholesterol .5 g saturated fat 0 g trans fat 23 g carbohydrates

• Lightly spray saucepan with nonstick cooking oil spray.

3 g fiber 9 g protein

• Add onions to saucepan and sauté for 3 minutes. • In another bowl, combine macaroni, onions and the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. • Transfer mixture into casserole dish. • Bake for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Southern Ain’t Fried Sundays Part of the mission of the Arkansas Minority Health Commission includes addressing disparities in minority communities and educating the communities on healthier lifestyles. One of the most glaring disparities that minorities face is the epidemic of obesity. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health, African-Americans are 1.4 times more likely to be obese than whites. Hispanics are 1.2 times more likely to be obese than whites. Southern Ain’t Fried Sundays is a program designed to educate minority communities about healthier alternatives to preparing Southern-style (soul) foods. The program seeks to reach communities and individual participants to offer healthier ways of preparing dishes that are culturally relevant. To learn more, contact LaCoya Stewart, health specialist, at 501-682-8825 or LaCoya.Stewart@arkansas.gov.

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What to cook or not to cook— it’s a weighty issue

Southern Ain’t Fried Sundays aims to lighten up traditional fare By Melanie Jones It’s a familiar, somewhat beloved convention. When Southerners gather around the table after church on Sundays, they’re often plating up fried chicken, greens, mac and cheese, yams and maybe some banana pudding. It’s tradition. But it’s not healthy. That’s why the Arkansas Minority Health Commission (AMHC) developed Southern Ain’t Fried Sundays (SAFS), which offers healthier versions of some cherished Southern recipes. The AMHC addresses health disparities among minority populations in unique ways. “One of the most glaring disparities minorities face is the epidemic of obesity. SAFS is designed to educate African American communities about healthier alternatives to preparing Southern-style foods,” says LaCoya Stewart, AMHC health program specialist.

LaCoya Stewart, AMHC health program specialist

According to Arkansas state obesity data, the adult obesity rate in Arkansas is 37.1%. That makes Arkansas the third-most-obese state in the nation. Approximately 45% of those obese are African American, and 32% are Latinos. A body mass index (BMI) determines obesity, according to the National Institute of Health. A BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese. BMI is calculated using an individual’s weight and height.

14 • bridge • AMHC 2020

“Clearly, there is a gap in the obesity rate,” Stewart says. “We need to educate everyone on better ways of eating. Some things are customs, and we eat the way we were raised, not knowing that changes to some of our eating habits could lead to a better quality of life. Changes could lead to weight loss and lower blood pressure, blood sugar levels and cholesterol. If we can do that, we can live healthier lives and Arkansas’ obesity rate will change as well.” While the SAFS program has been around for close to a decade, it relaunches this year. When people sign up, in addition to receiving the 21-day meal plan with recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, they will receive access to the SAFS app. “The app will allow participants to log their meals, steps and health screenings, such as glucose, cholesterol, BMI and blood pressure,” Stewart says.

The revamped SAFS program is partnering with the Arkansas Department of Health and the Arthritis Foundation to include Walk with Ease to increase physical activity within the healthy living program.

For more information on SAFS, contact LaCoya Stewart at 501-682-8825 or email her at LaCoya.Stewart@arkansas.gov.

AMHC MOBILE HEALTH UNIT Coming to a neighborhood near you!

We’re mobilizing health and meeting people where they are.

check out our free screenings: A1C BMI HIV

Blood Pressure Cholesterol Glucose

Open-Mouth Oral Health Flouride Varnish

How to schedule the MHU: If you’d like to schedule us for your next health event, complete our online form at arminorityhealth.com/ resources/schedulehealth-unit.

#yourhealthourpriority arminorityhealth.com


Prostate Cancer Misinformation Can Be Deadly Men are dying because they’re afraid to test

By Melanie Jones tHe amerIcan cancer socIetY estimates 2,680 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer in Arkansas in 2019, and 280 men died from the disease, making it the single-highest-diagnosed cancer in the state for the year. Chris Collier, director of the Arkansas Prostate Cancer Foundation (APCF), believes that’s 280 lives too many. “One big myth is that no one dies from prostate cancer anymore. That’s just not true,” Collier says of the disease that affects the small reproductive gland in men. “In this day and age, if men screen early, there’s no reason they should die.” Collier’s goal through the APCF is to educate men about prostate cancer and offer screenings at health fairs. Many men think that to detect prostate cancer, the doctor must perform an exam by

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inserting a gloved finger into the rectum to feel the prostate. “They think that’s the first step, and they don’t want to go through that,” Collier says. But a simple blood test shows if there is an elevated PSA—or prostate-specific antigen—rate. “If it’s an elevated number, you get them in touch with a physician.” If a man receives a prostate cancer diagnosis, he can contact the foundation to find a navigator to answer questions and help coordinate care. From there, a patient might also consider joining one of APCF’s support groups. “Most men hesitate to open up and talk about these things,” Collier says. “The conversations can get personal. They’re hard conversations to have in the best of circumstances.”

Support groups are in Fort Smith, Jonesboro, Little Rock and Northwest Arkansas. “I’d like to expand to other parts of the state,” Collier says. “It’s not so much a money issue, as finding good, strong volunteers and meeting places.” Collier says he plans to work more with the Arkansas Minority Health Commission in the future. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, African American men are more likely to get prostate cancer than other men and are twice as likely to die from it as white men.

To volunteer or offer a place to hold meetings, call 501-379-8027 or 800-338-1383. You can call the same numbers to find a navigator or learn more about support groups.

Get the

FACTS about PHACS PHACS, or Public Health in Arkansas’ Communities Search, is a one-stop shop for community health data broken down by county in Arkansas. Designed for community groups, students, researchers and anyone with an interest in health care, PHACS offers a web-based repository of maps and reports focusing on chronic diseases prevalent in Arkansas. The tool has over 100 health indicators, including: Demographics

Preventive behavior

Social or economic factors

Health outcomes

Access to care With data from over 3,000 health care facilities statewide, the site not only helps identify disparities in health-related conditions by location, but also offers information about access to area health care facilities. Anyone in the community can use this resource to find providers that offer free or sliding scale services, accept Medicare or Medicaid, or offer translators. PHACS is supported by the UAMS Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health, Arkansas Department of Health, Arkansas Center for Health Disparities, Arkansas Prevention Research Center and the Arkansas Minority Health Commission.

PHACS To learn more, visit uams.edu/phacs

Public Health in Arkansas’ Communities Search

COMBATing stigma

is Still a Factor in Arkansas Virus disproportionately impacts minority populations BY Melanie Jones | Sheryl Lallemand HIV is more common than you think. About 6,000 Arkansans have been diagnosed with the virus, according to Naveen Patil, MD, Arkansas medical director of Infectious Disease, and about another 1,000 have it and remain undiagnosed. The good news is that today, people are living longer, healthier lives with HIV. Unfortunately, minorities who have the virus are less likely to experience a healthy life. The Arkansas Department of Health reports that of the 266 new HIV cases diagnosed in 2016, 46.2% were African American, and 7.5% were Hispanic. Of the 124 diagnosed with AIDS, 46.8% were African American, and 7.3% were Hispanic. “HIV tends to be a proxy for social disadvantage in a lot of cases,” says

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Nickolas Zaller, PhD, researcher and professor at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health. “If we look at the data, we see HIV disproportionately affects people of color, and it’s concentrated in neighborhoods of color. . . . Structural and institutional racism plays a big factor in that.” “Reasons minorities are more likely to be affected include lack of access to care, lots of stigma, and involvement with the criminal justice system, which overwhelmingly affects the minority population,” Zaller says. Naveen Patil, MD, Arkansas medical director of Infectious Disease

Incarceration and HIV

People who have spent time in jail or prison are more likely to have HIV, says Zaller. That’s because in general, the same factors that place people at high risk for being arrested and incarcerated place them at risk for HIV. “A substantial portion of people with HIV are arrested and are in a county jail or a prison facility,” he says. Why?

Nickolas Zaller, PhD, researcher & professor at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health

“People who use illicit substances long enough end up being incarcerated,” Zaller says. Because the virus is spread through bodily fluids, blood from shared needles used to inject drugs can transmit the virus from one user to another. Many women in county jails are there because of solicitation and prostitution, and because the virus is also spread through unprotected sex, they also are at higher risk.

What is HIV?

The full name for HIV is human immuno-deficiency virus. HIV reduces the ability of the body’s own immune system to fight off infection. So, the infection is what kills. When enough of the virus is present, it is called acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). People become so dangerously debilitated and weak they die from an overwhelming infection. Know where you stand, get tested

Dr. Patil stresses the importance of getting tested. While blood tests are most common, there is also an oral fluid (not saliva) test. A urine test is available as well, although it is less sensitive and accurate. Dr. Patil says testing is effective, private and covered by health insurance without a co-pay. Testing is available at designated health department offices in most towns, doctors’ offices, some pharmacies and health, sex or family clinics. To find a location with testing, go online to locator.hiv.gov.

Courtney Hampton, HIV Prevention & Viral Hepatitis C Program manager

Courtney Hampton, HIV Prevention and Viral Hepatitis C Program manager at the Arkansas Department of Health, says testing is key for both prevention and treatment and is recommended for everyone between the ages of 13 and 64, regardless of risk factors. “For every seven people who have HIV, one doesn’t know it,” Hampton says. “If you’re positive or negative, we can assist you,” she adds.

Prevention and treatment

If the results are positive, health care providers can prescribe medication to treat the virus before symptoms appear. Besides knowing that they have the virus, getting treatment can also help prevent the transmission of the virus. “If people get treatment and their viral load is undetectable, it’s virtually impossible to transmit to other people,” Zaller of UAMS says. Hampton says that if people test negative, they can get preventive care, including pills known as PrEP (pre-exposure prevention). PrEP is made of two common AIDS treatments. Taking the drug daily can prevent infection in the first place. While the drugs can be expensive, makers of PrEP and health organizations are

working to offer the drug at low or no cost to those who cannot afford it. The problem in Arkansas is gaining access to PrEP. “Arkansas has among the fewest prescribers of that medication in the nation,” Zaller says, adding that many of those who can get a prescription can’t afford it at this time. “All the biomedical tools in the world won’t mean anything if we don’t get them to the folks who have the most need.” If you have more questions about HIV in Arkansas, you can contact the Department of Health at healthy.arkansas.gov/programsservices or arcare.net/hiv-program. You can also contact hiv.gov.

Project HEAL LaTunja Sockwell, a res e a rc h e r a n d p ro j e c t manager at UAMS, is overseeing a $2.5 million grant to improve HIV awareness and education in Arkansas. UAMS is working with Better Community Development to lead Project LaTunja Sockwell, HEAL, which will focus on Researcher & Project Manager African American men and women with criminal justice involvement or some sort of opiate abuse as a high-risk population. However, anyone can be a part of the project. Project HEAL plans to normalize HIV testing by making it one of several tests clients receive when they join the program, including blood pressure check, glucose check, BMI screening and hepatitis C screening. “By normalizing HIV testing, you take away some of the stigma,” Sockwell says.

To learn more about Project HEAL, contact Sockwell at LRSockwell@uams.edu or by phone at 501-413-5403.

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DR. B R I A N G I T T E N S is a man with a mission Leading diversity and inclusion at UAMS BY A S H A N R . H A M P T O N


is prompt, alert and ready to talk, despite a super-busy schedule. As the new Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), his calendar is full. He is a native of Baltimore and just recently moved to Arkansas. I take a quick visual sweep of his office. There are no coats or jackets on the back of his chair. There are no piles of papers or folders on the desk. Nothing on the walls. No pictures, plants or personal items. This office is for work. It’s not for creature comforts or boasting of past accomplishments. As a former military officer,

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Dr. Gittens is laser focused. When asked why diversity and inclusion are important to him, Gittens answers, “Advocacy has always been a part of who I am.” In his first six months, he has spent time creating new committees and becoming well-versed with current UAMS community partnerships. He has added three new team members to his department. However, with more than 29 years of operations experience as a human resource professional, researcher, educator and consultant, Gittens must build a bridge across the uncomfortable truth wedged beneath the cracked, historical foundations of the medical institution founded in 1879 and its surrounding community.

“People have been incredibly supportive around here. My experience here is actually very exciting. People see the need. In general, people just want some focus and direction and strategy. My role is to provide that kind of infrastructure and a way to go about doing this work. The energy is here. I’m just trying to focus and harness that in the right direction.” B r i a n G i t t e n s , E d D, MPA Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, UAMS

Although he is the new guy in town, Gittens is aware of the perception. “Part of my job is to continue to demonstrate that UAMS is serious about diversity. Things didn’t get this way overnight, but my mission is to keep the conversation of diversity and equity on the agenda,” he says. T H E J O U R N EY

Gittens admits he has always been attracted to missiondrive work. Born and raised in Baltimore, he attended high school at Andover Academy in Massachusetts. The seeds of his career in diversity and inclusion were planted when he staged a protest over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. As a senior, Gittens skipped classes that day because the school did not officially recognize this national holiday. Years later, a fellow graduate produced a documentary called The Story of Brian Gittens, which was screened in a public presentation on campus. This video can also be seen on YouTube. In response to Gittens’ activism, Andover began sponsoring annual MLK day activities. After graduating high school, Gittens earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from Virginia Tech in communications and public administration. He later completed a doctoral degree in higher education administration at George Washington University. He also spent 13 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. Before accepting his current position at UAMS, Gittens served as the associate dean for Human Resources, Equity and Inclusion for the School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. THE MISSION

As an administrator, Dr. Gittens is passionate about eliminating health care inequality among minority communities. “When you think about health care, it’s something that touches

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everybody as far as impact.” The mission of the UAMS division that Gittens oversees is to ensure diversity, inclusion and equality in all aspects of UAMS’ teaching, research and medical practices. To get the campus involved in this mission, Dr. Gittens established seven committees for faculty, staff and students. These groups include people living with disabilities, women faculty and veterans. Participation increased to about 140 people who want to see more diverse representation across campus.

toxic. In this situation, one misguided person can negatively impact an entire health care system. The offended patient will probably spread the word about that horrible experience. When that happens, UAMS gets a bad reputation and people will go to other hospitals and clinics. According to Gittens, “We will all need a doctor at some point, so equal access to quality health care is very important, because without our health, very little else matters.”

“People have been incredibly supportive around here. My experience here is actually very exciting. People see the need. In general, people just want some focus and direction and strategy. My role is to provide that kind of infrastructure and a way to go about doing this work. The energy is here. I’m just trying to focus and harness that in the right direction.”

Imagine that a medical tech has an unconscious bias and makes a patient feel uncomfortable. The tech’s behavior confirms the patient’s belief that medical professionals are racist. As the tech continues to interact with patients and colleagues, the workplace becomes

Gittens has outlined an ambitious 10year plan to increase diversity in student enrollment and among working professionals who graduate from UAMS. Approximately 16% of Arkansas’ state population is African American but account for less than 5% of enrollment at UAMS. A major goal is to increase the percentage of African American students, faculty and staff on campus. Another goal is to create effective mentorship programs to support minority students academically, emotionally and socially to make sure they stay in their programs and graduate on time. “Our students, minority students, don’t fail because of academics. It’s a sense of isolation, loneliness and lack of support. That’s where our office and partnerships with various colleges come in. We want to make sure they have what they need, and that they have a place to call home outside of the classroom and create a sense of community.”


Unfortunately, many minorities are afraid to go see a doctor or seek medical attention. On top of that, experiences with racism have been thought to prevent some from receiving life-saving treatments. When asked how diversity initiatives directly benefit the community, Gittens offers an insightful scenario.


To bridge the gap between UAMS and the community, Gittens is working with the Arkansas Minority Health Commission to form a community advisory council. He also maintains UAMS’ outreach programs and partnerships with various health organizations. His division works with grassroots community groups, state agencies and educational institutions to stop the spread of these kinds of negative perceptions.

Gittens also intends to travel the state to look for opportunities to improve access to quality health care outside of Little Rock and Central Arkansas. He believes he has the support, resources and talent to promote meaningful change between UAMS and the minority community. How will he know he has succeeded? “When I do an interview 10 years from now, and the interviewer says that UAMS has a positive brand in regard to diversity, that’s when I’ll know I have succeeded.” AMHC 2020

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Dr. Kris Nwokeji &

KION Pediatrics: Redefining the doctor’s office experience By ella ColeMan Kris Nwokeji, MD (affectionately called Dr. Kris), is redefining doctor’s office visits for children and their parents at KION Pediatrics. While the letters KION are his initials, the word “kion” is of Swahili origin and means “leader.” Certainly, leadership is central to the vision and goals of KION in Jonesboro, Arkansas. “We want to bridge that gap between good health and success. A child that is healthy will do well and succeed. That’s why we want to enhance the quality of life for future leaders. If you are a KION kid today, our goal is that you will be a healthy leader tomorrow in any area you choose,” Dr. Kris says.


Becoming a doctor was a path Dr. Kris was destined to travel. He was born in Austin, Texas, to Nigerian parents who relocated to Nigeria, where he grew up. “I knew I wanted to be a doctor at eight years old, and that it would be pediatrics. Kids respond well to me and I have a calming effect on babies.” So, in Nigeria, he attended boarding school and at age 16, entered medical school at Abia State University, completing his degree with distinction. Continuing his medical journey, Dr. Kris returned to the United States. He did his residency in New York at Columbia Univer-

Top: Kris Nwokeji, MD and owner, KION Pediatrics; Bottom: KION Pediatrics

sity College of Physicians and Surgeons and Harlem Hospital. He conducted pediatric endocrinology research at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, and later was a general pediatrician in New Jersey before moving to Newport, Arkansas. He has now been

in primary care pediatrics for 10 years. “See, I enjoy what I do, making sure that children are healthy. So, for me, it doesn’t feel like work,” Dr. Kris says. A FUN AND HEALTHY PLACE

The fun environment at KION Pediatrics has children excited

A color-popping jungle scene -- one of many murals at KION Pediatrics

about their appointments. “We don’t want the doctor’s office to be a place where kids are scared to go. Once the kids come here, it becomes a favorite activity for them,” he says. “You can talk to a lot of our parents and they will tell you their children say, ‘I want to go back to see Dr. Kris.’ Some of them will even fake an illness just to come back.” The wonderland-like atmosphere at KION is extremely exciting for kids. Dr. Kris explains, “There are four exam rooms and every room has a theme. So, while the parents are filling out paperwork, the children are having fun. The Avengers Room is filled with great posters the children like and an outer space

exam table. The Paw Patrol Room has a fire engine exam table and the Frozen Room has a mural of various characters the kids love. There is a game called Beam that projects different games on the floor, so they can play hockey, soccer, football and other games interactively. The movie room theater has an 83-inch screen attached to Netflix Kids and the children can watch kid-friendly programs.” The KION wellness journey begins during infancy and continues throughout childhood, adolescence, and into the beginning of young adulthood. Prior to age 21, patients are released to see a doctor for adults. “One of our goals is to

ensure that there is a healthy transition from childhood to adulthood. We want to achieve a state of physical, mental and social well-being.” KION provides mental, autism and vision care, as well as hearing screenings. Dr. Kris adds, “For adolescents, we do alcohol, drug, depression and STD screenings.” BALANCING WITH FAMILY

Dr. Kris and his wife, Raquel, who works with him at KION, have demanding schedules. To maintain balance, they arrange quality family time with their four children. “We love to travel abroad and just relax. We have been to London, Spain, France, Hawaii, Mexico and Puerto

Rico. Next, we want to go to Australia and Nigeria. Also, we like to travel in the States. Some weekends we just go hang out at the movies,” he says. Their children are involved in sports, so they travel to games, too. Optimistic about the future, Dr. Kris says he plans to expand KION Pediatrics into different cities. “What better way to change the health, mindset and well-being of a generation and a nation, than starting with our children?” He concludes, “It’s not what you leave for children, it’s what you leave in them.”

For more information, visit KIONPeds.com. AMHC 2020

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Programs in the Delta and other state initiatives offer hope By sheryl lallemand

In every part of the state, Arkansas is exploring multiple and unique programs and initiatives to combat its serious opioid problem. The aim is to reach individuals at all phases of abuse and addiction with solutions and support that lead to recovery.

THE PROBLEM WITH OPIOIDS The United States consumes 80% of all opioids produced in the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that for every 100 people nationwide, 58.7 opioid prescriptions are written. However, Arkansas’ prescription rate is almost twice the national average. According to the CDC, for every 100 people in Arkansas, 102.1 opioid prescriptions are written. And besides being obtained by prescriptions, some opioid meds are purchased on the street. While looking for opioids on the street, some individuals who are addicted learn that heroin may be cheaper to purchase. Unfortunately, increasing amounts of heroin are laced with synthetic opioids like fentanyl, making deadly overdoses more common. Accidental drug overdose is now the leading cause of death in Americans under age 50.

DELTA RESPONDING TO OPIOID ABUSE AND ADDICTION Helena, Arkansas, is becoming a model for the fight against opioids in the Delta. The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) East Regional Campus Director Becky Hall, EdD, discusses how she became involved. “When we opened a clinic in Helena, it became clear opioids were a real problem. Because of my background in organizing, I knew we needed a coalition. From the beginning we would have 40 to 60 people at meetings. Clergy, educators, counselors, law enforcement, politicians, judges, mayors, medical personnel and other members of the community were all coming to the meetings.” This was the beginning of the Phillips County Opioid Awareness and Prevention Initiative (PCOAPI) and UAMS’ work to extend help statewide. Since the beginning, Hall says, they have been fortunate to have the participation of Arkansas Drug Director Kirk Lane. “Kirk has spoken in several meetings here. He also got us a grant to equip first responders with naloxone, which can save lives in case of opioid overdose.” Naloxone (name brand Narcan) is the

first line of treatment for overdose, and anyone can ask for it at any pharmacy. Arkansas’ Targeted Response report for 2018 reported 102 lives saved with this initiative. Hall mentions that another state initiative is providing nitryl (not latex) gloves for first responders, which protect responders from fatal overdose when handling drug seizures. As Hall names the various actions taken by the task force, she effectively describes a model of action for the entire state to follow. PCOAPI participated last fall in the drug take-back program in Arkansas, which reduces a major source of drugs available for misuse, mostly tried by teens. They promote training for physicians in the use of buprenorphine/nalox-one and medical assistance rehab programs to offer these drugs. PCOAPI offers talks to businesses and organizations to educate the public.

FEDERAL FUNDING Funding for Arkansas from the federal government to combat the opioid problem will exceed $18.5 million over the next few years. Sources of funding include the CDC, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The money will be used for education and prevention programs, as well as treatment programs.

“When we opened a clinic in Helena, it became clear opioids were a real problem. Because of my background in organizing, I knew we needed a coalition.” —Becky Hall, edd, uams east regional campus director

PEER SUPPORT Another new program using peer support has begun in Arkansas ERs. It uses trained counselors who have experienced opioid addiction and overcome it themselves. These peers will be appearing in treatment centers and jail systems. They are successful because they form a bond based on mutual experience. More so, they offer the hope of recovery based on a safe relationship, always controlled by the person treated, not forced upon them. Haley Ortiz, Health Policy director with the Arkansas Health Department, explains these peers receive certification training, and then can be placed. “Funding is AMHC 2020

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available for this program,” she states, adding there are some smaller hospitals in the Arkansas Rural Health Partnership that are looking into the program now. More action is needed, says Ortiz. “We are nowhere near where we need to be [in fighting this crisis].”

DRUG MONITORING The Arkansas Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) was designed to track distribution of scheduled drugs. Prior to prescribing or dispensing, physicians are required to check the database to see if other prescribers have authorized the same drugs to the patient. Since starting the programs, Arkansas has more than 19,000 doctors, pharmacists and other drug-dispensing entities participating in the PMP.

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GET INVOLVED The opioid crisis is leaving a wake of destruction in Arkansas families, businesses and personal security. If you see an overdose, don’t look the other way…call 911. If you are someone who might witness an overdose, carry a naloxone inhaler—it saves lives. Take unused opioid medications to safe drop boxes at your pharmacy or physician’s office. Call 800-662-4357, the anonymous SAMHSA hotline, to find a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) center near you. If you know someone who has quit opioids, make sure they know the same dose they once took might kill them if taken today. Use all the information you’ve learned…it might save a life.

We Support. NAMI Arkansas provides family support groups for persons with loved ones who are living with a mental illness. All groups are run by trained peer facilitators and are private and confidential.

We Educate. NAMI Arkansas provides workshops and trainings on a variety of topics, such as depression, crisis intervention and managing holiday stress to community organizations, police departments and faith organizations.

We Advocate. NAMI Arkansas works closely with state organizations to shape policy for people with mental illness and their families and provides leaders with the tools, resources and skills necessary to save mental health in all states.

We Lead. NAMI Arkansas plans public awareness events and activities, including Mental Illness Awareness Week and NAMIWalks, to successfully fight stigma and encourage understanding.


For more information about NAMI Arkansas or to find out how you can join us, contact us at: • 29 AMHC 2020 • bridge Phone: (501) 661-1548 • nami-ar@namiarkansas.org • www.namiarkansas.org • We’re on social media: NAMI Arkansas on

Healthy Representation

Maternal Mortality: Arkansas legislature establishes review committee BY Charlotte LoBuono The committee will review all pregnancy-related deaths, or maternal deaths that occur up to one year after the end of pregnancy. Its first report goes to the legislature in December 2020. According to the 2019 America’s Health Rankings Report on the Health of Women and Children from the United Health Foundation, Arkansas ranks 46th in maternal mortality compared to other states. So, in April 2019, the Arkansas State Legislature, with passage of ACT 829, authorized formation of a review committee to explore why the maternal mortality rate is so high and how to reduce it. The Maternal Mortality Review Committee (MMRC) is guided by policies and statutes that allow access to medical records for review. William Greenfield, MD, medical director of Family Health at the Arkansas Department of Health, says reviewed cases will be de-identified prior to MMRC’s review. As an interprofessional group with members from across Arkansas, the new MMRC held its first meeting January 9. The current members all share a commitment to improving maternal outcomes. The makeup of the committee is being finalized. “The committee will have about 20 members representing a diverse group of health care practitioners,” says Dr. Greenfield. Most members will be from the field of obstetrics/gynecology, but behavioral health, cardiology and psychiatry will also be represented. “Ideally, the representation of different demographics will allow everyone to bring something unique to the table,” he explains.

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A first objective of the MMRC will be to recruit and train an abstractor. The abstractor will gather information from medical records to accurately capture the events of a woman’s life leading up to and including her death. MMRC members will review the cases to determine if the deaths were pregnancy-related. “We already know each case we review will end in tragedy. We want to determine if the woman would have died even if she was not pregnant,” says William Greenfield, MD

Dr. Greenfield. This protocol has been recommended for these types of review committees by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. MMRC tasks

In addition to reviewing individual deaths, the MMRC will make recommendations about how to reduce maternal mortality. When the committee meets, it will ask six questions: • • • • •

Was the death pregnancy-related? What was the underlying cause of death? Was the death preventable? What were the factors that contributed to the death? What are the recommendations and actions that address those contributing factors? • What is the anticipated impact of those actions? “A deep dive on each individual death will help us determine what resources are needed, and how to best allocate those resources to make a difference,” Dr. Greenfield says. For example, Southwest Arkansas is less densely populated than other areas of the state and has fewer health care resources. So that region may benefit from some intervention to support the medical community, such as more or different resources, and more providers. The MMRC should predict how much each of its recommendations might help to reduce maternal mortality rates. For example, patient education and counseling might have a small impact on mortality rates, whereas clinical interventions would be expected to have a larger impact. Findings and recommendations will be combined with information from other states using a standard abstracting format and a standard reporting method.

Current community initiatives Dr. Greenfield gave a presentation on maternal mortality at the 2019 March of Dimes Marshallese Women’s Conference in Springdale on November 7. He also presented on the topic at the Arkansas Department of Public Health Grand Rounds on December 12. “One of the things we are doing now is focusing on education,” he says. Education efforts involve making sure patients, providers and hospitals are aware of best practices and early warning signs of complications associated with severe maternal morbidity.

Maternal mortality among African American women An educated African American woman has a greater risk of her baby dying than a white woman with an eighth-grade education. Even when age and other factors are considered, the disparity still exist. Research suggest that a lack of trust in the health care system among African Americans may be a factor. Delivery-of-care inequalities may also be an issue. “I think that really gets to the heart of the question, and highlights why we need to have these assessments,” Dr. Greenfield says. AMHC 2020

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Remembering Attorney and State Representative

John W. Walker, SR. BY Ashan Hampton State Representative John W. Walker, Sr. was a bold, powerhouse civil rights attorney who passed away peacefully on October 28, 2019. He was 82. Over his long career, Walker was best known for representing the Little Rock School District (LRSD) in its longrunning desegregation case, through which he fought for over 30 years for the rights of minority families to receive an equal education. Right before his passing, Walker was fighting on behalf of LRSD teachers impacted when the state took control over the district.

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To those who opposed Walker’s fiery methods as a litigator, he was a thorn. No matter how they felt about him, no one could deny his intelligence, his keen understanding of the law and his relentless pursuit of justice for working-class people. Through it all, he was a gentleman and a devoted public servant. Although he is gone, Walker’s legacy of tireless service and love for his community will never be forgotten. THE EARLY DAYS

Walker was born in Hope, Arkansas, where he attended Henry C. Yerger High

School. In 1954, he moved to Houston, Texas, where he completed his senior year. State Senator Linda Chesterfield, another Hope native, recalls, “He [Walker] didn’t graduate from Yerger, which was the all-black school, but he always came back for the reunions.” Walker was accepted by the University of Texas at Austin in the school of engineering, until they found out he was black. He fought their decision but could not get it overturned. Instead of giving up and attending Howard University in Washington, D.C.,

where he had also been accepted, Walker sued for admission at AT-Austin. After losing the lawsuit, he enrolled at the allblack Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical and Normal College (AM&N), which is now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. Through his involvement with the progressive, multi-racial Arkansas Council on Human Relations, Walker went on to get a master’s degree in education from New York University and graduated from Yale Law School.

Rockefeller nominated Walker to be the first black member of the state Board of Education. However, the Arkansas Senate rejected the appointment. In 2010, Walker was elected to the state House of Representatives for District 34. As a member of the House Education Committee, he focused on education legislation and how it would affect children of color and those living in poverty. Throughout his career, Walker fought discrimination in the workplace,

“He was not afraid to speak up about those things that he felt to be wrong. He never looked for recognition. He did what he did, because it was the right thing to do.” —State Senator Linda Chesterfield


Walker began practicing law in Little Rock with an emphasis on civil rights in 1965. In his first case, he represented 450 black high school students who were arrested in Forrest City while protesting racial discrimination. In 1968, he opened one of the first integrated law firms in the south, known as Walker and Chachkin. In that same year, Governor Winthrop

public housing, local elections, the police force, state government and educational institutions. A CHAMPION OF THE PEOPLE

Walker spent most of his career defending the underdog against corporate systems that treated them unfairly. His most famous and hard-fought case was the 1982 lawsuit that the LRSD

filed against the State of Arkansas and other neighboring districts over racial inequality. In 2002, Walker famously represented former Razorbacks basketball coach Nolan Richardson in a racial discrimination lawsuit against the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. In 2009, Walker served on a legal team that won a $17.5 million settlement from Walmart over charges of discrimination against black people in its recruitment and hiring of truck drivers. In 2015, at age 78, Walker filed another lawsuit against the State of Arkansas for racial bias in its takeover of the LRSD and dissolution of the school board. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit in 2016. Whether he won or lost, Walker’s legendary brilliance in the courtroom was admired by all. In talking about her good friend, John Walker, State Senator Linda Chesterfield of fered these kind words of remembrance: “His life was full. He had fun. He was funny. He was brilliant. He was a litigator. He was a fighter. He was just a great person to have as your friend and I shall miss him greatly.”

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Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance Works to Feed the State By Heather Honaker

Arkansas ranks second in the nation for hunger. Whether due to low wages, housing costs or living in a “food desert,” many neighbors aren’t accessing healthy, nutritious food. In 2004, after looking to improve the existing charitable food distribution system, six food banks collaborated to create the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance—the voice for a network including food banks, hunger relief organizations and advocates working to end hunger. Alliance Executive Director Kathy Webb helps us learn more about how this organization bridges the gap in health status for Arkansans.

Kathy Webb, Executive Director

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What does the Alliance do? Simply, we connect people with food. Our hunger-fighting programs like No Kid Hungry address childhood hunger, Cooking Matters teaches how to prepare healthy meals on a budget, SNAP Advocates helps guide families through the process of applying for food assistance and our Gleaning Project rescues fresh produce and distributes it to food pantries across Arkansas. Tell us more about your No Kid Hungry program. One in four children goes to bed hungry. In an agricultural state, it makes absolutely no sense. Our No Kid Hungry programs get meals to children where they live, learn and play. We encourage public schools to offer Breakfast After the Bell, a federal program, by offering grants and technical assistance to the schools so that children can eat and be ready to learn at the start of the school day. We also support programs serving after-school meals and feeding children during holiday breaks and the summer.

How many organizations do you support? We serve as an umbrella organization for the six Feeding America food banks, over 400 food pantries and community programs across our state. Our support includes bulk food purchasing, capacity building grants and providing fresh produce at no cost to their budget through our Gleaning Project. How can our readers help? Hunger affects the whole community. You have good reason to be involved in fighting it because you can do something about it. Volunteering, gleaning, teaching a Cooking Matters class, signing up a group for SNAP benefits or engaging your church in a more meaningful way—whatever the action, we want your help. Call 501-399-9999 or visit ARhungeralliance.org to learn more.


The Arkansas Immunization Action Coalition Advancing health through vaccinations and partnerships BY Rose Mackey Immunizations save lives. And according to the World Health Organization, every year approximately 2 million to 3 million deaths are prevented because infants, children, adolescents, teens and adults are receiving vaccinations for diseases that are dangerous and deadly. The Arkansas Immunization Action Coalition (also known as ImmunizeAR), a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, is on the frontline of immunizations in the state, working with local and state partners to improve vaccination rates. One of its partners is the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH). Jennifer Dillaha, MD, is the medical director for Immunizations at the ADH and an infectious disease specialist. She also serves as a 2019-2020 board member of ImmunizeAR. Dr. Dillaha wants Arkansans to know vaccines are safe. “It can take 10 to 15 years . . . maybe more,” Dr. Dillaha says, when asked about the rigors of developing a new vaccine. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says vaccines go through six stages of development, including exploratory, pre-clinical, clinical development and regulatory review before the drugs are made available to the public. However, efforts to make vaccines safe wouldn’t matter much if they were not accessible and affordable. Dr. Dillaha shares that a federally funded program called Vaccines for Children (VFC), through the ADH, provides vaccine medicine if parents or guardians are unable to pay to have children vaccinated. “For children from birth through 18 years, there are no out-ofpocket costs for vaccinations if they are on Medicaid or without insurance or their insurance doesn’t pay for vaccines,” she says.

Another organization working with ImmunizeAR to make vaccines accessible is the Blue & You Foundation for a Healthier Arkansas. This year, the foundation awarded ImmunizeAR $37,500 to support school-based health center immunization programs. The goal is to improve the access, documentation and efficiency of vaccine delivery in school-based health clinics. This is the fourth project the Blue & You Foundation has funded for ImmunizeAR. The Arkansas Cancer Coalition is another longstanding partner, working to improve the HPV vaccination rates in Arkansas. This is done through the HPV Prevention Workgroup and an annual HPV Summit. The HPV Summit is a one-day educational conference for medical and dental providers to convene and learn about ways to increase acceptance of the HPV vaccine in an effort to reduce HPV-related cancers. This year’s HPV Summit will be held May 1, 2020, at the Crowne Plaza. The coalition also hosts an annual Immunization Summit in August for health care and public health providers. “We are so thankful for all of our partners because without them we would not be able to do all of the great work we do,” says Heather Mercer, executive director of ImmunizeAR. ImmunizeAR has hundreds of partners throughout Arkansas, each working in its own way to advance health through vaccinations. If you or your organization would like to partner with ImmunizeAR, visit their website at www.immunizeAR.org or call 501-372-6639.

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Arkansas Tobacco Settlement Commission The Arkansas Tobacco Settlement Commission

(ATSC) was established by a vote of the people in 2000. This Act designated all tobacco settlement proceeds to be directed to the use of improving the health of Arkansans. Arkansas can be proud in knowing we were one of only a handful of states to make this important commitment to the future health of our citizens. The Act created seven funded programs: Arkansas Aging Initiative Arkansas Biosciences Institute Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health Medicaid Expansion Program Minority Health Initiative Tobacco Prevention & Cessation Program UAMS East/Delta Arkansas Health Education Center

These programs carry out the mission and spirit of the Act, which was to create a stronger and healthier Arkansas. The ATSC website provides the important work these programs have accomplished, along with highlights and achievements they have reached.


Arkansas Tobacco Settlement Commission 101 East Capitol Avenue, Suite 108 | Little Rock, Arkansas 72201 Phone: 501-683-0072 | Fax: 501-683-0078


Commissioners leading the way to equal opportunities and access to health, health care, & preventive well-care for Arkansas minorities

AMHC COMMISSIONERS are highly respected thought leaders in the fields of education, government, medicine, and others. The commissioners meet regularly to provide oversight and feedback on matters that affect the Arkansas Minority Health Commission’s staff, leadership, and the individuals and families that they all serve. Each commissioner applauds the AMHC’s first 28 years of serving Arkansans and expects even greater accomplishments in the years ahead. To learn more about the work of the commissioners, please contact AMHC’s media relations department at 501-686-2720.

Kelly D. Bryant, MS | | Kelly D. Bryant is

MATTIE P. COLLINS | | A native of Pine Bluff,

from Malvern, Arkansas, and currently resides in

Arkansas, Mattie P. Collins graduated from

Pine Bluff. She graduated from the University of

AM&N College, now the University of Arkansas

Arkansas at Fayetteville with a Bachelor of

at Pine Bluff, with a bachelor’s degree in history

Science degree in chemical engineering and

and political science. She earned an M.A. from

from Webster University in Little Rock with a

the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville in

Master of Science degree in environmental

Educational Administration. Collins is a retired

management. Bryant is currently the environmental manager for

teacher with 39 years of dedicated service. Presently, she serves as

Clearwater Paper Corp. and is responsible for compliance with state and

president of the Ivy Center for Education, Inc. a nonprofit college

federal environmental regulations and permits. She is a registered

readiness and youth mentoring program. The main goal of the

environmental manager. She believes in giving back to the local com-

organization is to get Jefferson County youth prepared for college,

munity and being on the AMHC board is an extension of that service.

which is also her personal passion.

LARRY D. BISHOP || Born and raised in Pine

arkeith Cook is curMARKEITH COOK || M

Bluff, Arkansas, Larry D. Bishop graduated from

rently the project manager/consultant for B.L.

Watson Chapel High School in 1982. He enlisted

Breggs & Associates, a growing insurance firm

into the United States Army and served for over

located in El Dorado, Arkansas. He is contracted

20 years before retiring. He and his family cur-

through his consulting firm, SOAR Strategies,

rently reside in Fort Smith, Arkansas. He received

which focuses on minority small business

an associate’s degree from Central Texas College

development. He recently started an organi-

and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Columbia

zation called Coalition of Black Professionals to recognize, promote and

Southern University and has completed work toward a master’s degree

support minority small businesses. He is also the founder of the Respect

in the same field. Bishop is currently a contractor for Project Enhance-


ment Corporation of Georgetown, Maryland, and works at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, in support of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). He also serves as minister with the 9th & S Street Church of Christ in Fort Smith and operates a small business. He and Nesa, his wife of 36 years, have two daughters.

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native SEN. Jack crumbly MA, EdS || A

RICKEY MCCAULEY || Rickey McCauley earned

of Arkansas, former State Senator Jack Crumbly

a bachelor’s degree in computer science and

served two terms, or six years, representing

worked for over 10 years in the health care in-

District 16, which comprises parts of Crittenden,

dustry. During college, he worked at a health care

Lee, Phillips and St. Francis counties. Currently

agency in Memphis. McCauley later returned to

retired, he spends his time working on projects

Arkansas and worked at a community health

such as STRIVE (Special Training in Remedial

care center as its chief information officer. He has

Instruction and Vocational Education). An alumnus of the University

spent over 10 years in rural Arkansas addressing dwelling disparities

of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Crumbly graduated with a double major

that have an impact on health.

in agriculture and biology. He received his master’s degree from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. He and his wife, Johnetta, have

Kris i. nwokeji, MD || Dr. Kris Ikenna Nwokeji

one son, two daughters, two grandsons and five granddaughters.

champions the AMHC’s mission to seek, through education, ways to address and prevent diseases

Layza lopez-Love, BA


Layza Lopez-

Love is a graduate of UCLA, earning a bachelor’s in sociology and Chicana/o studies. She is bilingual in English and Spanish. She is the community outreach and development director at Community Clinic in Springdale and has 10 years of experience managing grantfunded programs. Lopez-Love is co-chair of the Washington County Hometown Health Coalition, a board member for NWA Continuum of Care and Project Right Choice, and a member in the Northwest Arkansas Tobacco and Drug Free Coalition, Engage NWA, Gaps in Services to the Marshallese, and Springdale Coordinated School Health. A native of Los Angeles, she currently lives in Springdale with her husband and son. Rhonda Mattox, MD


Dr. Rhonda Mattox

has worked as a health policy adviser to elected state and national officials—including immediate past dean of the United States House of Representative Congressman John Dingell III— to expand access to health care. She has a broad range of experience in national government relations and healthy policy with state and federal agencies like Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration and the United States Health and Human Services. She has served as a medical media consultant in Los Angeles, advising writers and producers on developing accurate portrayals of individuals with psychiatric conditions, as she is passionate about destigmatizing mental illness.

and conditions that are prevalent among minority populations. He hopes that, in the coming years, childhood disorders in Arkansas will be decreased because of the work of the AMHC. Dr. Nwokeji completed his pediatric residency at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, Harlem Hospital Center. He supports a health-centered community through volunteer activities in the local school system and child care centers. Born in Austin, Texas, Dr. Nwokeji was raised in Nigeria. louis portlock, MA


A native of Chica-

go, Louis Portlock earned a Bachelor of Arts in counseling from Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois, and a Master of Arts in counseling and guidance from Roosevelt University in Chicago. The majority of his professional career was with the Chicago Police Department, where he served as an investigator, instructor and in various roles for over 31 years. After moving to Little Rock, Arkansas, he began working for the Arkansas Department of Human Services. His community service includes 100 Black Men of Greater Little Rock, board service with Little Rock Volunteers in Public Schools and others. sederick C. Rice, phd


Sederick C. Rice is

a native of Pine Bluff, Arkansas. He earned a Bachelor of Science in biology at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB), a Master of Science in biology at Delaware State University, and a doctorate in cell and molecular biology at the University of Vermont. Dr. Rice is an assistant professor of biology at UAPB. He is also the current chair of the AMHC board of commissioners. Dr. Rice hopes that the AMHC continues to support the health and well-being of minority populations and all citizens.

38 • bridge • AMHC 2020

At the

Arkansas Minority Health Commission your health really is our priority! 2 019 community service hi g hli g hts M O B I L E H E A LT H U N I T


Since it first took to the road in March 2018, As part of AMHC’s health outreach initiative, our Mobile Health Unit has served 62 counties 4,070 people were screened for hypertension. and provided 6,406 screenings and services to approximately 850 participants.



AMHC documented 25,174 health screenings. Sixty-four percent targeted cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Our partnership with Arkansas Human Development Corporation Hispanic Initiative hosted eight preventive screening events, reached 8,560 participants, and provided 7,015 preventive screenings.

M E D I A O U T R E AC H Through radio and television, 9,863 health promotion commercials ran, focusing on heart disease/stroke, nutrition and tobacco.

There’s more! To learn about our other achievements, visit our website at arminorityhealth.com and view our events, initiatives, minority report and more.

Your Health. Our Priority. 1501 S. Main Street, Suite A Little Rock, Arkansas 72202 501-686-2720

be you. be well.

Whatever you want to be, it helps to be well. We offer tips and support to quit smoking and address health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure. It’s never too late to make decisions to help you be healthier.

833-283-WELL bewellarkansas.org