Latest healthcare news and breakfast on us – Join MMC Sept. 9

Everyone has questions about healthcare. It is a subject that seems as mysterious as a black hole. Rarely do we get a chance to listen to an in-the-know person explain what is going on in the murky world of healthcare.

Well, that rare opportunity is coming to Marshall County next month in the form of Dr. Don Williamson, Alabama’s chief health officer and director of the Alabama Department of Public Health. Everyone in the county is invited to have a free breakfast and listen to Dr. Williamson talk about the changing world of healthcare.

The Annual Healthcare Breakfast is Wednesday, Sept. 9 at 7:30 a.m. at Gunter’s Landing in Guntersville. The event is sponsored by the Lake Guntersville Chamber of Commerce and Marshall Medical Centers.

Photo - D.E.WilliamsonDr. Williamson is a physician and public official widely recognized for his ability and integrity. He was appointed State Health Officer and Director of the Alabama Department of Public Health in 1992 after serving as Director of the Bureau of Preventive Health Services prior to that as Director of the Division of Disease Control. In addition to his duties as State Health Officer, Dr. Williamson was appointed by Governor Robert Bentley in 2012 to serve as the Chairman of the Alabama Medicaid Transition Task Force. Dr. Williamson was recently selected as the president and chief executive officer of the Alabama Hospital Association.


Dr. Williamson received his medical degree, cum laude, from the University of Mississippi School of Medicine in 1979. He completed a residency in internal medicine at the University of Virginia in 1982 and is board certified in that specialty. He and his wife, Anita, have one son, Jonathan, who resides in Austin, Texas.

In the introduction to the 2015 Community Health Assessment, Dr. Williamson wrote that public health is much more far-reaching that people realize.

“Public health will continue to be a partner in the solution to many community issues, which are often problems residents do not even know exist,” he stated. “Efficiency and quality are areas of focus for ADPH as the agency seeks to ensure the health of individuals and communities in Alabama.”

Interestingly, the Community Health Assessment was put together with information gathered from a statewide survey of individual healthcare consumers. They were asked about their major health concerns. Thirteen areas were identified as the most critical for Alabama:

  1. Access to care
  2. Mental health and substance abuse
  3. Poor pregnancy outcomes
  4. Nutrition and physical activity
  5. Cardiovascular diseases
  6. Sexually transmitted infections
  7. Cancer
  8. Child abuse and neglect
  9. Diabetes
  10. Geriatrics
  11. Injury and violence prevention
  12. Oral health
  13. Cigarette smoking

Alabama’s health report card is full of fascinating findings about the condition of its citizens. Here are a few:

  • Only 28 of Alabama’s 67 counties have enough doctors to serve its population. Marshall County is not one of the 28.
  • Alabama has the sixth highest prevalence of diagnosed depression in the nation, affecting one in every five adults.
  • Alabama’s infant mortality rate was the second highest in the nation from 2010 to 2012, or 39 percent higher than the national rate.
  • The percentage of Alabama mothers receiving adequate prenatal care is declining.
  • One-third of Alabama adults are obese, ranking the state fifth in the country for obesity in 2012.
  • The percentage of Medicare recipients diagnosed with high blood pressure is higher in all 67 Alabama counties than it is for the nation as a whole.
  • Marshall County residents had the second-highest number of strokes in the state.
  • There are persons living with HIV in every county in Alabama.
  • In 2012, Alabama had the third highest rate of diabetes in the U.S.
  • Type 1 diabetes is hereditary but Type 2 is due to lifestyle factors.
  • Alzheimer’s has dramatically increased as a cause of death. In 1980, there were 14 deaths from Alzheimer’s; by 2013, that increased to 1,399 deaths – an almost 100 percent increase.
  • Females are 40 percent more likely to die from Alzheimer’s than males. At even higher risk are those with less than a ninth grade education.
  • A higher percentage of adults in Alabama smoke compared to the U.S. as a whole. This is true for all ages, race and gender groups.

It is crucial for this state’s residents to get educated about their health. It is literally a life or death situation. A simple first step for local folks is to attend the healthcare breakfast. The second step could be to go for a walk.

Make your reservation now for Dr. Williamson’s timely talk. Call (256)582-3612 to save your seat.

Rose Myers is a journalist working for Marshall Medical Centers’ marketing department.

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Marshall Medical training ground for future doctors

Alabama is in critical condition when it comes to having enough doctors to serve the population. Marshall Medical Centers is doing its part to alleviate the problem by opening its hospitals to train medical students starting next week.

“By offering our hospitals as training grounds for future doctors, we are doing our part to address the shortage of physicians,” said Gary Gore, CEO of Marshall Medical Centers.

Only 28 of Alabama’s 67 counties have an adequate number of physicians to serve their populations, according to the 2015 Community Health Assessment released by the Alabama Department of Public Health.

Three students from the Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine in Dothan will begin a clerkship at MMC July 27. The third- and fourth-year students will benefit from studying under and working alongside actual doctors while they are treating real patients. Another goal of participating as a training site is that some of the students will like what they see enough to eventually return to Marshall County to practice.

“This clerkship program gives students a chance to do a portion of their training close to home and allows them to become familiar with our facilities and our community,” Gore said. “At the same time, our staff members will have the opportunity to begin building relationships with physicians who may want to practice here when they finish their training.”

Dr Lance Justice0014

One person who knows exactly what that’s like is Dr. Lance Justice, of Medical Centers OB/GYN, who is MMC’s coordinator for the training program.

“It seems like yesterday that I was a medical student rotating for a month at Marshall Medical Centers,” he said. “One of the many reasons that I chose Marshall County to practice medicine was the love I felt from the community, as well as the knowledgeable medical staff and state-of-the-art facilities.”

Justice praised the efforts of the college and the hospitals working together to improve the availability of medical care to all residents.

“The affiliation agreement with ACOM is a win-win situation not only for the students but also for our community,” he said. “We have a very knowledgeable medical staff that loves to teach. The students will get a superb educational experience, and it will be a great opportunity for the community to get to know these students. I feel confident that once these students come to our community and our hospital system they will return here to practice once they complete their training.”

Sarah Senn, Director of Communications for ACOM, said each student is assigned to Marshall Medical Centers for two years where they will complete eight core clinical rotations.

“Additionally, they will have selective and elective rotations to enhance their clinical experiences,” she said.

This is the first time for such a clerkship at MMC, Justice said. The hospitals frequently have nursing students, but it’s a new requirement to have medical students shadowing doctors for all of their core rotations.

ACOM is a four-year, comprehensive osteopathic medical school located in Dothan, Alabama. The private, non-profit college was founded in 2010 to help address the primary care physician shortage in Alabama. ACOM is the third medical school in Alabama and the first osteopathic medical school in the state.

ACOM students spend the first two years of medical school on the college’s campus before moving to a core clerkship site for third and fourth year. During the third year, students will train in six core disciplines – internal medicine, family medicine, OBGYN, general surgery, pediatrics and behavioral medicine – followed by an emergency medicine clerkship during the fourth year.

In addition to Marshall Medical Centers, ACOM has core sites for student medical training throughout Alabama and the Florida panhandle in the following locations: Anniston, Birmingham, Brewton, Centreville, Decatur, Dothan, Florence, Gadsden, Huntsville, Mobile, Montgomery, Sheffield, Sylacauga, Tallahassee and Troy.

For more information, visit ACOM’s website at or Marshall Medical Centers’ website at



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TherapyPlus employee named Trainer of the Year


When Keith Britton was selected as Trainer of the Year by the Sand Mountain Reporter, he didn’t win by a nose. It was a landslide.

“When they came by to tell me I won, they said I got more votes than all other trainers combined,” said Britton. “I guess word spread.”

It’s not hard to believe that word spread about this high-energy trainer who spends 9-10 hours a day at TherapyPlus, either working out or assisting others in their workouts.

“I enjoy training people,” he said. “I don’t call it a job. I call it fun.”

Britton was born in Ohio and his family moved to Alabama when he was five years old. He headed to California at age 18. He was in the Navy for six years where he got used to doing a lot of exercise. He eventually headed back south to help his Mom take care of his Dad. His death at age 52 from diabetes caused Britton to realize the importance of taking care of his health.

“I fell into fitness,” he said, claiming his bicep was the same size as his wrist when he started working at Powerhouse Gym. “I enjoyed it. It kind of snowballed from there.”

That snowball grew into bodybuilding and competition. Britton won first place in Gadsden’s ‘City of Champions’ men’s physique master’s division in Gadsden last year. He plans to compete in the same category in Birmingham next month.

When he bought a house in Boaz and moved near Marshall South in 2005, Britton began working out at TherapyPlus, which became his employer seven years ago. He lives with his 25-year-old son, Aaron, who also works out at TherapyPlus.

“My goal is to help others live healthier, longer and happier lives,” Britton said. “You can start by making choices – the right choices. That cake, pie or ice cream may taste great now, but what is it doing to your body on the inside? I tell my clients, ‘A moment on the lips, a month on the hips.’”

Keith Britton is a certified fitness trainer and can be reached at (256)572-5920.



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TherapyPlus Member of the Month – Tabatha Hopper

TP Member of Month
A long time ago, my dad told me a story about him growing up on the farm. Before his dad (my grandfather) left for work one morning he was asked to finish putting up a barb wire fence. Most of the fence posts were already in the ground with the exception of 8-10 posts. My dad decided he would save some time by estimating the proper location to place the final posts. Needless to say the final portion of the fence wasn’t straight. When my grandfather got home he made my dad take the entire fence down and start over. Grandfather told my dad “anything worth doing is worth doing right the first time.” That was a lesson that only had to be taught one time for my day and myself. Our member of the month also lives by that motto. She gives everything she does 100% and inspires others around her to do the same. On behalf of Therapy plus Fitness, I would like to congratulate Tabatha Hopper for earning Member of the Month for June 2015.

Tabatha decided to start working out to improve her health and to lower her body fat percentage. With the encouragement of her co-worker and friend (Britt Knott), the decision to join Therapy plus Fitness was an obvious choice. Tabatha said the location and the employees here were also a great incentive to become a member at TPF. Since her first workout, she has lost 9 pounds, 5% body fat, and decreased 2 sizes in her clothing. Her workout routine consists of 5 days per week Body Sculpting class with Jack, lifting weights, swimming 2 days per week, and running bleachers once a week.

In her spare time, Tabatha loves to spend time with her sons (Jacob 13 and Joshua 8) and camping. She plans on competing in the Barbarian Challenge in June with Britt. The Barbarian Challenge is an obstacle course race held at Noccalulu Falls in Gadsden. Her suggestion to others is to “make up your mind, set your goals, and go for it!” Tabatha wanted to say a special thanks to her husband for all of his love, support, and encouragement.

Once again Tabatha, congratulation on all of your accomplishments and best of luck in all of your future endeavors. It is great individuals like yourself that makes Therapy plus Fitness the best place around to meet all of your fitness needs.

Jack Morris
Exercise Physiologist

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GHS student’s essay about Vietnam visit earns $500 scholarship

Jessica Hoang-GHS

Guntersville High graduate Jessica Hoang is the winner of a $500 scholarship from Marshall Medical Centers to help finance her trip to national HOSA competition this summer.

Miss Hoang plans to attend Snead State Community College in the fall before transferring to UAB to pursue a degree in biology. Her ultimate goal is to become a pediatrician.

Students interested in applying for the scholarship were asked to submit an application along with an essay explaining what healthcare career he or she would like to pursue and why.

Miss Hoang’s essay described her 2006 visit to Vietnam, her parents’ homeland, where she visited a medical clinic. The doctor and nurses she met there inspired her toward a career as a physician.

“Jessica is a very kind-hearted young lady who is intelligent and who also has an impeccable work ethic,” said Health Sciences Teacher Beth Nixon. “She is well liked among her peers and the staff at GHS.” 

Mrs. Nixon said Miss Hoang won first place in Health Education, which was made-up of a team of three other students. The team went to Guntersville Elementary in the spring and taught about the importance of hand-washing. Their project was called “The Clean Cat Club”, for the school’s ‘wildcats’ mascot.

Mrs. Nixon will take five GHS students to the HOSA National Leadership Conference in Anaheim, Calif., in June. It will cost approximately $1,500 for each student’s flight and hotel expenses. Marshall Medical Centers is proud to support HOSA students in the national competition.

“We are pleased to offer our encouragement to students who are excelling in the HOSA programs in our area schools,” said Claudette DeMuth, director of marketing for MMC.  “Investing in the future of our local healthcare is just the right thing to do.”



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Only surviving original employee is proud of hospital


Gwen Hudgins 3

 Calvin Gwen Hudgins went to work at the Boaz-Albertville Hospital in 1956 when it was only a few weeks old. Back then, he recalls, you hired on to do whatever needed doing. When a car drove up carrying a woman who had just given birth, Hudgins was asked to tote the woman inside to a bed while a nurse held the still-attached baby.

“Then you did what you had to do,” says Hudgins, 87, believed to be the hospital’s only surviving original employee. “I mopped floors, I waited on patients and I did light maintenance.”

Today’s Marshall South, called ‘B&A’ then by most people, opened with 35 beds and 35 employees. Hudgins remembers there was nothing disposable – glass thermometers had mercury and had to be sanitized and reused. There were few antibiotics available. Highway 431 was two lanes. Where the lobby sits now was a yard.

“I’ve seen a lot of things happen,” says Hudgins, who worked 26 years. When he retired in 1983, the B&A News and Views newsletter called him “one of the few remaining employees who ‘opened’ the B&A Hospital in 1956.”

Hudgins was 27 years old when he walked into the hospital to ask for a job. A nurse picked up the phone and called the administrator at home. He said to tell the applicant to come on over to the house. Hudgins did, and Administrator Paul Hodges told him he needed a floater. He accepted and began doing a little bit of everything at B&A. Once he had to run down a patient who wandered away still wearing his hospital gown.

No degree or college training was required, says Hudgins, who didn’t finish high school. He was 17 when his mother died, leaving him to stay home and take care of his baby sisters while his dad worked.

After floating for a few years, Hudgins moved into the maintenance department. Later he worked in purchasing and did most of the buying for the hospital. He credited his knack for recalling numbers – he can still recite product numbers from back then – with his success in that position. There were 2,200 supply items in inventory then. Hudgins remembers nurses calling him during the night while they were trying to find something in the storeroom.

“I’d say, ‘Go down the aisle about halfway and look on your left.’ They’d find it right there.”

Hudgins’ final position was in the x-ray department where he learned to do chest x-rays. He bypassed the computer age, which started when he was about two years away from retirement.

Hudgins’ recalls one record-keeping snafu that happened at the brand-new hospital, which would never be allowed today. When an employee was hired, they were put on the payroll. There were no forms to fill out. That changed after the Joint Commission visited the hospital and asked to look at employment records. Employees had to fill out applications and backdate them, he says.

Hudgins is very proud of the progress made by the hospital since 1956. There was no ambulance service back then. Anyone who needed to go to the hospital was taken by car. If there was no car to get them there, the local funeral home was called and would transport patients – dead or alive. There were few telephones, and it was a long distance call from Boaz to Guntersville.

“We got by,” says Hudgins.

There were no emergency room doctors then either, he says. When a doctor was needed, he was called. There was a check-in light at the back of the hospital to show if the doctor was in. One RN worked per shift. Doctors would drive to peoples’ houses to deliver babies. If the baby was sick, the doctor would drive the baby to the hospital in his own car.

“You look back and then you look at what it is now and it makes you proud,” he says. “I’m proud of this hospital myself. I worked hard and I’m glad to see it grow.”

Hudgins lives near the hospital in the Beulah Community. After retirement, he worked for two medical supply stores until he was 85. His daughter, Kay Maddox, is office manager for TherapyPlus North and South. He was proud to attend the 50th anniversary celebration for Marshall South nine years ago and he plans to be present for the 60th next April.

“The hospital has been good to me,” he says. “I’ve been blessed.”

Rose Myers is a journalist working for Marshall Medical Centers.

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Mother’s Day marks time to nurture your health


mothers day

Mother’s Day has always been a time to tell the Moms in your life how important they are. Now Mother’s Day can serve an additional role – it kicks off National Women’s Health Week and National Women’s Screening Day, reminding females that their health is also very important to their loved ones.

National Women’s Health Week was set up 16 years ago by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health to empower women to make their health a priority. The week also serves as a time to help women understand what steps they can take to improve their health. It starts on Mother’s Day, May 10, and is celebrated through May 16.

Here are some simple steps any woman can take to improve her health:

National Women’s Checkup Day is led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health. The 13th annual National Women’s Checkup Day is Monday, May 11. It’s a day when women are encouraged to schedule their annual well-woman visit.

A well-woman visit is a checkup and is a good opportunity to:

  • Discuss your family history, family planning, and personal habits, such as alcohol and tobacco use.
  • Get or schedule necessary tests, such as screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, and colorectal cancer.
  • Set health goals, such as being active and maintaining a healthy weight. A well-woman visit helps you get the preventive care you need, including screenings. Screenings can find diseases early, when they are easier to treat. Screenings can also identify other problems and help lower your risk for many conditions, such as heart disease. During your well-woman visit, you can receive or schedule many screenings free of charge.Here is a handy checklist of the annual health screenings you should be getting and when you should get them. Clip it out and keep it handy, or create a spreadsheet to keep a health record.
  • Annual Screenings Checklist for Women
  • Schedule your well-woman visit every year. It’s now considered a preventive service and must be covered by most health plans at no cost to you. And if your doctor or nurse says you need more than one well-woman visit in a year, the additional visits are also covered.
  • Blood Pressure Screening

Why: If left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to heart disease and stroke.

When: Beginning at age 18, annually; more often, if high; every two years, if normal.

  • Breast Self-Exam

Why: It’s important to check for abnormalities in your breasts and report them to

your doctor.

When: Beginning at age 20, monthly.


  • Cholesterol Screening

Why: Abnormal cholesterol levels such as high LDL (bad) or low HDL (good) are a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

When: Beginning at age 20; at least every five years, if normal.

  • Clinical Breast Exam

Why: Clinical Breast Exams are conducted by a medical professional in addition to mammograms to check women for any signs of breast cancer.

When: Beginning at age 20, every three years; annually after age 40.

  • Fasting Blood Glucose Test
  1. Why: If left untreated, high blood glucose or “blood sugar” can increase the risk for heart disease and stroke.

When: Annually

  • Mammogram

Why: Mammograms are performed to screen healthy women for

signs of breast cancer.

When: Baseline mammogram between ages 35-40; annually after that.

  • Pap Smear

Why: Pap smear is one of the best tools to detect cervical cancer at its earliest stages.

When: Annually beginning at age 18 or as soon as sexually active.


  • Bone Density Test

      Why: A bone density test is one of the most accurate ways to assess

your bone health and can help confirm a diagnosis of osteoporosis.

When: Recommended for postmenopausal women under age 65; all women after age 65; sooner if at increased risk.

  • Skin Cancer Screening

Why: Skin cancer usually starts out as a precancerous lesion—changes

in the skin that are not cancer, but could become cancer over time.

When: Perform a self-exam on a monthly basis; clinical screening every three years (adults age 20-39); annually after age 40.


  • Thyroid Stimulating Hormone

Why: Levels outside of the normal range can indicate a problem with the thyroid gland that needs further testing.

When: Beginning at age 35; every few years after that based on your doctor’s discretion.

  • Colorectal Cancer Screening

Why: By undergoing a routine colonoscopy, benign growths

in the colon known as polyps can be easily removed. If left inside the colon, these polyps have the potential to develop into cancer.

When: Colonoscopy—Beginning at age 50, every 10 years; more frequently if you have a family history.

Sometimes the hardest part of finding the right doctor is knowing where to start. Here are some tips on finding the right physician and on being a better patient:

  • Find Dr. Right – Choose a primary care physician you’re comfortable with and have confidence in. Ask about the office hours, the doctor’s treatment philosophy and who will care for you when your doctor is unavailable.
  • Be preparedEven the best doctors are not mind readers so tell them everything about your health. Be honest about your personal and family medical history. If you are experiencing symptoms, tell your doctor everything about them.
  • Ask questions. Write down your questions beforehand. When your doctor tells you something you don’t understand, ask questions. Start by repeating back in your own words what your doctor tells you.
  • Seek a second opinion. If you are uncomfortable with a diagnosis or treatment plan, get a second opinion. And don’t worry about offending your doctor. A good physician will want you to be comfortable with your diagnosis.

Visit Marshall Medical Center’s website at for more information.

Rose Myers is a journalist working for Marshall Medical Center’s marketing department.

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