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Published in CenterView on January 14, 2013
Kayla Logan (right), RN, charts while second-year medical student Kristen Dent (left) helps nurse practitioner Kathy Rhodes examine 13-year-old Antavious Singleton at the Mississippi Delta Express Project’s clinic at South Delta Middle School on Dec. 5.
Kayla Logan (right), RN, charts while second-year medical student Kristen Dent (left) helps nurse practitioner Kathy Rhodes examine 13-year-old Antavious Singleton at the Mississippi Delta Express Project’s clinic at South Delta Middle School on Dec. 5.

UMMC expands Delta Project with new school-based nursing clinics

By Matt Westerfield

On a soggy morning in December, nurse practitioner Kathy Rhodes and registered nurse Kayla Logan are treating a steady stream of runny-nosed preteens.

It’s flu season, and these young patients are lucky enough to have access to onsite medical services at their South Delta Middle School — lucky because today, Rhodes and Logan are the only health-care providers in the tiny town of Anguila.


Second-year medical student Kristen Dent (left) helps nurse practitioner Kathy Rhodes examine 13-year-old Antavious Singleton at the Mississippi Delta Express Project's clinic at South Delta Middle School on Dec. 5.
Second-year medical student Kristen Dent (left) helps nurse practitioner Kathy Rhodes examine 13-year-old Antavious Singleton at the Mississippi Delta Express Project's clinic at South Delta Middle School on Dec. 5.

“There is the Sharkey Issaquena Community Hospital six miles away in Rolling Fork, which might not sound very far, but it is if you don’t have a car,” said Dr. Lisa Haynie, professor of nursing.

That severe shortage of health-care providers in the Mississippi Delta, one of the most impoverished regions in the nation, is what inspired the University of Mississippi School of Nursing to begin offering limited services in the Sharkey/Issaquena County area in 2001 through the Mercy Delta Express Project.

But what began as one itinerant mobile clinic has taken a huge leap forward.


South Delta Middle School
South Delta Middle School

Thanks to plenty of school and community support, the Mercy Delta Express Project has established permanent in-house school-based nursing clinics at South Delta Middle School in Anguila, South Delta Elementary School in Rolling Fork and the Ripley Blackwell Head Start in Mayersville.

“It’s a special place and a special community to us. They have embraced us,” said Haynie, director of the grant-funded project.

The clinic at the middle school was the first to open last February, followed by the clinic at Head Start in August and the elementary school in November.

Rhodes and Logan are employed by the School of Nursing and divide their time between the middle and elementary school as well as the Head Start. They also do summer health screenings at Cary Christian Center.

In addition to Haynie and fellow SON faculty member Dr. Tina Martin, who also practice at the clinics, the project employs full-time health educator Tammy Bell, who is local to the area.

Local dentist Dr. Ollie Hardaway and MDE outreach coordinator Linda Patton treat South Delta Elementary students on the Mississippi Delta Express mobile clinic in Rolling Fork on Dec. 5.
Local dentist Dr. Ollie Hardaway and MDE outreach coordinator Linda Patton treat South Delta Elementary students on the Mississippi Delta Express mobile clinic in Rolling Fork on Dec. 5.

With the in-house facilities, the Mercy Delta Express bus, which was donated to the School of Nursing by the Sisters of Mercy in Vicksburg in 2001, now serves as a dental clinic for Dr. Ollie Hardaway, a local dentist who runs a clinic at Cary Christian Center. School of Dentistry faculty members Dr. Neva Eklund and Robin Howard work with Hardaway to provide the fourth-year dental students with clinical experiences at the Cary clinic.

Haynie said MDE staff members Linda Patton and Treaise Williams are essential to keeping the mobile clinic on the road.

In Mayersville, the Head Start clinic opened just in time for the start of the school year in 2012.

“Head Start requires all kids to have full physical and full dental exams within 45 days of enrollment,” Haynie said. “We were able to provide all 110 kids with physical and dental exams by October.”

Dr. Kim Hoover, dean of the School of Nursing, said the Mercy Delta Express project has become much more than just a mobile clinic.


Dr. Kim Hoover (center, left), speaks to a group of visiting UMMC faculty during a tour of the nursing clinic at South Delta Elementary School on Dec.5.
Dr. Kim Hoover (center, left), speaks to a group of visiting UMMC faculty during a tour of the nursing clinic at South Delta Elementary School on Dec.5.

“It is a longstanding relationship with the people of Sharkey and Issaquena counties that allows us to learn from the community while providing much-needed health care and education in the Delta,” she said. “With the addition of the three permanent school-based clinics in the Delta, the SON now has eight nurse practitioner-managed clinics, a number unmatched among most schools of nursing.”

In 2011, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation awarded the School of Nursing an 18-month, $450,000 grant to expand the MDE Project. Haynie said they are in the application process to renew the grant for another year.

“One of the things the Kellogg Foundation wanted us to have was a sustainability plan, and we felt that permanent, in-house clinics were one way to accomplish that,” Haynie said.

At South Delta Middle School, where Rhodes and Logan are battling students’ flu-like symptoms, Haynie is leading a group of UMMC faculty and administrators on a tour of what was, until recently, a long-vacant Home Economics classroom.

Now it has freshly painted walls and three exam rooms and is decked out with health-education materials, thanks mostly to the elbow grease of teachers and parents.

“They all came out and built the walls for that new exam room, painted them, and then the same thing with the elementary school,” Haynie told the group. “The parents come in and visit us now; they know us.”

Haynie said between the clinic’s February opening and May, it had 304 sick visits from students. Including all three clinics, she estimates 1,000 patients were treated in 2012.

The south delta
The south delta

“Dr. Haynie has become a trusted health-care provider in that area, and her passion for the work is evidenced by the number of clinics she has managed to establish in such a short time,” Hoover said. “Not only do these clinics serve their respective communities by providing primary care, screening and health promotion activities, they also provide the perfect setting for our students to engage in inter-professional learning.”

Haynie said the next stage in the project is garnering institution-wide support, which is one reason she wanted to showcase their progress to the tour group.

“We’ve had wonderful support from all the schools at the Medical Center,” she said. “We have to show ongoing commitment from the whole institution.

“I thought it was important to bring the group to see what they’ve already contributed to and continue to do.”