Community Activities in Mississippi

As a study, one of our fundamental values is engaging with the spirited communities that we’ll visit. Check out some of our local community engagement efforts in Mississippi so far!



Panola County Community Engagement Activities (2018 – 2019)

Community engagement activities in Panola County included hosting a focus group in early 2018, holding two county stakeholder meetings, participating in a Juneteenth Celebration in Sardis, MS, visiting the Ministerial Alliance for the Church of God hosted by Brother Raymond, visit to Panola Medical Center (Mr. Quinton Whitwell and Mr. Chris Ware – CEO and COO respectively) as a potential site for the mobile exam unit during the exam phase of the study and formation of the community advisory board and resource support group for Panola County.

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  • Panola Juneteenth Celebration in Sardis

  • Panola Juneteenth Celebration in Sardis

  • Panola Juneteenth Celebration in Sardis


Oktibbeha County Community Engagement Activities (2018 – 2020)

Community engagement activities in Oktibbeha County included hosting a focus group in early 2018, holding two county stakeholder meetings, participating in two Juneteenth Celebrations in Starkville, MS, conferencing in with the Baptist Ministerial Alliance hosted by Reverend James Covington, visiting OCH Regional Medical Center (Mr. Joe Jackson, Dr. Todd Smith – CEO and CMO respectively) as a potential site for the mobile exam unit during the exam phase of the study, visiting local physician offices (Dr. Lee Brandon, Dr. Emily Landrum, Dr. Josh Black, Dr. Jack Hollister and Dr. Drew Anthony), and formation of the community advisory board and resource support group for Oktibbeha County.

The 2020 Juneteenth Celebration in Oktibbeha County was held at JL King Park in Starkville, MS. The celebration was led by Yulanda Haddix, a member of the Community Advisory Board, and supported by the NAACP. Attendees included community members, Community Advisory Board members from The RURAL Study, the Mayor of Starkville, the Starkville Chief of Police and leadership from Mississippi State University.


Interesting Fact: Dr. Fox’s mother, Eva Mae Fox (maiden name Rice), was a native of Oktibbeha County He has an aunt Martha (at age 95 years) living in the county. Several of his cousins continue to live in that area as well. He and his siblings attended Mississippi State University and go back to Starkville often for family reunions. Also interestingly, Dr. Fox and his family grew up in the Mississippi Delta region (Clarksdale, MS/ Coahoma County). Clarksdale lies very near to Batesville, MS/Panola County. He traveled through Batesville as he and his family went to Oxford (Ole Miss Campus) throughout the 80’s. Dr. Fox often visits Batesville on his visit to his childhood home in Clarksdale and to visit family in Memphis, TN. Dr. Fox’s sister (Dr. Eugenia Fox), brother (Dr. Edwin Fox) and niece (Dr. Eva Ingram) have assisted on community activities in Panola County.

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  • Juneteenth Celebration in Oktibbeha County 2020

  • Juneteenth Celebration in Oktibbeha County 2020

  • Juneteeneth Celebration in Oktibbeha County 2019

  • Juneteeneth Celebration in Oktibbeha County 2019

  • Juneteeneth Celebration in Oktibbeha County 2019

  • Juneteeneth Celebration in Oktibbeha County 2019

  • Juneteeneth Celebration in Oktibbeha County 2019

  • Juneteeneth Celebration in Oktibbeha County 2019


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  • Oktibbeha County 1st Stakeholder Meeting

  • Oktibbeha County 2nd Stakeholder Meeting

  • Oktibbeha County 2nd Stakeholder Meeting

  • Oktibbeha County 2nd Stakeholder Meeting


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  • Heart Walk and Health Fair in Oktibbeha County

  • Heart Walk and Health Fair in Oktibbeha County

  • Heart Walk and Health Fair in Oktibbeha County


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  • Starkville Day in Oktibbeha County

  • Starkville Day in Oktibbeha County

  • Starkville Day in Oktibbeha County


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  • Oktibbeha County 1st Community Advisory Board Meeting

  • Oktibbeha County 1st Community Advisory Board Meeting

  • Oktibbeha County 1st Community Advisory Board Meeting

  • Oktibbeha County 1st Community Advisory Board Meeting


Men’s Health Month (June 2021)

In collaboration with the Community Advisory Boards (CAB) of Oktibbeha and Panola Counties, the MS Core held a series of short talks in recognition of Men’s Health Month (2021). Click the Facebook weblinks below to view the talks.

Heart Disease and Stroke in Men

Dr. Ervin Fox, UMMC (Introduction by Rev. Maurico Clark, Oktibbeha County)

COVID-19 and Heart Disease

Dr. Brad Deere, UMMC (Introduction by Rev. Darrell Dixon, Panola County)

Cancer Screening in Men

Dr. Amor Royer, UMMC (Introduction by Jeremy Weldon, Editor of The Panolian)

High Blood Pressure and Stroke Awareness in the COVID-19 Era and Beyond (2021 Virtual Event)

In recognition of High Blood Pressure Awareness Month (May 2021), the MS Core hosted a virtual conference, “High Blood Pressure and Stroke Awareness in the COVID-19 Era and Beyond.” The program was a partnership between the Community Advisory Boards (CABs) of Oktibbeha and Panola Counties, the Mississippi State Medical Association, the Mississippi chapter of the American Heart Association, and the Mississippi Rural Health Association. Dr. Sonja Fuqua moderated the program and speakers included the MSMA and AHA, Dr. Eva Ingram (Resident, UT Memphis), Dr. Latonya Washington (Internist, St. Francis Hospital and LeBonneur Hospital, Memphis), and a panel of community physicians. Speakers from the RURAL Study included Dr. Vasan Ramachandran, Dr. Ervin Fox, Dr. Felicia Caples and Dr. Frances Henderson. Click here to view a video of the virtual conference.

Heart Health in the COVID-19 Era and Beyond (2021 Virtual Event)

On Saturday, February 27th, 2021, the Oktibbeha and Panola Community Advisory Boards for the Mississippi Core of the RURAL Study presented its second annual event to bring awareness to heart health during February including a focus on increasing women’s heart health awareness. The planning Committee, comprised of members of both Community Advisory Boards and MS Core staff, decided on a theme that would also include COVID-19: “Heart Health in the COVID-19 Era and Beyond.”

The virtual event began with Welcome Messages from the American Heart Association and Mississippi State Medical Association. Dr. Vasan Ramachandran also welcomed participants and provided a brief overview of RURAL in community-friendly language. Following Dr. Fox’s overview of the activities of the MS Core, two Mayors who are CAB members provided their views of the potential impact of the RURAL Study in their respective communities. Dr. Mercedes Carnethon provided valuable information on COVID-19 and the vaccines; Dr. Kelly Wingerter informed participants about COVID-19 and Women’s Heart Health. Following the presentations by the guest speakers, a panel of local physicians and nurse practitioners joined the guest speakers in responding to audience questions. The event was presented virtually on both Zoom and Facebook Live. Participants were invited to wear red and to post selected pictures on Facebook. According to the last tally there were more than 400 views of the program on Facebook. You can watch a recording of the event on Facebook here.

*Dr. Mercedes Carnethon is the Mary Harris Thompson Professor and Vice Chair of Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine.

*Dr. Kelly Wingerter is Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, University of Mississippi Medical Center.

Go Red Women’s Heart Health Forum in Oktibbeha and Panola Counties (February 2020)

Coming out of the December community advisory board meeting in Oktibbeha County, was an idea posed by member Jacqueline Ellis to have a Go Red event in the county to educate the community about women’s heart health but to also use the event as well to introduce the community advisory board. This concept was supported by other members of the Oktibbeha County community advisory board and when presented to Panola County members, they, as well, felt that it was an excellent idea. The Go Red event was a big success in both counties, and we look forward to working with all the community advisory board members in future events. There was excellent turnout for both county events We were approached by several attendees about their interest in the RURAL Study and wanted to know ways they can join in our efforts to promote the study.

Go Red Heart Health Forum in Oktibbeha County

The event was held on February 22, 2020. The location was the First United Methodist Church Christian Life Center. The event began at 11:00 AM. Mayor Spruill, Mayor Pruitt and Supervisor Orlando Trainer gave the welcome. Jacqueline Ellis gave the purpose of the event. Ms Yulanda Haddix introduced the speaker and Dr. Ervin Fox spoke on women’s heart health and the Go Red initiative. Dr. Emily Landrum introduced Dr. Frances Henderson and Dr. Felicia Caples. Dr. Frances Henderson gave a background of the RURAL Study and Dr. Felicia Caples and Dr. Frances Henderson introduced the community advisory board members. Ms. Erica Owens commented on the benefits of the study to the county. Ms. Eileen Carr-Tabb and Ms. Ann Sansing guided the question and answer session. Finally, the prayer prior to serving lunch was given by Reverend Maurico Clark. Jacqueline Ellis gave closing remarks.

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  • Table setup for Go Red event

    Go Red Heart Health Forum in Oktibbeha County

  • RURAL Cohort Study banner

    Go Red Heart Health Forum in Oktibbeha County

  • Go Red Heart Health Forum in Oktibbeha County

  • Go Red Heart Health Forum in Oktibbeha County

  • Go Red Heart Health Forum in Oktibbeha County

  • Go Red Heart Health Forum in Oktibbeha County

  • Go Red Heart Health Forum in Oktibbeha County

  • Go Red Heart Health Forum in Oktibbeha County

  • Go Red Heart Health Forum in Oktibbeha County

  • Go Red Heart Health Forum in Oktibbeha County

  • Go Red Heart Health Forum in Oktibbeha County

  • Go Red Heart Health Forum in Oktibbeha County

  • Go Red Heart Health Forum in Oktibbeha County

  • Go Red Heart Health Forum in Oktibbeha County

  • Go Red Heart Health Forum in Oktibbeha County

  • Go Red Heart Health Forum in Oktibbeha County

  • Go Red Heart Health Forum in Oktibbeha County

  • Go Red Heart Health Forum in Oktibbeha County

  • Go Red Heart Health Forum in Oktibbeha County

  • Go Red Heart Health Forum in Oktibbeha County

  • Go Red Heart Health Forum in Oktibbeha County

  • Go Red Heart Health Forum in Oktibbeha County

  • Go Red Heart Health Forum in Oktibbeha County

Sponsors for the event:

The Education Association of East Oktibbeha County Schools (EAEOCS), the First United Methodist Church, the OCH Regional Medical Center, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Mississippi State University Extension Services, University of Mississippi Medical Center/University Heart

Go Red Heart Health Forum in Panola County

The event was held on February 29, 2020. The location was the Batesville Lion’s Club. The event began at 10:00 AM. The welcome was given by Mayor Lula Palmer. Dr. Tammy Taylor spoke on women’s heart health and the Go Red initiative. Dr. Kristie Alvarez introduced the Mississippi Core PI, Dr. Ervin Fox. Dr. Fox gave a background of the RURAL Study. Dr. Felicia Caples and Dr. Frances Henderson introduced the community advisory board members. Dr Sonja Fuqua commented on the benefits of the study to the county. Ms. Pat Neal and Ms. Akachi Agor guided the question and answer session. Finally, the prayer prior to serving lunch was given by Reverend Darryl Dixon. Tammy Taylor led door prize give-aways.

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  • Go Red Heart Health Forum in Panola County

  • Go Red Heart Health Forum in Panola County

  • Go Red Heart Health Forum in Panola County

  • Go Red Heart Health Forum in Panola County

  • Go Red Heart Health Forum in Panola County

  • Go Red Heart Health Forum in Panola County

  • Go Red Heart Health Forum in Panola County

  • Go Red Heart Health Forum in Panola County

  • Go Red Heart Health Forum in Panola County

  • Go Red Heart Health Forum in Panola County

  • Go Red Heart Health Forum in Panola County

  • Go Red Heart Health Forum in Panola County

  • Go Red Heart Health Forum in Panola County

  • Go Red Heart Health Forum in Panola County

  • Go Red Heart Health Forum in Panola County

  • Go Red Heart Health Forum in Panola County

Sponsors for the event:

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. Upsilon Iota Omega Chapter, Day by Day Health and Wellness Center, Delta Cardiovascular Center, First Security Bank, Heavvy Hitter Construction, LLC, Jarva’s Jewelry and Fashion Boutique, MSU Extension Services, NAACP Panola County, North Panola County Resource Development Avant, Panola County Juneteenth, Panola Medical Center, Partee’s Barber and Style Shop, Piggly Wiggly, Ms Annie Rice, Mr. Arrece Webb, Mr. Wady Watters


Additional Information

The RURAL Study will kick-off in Oktibbeha County, Mississippi during late Fall 2021. The Study will also visit Panola County in late Spring 2022.

To learn more about the participant experience in the RURAL Study, visit the Study Participants webpage.

Click here to learn more about the RURAL Study’s Mississippi Team! Check out the RURAL Study in Mississippi’s Facebook page.

If you have any questions or comments, please call us at 1-888-RURALST (1- 888-787-2578) or email us at RURALstudy@uab.edu