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.
The Panola County community advisory board includes (in alphabetical order):
Dr. Kristie Alvarez
Dr. Kristie Alvarez is a Family Medicine Physician at Panola Family & Specialty Clinic at Panola Medical Center. She is from Tate/Panola County. She graduated from Independence High School and completed her undergraduate education at Delta State University. Dr. Alvarez completed medical school and residency training in family medicine at the University of Mississippi School of Medicine and the University of Mississippi Medical Center, respectively. Dr. Alvarez likes to say she is “home-grown”. She loves caring for her community.
Mayor Jerry Autrey
Mayor Jerry Autrey is a native of Batesville, MS. He graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi. As Mayor, he along with the Board of Alderman, works to maintain harmony between agriculture, industry and urban economic growth. He also works with the Board of Alderman to oversee city services, parks and the academic system. Mayor Autrey has shared his strong interest in improving health conditions in the city of Batesville and other communities throughout Panola County.
Dr. Johnnie Cumming Jr.
Dr. Johnnie Cummings attended and graduated from Meharry Medical College School Of Medicine in 1986. He has over 34 years of diverse experience in Internal Medicine. He is the Medical Director of the Aaron E. Henry Community Health Service, Inc. in Batesville, MS. The mission of the agency is to improve the health of people in the Mississippi Delta and delta hills communities by increasing access to integrated, comprehensive primary and preventive health care. Dr. Cummings is also affiliated with Panola Medical Center and Northwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center.
Reverend Darryl Dixon
Reverend Darrell Dixon Jr. is a native of Clarksdale, MS and serves as Pastor of St. Matthew Church in Lambert, MS. Darrell earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Delta State University in Cleveland, MS and a Master’s Degree in Economic and Workforce Development from the University of Southern Mississippi. After working in banking, he served as legislative staff in the United States Senate in Washington, DC before leaving that career for other pursuits. He now uses his talents and skills to develop individuals and organizations as a Program Specialist with North Delta Planning & Development District, Inc.
Mr. Trey Hamby
Mr. Thomas G. “Trey” Hamby III, grew up in Batesville, MS, graduating from South Panola High School in 1989. After high school, Mr. Hamby accepted a scholarship to be an athletic trainer at Mississippi State University and received his Bachelor’s Degree in Fitness Management. After graduating, he coached high school football, basketball and track. He won 2 North MS Championships and his teams played for 6 State Championships in only 3 years. After a few years in private business, in 1998, Mr. Hamby returned to Panola County and accepted a job as the Nutrition Coordinator for North Delta Planning and Development district. He has worked for North Delta PDD for the last 22 years, the last 10 as the Assistant Executive Director.
Ms. Pat Neal
Ms. Pat Neal is a native of Batesville, MS. She attended South Panola High School and completed undergraduate work at Delta State University where she received her bachelor’s degree. She completed her Master’s Degree at Mississippi State University. She has been working at the Mississippi State University (MSU) Extension Services for 22 years. The MSU Extension Service provides research-based information, educational programs, and technology transfer focused on issues and needs of the people of Mississippi, enabling them to make informed decisions about their economic, social, and cultural well-being. She also works with the 4-H program and the Junior Natural Wellness Volunteers Program.
Mayor Lula Palmer
Mayor Lula L. Palmer was born in Noxapater, MS. She is currently residing in Sardis, MS. She attended Alcorn State University then transferred to Mississippi Valley State University where she received a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Education. In May 2017, she was elected Mayor of Sardis, becoming both the first female and the first African American to hold the position. She was also the first African American female to be elected (2011) to serve on the Sardis Board of Alderman-serving as Alderwoman of Ward Three.
Dr. Tammy Taylor
Dr. Tammy T. Taylor, a native of Sardis, MS and a graduate of North Panola High School. She completed undergraduate studies at the University of MS. She begins her healthcare career at Northwest Community College. She received both her Masters of Science as a Nurse Educator and Post Master’s as a Family Nurse Practitioner at Alcorn State University. She received her Doctor of Nursing Practice at the University of Alabama. She is an advocate for change and serves as the Lead Volunteer for the state of MS for the National Patient Advocate Foundation (NPAF). She currently practices at Delta Cardiovascular diagnosing and treating heart conditions that abruptly ended her own father’s life at the age of forty-six.
Members of the Resource support group include (in alphabetical order):
- Dr. Phyllis George
- Alderman Justin Pope
- Reverend Louis Wilson
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.
The Oktibbeha County community advisory board includes (in alphabetical order):
Dr. David Buys
Dr. David Buys graduated from Mississippi College’s Department of Sociology and Social Work in 2004. After that he earned a Master’s degree in sociology from Auburn University and the PhD in Medical Sociology, a graduate certificate in gerontology, a postdoctoral fellowship in Health Services and Outcomes Research, and the Master of Science in Public Health all from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Dr. Buys served on faculty in the UAB School of Medicine and is now a member of the faculty at Mississippi State University where he is State Health Specialist for the MSU Extension Service.
Ms. Eileen Carr-Tabb
Ms. Eileen Carr-Tabb received her Masters of Arts degree in Communications and her Master of Science degree in Health Promotion from Mississippi State University. After receiving her education, Ms Carr-Tabb worked as a Disease Intervention Specialist, Senior to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Later, Ms. Carr-Tabb returned to Starkville, MS to a career as a Community Health Educator for the Mississippi State Department of Health. Eileen currently serves as health committee chair of the Oktibbeha County branch of the NAACP, executive board member of the Starkville Lion’s Club and Vice-Chair of the Greater Starkville Development Partnership Minority Task Force and Ms. Carr-Tabb is on the Community Advisory Board of the OCH Regional Medical Center. Ms. Carr-Tabb is a member of the Mississippi State University Black Alumni Council and works as an advocate and leader with early childhood education.
Reverend Maurico Clark
Reverend Maurico Clark, Sr. is the Pastor of Blackjack Missionary Baptist Church where he has served for 4 years. Reverend Clark is also employed with the Institute of Community Service as the Technology Manager for the 4 County areas which houses Head Start Centers in the Golden Triangle. Reverend Clark is a native of Starkville where he was born, raised, and educated and now serves with the intent of helping to make his community better.
Ms. Jacqueline Ellis
Ms. Jacqueline Ellis grew up west of Oktoc Rd in Bethel, Pine Grove, Bethel, and Mt. Olivet Church Communities. Educated in Starkville Public School and Oktibbeha County Schools District, Mississippi State University, and Troy State University. Ms Ellis currently presides over a 501C 3 Community Education group (EAEOCS), and strives to enhance the educational perspectives on community history and culture, health, fitness, and community education.
Dr. Placid Eze
Dr. Placid Eze is an experienced and accomplished family physician and primary care doctor practicing in the community of Starkville, MS. Dr. Eze attended the Morehouse School of Medicine, where he received his medical degree. He also holds his doctorate in pharmacy from Mercer University. He believes in listening to each patient and creating a partnership to maintain and improve lifelong health.
Ms. Yulanda Haddix
Ms. Yulanda Haddix is a native of Starkville Mississippi. A graduate of Rutgers University Camden, New Jersey. Along with educating incarcerated and disadvantaged youth, she also served on numerous committees in her free time. As Vice-President of the Philadelphia Eagles Wives Association, New Jersey Mayor Youth Council, New Jersey Child Assault Prevention Coordinator, New Jersey Judicial Board for Rutgers University in Camden and The National Coalition for 100 Black Women, she continues to serve on Starkville Mayor Youth Council, Board Member of the Golden Triangle Boys and Girls Club, currently works at EMCC as a WIOA Youth Career Navigator and a State of Mississippi Certified Workforce Trainer.
Dr. Emily Landrum
Dr. Emily Brandon Landrum is a native of Starkville, MS. She graduated from Starkville High School in 2007. She went on to Millsaps College where she graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology. During her junior year of college she applied for and was awarded the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship, a scholarship to promote return to practice in rural Mississippi. She is board certified in Family Medicine by the American Board of Family Medicine and is an active member of the Mississippi Academy of Family Physicians and Mississippi State Medical Association.
Mayor Larry Pruitt
Mayor Larry Pruitt is the Mayor of Maben, Mississippi
Members of the Resource support group include (in alphabetical order):
- Ms Cherri Lightsey
- Dr. Brianna Kendricks
- Ms Erica Owens
- Ms. Jossie Redmond
- Supervisor Orlando Trainer
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.
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.
Dr. Ervin Fox, UMMC (Introduction by Rev. Maurico Clark, Oktibbeha County)
Dr. Brad Deere, UMMC (Introduction by Rev. Darrell Dixon, Panola County)
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.
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.
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
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.
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