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Dr. Sandra Parker, vice chair of psychiatry at the University of South Alabama and chief medical officer of AltaPointe Health Systems, was recently awarded the 2012 Bruno Lima Award for her work in coordinating care for victims of Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill.
The Bruno Lima Award winner is selected by the American Psychiatric Association to recognize outstanding contributions of members to the care and understanding of victims of disasters. Dr. Parker is the first recipient of this award from the Alabama District Branch.
Dr. Ronald Franks, vice president for health sciences at USA, said the Bruno Lima Award is a tremendous honor.
“We knew of Dr. Parker’s dedication to the victims of not only Hurricane Katrina, but also to the victims of the BP oil spill,” Dr. Franks said. “How fitting that she would be acknowledged for her fine work and commitment to her patients. We couldn't be more proud.”
Dr. Parker led the clinical staff of AltaPointe, Mobile’s comprehensive behavioral healthcare system, after Hurricane Katrina hit south Alabama in 2005, directing a team of mental health professionals who treated patients with mental illness.
“Following the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, AltaPointe was able to establish a best practices model of care for the prevention, identification and treatment of individuals suffering from psychological disorders secondary to a disaster,” Dr. Parker said. “We quickly implemented programs such as Project Rebound, which sent teams of therapists into schools and homes of those affected by the disaster.”
More recently, Dr. Parker led AltaPointe’s disaster response efforts after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in April 2010. She played a lead role in bringing local leaders together to identify needs caused by the disaster and coordinate responses to provide access to psychiatric and medical care and other vital resources.
Dr. Parker said it is important that psychiatric leaders in the community guide the mental health response following a disaster.
“Addressing problems early can prevent the development of long-term and permanent negative consequences of a disaster,” she said. “Positive mental health makes our entire community a healthier and happier place to live.”
Dr. Parker attended medical school and completed residency training in psychiatry at the University of Alabama School of Medicine in Birmingham. She then completed her fellowship in child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
Dr. Parker practiced private psychiatry for two years before returning to community psychiatry. She began working at Mobile Mental Health Center in 1993. In 1999, she became medical director for the organization.
Mobile Mental Health Center later changed its name to AltaPointe Health Systems to better describe its comprehensive behavioral healthcare system. AltaPointe has since opened two psychiatric hospitals to provide access to the poorly insured or uninsured. Dr. Parker was named an Alabama Health Care Hero by the Alabama Hospital Association for her contribution in opening BayPointe Hospital.
With Dr. Parker’s guidance, AltaPointe physicians were able to work with the USA College of Medicine to begin leading the 3rd year clerkship in psychiatry for medical students.
In 2007, Dr Parker was named vice chair of psychiatry at the USA College of Medicine. Dr. Parker now has 14 full-time psychiatric faculty members who teach medical students and residents as well as provide psychiatric care for the seriously mentally ill in the community. The residency has also grown from accepting three residents a year to four per year.
For more information on disaster psychiatry and the Bruno Lima Award, click here.
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