|Marking year 3 of a successful collaboration are (from l) Dr. Warren Jones, director, Mississippi Institute for Improvement of Geographical Minority Health, Mississippi Medical Center; Dr. Aaron Shirley, chair of the board of the Jackson Medical Mall Foundation; Dr. Yvonne Maddox, NICHD deputy director; and Dr. Primus Wheeler, executive director, Jackson Medical Mall Foundation.
Dr. Aaron Shirley’s office is filled with mementos,
pictures of famous people he has met and worked with, certificates and plaques on the wall documenting his more than half century of service to the people of Mississippi. But the focal point of his office in the Jackson Medical Mall is the replica of an old bus on the center of a bookshelf.
In 1965, Shirley was the first African-American physician to undertake a pediatric residency at the University of Mississippi. The bus on his bookshelf recalls his childhood memories, symbolizes
the civil rights movement and calls to mind the progress Jackson and its citizens have witnessed since his youth.
Shirley devoted much of his practice to improving
the health of rural and urban residents of Mississippi, establishing a comprehensive school-based clinic for area teens. In 1995, he joined with several other Jackson leaders to transform an abandoned shopping mall into a community facility—the Jackson Medical Mall—that now provides health care for thousands
of people in central Mississippi. Along with housing medical offices, the medical mall encompasses Jackson State University’s College
of Public Service, the Aaron Shirley Public Health Complex and University of Mississippi medical offices that include the Jackson Heart Study supported by NHLBI.
Three years ago, NIH joined with the medical mall to establish a center where area residents could gain easy access to NIH health information.
The center includes materials on such topics as vision health, cancer, heart disease, dental care, diabetes and sudden infant death syndrome. It provides a vehicle to disseminate accurate, up-to-date health information to the more than 165,000 people, mostly patients, who come to the Jackson Medical Mall every year. About 50,000 of these people come to the mall from counties throughout the state; the facility is not only a health resource to people in the local area, but also state-wide.
To mark the start of the third year of this collaboration,
Jackson residents joined with NIH staff to conduct a series of four community health forums and four continuing medical education
forums. The Jackson/NIH team identified
health literacy, diabetes and mental health, along with heart disease and stroke, as health issues important to the residents of Mississippi.
Called the Aaron Shirley Community Forums, the events were held in the Delta city of Clarksdale,
the gulf coast cities Gulfport and Biloxi and the capital city, Jackson. NICHD deputy director Dr. Yvonne Maddox spoke at each forum and invited subject area experts from across NIH to present
current research and program activities
addressing the specific health issues.
“NIH supports researchers in Mississippi
and in every other state,” Maddox
said at the initial
forum. “These community meetings, where we have a real dialogue, are an important way to involve citizens in research and help everyone benefit from the advances researchers are making.”