UA Experts Available to Discuss Issues Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

  • April 9th, 2020

Faculty at The University of Alabama are available to discuss aspects of the coronavirus pandemic. This list will be updated, so check back often for new sources. For assistance with reaching any of these sources or for topics not highlighted, please contact Shane Dorrill, assistant director of communications, at shane.dorrill@ua.edu.

Topics Related to Health Care

Social Distancing and Substance Abuse Recovery

Dr. Tricia Witte, associate professor in UA’s department of human development and family studies, says individuals in recovery from substance use disorders are at an increased risk for potential relapse during this time of social distancing. “Routines and schedules have been disrupted, social support has been reduced and isolation at home can cause changes in mood or interpersonal conflict that can serve as triggers for relapse.” Witte is available for interviews and can be reached at twitte@ches.ua.edu.

Coping with Social Distancing

Dr. Crystal Dillard, psychology clinic director at UA, can discuss how people can cope with social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. “The term ‘social distancing’ is really a misnomer,” said Dillard. “It’s actually physical distancing, while social interaction (albeit virtually) should continue, and can be a useful coping strategy during crises like this one.” Dillard is available for interviews and can be reached at crystal.dillard@ua.edu

Rural Alabamians Particularly Vulnerable

Dr. Avani Shah, a gerontologist and health psychologist in the School of Social Work, can discuss the importance of social distancing for rural Alabamians. Shah says certain chronic health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease — both related to COVID-19 complications — are higher in Alabama, especially in the rural Black Belt counties. “Unfortunately, with closures of our rural hospitals, transportation issues, financial issues and fewer health care providers, rural older Alabamians with chronic health conditions may face a double hardship in accessing COVID-19 testing and treatment,” Shah said. “If you are a grandparent raising grandkids or a caregiver, each member of your family should be staying at home to protect one another.” Shah is available for interviews on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and can be reached at shah009@sw.ua.edu

Self-Care Critical for the Population

Dr. Sha-Rhonda Green, assistant professor of social work at UA, can discuss how the pandemic may leave some people’s emotional health susceptible to mental health crisis. Green says when the most basic human needs for survival — food, shelter, clothing, safety and security — are threatened, people grapple in a variety of ways, such as overeating, panic buying and overspending. “As one in five Americans have a mental illness, including mood disorders, the pandemic will likely exacerbate this number, resulting in strain on other systems of care like child welfare, juvenile justice and mental health systems.” Green can discuss other strategies for self-care amid COVID-19 and can be reached at sgreen9@ua.edu. She can speak with media Monday through Friday from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Adolescent Mental Health

Dr. Deborah Casper, assistant professor of human development and family studies, can discuss friendships, bullying and mental health for adolescents during this time. “Given we have nothing to directly compare to the current situation, we do know the importance of fostering healthy peer relationships,” she said. “It will be important for parents to allow time for their teens to connect virtually. It is also important, however, to have open, not forced, communication with the teen to monitor the tone of the interactions with peers.” Casper is available for interviews at dmcasper@ches.ua.edu.

Staying Healthy

Lori Greene, a registered dietitian and mother of three, can discuss healthy snacks for families, cooking with kids, meal prepping and staying physically active with your kids during this time. “Many parents now have the time to cook meals with families and gather around the table, which research tells us is so important. Take advantage of these times and buy items for you to prepare for your family, but also foods for kids to get in the kitchen,“ she said. “We also have an opportunity to be more physically active as a family and we shouldn’t pass up this opportunity to improve our health in this situation.” Greene is available for interviews at lgreene@ches.ua.edu.

Parental Stress

Dr. Karly Downs, licensed marriage and family therapist and assistant professor and clinical director for concentration in marriage and family therapy in the human development and family studies department, can talk about the stress families can experience during this time when normal support is difficult. “Parents need to remember that nothing is normal and that that is OK, not ideal, but OK,” she said. “Don’t judge yourself as a parent. Instead, focus on the moments of joy throughout the day, make sure to take time — even a few minutes — to calm your emotions and reflect on what brings you hope.” Downs is available for interviews and can be reached at kdowns@ches.ua.edu.

Topics Related to Education

Online Educational Activities

Dr. André Denham, associate professor for instructional technology in the College of Education, can discuss online resources parents can use to help their children as well as some tips for using educational technology in the home. “With the recent suspension of face-to-face instruction and transition to online instruction due to COVID-19, students and parents across the country are entering uncharted waters,” Denham said. “Fortunately, there are ample online resources and activities that can help K-12 students as they transition to online learning. I want to stress that it’s important for students to remain active during these uncertain times. Continuing the learning process is one way that you can do that.” Denham is available for interviews and can be reached at adenham@ua.edu.

Distance Learning

Dr. Lisa Matherson, clinical assistant professor and coordinator for continuous improvement in the College of Education, can discuss the value of technology and education. “Today, more than ever, those in the world of education have been forced to quickly see how the school is more than brick and mortar. Having to rapidly prepare for distance instruction has many educators adopting and embracing new ways of doing things. In distance education, classroom educators become more of a facilitator than a disseminator of information. Many factors must be considered in the complexity of distance education, such as the best technology platforms and tools to use. Distance education allows students many new facets through which to engage as they continue their learning. Through distance education, students will be afforded the opportunities to continue moving forward in meeting the disciplinary standards and not fall behind.” Matherson is available for interviews and can be reached at lhmatherson@ua.edu.

Young Children Learning

Dr. Kimberly A. Blitch, assistant professor of human development and family studies, can talk about the need to keep young children engaged during this time when many preschools and kindergarten programs are also closed. “In the absence of these enriching experiences in their regular early learning programs, young children need play-based learning opportunities at home within the context of nurturing and supportive relationships with adults,” Blitch said. “For children, every day is an Einstein kind of day — full of invention, innovation and discovery. Children learn through play. Play is their work. It’s their means of learning.” Blitch is available for interviews and can be reached at kablitch@ua.edu.

Remote Instruction in Higher Education

Dr. Claire Howell Major, professor of higher education at UA, teaches technology in higher education. “We are having to shift en masse to emergency remote teaching. We have faculty who have been teaching on campus in a face-to-face mode who are having to figure out how students can connect around content and learn for the remainder of the semester using internet tools available to them.” Major is available for interviews and can be reached at cmajor@ua.edu.

Topics Related to the Economy

Analysis on State, National Economy

Economists with the Center for Business and Economic Research in the Culverhouse College of Business are available to offer insight into the effect COVID-19 will have on the national and state economy. Read their analysisFor more information, contact Dr. Sam Addy, associate dean for economic development outreach and senior research economist, at saddy@cba.ua.edu and Dr. Ahmad Ijaz, CBER’s executive director and director of economic forecasting, at aijaz@culverhouse.ua.edu

Economic Impact of Coronavirus Hinges on Duration

Dr. Lars Powell, director and senior research professional with the Alabama Center for Insurance Information and Research can discuss how quickly the U.S. economy could recover from impacts of COVID-19. Powell is available for potential interviews between Monday and Wednesday. He may be reached at 205-348-4498 or lars.powell@ua.edu.

Coronavirus’ Effect on Transportation

Steven Polunsky, director of the Alabama Transportation Policy Research Center, is available to talk about how COVID-19 has impacted the transportation industry including public roads, public transportation, ride-sharing services, freight traffic and air traffic. To arrange an interview, contact Polunsky directly at 205-348-4574 or polunsky@ua.edu

Coronavirus’ Impact on the Hospitality Industry

Dr. Kimberly Severt, director of UA’s hospitality management program, is available to discuss how COVID-19 has impacted the hospitality industry and how long it will take to recover. To arrange an interview, contact Severt directly at ksevert@ches.ua.edu

The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.