UF Health Jacksonville
A Year of Innovation and Impact

UF Health Urban Health Alliance Food Pharmacy

University of Florida Health Jacksonville has taken strides in providing unique services and high-quality care to the community. The UF Health Urban Health Alliance launched the Food Pharmacy in May 2021 to offer patients access to more nutritious foods and education. It uses a therapeutic prescriptive model to ensure that patients without access to affordable, nutritious food who have been diagnosed with a chronic disease, such as diabetes or hypertension, receive education and foods tailored to their needs. To qualify for the Food Pharmacy, someone must be a patient at the Total Care Clinic, complete a screening questionnaire, be diagnosed with a chronic condition that would benefit from improved nutrition, be food insecure as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and be enrolled in the City Contract Program.

Ross Jones, M.D., medical director of the Total Care Clinic and Urban Health Alliance, and his team identify eligible patients and help them go through the steps of qualification. The patient then receives a “prescription” and takes it to the Food Pharmacy to redeem for a food plan to meet their specific nutritional needs. Set up like a small grocery store, the Food Pharmacy is led by dietitians and trained volunteers. They assist the patient with their shopping experience and help them gather everything listed on their prescription.

The goal is to help patients get the nutrition they need and teach them to read food labels and cook healthier meals. As part of the program, patients receive education on nutrition and cooking classes. Click here to learn more. 

UF Health Jacksonville Leon L. Haley Jr., M.D., Brain Wellness Program – Jacksonville

In the works for more than a year, the UF Health Jacksonville Leon L. Haley Jr., M.D., Brain Wellness Program – Jacksonville officially opened in November to serve military veterans suffering from invisible wounds of war, specifically mild-to-moderate traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress and substance abuse. It will also serve non-veterans, helping subsidize the cost of care for veterans.

The program will be an interdisciplinary effort that uses intensive outpatient treatment led by a comprehensive team of behavioral neurologists, physical therapists, neuropsychologists, case managers and integrative therapists, featuring programs such as healing arts, equine therapy, pet therapy, yoga, sleep analysis and more. This model has been shown to have tremendous success in healing patients when they return home.

Multiple donations made this new program possible, including the Gary Sinise Foundation Avalon Network, Jacksonville Jaguars Foundation, VyStar Credit Union and THE PLAYERS.

Education

The University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville is preparing to launch a regional medical campus, which will accommodate full-time third- and fourth-year UF medical students. A group of current students will pilot the program beginning in May 2022.

For many years, the College of Medicine – Jacksonville has been hosting students from UF and other institutions, though they only appear on a rotating basis.

The regional medical campus will enhance satisfaction among UF students because they will develop more familiarity with Jacksonville faculty members and won’t have to travel back and forth between Gainesville and Jacksonville. The campus will also give students greater exposure to diverse patient populations while strengthening their understanding of social determinants of health.

The regional medical campus designation has been in the works for the past several years. Construction and renovations continue on the UF Health Jacksonville campus to accommodate the plans, which include expanded space for the college’s Office of Student Affairs.

Plans are for cohorts to ultimately include as many as 30 full-time students.

Research

UF Health Jacksonville and the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville have made significant progress using research as a tool to advance health equity in its patient population. The Center for Health Equity and Engagement Research, or CHEER, serves as the central hub for all research and community engagement efforts aimed to improve equity. Launched in May 2021, CHEER’s focus is to understand the social determinants of health and the underlying causes of health inequities, and to proactively design interventions that will help mitigate those factors. As our community grows in size and makeup, leaders are confident this health equity research, education and training will allow faculty and patients to address current and potential inequities.

As a result of UF faculty’s hard work to improve health inequities, the College of Medicine – Jacksonville received a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, or PCORI Award. The $248,000 award will go toward developing measures to increase patient involvement and participation in health disparities research. Community listening sessions, collaborative patient-centered research development and the creation of a health disparities data center are a few activities faculty are facilitating to address this issue. These activities will engage patients, community members, providers and stakeholders. The research will span over two years. Information collected from local communities will equip providers and patients nationwide to combat health equity issues. While health inequities and disparities are not new, UF faculty in Jacksonville believe they can be eliminated through research resources like CHEER, targeted funding and dedication from health care providers and patients.

COVID-19

University of Florida Health Jacksonville made history in 2020. A group of 10 frontline health care workers at UF Health Jacksonville were believed to be the first in Florida, and possibly the Southeast, to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 14, 2020. UF Health Jacksonville was designated as one of the “Pfizer Five” — a handful of sites in Florida selected to receive the initial distribution. UF Health officials initially administered the vaccine to faculty and staff, then worked with the Florida Department of Health to coordinate distribution to other hospitals and health care providers in Jacksonville, along with UF Health’s health campuses in Gainesville and Central Florida. By the end of June 2021, more than 41,000 doses were administered, fully vaccinating more than 20,000 people in the community.

Community Engagement and Underrepresented Populations

University of Florida Health Jacksonville received three important grants from local, state and national organizations to help continue our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. More than $1.6 million in new grant funding helps provide testing, vaccinations, health literacy and other initiatives surrounding COVID-19. One of the local grants helps provide funding to host.