“I keep telling myself that until there are enough doctors in places like my hometown of Quincy, than I need to recruit medical students and doctors to get out and practice medicine in rural communities where people are dying of illnesses that could be prevented.”
“LEADER IN RURAL HEALTH CARE AND MEDICAL EDUCATION”
Growing up poor in a family of farm workers in the predominantly African-American community of Quincy in northern Florida's Gadsden County, Alma Brown Littles seldom saw a doctor as a child and remembers that few families had any reliable medical care. If you were very sick, you went to an emergency room, but almost nobody that she knew had a family doctor. The youngest of 12 children in a family often visited by illness (two of her siblings died in infancy), Littles decided in the second grade that she wanted to be a doctor and help people who lacked access to medical care.
She has done that and more in a career that began when she returned to Quincy in 1989 to set up a practice in family medicine, and that has now brought her to Florida State University's College of Medicine as Associate Dean of Academic Affairs.
Nominated by Rep Allen Boyd (D-FL-2) to be a Local Legend, Littles has dedicated herself to recruiting and training medical students and residents who appreciate the benefits and rewards of a career in rural medicine. Her mission at Florida State is to inspire doctors to practice in those areas where people are most in need of medicine, particularly preventive medicine.
Commitment to her local community has always been a driving force for Littles. In 1974, when she was 14, her father died after suffering a second heart attack, never having received proper preventive care after his first. That was a seminal moment for Littles. "I started reading about preventive medicine and care and realized that a lot of people were dying of things that could be prevented. I had a nephew who died of jaundice when he was a month old and 9-day-old nephew who died at home and no one knew why."
A 1986 graduate of the University of Florida College of Medicine, Littles was named Family Physician of the Year in 1993 by the Florida Academy of Family Physicians, and in 1995 was elected president of the Capital Medical Society in Tallahassee. She assumed her career in medical education when she was appointed Acting Regional Campus Dean at Florida State University College of Medicine in 2001. She became Chair of the Department of Family Medicine and Rural Health in 2002 and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in 2003.
Her mission at the medical school mirrors the goal she set for herself on becoming: "To help bring health care to patients who don't ordinarily get it in the typical American health care system." In Gadsden County, where Alma Littles grew up, that means having her 85-year-old-mother receive routine kidney dialysis at a local center-a procedure that once was virtually unavailable to the rural poor.
Becomes Residency Director, Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare, Family Practice Residency Program, Tallahassee, Florida.
Appointed Chair, Department of Family Medicine and Rural Health, Florida State University, College of Medicine, Tallahassee, Florida.
Appointed Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Florida State University, College of Medicine, Tallahassee, Florida.
University of Florida College of Medicine