Faculty-staffSeptember 1999: Vol. 78, No. 4


You knew it had to happen, what with pet boutiques popping up all over America and the summer sun frying the country in 100-degree heat. What we speak of here is a product known on the street as "Doggie Gatorade," a sports beverage for dogs that need to replace fluids lost in the heat of play. The actual name of the product is Rebound, and one of those listed as having helped develop it is UGA vet school professor Scott Brown. But when GM asked Brown if Rebound is for real, he said, "Not really. If a dog is hot, give him a drink of water." Brown's initial interest was in trying to develop a fluid with a therapeutic use, something to help dogs who have lost electrolytes because of vomiting or diarrhea. Brown's skepticism hasn't stopped Atlanta's National Pet Supply from comparing Rebound to popular sports drinks for humans. It comes in both lemon-lime and Ice Cool flavors. Fortunately for dogs, the company discarded a meat-flavored prototype that tasted too much like soup.
Rx for school problems: hire social workers

A dearth of social workers in Georgia schools means important links between homes and communities aren't being established—links Martha Mark-ward believes could prevent the tragedies that have occurred in Littleton, Colo.; Jonesboro, Ark.; Paducah, Ky.; and, most recently, Conyers, Ga.

"School social workers are trained to examine the links and determine what's out of sync," says Markward, a professor in the School of Social Work. "In a lot of these shootings, that link clearly wasn't there."

In Georgia, schools employ eight times as many counselors as school social workers.

"Particularly when you're working with a troubled child, you find that many families feel intimidated by schools and are uncomfortable being there," she says. "In schools that have social workers, these professionals frequently become the first link with the school when they visit a home to discuss a student's behavior."

Markward says it's vital to maintain a family-school link as students enter their middle school and high school years.

"From the time students enter middle school, there's an implied request—sometimes from the students themselves and sometimes from the schools—that parents stay out, that students be required to take more responsibility for themselves," says Markward. "I think that's a mistake. Even though adolescents certainly must be given the freedom to try their wings, they also need the opportunity to return to the nest, to know their parents are there to help them."

Markward says the ideal situation would be for schools to hire enough social workers to enable them to be pro-active rather than reactive.

"In too many schools, there's only one counselor or social worker. That means this individual is only used for a crisis, rather than as a resource," she says. "The result is that classroom teachers frequently deal with children's emotional problems. The reality in this culture is that we have more and more children who need intervention. The average teacher has at least 20 students; their focus is on academics."

At UGA, future school social workers complete the same master's level training as other students. However, they also take courses in education and work in schools during their internship. They are certified by the State of Georgia's Professional Standards Commission.

Denise Horton (ABJ '83)

Botanists save boy who ate poisonous plant

A digital imaging device helped UGA botanist—and plant detective—Patrick Sweeney ID this American nightshade and save a three-year-old's life.

A three-year-old boy is alive and well thanks to the quick thinking of a county extension agent, the expertise of two UGA botanists, and a digital imaging device that enabled the botanists to identify the toxic plant eaten by the little boy.

Fortunately, the boy's sister saw him eat four berries off the plant, and she told her parents, Jim and Jennifer Dennis of Fitzgerald. They called the state Poison Control Center, which referred them to Ben Hill county agent Tim Hall. He took digital photos of the plant and sent them over the Internet to the UGA Herbarium.

Acting curator Reed Crook and botanist Patrick Sweeney recognized the plant as soon as it appeared on their computer screen. "I knew it was Solanum americanum or the American nightshade," says Crook.

The American nightshade is a common weed with tomato-like fruits, which can be fatal if ingested by small children—so Crook and Sweeney had to work fast. Crook e-mailed Hall with the identification, Hall told the boy's parents, and they rushed him to the Dorminy Medical Center in Fitzgerald, where doctors gave him the appropriate treatment and kept him in intensive care overnight.

"He is at home now, and he is a happy camper," Jim Dennis told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "It was a great team effort. We are so thankful."

The equipment Hall used to transmit the image of the nightshade was made possible by the Distance Diagnostics through Digital Imaging Project, which equips extension agents with computers, digital cameras, and microscopes. It also provides training so that they know how to assess plant diseases, pest infestations—and occasionally a little boy who's in big trouble.

Phil Williams (ABJ '72)

"Bridge over troubled waters" is retiring

When David Fletcher was a student in the late 1950s, two of his fraternity brothers died. Back then, the University didn't offer students as much support in dealing with traumatic experiences as it does today. Fletcher's and fraternity brothers had to get special permission to attend the funerals.

If a student dies today, UGA comforts family members, offers counseling to friends of the deceased, even helps with funeral arrangements. And the man who has taken care of those unpleasant—but important tasks—has been Fletcher (AB '61, MEd '72, EdS '74).

"I tell them, 'I've been where you are. I know what you're feeling,'" says Fletcher. "And that seems to help."

Compassion has been the hallmark of Fletcher's service, whether he was assisting a student with grade problems or someone who had to be hospitalized. But after 32 years of service, including middle-of-the-night phone calls concerning a student death—Fletcher is retiring.

"The extraordinary attention David has given to the needs of students has been essential to making this a student-centered University," says President Michael F. Adams. "He truly was a bridge over troubled waters."

To submit items for a scrapbook for Fletcher, contact Rick Rose, Student Affairs, Academic Building, UGA, Athens, 30602 (706/542-9890). To make a contribution in Fletcher's honor, send a check (made out to "Georgia Fund for Student Affairs") to Georgia Magazine.

Larry Dendy (ABJ '65)

Helping teen smokers quit one step at a time

Education prof Laura McCormick is attacking the problem of teen smoking, and journalism prof Lynne Sallot put together a team of PR students who won a national award for a campaign to prevent kids from starting to smoke cigarettes. Pictured are Rebecca Strain, Heather Erson, Katie Cotney, Katy Hudnall, Ryan Smith.
Laura McCormick is disturbed by a 1998 CDC study which showed that more than a third of high school students—36.4 percent, up from 27.5 percent in 1991—say they smoke cigarettes. And she's attacking the problem by conducting surveys of her own and coming up with interventionary solutions.

"We found that 63 percent of the teen smokers we surveyed have tried to quit at least once in the past year," says McCormick, a professor in health, promotion, and behavior who surveyed 3,975 students in 15 high schools throughout Georgia and Alabama last fall. "They're just incredibly unsuccessful. This might surprise people who think kids are not trying. But they are."

Only six percent who tried to quit were successful, says McCormick. Asked who they could turn to for support in quitting, most teens chose the answer "no one."

Peer environment is another important issue. Many of those surveyed by McCormick said their three closest friends smoke.

McCormick's proposed interventionary program will not focus on quitting so much as moving from thinking about quitting to starting the process. She is developing a two-part, six-month program that will be tested this fall. She expects 300 students to participate from roughly a dozen of the Georgia high schools that participated in her survey last fall. Her program will include a Web site featuring messages tailored for whatever stage the teen smoker might be in.

"One message might read, 'We know you're not thinking about quitting right now, but here are some interesting facts,'" says McCormick. "The idea is not to be preachy or try to tell them what to do, but to give them things to think about."

The program will also include telephone counseling. McCormick and her graduate assistants will talk to teen smokers, and try to come up with ways of quitting that are tailored to the individual.

Mike Childs

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