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Cumberlands Host Annual Zuspan Lecture Series


Williamsburg, Ky. – On Wednesday, March 7th, University of the Cumberlands (UC) Health, Exercise, and Sport Science (HESS) and Biology Departments held their annual Zuspan Lecture series. This year’s guest speaker was Dr. Shannon Perkins, who is an assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine in Family and Geriatric Medicine at the University of Louisville (UL) and also an Assistant Professor of the Physician Assistant Studies at the University of Kentucky.

This year’s topic, “Drugs in Appalachia,” focused on three aspects; the extent of the Appalachia drug problem, the most common drugs that are being abused in the area, and the small steps that are being taken to fix the problem.

“I took a special interest in this topic,” said Dr. Perkins. “When I left Whitley County in 1995 the biggest problem facing people was alcohol or pot use. I came back in 2008 from college and I was in shock. I wanted to know what happened.”

During the lecture Dr. Perkins talked about the poverty rate in the area which is around 25% and the unemployment rate which is around 6%. She believes these things all relate to why the Appalachia area has been labeled a high intensity drug trafficking area since 1998. “A lot of people are without jobs in Appalachia and they are doing anything to make money including drug trafficking,” said Perkins.

One topic of discussion was the use of oxycontin in the United States and how 82% of the world’s supply comes to the U.S. because people use it so much. Of that percentage over 90% of it is sold in Florida and trafficked up I-75 into Kentucky among other regions along the interstate. The drug law in Florida, Dr. Perkins explains, “Allows anyone that wants to open a pain clinic do so.” However, the state, back in January, created laws that monitor drugs being given out and made stiffer penalties.

Some of the best information that was shared from Dr. Perkins was how the Appalachian area can combat against this problem. She discussed about more drug monitoring programs, provide more job opportunities for people, educating the community better, and tamper proofing medications. All these among other solutions can help the people of Appalachia overcome the drug problem.

“The reason I wanted to talk about this subject is because I see it every single day,” exclaimed Perkins. “I see it in the form of marijuana, prescription medicines, etc. and I want to be able to help reduce the amount of abuse happening.”

Currently, Dr. Perkins is an Attending Physician at Jellico Community Hospital and Highland Park Primary Care Center. She has received numerous awards including The Merck Manual Book Award in Medicine and The American Medical Women's Association Glasgow-Rubin Achievement citation.

The annual Zuspan Lecture is sponsored by the late Dr. Fredrick Zuspan, who was president of Perinatal Resources, Inc., Hilliard, Ohio. Each year, the lecture focuses on a health issue of particular interest to the southeastern Kentucky region.

Located in Williamsburg, Ky., University of the Cumberlands is an institution of regional distinction, which currently offers four undergraduate degrees in more than 40 major fields of study; nine pre-professional programs; seven graduate degrees, including a doctorate and six master’s degrees; certifications in education; and online programs.