Officially, Kym Proctor is the program administrator for the Immunology and Microbiology Themes of UAB's Graduate Biomedical Sciences program. Unofficially, she takes on the parts of recruiter, counselor and “graduate school mom.” Proctor’s multi-talented, multi-tasking skills have earned her selection as August’s Employee of the Month.
“Kym plays many roles at UAB,” says Melissa Oliver, a Ph.D. candidate in the GBS program. “She is the rock we lean on for support, the glue that holds our program together, the one who keeps us on track, the Mom away from home, the therapist, the shoulder we cry on and the sun on a cloudy day.”
Green to Gold
Scott Barnum, Ph.D., microbiology professor and co-director of the Immunology Theme, first met Proctor in 2007 when he became director of one of its predecessors, the graduate program in cellular and molecular biology. “Kym had just been brought on board as the program administrator, and we were both very green in terms of running a graduate program,” Barnum says. Nevertheless, Barnum adds, he immediately recognized Proctor’s willingness to be a team player and her drive to take the program to the next level.
In 2009, the biomedical graduate programs were unified and reorganized. “The conversion from the old department-based system was challenging at first, but it would have been a disaster without Kym’s outstanding efforts,” says Peter Burrows, Ph.D., microbiology professor and Immunology Theme director. “Kym provides insight and creative ideas that help make things work, and she plays the vital role of liaison with students.”
In fact, Proctor is a valuable recruiter in her own right, Burrows says. “She plays an important role in getting some of the best graduate students to come to UAB, even though they have received offers from other prestigious institutions,” he says. “This is because Kym is a person that interviewing students can immediately warm up to, talk to and confide in.”
“Kym is one of the reasons that I joined the UAB immunology program,” says graduate research assistant Kah Yong Goh. “She left me with a good impression during the recruitment process. She is helpful and caring and makes sure the students are well taken care of. Not only has she given me help with administrative work, she has encouraged me when I was frustrated with my research.”
Theresa Ramos, Ph.D., now a postdoctoral fellow in microbiology, agrees. “Being away from my friends and family while matriculating through the challenging graduate school coursework was difficult,” Ramos says. “When I needed a motherly shoulder, I could always count on Kym. She always is there helping whenever the students need her. Kym’s dependable nature reflects that she is a great employee, but her compassion and genuine concern for students make her irreplaceable.”
In turn, Proctor says “it is the students who make this job meaningful for me.” Without them, “it would just be a job,” she says. “With them it is so much more. I feel like I go on the journey with them, and when they graduate I am just as proud of them as their families.”