There are those people who know what it takes to start and expand a new initiative. They know the dedication it takes to recruit people and to secure funding. Andrea Mathews is one of those people.
Mathews' successful leadership as the program manager for the National Dental Practice-Based Research Network (PBRN) in the UAB School of Dentistry has earned her selection as October's Employee of the Month.
"As a dental hygienist, improving oral health care is very important to me," Mathews says. "Our dental practitioners in the network tell us that participating has enabled them to improve quality of dental care and this benefits their patients and their dental practices. So, if we're improving oral health care, then we are improving overall health because they are related."
Mathews, known as Andi to her co-workers, was hired in 2002 to help develop the first statewide dental practice-based research network in the nation, says Gregg Gilbert, D.D.S., professor and chair of the Department of Clinical and Community Sciences. Her success, he says, has "exceeded expectations." Initially, the network received two grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) — one for approximately $400,000 and another for $2.3 million.
In 2005, the network expanded after receiving two NIH grants totaling $25 million. Because of her increased responsibilities, Mathews was promoted in 2008 to a new role administering the Alabama-Mississippi region and the network's national and international activities, which included Oregon, Minnesota, Florida and three Scandinavian countries.
In 2012 the network, now called the National Dental PBRN, received funding for the 2012-19 period totaling $67 million.
"Andrea Mathews was a very significant part of the reason that UAB was able to successfully compete for these grants during this 10-year period — funding which has totaled more than $94 million," Gilbert says.
The National Dental PBRN soon will involve more than 5,000 U.S. dental practitioners providing general dental and specialty care in a wide range of clinical settings.
Mathews' responsibilities have continued to increase. She now works with six regions, more than 40 network staff and a six-member executive committee. The team works together to ensure that all parties are connected to the administrative base and that they comply with the requirements and goals of the project.
Gilbert credits Mathews' ability to work harder and smarter with helping to secure network funding for the new national phase. "UAB can point to her exceptional accomplishments with an immense amount of pride and satisfaction," he says.
Mathews' co-workers laud her for her kindness and organization. The people she works with across the country tout her attention to detail and vast knowledge.
"She always goes above and beyond to help others regardless of her enormous workload and responsibilities," says Twanda Walker, business officer for the department. "This is why her kindness, willingness to help others and tremendous work ethic are praised by her co-workers."
"Andi has that rare combination of attention to detail combined with a personable and friendly attitude that makes all of us in this large national network truly feel like a team," says Cyril Meyerowitz, D.D.S., professor at the University of Rochester's Eastman Institute for Oral Health and regional director for the National Dental PBRN.
Mathews, however, is not all work and no play. She and her family love to vacation on St. George Island, Fla. They have been visiting the island for more than 20 years. Her husband Tim bought a boat this past year, which they use on their vacations.
"We ride our bikes, walk the beach, swim, kayak and do lots of fishing," Mathews says.
Her daughter Mallory is a junior at Auburn University, and her son Duncan is a senior at Mountain Brook High School.
"Besides having a great team to work with every day, I have a wonderful support team at home," Mathews says.
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