Daniel provides ‘cup of kindness’ to biostatistics program

John Bentley is a somewhat non-traditional graduate student in biostatistics. He’s a faculty member in the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy who has commuted between Birmingham and Oxford, Miss.

Della Daniel’s desire to help students, faculty and staff, her positive support and her dedication to her co-workers and job are just a few of the reasons she has been selected November’s Employee of the Month.
He admits it has been challenging trying to shuttle between two places. That was especially true this past August when he proposed his dissertation and needed to gather signatures and drop off forms. Bentley needed to return to Oxford quickly and couldn’t do it.

Della Daniel, administrative associate in biostatistics and coordinator of the graduate program, knew of Bentley’s plight and stepped in to help. She offered to gather the signatures Bentley needed and drop the forms off on his behalf so he could stay on track for graduation.

“Della has been extremely helpful during my time in the program,” Bentley says. “It’s not just that Della is extremely knowledgeable and always has an answer to your question, it is her willingness to help and her kindness that make Della such a wonderful employee — and person.”

Daniel’s desire to help students, faculty and staff, her positive support and her dedication to her co-workers and job are just a few of the reasons she has been selected November’s Employee of the Month.

“It is truly an honor and means a lot to me,” Daniel says of her selection. “It makes me feel like the work I do is well-done and that I’ve been of service to the department.”
Bentley certainly can attest to her service.

“As a student and faculty member, I have been associated with several graduate programs through the years,” he says. “I can honestly say that while there were outstanding individuals in each of those programs who fulfilled the role that Della fills in biostatistics, I have not come across any individual who has Della’s combined set of knowledge and interpersonal skills.”

Daniel says she lives by the Golden Rule — do unto others as you would have others do unto you. She says she would have provided the same service for any student in need.

“In order for John to matriculate and finish graduate school he needed this assistance, and I did not mind at all,” Daniel says. “I will go that mile for any of our students confronted with situations they really can’t control.”

Daniel began working at UAB 30 years ago in an entry-level position in the admissions office of the School of Health Related Professions. She transferred to admissions in the School of Nursing before working in Basic Health Sciences in the biochemistry and molecular genetics department. She transferred to the biostatistics department in School of Public Health in 2002 and has been the heart and soul of the graduate teaching program for the past eight years, says George Howard, Dr.P.H., professor and chair of the department.

During this time, the department has expanded its program from a few students to the program with the largest number of doctorates in the School of Public Health — 16 in the past two years. These students have moved into successful faculty positions at UAB and other universities, the federal government (including the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the pharmaceutical industry.

“People, including Dean Max Michael, M.D., provide much of the credit for the success of this program to the faculty of the department, and it is true that they deserve considerable credit for these successes,” Howard says. “However, the unsung heroine of this success has been Ms. Daniel, who has been the true force of this effort — not only through her own contributions but also effectively and powerfully coordinating the efforts for faculty. Through both her direct and indirect activities, I am very comfortable to say that no single person has contributed more to the growth and success of this program than Ms. Daniel.”

Daniel also does an outstanding job working with the faculty.

She receives, prepares and manages all of the applications for admission and works with members of the admissions committee to ensure the applications receive a fair and timely review.

She helps coordinate the teaching schedule and helps prepare for student-advisor meetings and has worked with the recruitment committee to prepare a departmental brochure. Daniel performs these tasks in addition to managing the office daily and annually updating the department’s handbook.

“There is not a single detail of the biostatistics graduate program that Della has not worked on,” says Leslie McClure, Ph.D., associate professor and director of graduate studies in biostatistics. “Her organizational skills and knowledge make her an integral part of our department.”

To focus solely on Daniel’s successful contributions to the program would be to underestimate substantially her true impact, co-workers say.

In fact, McClure says Daniel’s commitment to help others is exceeded only by her kind and caring demeanor.

“I have found Della to be one of the most honest, hardworking and honorable people I have ever worked with,” McClure says. “Her dedication to her job is outstanding; her dedication to her family is unwavering. She is an excellent example of how to balance her career and her family for our students, and she is a great example of an open, warm person to everyone she encounters.

“Her dedication to UAB and the students and faculty here is immeasurable.”
Because Daniel is the first person prospective students meet and the last person graduates see, she is the first and last impression the department has on students. Because the biostatistics program attracts many international students, Daniel also is charged with helping them assimilate into the program.

Guoqiao Peter Wang says there couldn’t be a better person for that role than Daniel.

“As an international student, at times I am not able to explain my problems very clearly,” Wang says. “However, talking with Della, I don’t have too many troubles, because she is always very kind and patient. When she is listening, she smiles very often. This makes me feel very comfortable, and therefore I can clarify myself easily.”

“I just try to put our international students at ease,” Daniel says. “They’re from a different country and they may not be accustomed to the way things are — especially coming here alone. They need the support of someone here to help them out and show them the way a little bit.”
And that, says David Allison, Ph.D., sums up Daniel’s attitude.

“Our graduate students come from across the world, and one could imagine few situations in which a cup of kindness would be more welcome,” says Allison, head of the Section on Statistical Genetics in the Department of Biostatistics.

“Della supplies that cup of kindness every day. As much as our grand achievements, it is the accumulated impact of a few warm smiles, a few extra kind words that can make our days. Della is a wellspring of those smiles and kind words, and we are very fortunate to have her as part of our UAB family.”

Know someone who should be honored as an Employee of the Month? Send an e-mail to Kelly Mayer at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .