Kayra White small“Communication is key,” Kayra White, an M.S. in Occupational Therapy student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham announced on December 13, 2014. “If our voices are not heard, how can we expect them to understand what it is to be a farmer?”

White delivered her speech in the recent Ag Communication Award competition, sponsored by the National Young Farmers Education Association (NYFEA) and John Deere. She placed second overall, earning a trip to Washington, D.C. where she met with U.S. legislators and their aides to discuss the effect of current policies on the farming community.

“I am the 5th generation on our century-old family farm in Rehobeth, Alabama,” White says. “As an occupational therapist, I plan to stay in rural Alabama to practice.” White plans to harness her background in farming and her B.A. in Psychology to bring client-centered care to her future patients.

Lisa CalhounLisa Calhoun saw an opportunity and took a chance. The journey wasn’t easy—completing school while raising three children and working fulltime never is—but now, poised to graduate from the University of Alabama at Birmingham with her B.S. in Health Information Management, she is glad she took the risk.

“I know I would not be in the position that I currently hold if I were not actively working on obtaining my B.S.,” Calhoun, a native of Pell City, Alabama, says. “I do feel that continuing my education has helped me advance in my career.”

Calhoun joined St. Vincent’s Health System in 2010, after graduating junior college with her two-year degree. “I was hired into an entry-level position,” she recalls. “Since enrolling in the B.S. program at the UAB School of Health Professions, I have been promoted into several other positions within the organization.”

Pooja NagarajFor Pooja Nagaraj, the 9,000-plus-mile move from Bangalore, India to Birmingham, Alabama, felt more like fate than a choice.

“My encounter with the area of Genetic Counseling was rather serendipitous,” she says. “In retrospect, I believe most of my academic, professional and personal experiences, in an unintended yet organic process, have laid a strong foundation for me to enter genetic counseling training and pursue it as a career.”

A first year student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Pooja is the very first international student to enter the Master of Science in Genetic Counseling program in the UAB Department of Clinical and Diagnostic Sciences.

Susan Silverman smallerFour years after arriving at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Susan Wilbanks—formerly Susan Silverman—is poised to make UAB history.

“I am the first student to graduate from the Ph.D. in Rehabilitation Science program!” she says.

The program, co-sponsored by the Department of Physical Therapy and the Department of Occupational Therapy, accepted its first cohort of students in the spring of 2011. “We couldn’t have asked for a better person to be the inaugural student in the Rehab Science PhD program,” says Wilbanks’ research mentor, Scott Bickel, PhD. “Susan has been self-motivated, disciplined, and committed to excellence in her work.”

“It makes me feel like I’ve done something pretty special,” says Wilbanks. “When I look back to see how much I’ve done in the last four years, I can’t believe I’ve made it to this point."