Amy Swift Petersen has her hands full. While most of her 20-years-old Nuclear Medicine Technology classmates are living in the dorms with little responsibilities beyond school work, 40-year-old Petersen is juggling classes and three children under the age of five; Beck, Ren and Raina. Two of them adopted from China have some special needs.
“In this challenging economy, I realized that investing in my education to take my career from the academic/research track to a clinical application would be prudent to raising three children,” said Petersen.
Petersen had left the workforce to raise her kids. She graduated Cum Laude from UAB in 1995 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. She worked as a laboratory technician at Southern Biotechnology Associates and was responsible for monoclonal antibody production. She left the industry work to move back to the UAB Department of Microbiology as a lab technician to work with her mentor. She eventually became a research assistant in the Department of Radiation Biology.
“This was the impetus for my current interest in Nuclear Medicine,” said Petersen.
Day in and day out, she would watch radiation therapy patients go in for their treatments. She couldn’t help but feel compassion for the patients because she’s watched her mother endure 24 years of battling cancer, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
“I have held her hand through the bone marrow biopsies, the surgeries, the chemotherapy, the radiation therapy and the scans,” said Petersen. “As a curious technician and as a worried daughter, I have been repeatedly reminded of the invaluable information that lies in a well executed appropriate scan.”
With Petersen needing to head back into the workforce, she realized she required a degree in Nuclear Medicine Technology if she wanted to pursue a career in diagnostic imaging or radiation therapy. She said it hasn’t been easy, but thankfully has support.
“Surviving such a rigorous and demanding program while also meeting the constant demands of internationally adopted, low vision preschoolers has tested my limits,” said Petersen. “I would not be succeeding without the help and support of friends and family as well as the inspiring and supportive faculty.”
Petersen plans to graduate in spring of 2013 and hopes to practice pediatric Nuclear Medicine at Children’s of Alabama.
In the meantime, Christmas came a little early for Petersen’s family. Her mother celebrated another tumor-free PET scan.
It was during her clinical rotation as an undergrad at UAB Hospital that Destiny Hall Greene had the opportunity to work with IT professionals, administration officials and hospital medical staff on issues that ensured quality and efficient medical services were delivered to patients uninterrupted with the utilization of technology and sharing of information.
“I became intrigued with the emerging technologies and changes I was seeing put in place in the hospital,” said Greene, a Huntsville native. “I noticed how systems and technologies such as electronic health records and digital diagnostic equipment could drastically improve the type of care that patients received and wanted to learn more.”
Greene earned her degree in Radiological Sciences in the School of Health Professions (SHP) in 2008 and was certified as a radiologic technologist in 2009. Because of that encounter at UAB hospital, she decided to pursue a master’s in Health Informatics at UAB. She learned that students should really research when deciding what path to take.
“There are many programs offered, not only through the School of Health Professions, but the university as a whole that many students often do not know about,” said Greene. “Most importantly, find something that fits your interest.”
Greene encourages students to get involved on campus as she did with SHP’s Student Government Association. She also recommends finding a mentor.
“Establishing a mentor relationship can be valuable,” said Greene.
She is excited about being a part of an emerging health related field. She is currently working as an application solution consultant with SuccessEHS, a leading company providing electronic health record and practice management solutions to physician practices and community health centers.
“My responsibilities include training and consulting customers implementing SuccessEHS’s software, services, and technology and other customer support activities,” said Greene. “Additionally I work with all departments of the company to ensure that customers develop efficient workflows and that we troubleshoot any problems they may encounter. “
She is expected to earn her master’s degree in December 2012 and hopes to continue to serve as a liaison between the clinical, technological and administrative fields.
Susan Silverman is excited to be a pioneer. She’s one of the few chosen for the new PhD in Rehabilitation Science program at UAB that started this fall. The program is a joint effort between the Department of Physical Therapy and Department of Occupational Therapy.
“I had visited the Lakeshore Foundation a few months before I finished my master’s degree in Movement Studies in Disabilities, and I knew I wanted to be involved with that organization,” said Silverman, a Rolling Meadows, Ill. native. “So I looked for a PhD program in Birmingham and was lucky to find that UAB was beginning a new program in Rehabilitation Science that seemed like a perfect fit.”
Silverman is an Athletic Trainer and Strength and Conditioning Specialist. She received her undergraduate degree in Athletic Training from Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. Working with disability sports has been her passion. She’s even had the opportunity to get to know the U.S. Paralympics Wheelchair Rugby team.
“Even though the players on the field may look different than your average Joe, they are elite athletes with a very unique set of skills, positive attitudes and a unique sense of team spirit,” said Silverman. “I feel like everyone should have the opportunity to participate in sports no matter what their ability level is.”
The PhD in Rehabilitation Science will allow Silverman to partner with multiple centers on campus including the Center for Exercise Medicine and the Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases. And she will work with the Lakeshore Foundation which is what brought her to UAB in the first place. She recently helped out at their Lima Foxtrot program for injured military personnel.
“I got to help teach a veteran who had lost both legs how to water ski,” said Silverman. “It’s experiences like that where you get to see someone overcome obstacles that make all the work that we do worth it.”
Sarah Westbrook of Pinson, Ala. always wanted to help friends and family and even complete strangers. Since 2007, she has volunteered for the Special Olympics in Birmingham and while in undergraduate school, she volunteered at the Food Bank of East Alabama in Opelika. She says the UAB Dietetic Internship is the perfect place for her to lend a hand.
“Dietetics allows me to help people with my knowledge in prevention of diseases with everyday lifestyle modifications,” said Westbrook. “I truly believe that with the right nutrition, a person can extend the length of their life significantly and also the quality of life.”
Westbrook earned her bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Dietetics at Auburn University in 2011. She’s been a member of the American Dietetic Association since 2009. Westbrook will finish the 11 month UAB Dietetic Internship in June of 2012 and will complete her master’s degree in Clinical Nutrition in May 2013.
“UAB’s Dietetic Internship is a wonderful program that allows you to gain supervised clinical experience as well as experience in every other field imaginable in nutrition,” said Westbrook.
She tells incoming students to remember every minute of being a student and learn all you can.
“There will be good times, and then there will nights when you watch the sun rise while studying, but you will look back and realize that these were the best times of your life,” said Westbrook. “All your hard work will pay off, I can promise you that.”
She is confident she will be better prepared after completing all her course work. After she receives her master’s degree, she will begin working as a Registered Dietitian in a clinical setting.
New York native Tom Gleason has been all over the world serving in the United States Air Force as a Digital Subscriber Terminal Equipment & Cryptographic Technician. After spending the majority of his adult life in Europe in various technical positions, he decided to return to school for a second career.
“It was a managerial position at UAB Hospital that provided the opportunity to realize an aspiration to enter the health profession,” said Gleason. “The position brought me full circle in life and made me realize the desire I’ve had to contribute more and the niche in society where I could provide service.”
He realized his dream was just down the street in the department of occupational therapy. He quit his position at the hospital and became a full-time OT student.
“A career in occupational therapy provides me the opportunity to interact with and assist individuals with a wide range of abilities,” said Gleason. “I’ve had the privilege to witness the endurance and fragility in life, and the difference an occupational therapist can make in a patient’s life.”
Gleason said the UAB OT program has quality professors that show a true commitment to their students.
“The program offers diverse community experiences, accessible professors, and an emphasis on research,” said Gleason. “Reflecting on my experience, UAB has provided me with an excellent education and an experience I will never forget.”
He is currently working as a therapy technician at Lakeshore Rehabilitation Hospital and plans to earn his graduate degree in December 2012.
After graduation, I plan on taking an active role in the community, especially in the minority segments where services are not as accessible,” said Gleason. “My experience with diverse cultures and language skills will serve me well connecting and communicating with segments of the population that are not well integrated and have yet to experience the comprehensive nature of occupational therapy.”