Amy HayesSince high school, Amy Hayes will tell you she’s always been like a teacher tutoring her peers or younger classmates in math, softball and band. She saw that same concept with physical therapy.

“It allows me to teach every day and get to see patients improve and have those personal victories when they achieve something they want,” said Hayes.

As a Health Care Management undergraduate in the School of Health Professions, she observed the PT students as they hung out together at the Learning Resource Center. She knew she wanted to be a part of that group.

“I saw what a great, cohesive group the classes were,” said Hayes. “I loved that every day at lunch you could see the PT class eating together and even joking with their professors. I was really excited to both stay at UAB and to join that group.”

Staying to earn her Doctor of Physical Therapy at UAB was an obvious choice for her.

“The campus itself is surrounded by hospitals and clinics that cover any area you can imagine,” said Hayes. “I liked that it wasn’t a traditional college campus and that it was growing with new buildings and more students.”

Having an administrative-focused undergraduate degree allowed her to appreciate the professional aspects of the PT professions. She has taken an active role in the American Physical Therapy Association serving as the Alabama state representative to the Student Assembly.

While taking an active role in the legal and professional development of her profession is important, she realizes patient care comes first. She tells future students to soak in all the materials to be a better physical therapist.

“Study hard and really learn the material not just for the test but for the long term because the real test is when your patients come in and need you,” said Hayes. “Always keep it in mind that in the end, it is about giving your patients the best care that you can.”

Hayes is expected to graduate in December 2012. As a military wife, she hopes to work for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs or military affiliated clinics.

“Veterans and military personnel have a special place in my heart,” said Hayes. “Soldiers are a great, motivated population of patients that are extremely rewarding to work with. “

Amy_Ellis“No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it.” – The Rev. H.E. Luccock, professor emeritus of preaching at Yale Divinity School.

Amy Ellis lives by that quote. “I believe that is true of research as well,” said Ellis, a doctoral candidate in Nutrition Sciences. “In this field, it would be impossible to accomplish anything on my own.  A major strength of the School of Health Professions is our collaboration and teamwork with other departments.”

Ellis has had the chance to collaborate on at least four research projects with the respiratory therapy program in the Department of Clinical and Diagnostic Sciences. Three of those projects are in the process to be published. She said she was attracted to UAB’s reputation for both clinical and basic science research.

“The School of Health Professions offers an optimal environment for a trainee to learn cost-effective analyses with state of the art equipment and methods, collaboration with other researchers and professional development as a scientist,” said Ellis. “I am appreciative of the department of nutrition sciences commitment to graduate training, and I am continually grateful to train under the mentorship of leaders in my field.”

This is coming from a person who didn’t initially plan for a career in research and academia.  For several years, Ellis enjoyed working as a clinical dietitian at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C.

“I’ve always been enamored by the biochemistry of how the human body takes energy from the chemical bonds of food and transforms it into the energy currency of adenosine triphosphate that we use for all of our cellular processes,” said Ellis. “Seeing patients in the hospital gave me an even greater appreciation for how nutrition affects physiological outcomes.”

Her hospital established an outpatient neuroscience clinic which taught her how dramatically nutrition can affect quality of life. Her first research experience happened when she was working on a study to determine optimal energy needs for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis patients.

“After that, I was hooked, and I began thinking about other research questions I would like to study,” said Ellis.

That’s when she came to UAB with the goal of a new career in clinical nutrition research. She anticipates getting her doctoral degree in May with a dream job of combining clinical nutrition research, teaching and practice.

Nikese_ColemanAt the age of 19, Nikese Coleman of Sylacauga, Ala. had a life-changing experience after her mother suffered a stroke in 2003. She always knew she had a passion to meet the needs of people who needed assistance, such as her mother, but she lacked the resources or the “know how.”

“If I knew then what I know now, my mother could have benefitted from the expertise of an occupational therapist,” said Coleman.

Her mother has since recovered, but it made her eventually realize her career in social work was not the best avenue for her.

“I lacked the hands-on fulfillment to helping others,” said Coleman. “I felt early on in my career I was only pushing paper trying to make a difference in someone’s life.”

It was while working and observing the occupational therapists at Glenwood Autism and Behavioral Center that gave her the foundational experience to realize she wanted to work with middle-aged and older adults.  As a residential instructor there, Coleman works with adults with Autism and other mental health disorders.

“I help them gain their independence in activities of daily living and increasing their receptive and expressive communication abilities in order for their needs and wants to be met,” said Coleman.

She said she’s been able to bring an innovated approach to the field of occupational therapy since being in school at UAB.

“I’m always thinking outside the box of ways to help individuals, which OT always allows room for that,” said Coleman.

With graduation not too far off in December 2012, Coleman has her plans laid out.

“I want to become a traveling OT initially and gain experience in multiple settings of occupational therapy,” said Coleman. “Eventually, I want to go into private practice and give back to the older adults in my community with Baby Boomers aging.”