By Matt Windsor • Illustrations by Tim Rocks and Jessica Huffstutler
In some ways, America’s obesity problem has the simplest of solutions. If we could reduce the calories in our diets and increase the time we spend exercising, we could virtually guarantee ourselves longer lives and billions in health-care savings.
But that’s a big “if.” Despite persistent public health messages, physicians’ warnings, and other outreach efforts in recent years, Americans are heavier than ever. Fresh ideas are desperately needed. Dozens of UAB research teams are engaged in the search for answers, exploring everything from new motivational techniques to a field-ready tool for measuring body fat. Learn more about four of these investigators and their big ideas:
By Charles Buchanan • Photos by Tim Jones and Steve Wood • Video by Jean-Jacques Gaudel
Adam Stermer has been thinking a lot about polyester lately—specifically, how to drape more than 5,000 square feet of it over the façade of the Alys Robinson Stephens Performing Arts Center (ASC) without destroying the structure. “The wind drag created by one sheet of this tremendous amount of fabric would tear the building apart in a mild breeze,” says Stermer, the ASC’s technical director. “So our seamstress spent a week creating eight separate panels, using our largest stage as her workshop.”
Once unfurled, the luminous white fabric will provide a bright backdrop for Light Dreams, the ASC’s nighttime celebration of Birmingham’s artistic and technological creativity. The free, public event returns for its second year on May 8, 9, and 10 with new dimensions: 3-D digital projections, virtual reality, an expanded parade, and more than double the number of glowing, smoking, misting, mesmerizing installations created by 40 local artists.
By Matt Windsor • Illustrations by Ernie Eldredge
In June 2012, five years after she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, Lessley Hynson threw a party. The guest list included doctors, nurses, CT scan technicians—“anybody who had anything to do with my care,” says Hynson. She had beat heavy odds to make it so far; only 5 percent of patients with pancreatic cancer reach the five-year milestone.
“I’m aware of how few people survive, and it still surprises me all the time that I made it,” says Hynson, who credits UAB surgeon Martin Heslin, M.D.— and an experimental vaccine treatment she received at the Cancer Center— for her success. “I’m very blessed.” Hynson is already planning her 10-year bash, but she is also gearing up for an even bigger party “when the cancer cure is here.”
Hynson is doing all she can to hasten that day. “UAB has given me life,” she says. “The least I can do is give as much of my life and abilities back as I can.” In the past five years, she has helped raise around $150,000 for UAB pancreatic cancer research through the Robert E. Reed Gastrointestinal Oncology Research Foundation. “My goal is to raise enough money to fund one researcher every year,” Hynson says. She has had the chance to meet many scientists working at the Cancer Center, and their dedication “is overwhelming,” she says. “They are committed to finding a cure for cancer, and I think it is going to happen at UAB.”