UAB Medical Students Mix Haircuts with Health Care
By Susannah Felts
Barbershops provide a relaxed atmosphere for SNMA screenings. Assistant dean Anjanetta Foster (middle) and chapter president Whitney McNeil (right) attend to a patient in downtown Birmingham.
During her second week at the UAB School of Medicine, Whitney McNeil was performing a blood sugar check when she got a shock: Instead of providing a numeric value, the glucose meter simply read “high.” She alerted her supervisor, who told the patient to go straight to the emergency room. “I was worried that he might not make it,” McNeil recalls.
The procedure was unusual for another reason: It didn’t take place in a medical facility. Instead, McNeil is more likely to find her patients in Birmingham barbershops.
Her screenings are part of a volunteer effort organized by UAB’s chapter of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA), an organization founded in 1964 at Meharry and Howard University medical schools to advocate for minorities in medicine.
Most minority students at the School of Medicine join SNMA’s ranks, says Anjanetta Foster, M.D., assistant dean for diversity and multicultural affairs. The group holds community health screenings several times a year, checking for warning signs of hypertension and diabetes and counseling the public about preventing and finding help for these common but sometimes avoidable conditions.
UAB Alumni Practice Medicine in Unusual Settings
By Jo Lynn Orr
Robert M. Cosby has treated everyone from movie stars to circus performers to soldiers in the field during more than 35 years as a practicing physician.
Physicians are people, too. Like the rest of us, they dream of meeting Hollywood celebrities and sports stars, finding adventure in foreign lands, and getting paid to take tropical vacations. The difference is, doctors have the sought-after skills to turn those fantasies into reality—as several UAB graduates can testify.
Spirit of Adventure
Robert M. Cosby, M.D. (School of Medicine class of 1971), has always been drawn to doing common things in uncommon places. So when Mel Gibson’s film company came to Birmingham to shoot scenes for The River, Cosby contacted the production manager and was hired to be the physician on call at the movie set. “It was fun—something different,” he says. “It was also a learning experience. Everyone thinks being a movie star is glamorous and exciting, but in reality performers live a hard life. They often have to travel long distances and work long hours in difficult locations for months at a time.”
They’re also very dependent on appearance, Cosby says. “One actress called me to the set because she thought her eyes were becoming red, and she was afraid the camera would pick it up. Another actress who was feeling tired asked for a vitamin B-12 injection because she believed it would give her more energy. This seems to be a commonly held belief in entertainment circles, because I ended up being called to the set to give everyone—cast and crew, alike—B-12 injections.”
UAB Alumna Bakes Up a Business
By Caperton Gillett
UAB graduate Jan Moon used her knowledge of nutrition science to create a specialized bakery in nearby Homewood.
Customers are given fair warning as soon as they walk through the door of Dreamcakes Bakery. “Sorry,” a sign says, “everything’s delicious.” Even without sampling the entire menu, a few bites of Jan Moon’s signature Over the Moon cupcakes make it clear that here is no idle threat. But is this an honest profession for a former food and nutrition student at UAB?
“I get a lot of flak about that,” says Moon, owner of the petite confection shop in Homewood, Alabama. It was a love of food, though, and not a fear of frosting that led Moon to what was then UAB’s School of Allied Health in 1978. Afterward she took a position at UAB Hospital, where she worked with cancer and transplant patients and was charged with preparing meals that were both nutritious and palatable. “The thing I liked most was going down to the kitchen and trying to concoct something the oral cancer patients could eat,” she says. “They would tell me what they wanted, and I would try to come up with something they would enjoy.”
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