UAB Forges Healthy Bonds
By Charles Buchanan
It’s known worldwide as the home of the samba, but in recent years Brazil has been showing off some bold new moves. South America’s biggest country now has one of the world’s largest economies and it is stepping further into the spotlight with increased exports and investments.
The nation’s ascent to the economic stratosphere is being helped by puffs of smoke. As the global tobacco industry has shifted to developing countries, Brazil has become the world’s second largest producer of tobacco. In the south of the country, where most tobacco farms are located, small growers are often “totally dependent” on tobacco companies that co-sign their loans, says UAB preventive medicine expert Isabel Scarinci, Ph.D. In this atmosphere, tobacco use is prevalent, she explains, and girls are taking up the habit in particularly high numbers.Scarinci, a native of Brazil, says it can be hard to convince women there of the dangers of smoking and other risky health behaviors; it doesn’t help that tobacco-company advertisements portray smoking as a form of empowerment. But Scarinci’s work in Birmingham and in Alabama’s Black Belt has taught her effective methods for reaching out to at-risk populations. Now she is leading two major UAB research initiatives in her home state of Parana, and amid the farmland of that southern region she is finding fertile ground for more partnerships in research and education.
UAB Team Tracks a Forgotten People
By Claire L. Burgess
After years of isolation and poverty, Alabama’s MOWA Choctaw tribe is reclaiming its roots—with the help of UAB alumna Jacqueline Matte and UAB anthropologist Loretta Cormier.
Thirty years ago, UAB alumna Jacqueline Matte went out to the Choctaw reservation in southwest Alabama in search of a story. What she found has haunted her ever since, fueling decades of interviews, investigations, and heartache. Nine years ago, UAB anthropologist Loretta Cormier, Ph.D., joined the struggle. Separately and together, Matte and Cormier have fought through swamps both literal and legal, seeking clues to one of the great vanishing acts in Alabama history. It is no easy task; after all, they are looking for a people who haven’t wanted to be found for more than 150 years.
The Alabama Choctaw lived in poverty and isolation until the 1940s, when they began sending some of their children to Indian schools in other states because their own were not accredited. When those educated children came home, they led the tribe out of isolation and into the public eye, launching a campaign for state recognition. In 1979, they officially became the MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians, the first recognized tribe in Alabama. (The name MOWA comes from the tribe's location on the Mobile County-Washington County line.) The following year, the tribe began to seek federal recognition, a lengthy and involved process requiring extensive genealogical research. That is where Jacqueline Matte comes in.
A Mother’s Journey at UAB
By Lisa C. Bailey
Liz and Mike Lorbeer with their daughter, Sarah
After only nine months of marriage, Liz Lorbeer convinced her husband, Mike, to make a “big, bold jump” and move to Birmingham from Chicago. Liz’s new job as associate director for content management at UAB’s Lister Hill Library of Health Sciences was the primary motivating factor, although both she and Mike admit that the barbecue was a really big draw. Little did they know that it would be burritos, not barbecue, that would signal an even more significant change in their lives.
“We really wanted children, but we never thought about it, we never planned it,” Liz says. “We said if it happens, it happens; if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. So I didn’t even have a doctor here. But I did see a nurse practitioner at The Kirklin Clinic for the annual, routine gynecological checkup. And in June of 2007 I said to her, ‘Well, so is it possible to have a child? You don’t see any problems or anything?’ She answered, ‘No, you can have a baby if you want to have a baby.’ I think that was the first time I had ever asked anybody.”