English Composition Students Combine Service with Style
By Rosalind Fournier
UAB Highlands Hospital, and Thompson listened as his companion, a World War II pilot, recalled an aerial adventure. “His blue eyes gazed off at nothing in particular,” Thompson later wrote in his journal. “It seemed that he was re-living his days of flying through the air for his country.”UAB freshman Kyle Thompson made a new connection over lunch recently. It was mealtime at the Acute Care for Elders (ACE) Unit at
Thompson was taking part in the hospital’s SPOONS program, in which volunteers visit with patients at mealtimes, helping them eat or simply providing companionship. But his lunch plans weren’t simply a matter of good will—they were a part of the curriculum for his freshman composition course.
Cassandra Ellis, Ph.D., an assistant professor of English at UAB, was looking for new ways to teach basic English composition when she heard about SPOONS. Inspired in part by volunteer work she did herself as an undergraduate at Syracuse University, Ellis saw SPOONS as a way to get students involved in the larger Birmingham community—and as a rich source of inspiration for writing assignments. “It’s an opportunity for them to turn off their cell phones and engage in a real conversation,” Ellis says. “They’re in a situation where they’re not texting their friends and are instead completely focused on being of service to someone else.”
After piloting a similar curriculum a few years ago, Ellis recently received UAB’s official “service learning” designation for the fall 2012 course, a first for the English department. Fifty students in two sections of basic English composition are now taking Ellis’s course, which follows the theme “age, memory, and identity,” she says. In addition to their volunteer work, students watch films and read memoirs that deal with the issues of aging. The semester culminates with a research paper, and many students choose their topics based on experiences they have had in SPOONS, Ellis says.
Living Longer and Healthier with Cystic Fibrosis
By Gail Short
Cystic fibrosis (CF) was once exclusively a child’s disease. Until the 1960s, most sufferers died before reaching grade school.
A deadly, autosomal, recessive disorder, CF causes thick, sticky mucus to clog the lungs and digestive system. Patients experience shortness of breath, wheezing, and dangerous lung infections, and their bodies have a harder time absorbing nutrients from food. But today they’re living longer, helped by advances including new drugs and nebulizers, high-fat diets, and supplements to replace digestive enzymes.
“Life expectancy has grown exponentially,” says Veena Antony, M.D., a professor in the UAB Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine. “Today the median is about 38 years. Some of my patients are in their 60s, and one is over 70.” For patients who outgrow pediatric CF services, UAB’s Adult Cystic Fibrosis Program helps them manage their own care.
“Our goal is to help patients lead normal, adult lives,” says Antony, the program’s director. “Most of them do so despite having a disease that has so much disability attached to it.”
Patients in UAB's Adult Cystic Fibrosis Program meet with a physician, respiratory therapist, nurse practitioner, dietician, and social worker on the same day for updates on lung function, body weight, and overall health.
Established in 2000, the program has an 11-member staff that provides comprehensive care to more than 160 patients.
When those patients visit UAB, they meet with a physician, respiratory therapist, nurse practitioner, dietician, and social worker on the same day for updates on lung function, body weight, and overall health. They also receive counseling to help them manage school, work, or major life changes that can impact their health, Antony says.
UAB Grants Help Local Teachers Inspire Digital Success
By Shelley Stewart
In the early 20th century, iron ore from Birmingham’s Red Mountain fueled the young city’s rapid growth. One hundred years later, information has replaced iron as the driving force behind economic success, but the mountain—the scenic backdrop to UAB, the region’s new powerhouse—is still a symbol of opportunity.
The Red Mountain Writing Project (RMWP), founded in 2004 and sponsored by UAB’s School of Education and College of Arts and Sciences, is dedicated to helping teachers at all grade levels find and adopt innovative strategies for literacy instruction. Some of the most exciting innovations involve tablet computers, e-book readers, and other high-tech tools, which are poised to bring a revolution in education, says Tonya Perry, Ph.D., director and principal investigator of the RMWP since 2008.
“Being prepared for a digital world is critical for all young people,” says Perry, an assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the School of Education. Although they are making greater use of technology, many urban schools, facing chronic budget constraints, don’t always have the means to give students this vital experience, she says.
In 2012, the RMWP awarded four public-school grants of $1,000 each to bring new digital tools into local classrooms. “Research shows that students who participate in innovative work like this definitely outperform those who aren’t prepared,” Perry says.
Adventures in Education
Rod Leonard, a teacher at Bush Hills Academy in Birmingham, bought iPads to improve literacy among his seventh- and eighth-grade students. “They take technology in stride, and I can see that they’re engaged,” Leonard says. “They are having so much fun that some of them didn’t even realize they would get a grade for what they are doing.”