UAB Magazine Online Features
Hitting the Airwaves When Disaster Strikes
By Matt Windsor
Using the latest radio gear and a repeater antenna mounted atop UAB Hospital's Jefferson Tower, J. Vann Martin and other members of the UAB-based Healthcare Community Amateur Radio Club can keep the lines of communication flowing in the event of a disaster.
From the roof of Jefferson Tower, 17 stories and more than 280 feet high, you can see for miles in all directions. For decades, the building has been the signature piece of the UAB Hospital campus and a landmark visible all around Birmingham. It now houses medical offices rather than patients, but in the aftermath of the catastrophic storms that swept through Alabama in April, the old veteran made another significant contribution to Birmingham health care—as an antenna.
This radio drama begins with another natural disaster and an amateur radio enthusiast known as W4JVM. “After Hurricane Katrina, responders such as the police, fire and rescue, and EMA [emergency management agencies] were severely handicapped because they couldn’t communicate,” says J. Vann Martin, director of facilities and capital projects for the UAB Health System. “In a disaster situation, particularly a natural disaster, landlines and cell phones often stop working.”
Martin, better known in the world of amateur radio, or “ham” radio, by his call sign, W4JVM, is the president of the Healthcare Community Amateur Radio Club (HCARC). The newly formed club has established a command center in UAB Hospital that can coordinate care at all major hospitals in the Birmingham area using rooftop antennas on Jefferson Tower and other locations.
Could Higher Costs Lower Auto Fatalities?
By Nicole Wyatt
The high price of cheap gas: Research by UAB's Michael Morrisey and others found that gas prices and auto fatalities seem to be inversely proportional. That is, as the price of gas rises, fewer people die on the roads.
As gas prices rise, so do the tempers of many drivers. This spring, the average price of a gallon of unleaded gasoline rose nearly a dollar compared to a year ago. And even though prices have fallen slightly in the past few weeks, they are still close to record highs.
The news isn’t all bad, however. While the rising prices may make saving money difficult, they could help save lives by reducing the number of motor-vehicle fatalities. Michael Morrisey, Ph.D., director of UAB’s Lister Hill Center for Health Policy, helped shed light on the silver lining in a study with the UAB Injury Control Research Center. Just a ten-cent sustained increase in gas prices reduced motor-vehicle fatalities per capita by a total of 2.3 percent over two years, he says.
Less Blood on the Highway
“As careful as the enforcement of speeding and drunk-driving laws is, one thing that has changed over the last few years is that gas prices are higher,” Morrisey explains. “In turn, fewer people are on the roads, and drivers are combining trips. As a consequence, there’s less opportunity to have a crash and die.”
The opposite seemed to be true when Morrisey and his fellow researchers began studying gasoline prices. “We had seen evidence that many public-policy interventions were effective in reducing fatalities, but the trend in fatalities per capita wasn’t falling,” he says. “As economists, we looked for reasons that could explain that, and declining real gas prices in the late 1990s and early 2000s were an obvious candidate.”
The Secrets of Teaching Foreign Tongues
By Shelley Stewart
Carli Lindley-Hamlin, who teaches at Thompson High School in Alabaster, won the 2011 Promising New Foreign Language Teacher Award from the Alabama Association of Foreign Language Teachers (AAFLT). She stresses the practical advantages to being fluent in more than one language.
Three of Alabama’s top foreign-language teachers share something in common—besides a proficiency in Spanish. All three began their careers as undergraduate students in UAB’s Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures.
Malinda O’Leary, Ph.D., now an assistant professor at UAB, and teachers Breanne Holland and Charli Lindley-Hamlin have each won a statewide award for excellence from the Alabama Association of Foreign Language Teachers (AAFLT) in 2011. In fact, UAB-connected teachers have swept the category for the past three years. So what is UAB’s secret to teaching foreign languages so effectively?
Immersing students in a different culture is essential, says Sheri Spaine Long, Ph.D., UAB professor of foreign languages. “Language is only the starting point for discovering the music, the books, the people.” Indeed, the department requires its students to participate in UAB’s Study Away program to help instill the love and use of language. “We help each student arrange a trip that meets his or her time and financial requirements because there’s no substitute for speaking the language day to day,” Spaine Long says.
The high level of fluency that students acquire enables them to converse with ease—and gain confidence. The three award-winning teachers demonstrate their confidence by advocating for foreign-language education with parents and local communities, Spaine Long says. “Good teachers tend to be leaders,” she notes.
Medical Student Enrichment Program Opens Doors and Minds
By Jo Lynn Orr
Frank B. "Will" Williams examines a patient in a two-room clinic in Peru. Williams says participating in MSEP helped shape his views on poverty.
Becoming a physician involves accepting challenges. For some UAB School of Medicine students, however, the Medical Student Enrichment Program (MSEP) enables them to go thousands of miles beyond their comfort zone—to Latin America, Asia, and Africa.
Supported by the Medical Alumni Association and the Caduceus Club, the MSEP fosters humanitarian attitudes and cross-cultural understanding among future physicians through international research or patient interactions. Kathleen Nelson, M.D., senior associate dean of faculty development, founded the summer program in 1995 to encourage students to take an interest in underserved populations, learn about global medicine, be resourceful, and hone their problem-solving, observation, and communication skills.