UAB Magazine Online Features
Gulf Species Get a Second Chance at UABBy Glenny Brock
UAB biologists reflect on the ecological effects of the Gulf oil spill and its impact on their research in this video.
So far it seems that oil-slicked pelicans have been the sad mascots of the Gulf oil spill. Ever since the fatal explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 20, birds with greasy, tar-black feathers have been the decisive images of wildlife in peril. But pelicans aren’t the only Gulf animals in need of rescue from the vast slick.
UAB biologists are at the forefront of efforts to protect two species: diamondback terrapin turtles native to Dauphin Island, Alabama, and Gulf-native sea urchins in Florida’s upper peninsula. Although their work with these animals began as part of other research, the scientists have become noteworthy participants in the struggle to safeguard life in the Gulf.
Far from the coast, about 120 adult diamondback terrapins are now in residence on the UAB campus, all hatched from eggs that biology professor Thane Wibbels, Ph.D., and his colleagues collected from Cedar Point Marsh on Dauphin Island. The turtles are part of a captive-rearing program that began in 2006 with the goal of keeping the diamondback terrapin off the endangered species list.
“The diamondback terrapin has an incredibly rich history in Alabama,” Wibbels says. “The state used to have thousands of terrapins. At one point, they were shipping up to 12,000 a year out of Alabama.”
By Charles Buchanan
Walt Creel with one of his pieces (inset: a detail from the work demonstrates the precise pattern of bullet holes that goes into the finished product).
Walt Creel is a revolutionary artist—or perhaps an artistic revolutionary. Instead of relying on paint or ink, he uses firearms to create images. His dot-matrix designs, composed of bullet holes in six-foot panels of painted metal, have gone viral on the Internet and attracted attention from Chinese and European media and prestigious American art journals. At UAB, however, the Web wonder is better known as an information-technology specialist for audio and video support. Recently Creel spoke about his unique art and the worldwide acclaim it has received.
UAB Magazine: What inspired you to use guns?
Creel: Being from Alabama, I was familiar with guns and wanted to incorporate them into art, but I did not want to photograph them, paint them, or otherwise use the gun itself as an image. I took a canvas into the woods and shot at it from a multitude of angles; things really clicked when I got right up on the canvas and shot in a single-file line. Then I realized I could use the gun solely as a tool to create my work.
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.”