UAB Magazine Online Features
UAB Graduation Spans Two Generations
By Rosalind Fournier
Hector DeSimone (right) and his oldest son, James, earned diplomas from UAB on the same day last December.
Hector and Melanie DeSimone believe in bonding. In addition to homeschooling their four children, the DeSimones have done nearly everything together. They've even made attending college a family affair. Hector and his oldest son, James, performed a father-son act at UAB’s fall graduation in December, with Hector earning his master’s degree in engineering, and James receiving his undergraduate degree in biology a few hours later.
The DeSimone-UAB connection goes deeper. Melanie graduated from the university in 1985 with degrees in political science and psychology. The couple’s daughter Fiona, a history major and secondary education minor, graduated in 2008 and is currently teaching in the Tuscaloosa area. Dominic is now a sophomore on campus, pursuing a double major in political science and public relations; the youngest, Julian, is set to begin his studies in the fall.
Hector DeSimone, an architect in UAB’s Design Build Services group, hadn’t originally planned to continue his own education. But he and Melanie always encouraged their children to pursue graduate degrees after college, and it dawned on him that maybe he should take his own advice.
An Inside Look at UAB’s Pediatric Optometry Service
By Caperton Gillett
Optometry resident Nathan Steinhafel examines a seven-month-old patient. The UAB Pediatric Optometry Service sees children from birth up to age 18; it also provides vision therapy for patients of all ages.
Kristine Hopkins, O.D., M.S.P.H., never knows what to expect from her patients when she gives them an eye exam. There’s the occasional spontaneous dance performance, for example, or unsolicited reports on the behavior of family members.
But that’s part of the adventure of being a pediatric optometrist, says Hopkins, chief of vision therapy at UAB Eye Care, the clinical arm of the School of Optometry. “The unpredictability of a four-year-old is what I live for from clinic day to clinic day,” she explains, standing in front of a toy-filled nook painted to resemble a jungle with peeping animal eyes. “It’s a really fun environment.”
It also can be a challenging one. The vast majority of patients in the pediatric optometry service are school-aged or younger, which means many may not be able to read the letters and numbers that make up a standard adult eye exam.
So optometrists like Hopkins rely on tools such as the Electronic Visual Acuity tester (EVA)—a setup with a computer and a TV screen to test young patients’ vision—and toys and videos to keep them occupied. “It’s mostly about having the right equipment to keep them involved,” Hopkins says. “We have to give them targets that are interesting and stimulating.”
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Student Researcher Explores Boundaries of Performance Arts Medicine
By Caperton Gillett
Christophe Jackson's portable sound booth system provides detailed biomechanical feedback to help singers improve their performances.
Christophe Jackson found his love of music early on. Growing up in the heart of Montgomery, Jackson touched his first piano at the Nellie Burge Community Center and never stopped playing. He studied both classical and jazz music, performed with orchestras and jazz bands, and taught piano to inner-city children. So when it came time to choose a major in college, the answer was simple: biology.
With a double major in biology and music, Jackson blended his love of music and his fascination with science with his goal of becoming a doctor. With careful planning, he managed to divide his time between the concert hall and the biology lab, and even continued performing with the RJS trio in Birmingham and, on occasion, with friends in New Orleans.
Today Jackson is pursuing a Ph.D. in biology at UAB while working on a master’s degree in music (focusing on piano) at Samford University. It’s part of his effort to explore—and expand—the field of performing arts medicine.
UAB Alumna Finds Novel Inspiration in Alabama
By Gail Allyn Short
The road to Irene Latham's first novel began in a New York City art museum and led her to Gee's Bend, Alabama. She recently shared her story—and some words of encouragement—with UAB writing students.
Irene Latham always knew she was meant to be a writer. It just took her a few decades to find the right path. The author and 1991 UAB graduate recently returned to her alma mater to talk with students about the craft of writing, the art of finding inspiration, and her first novel, Leaving Gee’s Bend, which debuted this spring.
“As soon as I could read, I was writing,” Latham says. At four she started creating poems for her mother. By eight she wrote in her copy of Dr. Seuss’s My Book About Me that she wanted to be a writer when she grew up.
When it came time for college, however, her parents advised her to choose a more practical career. “They said, ‘It’s difficult to make a living as a writer,’” Latham recalls. So she majored in social work instead, and then concentrated on marriage, career, and motherhood. But she never stopped working on her poems.
“My epiphany moment came after my third child was born,” Latham says. “I looked around at the piles of paper on my desk and spilling out of its drawers and realized that I had been doing what I was meant to do all along. Now it was time to be brave enough to share all of those words with other people.”