UAB Magazine Online Archive
Kaleidoscope Alumni Win Pulitzer for Tornado Reporting
By Grant Martin
In the newspaper business, every deadline is a crisis.
But as the hours ticked by at the Tuscaloosa News on April 27, 2011, the paper’s staff found itself at the center of one of the worst natural disasters in the state’s history. Working with limited electricity in the wake of a massive tornado that devastated the city and surrounding communities, the News staff provided real-time updates online through Twitter as well as in-depth coverage in the next day’s newspaper. One year later, the paper was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for breaking news reporting.
Shweta Vora Gamble and Anthony Bratina, veterans of UAB’s Kaleidoscope student newspaper who both graduated in 2000, were part of the team of journalists who staffed the newsroom that day and shared in the honor.
“Winning the Pulitzer was bittersweet,” says Gamble, a former editor-in-chief of the Kaleidoscope and a design editor at the News. “The prize announcement came so close to the one-year anniversary of the storm, so it was fresh on all our minds. There was some celebration, but we also were very aware that 52 people lost their lives. When we think back on our roles, most of us just feel that we were doing what we were supposed to be doing—covering the news of the day and getting the information out to people however we could.”
Standing by one graveside, then another, and still more and more, Alan Woellhart buried a generation of friends in the first few years of the HIV epidemic in the United States. His friends kept dying; eventually, he quit going. “Back in the early days, I stopped going to funerals when I lost my 50th friend,” Woellhart says.
HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is very good at “working its evil,” as one UAB clinician puts it. The virus succeeds by hijacking helper T cells, which coordinate the body’s immune response against viral infections. Then it converts those cells into factories whose sole purpose is to pump out more HIV. Because the T cells die in the process, HIV has devised a way to maintain a steady supply of fresh victims. The virus induces captured cells to send out a call for backup before they die. When the reinforcements arrive, they become infected as well.
Eventually, over the course of 10 to 15 years, there aren’t enough helper T cells left to mount an effective immune response against the various bacteria, fungi, and other pathogens that always lurk on our skin, waiting for a chance to invade. It is these “opportunistic infections” that usually kill a person with end-stage AIDS. Once scientists understood this, an effort that took years, they could begin to find a way to fight back against HIV.
After Woellhart was diagnosed with AIDS on June 7, 1989, he came close to going under himself. He was saved by the arrival of AZT, the first drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of HIV. AZT targets an enzyme called reverse transcriptase, which HIV uses to make the copies of itself that it inserts into T cells. Finally, physicians had something to offer patients dying of AIDS.
“My first dose was delivered from a company in California, and when the UPS truck came, I ran out with a smile on my face, saying, ‘Now I’m going to be on something that will take care of me,’” Woellhart recalls.
AZT kept Woellhart alive, but the side effects were so devastating that he fled from it as soon as he could. “I joined a lot of research studies at UAB where I was one of the first people to ever take the medication,” he says. “I would be in the hospital for weeks at a time so they could monitor me. But I did it because if I was going to perish from the disease, I wanted them to learn something from me first.”
Studying the Environment’s Impact on Health
By Joe Rada
School of Public Health’s Department of Environmental Health Sciences, jumped right in to help with spill-related research. “I worked with a fisheries group to review the process used to determine seafood safety,” she says, glad for the chance to contribute something positive during that unfortunate situation.When Julia Gohlke, Ph.D., moved to Alabama in 2010, she found herself on the front lines of a disaster. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill had just occurred, creating a primary health concern for the Gulf Coast states. So Gohlke, an assistant professor in the
Around that time she also met Fulbright fellow and UAB doctoral student Dzigbodi Doke from Ghana in West Africa, and the pair put their firsthand knowledge of the oil disaster to good use. “We conducted a seminar in Ghana on lessons learned from the spill,” Gohlke says. “A large group of stakeholders there is interested in the burgeoning deepwater oil industry in the Gulf of Guinea. That opportunity led to a collaboration with several Ghanaian researchers interested in environmental issues.”
UAB Student Sets Sail on Educational Voyage
By Marie Sutton
At times last year, 21-year-old Jessica Stephenson found it hard to keep her eyes turned toward the front of her classes. And who could blame her? The classroom window opened onto “miles and miles of ocean bliss,” says the UAB student and Oxford, Alabama, native.
Semester at Sea college credit trip, Stephenson attended classes on an old cruise ship remade into a mobile university that set sail along the coast of Central America. The decks included state-of-the-art classrooms, an 8,000-volume library, and a 24-hour computer lab.As part of a
For 26 days, the secondary education and math major joined fellow future teachers from across the United States on a journey to six countries while taking a semester’s worth of courses, teaching native students, and trying to squeeze in a little fun in the sun.
“I always dreamed of going on Semester at Sea, but could not believe it was actually coming true,” says Stephenson, a member of the UAB Global and Community Leadership Honors Program. “I remember seeing the ship for the first time and thinking, ‘How is this even possible? Is this really happening to me?”
Stephenson learned about the program while attending a high-school college fair and resolved to set sail someday. She entered UAB as a biomedical engineering student, but after working with a Memphis-based street ministry doing outreach to urban communities, she discovered her passion for teaching and changed her major.
Stephenson researched Semester at Sea programs and found one that would allow her to study various teaching methods abroad. Covering the cost of the trip, however, presented an initial obstacle, she says.