UAB Magazine Online Features
President Ray Watts and the Future of UAB
By Matt Windsor
Somewhere outside Boston; Washington, D.C.; and Atlanta are homes with lovely gardens, lovingly tended by a physician with a flashlight.
At each stop on his path from a prestigious neurology residency to the presidency of UAB, Ray L. Watts, M.D., has spent his limited spare time coaxing the best out of his backyards. Any doctor can tell you that gardening is a great blend of exercise and stress relief. Most gardeners do their work while the sun shines, but Watts has rarely had that luxury. “I’ll look outside at night, and he’ll be out there,” says his wife, Nancy. “He has a vision, and then he just creates.”
“I like to grow beautiful things,” Watts says, simply. But those who know him best say this is less a hobby than the outgrowth of a lifetime habit—for Watts, beautiful results are just another example of the power of careful planning, hard work, and devotion to detail.
Designing Solutions to Community Problems
By Charles Buchanan
Can graphic design save a river—and a region? Doug Barrett, M.F.A., UAB assistant professor of graphic design in the Department of Art and Art History, and his students have laid out a plan to do just that, creating logos, brochures, signage, and more to draw attention to the Cahaba River and surrounding communities. And it seems to be working. A campaign they created last summer in partnership with the economic-development organization Alabama Engine won a 2013 Ideas That Matter grant from Sappi Fine Papers—one of only 13 awarded to designers nationwide to help them create and implement print projects for charitable causes.
“Graphic design is more than mere styling,” Barrett explains. “Good design is doing deep research and creating meaningful concepts and stories around products, ideas, and initiatives that connect with consumers on an emotional level.” That deep research, known as “design thinking,” is increasingly used as a tool to develop solutions to social issues, he adds. The American Institute of Graphic Arts has embraced design thinking in its “Design for Good” initiative, which has inspired the students’ projects.
Student-Run Equal Access Birmingham Opens Its Own Clinic
By Matt Windsor and Meghan Davis
Since 2007, Wednesday nights for many UAB medical students have meant a short drive to the M-POWER Ministries health clinic in Birmingham’s Avondale neighborhood. Under the supervision of faculty physicians, the doctors-in-training provide acute care for the medically underserved patients at M-POWER’s free walk-in clinic. But they wanted to do more.
Demand for slots had grown so strong that many students could only take part a few times per year. So the students, who have run their own organization, known as Equal Access Birmingham (EAB), since 2005, decided to open their own clinic, closer to campus.
In November 2012, with money earned from a School of Medicine variety night known as the Best Medicine Show, plus matching funds from then-dean Ray L. Watts, M.D., EAB completed its mission. The new student-run clinic, just a few blocks from campus at the Church of the Reconciler, provides long-term care to underserved patients in the Jefferson County Housing Authority Shelter Care Plus program. EAB also will continue to staff the M-POWER clinic.
Local Heroes Help Turn Dental Problems into Solutions
By Dale Short
Some vexing health questions can be answered with a new machine or dazzling technical insight. Others require a simpler tool: time.
“How can you tell whether a tooth needs filling immediately or not?” says UAB alumna Kaye Shaw, D.M.D., who practices family dentistry in the town of Fairhope on Alabama’s Gulf Coast. “The research might involve observing a tooth closely for anywhere from six months to two years.”
Shaw is helping to answer dental conundrums just like that one. She is one of many UAB dental alumni who are collaborating on a massive research project made possible by the largest grant in the university’s history. The program, known as the National Dental Practice-Based Network, is a seven-year, $66.8-million program connecting the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research—a part of the National Institutes of Health—with a network of local dentists in six regions from Portland, Oregon, to Gainesville, Florida.
“We hope to improve the nation’s oral health by improving the knowledge base for clinical decision-making and moving the latest evidence into routine care,” says principal investigator Gregg Gilbert, D.D.S., M.B.A., professor and chair of the UAB Department of General Dental Sciences. The network, Gilbert explains, is “a unique investigative union of real-world practicing dentists and academic scientists.” Practicing dentists suggest problems—and provide data and observations; UAB researchers investigate solutions and communicate these back to the practitioners. Research topics already in the works include everything from “Persistent Pain and Root Canal Therapy” to “Assessing Outcomes of Cracked Teeth.”