UAB Magazine Online Features
UAB Ambassadors Serve with Style
By Meghan C. Davis
They’re the Blazers in blazers. With their signature green jackets, it’s easy to spot the UAB Ambassadors around campus—greeting patrons at the Alys Stephens Center, sharing statistics with the press at basketball games, ushering visitors into the UAB Alumni House, and performing dozens of other intriguing assignments.
The UAB Ambassadors, founded in 1978, are one of the oldest and most prestigious student groups on campus. They serve as the university’s official hosts, working more than 5,000 hours of events each year, with assignments that range from leading campus tours for prospective faculty to toting Blazer statues through the crowd at the annual athletics scholarship luncheon.
“I learned about the UAB Ambassadors the first moment I walked onto campus,” says Jit Patel, the group’s current president. A senior business administration major and a member of the Business Honors Society and Global and Community Leadership Honors Program, Patel is in his second year as an ambassador. Even if he wasn’t a senior, this would be his last chance to be an ambassador. Students are only able to stay for a maximum of two years. But it wasn’t the exclusivity, or the unique networking opportunities, that first attracted Patel to the job; it was the jacket.
By Gail Allyn Short
This year, an estimated 785,000 people will experience their first heart attack, according to the American Heart Association. During that same period, some 470,000 people, who have already had one or more heart attacks, will have another. But an intervention program known as cardiac rehabilitation could help reduce both of those sobering figures.
Health professionals working with cardiac rehabilitation develop individualized plans for cardiology patients that target specific problems such as poor diet, stress, smoking, lack of exercise, and other lifestyle factors that affect heart health.
UAB cardiologist Vera Bittner, M.D., medical director of the Coronary Care Unit and the UAB Cardiac Rehabilitation Program, recently reported that, in an analysis of data taken from the Medicare database, cardiac rehabilitation lowered the death rate among participating patients by as much as 35 percent compared to non-participants with similar heart problems.
Alumnus Boosts Nation’s Drug Defenses
By Matt Windsor
If there is trouble somewhere in the world, Michael V. Callahan, M.D., DTM&H, M.S.P.H., probably isn’t far away. For three months every year, Callahan, a 1991 graduate of the UAB School of Public Health and 1995 graduate of the UAB School of Medicine, works in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital. The rest of his time is spent on the move.
Callahan has been on the scene at some of the world’s most famous—and dangerous—virus outbreaks, including H5N1 avian flu in Hong Kong in 1999 and 2001, SARS in Hong Kong in 2003, Marburg in Angola in 2004, and so on. He also has responded to recent Ebola virus outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lassa fever in Nigeria, and controversial laboratory accidents resulting in the infection of scientists at foreign biohazard laboratories.
But Callahan’s most enduring contribution to health care may come from the lab rather than the field. Since 2005, he has been a program manager for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the secretive R&D center of the American military. Callahan was recruited to DARPA “to work on fast-paced solutions to health threats,” he says. His biggest mission: Create a government-funded drug research and production capability focused strictly on national priorities, such as defense and pandemic preparedness, rather than profits. “The Department of Defense had no idea how to make drugs, and neither did I,” Callahan recalls. But they knew they needed to learn how.
Taking Sleep Science into the Bedroom
By Matt Windsor
You may think you're getting enough sleep, but your wrist might tell a different story.
Using a motion-sensing chip built into a wristwatch-shaped device, sleep scientists can create a highly accurate map of a person’s daily cycle of sleep and wakefulness. The method is called actigraphy, and UAB investigators are using it to take the university’s sleep research program to a new place: patients’ own bedrooms.
“An overnight sleep study is the gold standard” in order to get a precise understanding of a person’s sleep issues, says Kristin Avis, Ph.D., associate director of the Pediatric Sleep Disorders Center at Children’s of Alabama and associate professor of pediatrics at UAB. Overnight sleep studies are routinely conducted for adults at UAB Highlands Sleep Wake Disorders Center and for children at the Pediatric Sleep Disorders Center at Children’s of Alabama. “But in many cases, we would like to establish what a patient’s sleep pattern is over time, and how they sleep in their everyday environment," says Avis. "And we can’t do that in the clinic.”