Students practice collaborative community outreach in Birmingham in preparation for solving the world's problems.By Rosalind Fournier
Kathryn Van Marter-Sanders is preparing for a career in the Peace Corps with a master’s degree from the UAB School of Public Health. But before she travels abroad, the second-year student has already tackled real community health problems in Birmingham as part of the UAB Interprofessional Global Health Service Learning (IGHSL) program.
The program, which launched in spring 2013, begins with classroom instruction in health disparities, global health, project planning, and interdisciplinary teamwork. Then students join together in small groups to implement these lessons in a real-life project with a community partner. Van Marter-Sanders chose the homeless-advocacy group One Roof for her project, working with UAB undergraduate students Stephen Voss, William Carter, and Agam Dhawan to design a vulnerability index for homeless individuals in Birmingham. Vulnerability indexes are used in other communities to identify those who face the highest health risks and should be prioritized for spots in available housing.
Van Marter-Sanders says she learned first and foremost that no one area of expertise can solve a problem on its own. “There are so many factors involved,” she explains. “Whether it’s fighting homelessness, disease, or other issues related to public wellness, if I were just to look at it from the perspective of my background in public health, I would be missing so many other factors that are just as important.”
Young Breast Cancer Survivors Find Support and Strength
By Nancy Mann Jackson
After two mastectomies and reconstruction surgery, La'Rhonda Scott struggled with returning to a normal life until she discovered the Young Breast Cancer Survivorship Network.
La’Rhonda Scott was diagnosed with breast cancer at 31 years old. The single mother underwent two mastectomies and reconstruction surgery, along with the accompanying emotional turmoil, while attempting to maintain a sense of normalcy for her three-year-old son.
Scott celebrated when she was declared cancer-free, but struggled with how to move forward with a “normal” life—how to dress with one breast, how to discuss what she’d been through with dates and her son, and how to process the ordeal personally.
Theresa “TJ” Bradley was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 45, “in the prime of my career,” she says. Once her treatments were completed, Bradley worried about how her illness would be perceived at work and whether it would affect her future career opportunities. While she wanted to start getting back to normal, “I did not feel normal,” she says. “I felt fatigued. My wig was hot and itchy. My body was different. My looks were different. My sleep was irregular, further adding to the chronic fatigue. I had survived my cancer and treatment, but now I had to learn to survive the ‘new normal.’”Young breast cancer survivors—those who are diagnosed before entering menopause—may share the health and body image concerns of survivors at all age groups, but they also face unique challenges, says Karen Meneses, Ph.D., professor and associate dean for research at the UAB School of Nursing, who was named to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Breast Cancer in Young Women in 2013.
“These women are starting careers or continuing careers, and they may have lots of questions about what to disclose at work about their health,” Meneses explains. “Some wonder how the disease will affect their ability to have children. Others have young children and must think about how to handle their diagnosis with their children.” Having breast cancer also represents a financial burden for many young survivors, Meneses adds.
UAB Alumni Serve As Alabama’s Top Teachers
By Javacia Harris Bowser
Alabama Teacher of the Year is much more than a title on a plaque. It’s a reward that carries great responsibility for the winning educators, who become the voice of teachers across the state. Here, three UAB School of Education alumni who have received the prestigious honor describe their time as education advocates.
Changing the Conversation
Since May 2013, when Alison Grizzle, Ed.D., became Alabama Teacher of the Year, she has met with students, fellow teachers, colleges, chambers of commerce, and school officials statewide, speaking at events focusing on everything from leadership to curriculum standards. It’s a demanding schedule for the math teacher at Birmingham’s Jackson-Olin High School, who earned her master’s in education at UAB in 1999. But it’s worth it if she can help change the national conversation about education, Grizzle says.
“There’s been a move over the last few years to paint teachers as part of the problem,” she says. “That’s not helping us recruit the youngest and brightest to the field. If we want our schools to remain competitive globally, we need the best in the classroom. We need people fighting to be teachers.”
Grizzle also would like to see measures of teacher performance that don’t simply rely on test scores. That would help avoid what Grizzle calls “painful” messages. Labeling a school as “failing” because it doesn’t reach particular benchmarks can discourage students and faculty when the school actually is improving, she notes. She also worries about the impact of such messages on the educational aspirations of students in poverty.
“I hear how American schools are failing, but we focus on educating all children,” Grizzle says. “Some countries we praise for education don’t provide it for everyone, so we’re comparing apples to oranges.
"If we want our schools to remain competitive globally, we need the best in the classroom. We need people fighting to be teachers.”
Student Film Preserves a Unique Birmingham Story
By Clair McLafferty
Clarence Lockett started out as a theatre student focusing on screenwriting. But it was a true-life story that pulled him into filmmaking and changed his college and career goals.
He has always been a good storyteller, he says, and naturally took to screenwriting, but after transferring to UAB from Miles College, he began taking filmmaking classes in UAB’s College of Arts and Sciences to try to capture real stories.
“Films can ignite discussion,” says Lockett, who graduated in December 2013 with a degree in Film and Media Studies. “They may not change things immediately, but they can get people on the paths to helping in a positive way.”