UAB Magazine Weekly - Features on UAB Alumni
Alumna Cooks Up a Career
By Caperton Gillett
How do you begin a career running a restaurant that has been hailed as one of the best in Birmingham—and the nation? If you’re Idie Hastings, you study criminal justice and psychology at UAB.
The Cleveland, Ohio, native had intended to pursue a career as a therapist and even began working as a legal assistant, but on the side, she was becoming known for her cooking. Hastings indulged her hobby by hosting small parties and Sunday night dinners for friends and roommates. Before long, she was working part-time in restaurants and facing a choice about her future after she graduated in 1986. “I had two paths,” she says. “I was either going to culinary school and go the food route, or I was going to get my graduate degree in psychology.”
Hastings moved to San Francisco to attend the California Culinary Academy. While there, she worked at Jeremiah Towers’s Stars Café and Wolfgang Puck’s Postrio, and she put her baking skills to the test at Patisserie Francaise. She also met a promising young chef named Chris Hastings, who became her husband.
Degree Leads Alumnus to a World of Opportunity
By Grant Martin
George Little, a 1981 graduate of the UAB School of Engineering, was inducted into the Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame in 2010 and was named one of UAB’s “40 Engineers Making a Difference” in 2011.
When George Little accepted his first job in electrical engineering, he never expected that his career would take him around the world and to the highest levels of leadership. “Being the CEO of an international company was not on my radar,” says the 1981 graduate of the UAB School of Engineering.
That’s just what happened recently when Little was promoted to CEO of HDR, an engineering and design firm based in Omaha, Nebraska, with 7,800 employees in 185 offices and a roster of construction projects in more than 60 countries. The firm currently has five projects in China, including designing the world’s first “medical city” in Beijing. “This will be the first fully integrated health community in the world,” says Little. “We’re working on a master plan that will include 10 hospitals with 1,000 beds apiece. To put that in perspective, consider the growth of UAB’s medical center over the last few years, then multiply its size by 10.” When completed, the Beijing complex will cover 4.7 square miles—equal to two-thirds the size of Manhattan—and is expected to cost $7 billion.
Little says he developed an interest in electricity in high school when he participated in an Explorer’s post sponsored by Alabama Power. A resident of Hueytown, Alabama, he began working for the company while he was an undergraduate at UAB, and he stayed at Alabama Power for eight years after graduation. Then he took a job with HDR’s office in Minneapolis—a move that opened up a new world of experiences and opportunities. “The electrical work was a very small part of what we were doing, so I was exposed to a wide range of disciplines,” Little says. “I got experience with wastewater engineering, highways and bridges, and the whole variety of construction and design projects HDR handles. As my confidence grew, I realized that I enjoyed working with clients and the business development aspects of being in management.”
He also got the opportunity to cross other boundaries. “I had never done much traveling outside Alabama before I took the job with HDR,” Little says. The position took him to project sites across the country, and after managing the Minneapolis office for several years, he moved to Omaha to take over the company’s engineering division in 1998.
UAB Alumni Cook Up New Flavors for Cancer Patients
By Susannah Felts
A brief bout with nausea or stomach flu is enough to remind most of us that enjoying food is a wonderful thing. For people struggling with cancer and many other long-term medical conditions, a changed relationship with food can be one of the most troubling outcomes.
Chemotherapy and radiation treatment, in particular, wreak havoc on taste, smell, and digestion, leaving patients with little appetite and difficulty consuming meats and hot or crunchy foods. Both treatments damage salivary glands and taste receptors in the mouth and nose. They also create a wide range of gastrointestinal problems, along with mouth inflammation, ulcers, and dryness.
In his Birmingham oncology practice, Luis Pineda, M.D., observed many patients turning down meals and meal-replacement shakes. Those skipped meals ultimately translate to “poor nutrition and, eventually, poor outcomes,” notes Pineda, who completed a fellowship at the UAB School of Medicine in 1982 and was one of the original members of UAB’s bone marrow transplant program.
A lifelong food-lover, Pineda decided to address the problem. So he enrolled in Birmingham’s Culinard cooking school to explore how to make food that was more palatable for cancer patients.
Running Helps Alumna Beat Life’s Challenges
By Grant Martin
The cover of Runner’s World magazine typically shows professional models or professional athletes. Jennifer Andress, a 42-year-old mother of two, is neither of those, yet the UAB alumna and runner appeared on newsstands this summer after winning the race of her life—against cancer.
Andress, a 2001 graduate of UAB’s Master of Business Administration program, is one of seven people featured on eight different versions of RW’s July issue. Each of the cover models, who include cyclist Lance Armstrong and Survivor champion Ethan Zohn, are cancer survivors as well as accomplished runners.
While Andress may not have the running credentials of the usual RW cover girl, she does have three sub four-hour marathons to her credit, including the prestigious Boston Marathon. Those races, however, are just the latest challenges to test Andress’s endurance.
Choosing a Path
“I started running when I was 11 and competed in track and cross country throughout high school,” Andress says. Through college, graduate school, marriage, and having children, Andress retained some time for running, but a series of medical events in her thirties threatened to take away her hobby and much more.
She watched her mother and aunt go through breast cancer treatment in 2000 and 2003, respectively. Then, in 2004, she learned that her 11-month-old son, John, had a genetically caused hearing impairment. Andress was pregnant with her second child at the time of the diagnosis, and UAB geneticists said that her new baby could inherit the same hearing impairment.
Two months later, “I found a lump in my breast, and they confirmed that it was cancer and that it was in the entire breast,” Andress explains. “The cancer had replicated but hadn’t invaded healthy tissues. Radiation was an option, but I wanted to be as aggressive as possible.” Andress immediately had a mastectomy and six lymph nodes removed while still pregnant.
Her son, Will, was born in September and was diagnosed as hearing impaired. She began radiation therapy that same month, and in April 2005, Andress had her other breast removed. Her fight against cancer was over, but she emerged from the battle with a new outlook. “Those experiences taught us a lot,” she says. “When the stakes are that high, you can’t sit and complain about it. You have to look at the options, choose a path, and do it.”
Running with Purpose
Following her surgeries, Andress became involved with the Bell Center, a local institution dedicated to helping children with developmental delays. Her old love of running began to resurface—with a new goal. “I had never considered running a marathon before, but I saw an opportunity to raise money for the Bell Center through running,” she says. “Then it was the same process as when we faced a challenge in the doctor’s office. I envisioned an outcome, and I started working toward it.”
Andress ran her first marathon in Birmingham, finishing the 2010 Mercedes Marathon in 3:43—good enough to place her in the upper echelon of runners by qualifying her for the Boston Marathon. She ran the 2010 New York Marathon with a time of 3:58, then tackled the Boston course in April 2011, finishing in 3:46.
“Running has become a kind of obsession,” she says. “I’m involved with a great local running group, and I’m taking better care of myself than ever before by paying close attention to my running and my diet. I feel that I have a purpose in everything I do.”
Striking the Pose
RW readers include everyone from seasoned marathoners to rank beginners. Andress frequently monitors both the RW Web site and its Facebook page—which is where she noticed a request for stories of cancer survivors who were runners.
“I submitted my information in February and didn’t hear anything for several weeks,” she says. “Eventually it slipped my mind, but in March, I got a message asking if I could send them pictures.
“The whole experience has been wonderful,” says Andress. “Before the issue hit Birmingham, a guy sent me a picture from the New Orleans airport, and there I was on the newsstand. It’s funny because it’s usually in the middle of fitness magazines, so you see super-ripped people on either side, and then there’s me—just running.”
MoreRead Runner's World's interview with Jennifer Andress here.
Music Alumnus Helps Gospel Choir Spread the UAB Sound
By Glenny Brock
Clinton Green sees the combination of music and technology as a natural symbiosis.
For Clinton Green, there is no clear line between the digital and the spiritual. The 2008 UAB graduate has found sweet harmony between music technology and old-time gospel music, transforming his college experience into a series of rhythmic adventures.
“Music has always been my first love,” says Green. It’s also his constant companion. By day, he serves as minister of music at New Life Interfaith Ministries, Inc. in Bessemer. At nights he is the primary keyboardist for the world-renowned UAB Gospel Choir. In both positions, Green says he uses the lessons he learned while earning his degree in UAB’s music technology program.
“Music technology was a simple choice for me, because technology and music go hand in hand,” Green says. “Every time you hear music, even in many live performances, some type of technology was involved to create it, record it, manipulate it, or even to play it so that you canhear it.”