UAB Magazine Weekly - Features on UAB Alumni
Software Helps Medical Couples Stay Together
By Jennifer Ghandhi
Josh and Ginger Menendez (with their son) carry out a Match Day tradition—filling in their names and residency location on maps of the U.S. and Alabama.
Compromise is an important part of any relationship, but for couples preparing to graduate from medical school, the balance between give and take involves a third party: a computer program.
Each year, senior medical students must compete with thousands of fellow students and recent graduates for residency training positions at hospitals across the country. The doctors-to-be rank their destinations of choice; residency programs do the same for their preferred applicants. The final decision comes from the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP), a private, nonprofit organization that uses a complex, computerized algorithm to decide the best way to pair everyone up. Results are announced at medical schools across the country on Match Day—a nationwide event featuring sealed envelopes and a high dose of tension.
For engaged or married seniors in medical school, an already tricky process becomes significantly more complex. “There is a way for the computer system to link two students who want to stay together,” explains Laura Kezar, M.D., associate dean of students at the UAB School of Medicine. Known as the Couples Match, this process allows any two people to try to match at residency programs in the same location. (Although the two are usually an actual couple, students who hope to open a practice together also have been known to choose the Couples Match.)
UAB Alumna Finds Magic in Math
By Dale Short
Dilhani Uswatte uses innovative methods to help students understand mathematics.
Pop quiz: What do creative dance, geometry, a quarterback sneak, and a video documentary all have in common?
If you’re a student of UAB School of Education alumna Dilhani Uswatte at Berry Middle School in Hoover, the answer is a four-letter word: math. Uswatte’s mission as a teacher, she says, is to help kids see the infinite connections between everyday life and a subject that many of us can’t bear to think about. Her energetic approach to math education has already earned her a prestigious national teaching award and induction into the Alabama Teacher Hall of Fame.
“I believe the traditional way of teaching math was not the best way to lead to understanding,” Uswatte says. “Most of it was rote and memorization, as if answering 30 questions on the same concept could make it somehow ‘stick’ in a student’s mind. But then, the problem was to take that concept and apply it to the real world, which is altogether different.”
The new trend in math, Uswatte says, takes the opposite approach. “Begin with a problem in the real world; the cool part is that so many kids have an immediate gut reaction as to where to start. So the teacher’s job is to build on that intuition. Afterward, you can teach the details that make the solution more efficient, but so often, the basic problem-solving skills are already there.”
UAB Graduation Spans Two Generations
By Rosalind Fournier
Hector DeSimone (right) and his oldest son, James, earned diplomas from UAB on the same day last December.
Hector and Melanie DeSimone believe in bonding. In addition to homeschooling their four children, the DeSimones have done nearly everything together. They've even made attending college a family affair. Hector and his oldest son, James, performed a father-son act at UAB’s fall graduation in December, with Hector earning his master’s degree in engineering, and James receiving his undergraduate degree in biology a few hours later.
The DeSimone-UAB connection goes deeper. Melanie graduated from the university in 1985 with degrees in political science and psychology. The couple’s daughter Fiona, a history major and secondary education minor, graduated in 2008 and is currently teaching in the Tuscaloosa area. Dominic is now a sophomore on campus, pursuing a double major in political science and public relations; the youngest, Julian, is set to begin his studies in the fall.
Hector DeSimone, an architect in UAB’s Design Build Services group, hadn’t originally planned to continue his own education. But he and Melanie always encouraged their children to pursue graduate degrees after college, and it dawned on him that maybe he should take his own advice.
UAB Alumna Finds Novel Inspiration in Alabama
By Gail Allyn Short
The road to Irene Latham's first novel began in a New York City art museum and led her to Gee's Bend, Alabama. She recently shared her story—and some words of encouragement—with UAB writing students.
Irene Latham always knew she was meant to be a writer. It just took her a few decades to find the right path. The author and 1991 UAB graduate recently returned to her alma mater to talk with students about the craft of writing, the art of finding inspiration, and her first novel, Leaving Gee’s Bend, which debuted this spring.
“As soon as I could read, I was writing,” Latham says. At four she started creating poems for her mother. By eight she wrote in her copy of Dr. Seuss’s My Book About Me that she wanted to be a writer when she grew up.
When it came time for college, however, her parents advised her to choose a more practical career. “They said, ‘It’s difficult to make a living as a writer,’” Latham recalls. So she majored in social work instead, and then concentrated on marriage, career, and motherhood. But she never stopped working on her poems.
“My epiphany moment came after my third child was born,” Latham says. “I looked around at the piles of paper on my desk and spilling out of its drawers and realized that I had been doing what I was meant to do all along. Now it was time to be brave enough to share all of those words with other people.”
Alumni Profile: Wendy Sudsinsunthorn
By Caperton Gillett
Wendy Sudsinsunthorn and RALF (click on image for larger version)
Every day, Wendy Sudsinsunthorn goes to work under the watchful eye of a three-story-tall robot named RALF. “It’s pretty cool,” she says.
There’s a lot about Sudsinsunthorn’s job that’s pretty cool. She’s a project manager in the research and development division of Birmingham-based Summit Toys. The 2007 UAB School of Engineering alumna spends her days working with toy designers, turning brilliant ideas into the kinds of playthings that will entertain and educate kids.
Sudsinsunthorn, a native of Pell City, has had a lifelong fascination with toys. “As a small child, I loved playing with Legos. I loved building things. I loved taking things apart and putting them back together,” she says. She never expected, however, to find a job making actual toys. She merely hoped for a career “that allowed me to solve problems and be able to create things,” she says.