Even in a hospital known nationally for excellence in patient care, some caregivers demonstrate a level of expertise and compassion that is unforgettable.

That has been the case for William Hutchins “Hutch” Cole Jr. and Jane Cole. When the couple sought treatment at UAB for Hutch Cole’s chronic pulmonary obstructive disease (COPD), they immediately were struck by the kindness of nurses Cindy Blackburn, R.N., and Jessica Nichols, R.N. “Both go beyond their duties to help him,” says Jane Cole. “Jessica has even gone so far as to give us her cell number when she is on vacation.”

dransfield 700x500Mark Dransfield became director of the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine in August 2021.

Grateful for the support and care they received from the nurses and from Mark Dransfield, M.D., Hutch Cole’s physician and director of the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine, the Coles are returning the favor by making a generous gift to the division.

Part of their gift will establish the Pulmonary Nursing Scholars Fund, which will reward the nursing staff for their dedication by supporting professional development. “This will lead to more learning opportunities, improved patient-care skills, and ultimately better patient outcomes,” says Dransfield, the William C. Bailey Endowed Chair in Pulmonary Disease.

The Coles are especially excited about the pulmonary Patient Assistance Fund, which will launch using the remainder of their gift. “Since we are financially blessed, my husband is able to access any medicine or equipment that he needs for COPD, but that is not true for all patients,” Jane Cole says. “Often insurance companies or Medicare will not pay for certain medications or equipment.”

Dransfield adds that his team often struggles to provide uninsured or underinsured patients with medical devices such as portable oxygen. “The Coles’ donation to establish the fund will allow us to provide those options to patients who otherwise could not have them.”

“We’re hopeful that others will contribute to this fund so that more patients can receive the best treatment available to ease their suffering,” Jane Cole says.

The Coles’ gift has already boosted the spirits of UAB’s pulmonary staff, who have had “a very difficult 18 months” caring for patients amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Dransfield says. “Our advanced practice providers, nurses, respiratory therapists, and physicians have been in near wartime conditions” that inflict a psychological toll. “Gifts such as the Coles’ help us to remember that the work we do every day makes a difference and is appreciated by our patients and their families.”

Dransfield is a nationally renowned expert in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and has been the medical director of the UAB Lung Health Center since 2009. An elected member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation, he is the principal investigator for multiple clinical trials and observational studies sponsored by the National Institutes for Health, the United States Department of Defense, and the American Lung Association. – Charles Buchanan

To give to support pulmonary care and research at UAB, contact Christian Smith at (205) 934-1974 or christiannsmith@uabmc.edu.