August 06, 2013

Game time!

Written by

Rachel Daniell  
President Watts recently challenged the schools and administrative units at UAB to a friendly competition to see who can represent the campus with the highest attendance at UAB football games.

Each unit was assigned a designated game. The School of Medicine’s game is Thursday night, Nov. 21 against Rice University. There will be pre-game tailgate parties, activities during the game and post-game celebrations. I will be there, and I hope you will, too. We will announce details of the game’s activities as they become available.

Being part of a world-class academic medical center – focused on training medical and graduate biomedical students, conducting research and caring for thousands of patients – it is sometimes easy to forget that our campus is also home to world-class student athletes. The drive, determination and focus important to being a college athlete are similarly important in our students, clinicians and scientists.

Rachel Daniell is a rising junior tennis player at UAB with a 3.92 GPA in biology. She was named to the 2013 Conference USA All-Academic Team and was second on the squad in singles wins with a 14-6 record. UAB tops her list of choices for medical school. She has learned teamwork on the courts and by shadowing our pediatric orthopedic team in Children’s of Alabama, where she observed the direct impact physicians can have on people’s lives. “I love a challenge,” Rachel says, “whether it’s in my sport or in academics, and I want to improve people’s lives.”

  Xavier Baldwin
About 40 of our current medical students were college athletes. They played a variety of sports, including football, track and field, swimming, baseball, volleyball and soccer, at Division I and other competitive levels. Now they are in training to gain knowledge and clinical skills; soon they will compete against injury and disease for their patients’ health.

Xavier Baldwin is one of these students. I met him this summer when he visited UAB. He had recently graduated from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, where he started as a point guard on the basketball team while majoring in biology with a double minor in chemistry and math. Xavier is an impressive individual, and I am proud to say he is now a member of the first-year medical student class.   

“As an athlete you focus on winning,” Xavier said. “As physicians, the focus is on making your patients as healthy as possible.” Focus, determination and perseverance helped him succeed on the court. These same skills, he says, have helped prepare him for a successful career in medicine.

Cory Smith is the second-year medical class president, but from 2006 to 2010 he played offensive line on the Samford Bulldogs football team, earning academic all-conference honors each of his four years. He also served on the NCAA’s National Student Athlete Advisory Committee.

Neal Tisher  
“Student athletes are, at times, the most visible student representatives of a university, and the values and qualities that its students display,” Smith says.

Cory says football equipped him with mental toughness – the ability to put a bad practice or game behind him and push toward the next victory – honed by 5 a.m. practices, two-a-day workouts and watching game film. “I believe that mental toughness will help me become a quality physician that lets nothing stand in the way of helping his patients,” he said.

When Cornelia (Neal) Tisher was not studying psychology and biology she was earning accolades in track and field; she holds the indoor and outdoor records at Ole Miss in the pole vault and is an Academic All-American. She received a post-graduate scholarship as an SEC H. Boyd McWhorter Scholar-Athlete Award nominee and now she is a first-year medical student at UAB.

When asked which student-athlete skill prepared her most for medical school her response echoed the others': time management.

“I’m not used to having so much free time in the afternoon,” Neal says. She also learned how important sleep is for performance, and realizes she might have to move back her usual early bedtime. “Athletics pushed me hard and taught me a lot of fundamentals about time management that a lot of medical students have to learn in the first few weeks of school.”

  Cory Smith  
When you attend UAB Athletics events, you are not just supporting the school; you are also supporting students, like Rachel, Xavier, Cory, Neal and many others.

Xavier said it best: “When people show up to watch you play it provides that extra spark. They’re like the sixth man on the floor. They’re there to get you over the hump. They elevate your game.”

Neal says attending games is a great stress reliever for medical students, and games can help create unity across campus.

There are hundreds of students at UAB dedicated to scholarship and other performance – athletes, actors, musicians, artists and debaters. They all deserve our support, and there is no better way to support them than by showing up. When you do, you elevate their performance as individuals.

So, please mark Nov. 21 on your calendar and plan to represent the School of Medicine at the football game against Rice. And find other ways to support UAB student performers. Many of them will be doctors and scientists one day.