3 chosen as UAB VIPs for first-quarter 2024

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uab vip award squareNominations for second-quarter 2024 honorees are open through April 24, 2024; submit a nomination online.

by Brooke Carbo and Nicole Strickland

Vern Bush, administrative associate in the Department of Anthropology; Kevin Davis, program director in Development for the Heersink School of Medicine; and Brittany Martin, clinical research administrator in the Division of Infectious Diseases, are the first-quarter 2024 honorees for the UAB Values in Action Program. The UAB VIP Awards honor employees whose work exemplifies and embodies one or more of the UAB Shared Values: We CARE — Collaborate, Act with Integrity and Respect All. All three honorees have made a lasting impact on the fabric and culture of UAB by exemplifying the university’s shared values.

Honorees are nominated by their colleagues and selected by a committee of individuals from across the campus and UAB Hospital. Nominations for second-quarter 2024 honorees are open through April 24, 2024; submit a nomination online. One of the 2024 VIP honorees will be selected for the annual President’s Award for Excellence in Shared Values.

Vern Bush

rep vern bush 400pxDuring more than 20 years at UAB, Bush has worked in the Department of Anthropology, the Department of Social Work and the African American Studies Program — sometimes simultaneously. One thing her colleagues across UAB consistently remark on is her integrity.

“She is not the type of person to preach integrity, but to practice it,” said Jordan Kiper, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. “She leads by example, encourages people to do the right thing and sets the tone for good scholarship and professionalism.”

In the last few years, Kiper said Bush has been a steward for the Department of Anthropology, as it faced a transition in leadership that included three department chairs while shepherding students and faculty through a pandemic — “and we managed thanks to Ms. Vern. It is safe to say that our department would not be the same without her.”

Kathryn Morgan, Ph.D., a professor of criminal justice and the current director of the African American Studies Program, credits Bush as “the person responsible for keeping the program functioning” while its interim directors were dealing with personal issues.

“When I took over the program, she demonstrated the same character — integrity, honesty and a genuine concern for the well-being of the program and the students,” Morgan said. “Even when the program was experiencing challenges, she maintained her desire to protect the integrity of the African American Studies Program.”

In addition to her work ethic, Bush is known for her ability to cultivate a welcoming and inclusive workplace. More than one colleague recalls their first days at UAB warmly specifically because of Bush.

“Her extensive knowledge and willingness to assist were invaluable in ensuring I had the necessary resources to provide a quality education to my students,” said Laurel Hitchcock, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Social Work. “Her warmth and friendly demeanor created an environment where I felt welcomed and supported as a new instructor.”

Lisa Gezon, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology, describes Bush as the “glue holding us together.”

“She lights up the department,” Gezon said. “She is positive and loving when people make mistakes. She counsels people who are going through hard times or feeling overwhelmed. I have seen her advise junior faculty to be mindful of their work-life balance. I have heard her encourage people to take the high road in case of conflict. Not only does she not talk badly about people behind their back, but she also regularly elevates people and encourages them to be their best selves.”

Kevin Davis

rep kevin davis 400pxDavis started at UAB in October 2022; although he has been a Blazer for a relatively short time, he has made a big impact in his role as a program director I in Development for the Heersink School of Medicine.

“I often forget that Kevin has only been in UAB Medicine Advancement for just over a year because his expertise, collaborative nature and the excellence he brings to our team is well beyond his short tenure,” said Allison Tillotson, the School of Medicine’s associate director of Development. “I don’t know what we did without him.”

Davis’s swift promotion to program director did not come as a surprise to his former supervisor, Senior Director of Development Christian Smith, who said her team has raised more than $5 million since Davis joined UAB. “There is a lot he has accomplished in the short time he has been here,” Smith said.

Nearly everyone he works with has a story about Davis stepping in to help and saving the day.

According to Lydia Wherry, assistant director of Advancement Careers, Davis stepped in to help another team get their end-of-the year mailing to more than 100 donors sent out on time, “a time-consuming project with a tight deadline,” Wherry said. “But when Kevin saw the need, he volunteered to help his colleagues succeed.”

When Senior Director of Development Jennifer Philpot lost two team members during her busiest time of the year, Davis took it upon himself to help her team meet its year-end data entry goals.

“He was able to help our team meet those goals in just a few short weeks, helping our team reach their best numbers to date — all while still supporting his team and continuing to produce high-quality work,” said Philpot. “He is always willing to go above and beyond his job duties.”

Colleagues also praise Davis for his determination to show respect and consideration to everyone. One example of this Wherry offered is his “extremely thoughtful and considerate” response to memorial gifts.

“He personally calls families to notify them of gifts made in their loved one’s honor and provides them with the information to personally thank the donors themselves, if they so choose,” Wherry said. “It is a testament to the stewardship, care and attention to detail he applies in his work.”

Brittany Martin

rep brittany martin 400pxIn her role as a clinical research administrator in the Department of Medicine’s Division of Infectious Diseases, Martin navigates the important details behind many of the global research projects led by UAB faculty and staff. 

“Whether the issue is with CDC import permit requirements for blood samples or an overzealous customs agent who is holding study medications for pregnant women at a distant port, Brittany is a problem solver in the truest sense of the word,” said Associate Professor of Medicine Jodie Dionne, M.D. “She solves problems every day, typically on her own and without fanfare or drawing attention to her innovative solutions.”

One such problem, according to Program Director III Jamie White, was the purchasing of container clinics for a research program in Lusaka, Zambia.

“There was no precedent and Brittany had to work from scratch,” White said. “She worked many months triangulating with the South African vendor, the Zambian site and UAB Purchasing and Contracting to achieve delivery of the container clinics that are in use today, enrolling participants for NIH-funded UAB research programs.”

White’s story is one of many. Clinical Research Administration Manager Patricia Smith recalled the time her research team in Uganda had trouble finding STI kits to restock their local clinic. Martin found a solution moments before going on vacation, while sitting in the airport waiting on her flight. The kits arrived in Uganda a week later.

“Brittany shoulders our projects as if they are her own,” Smith said. “She tirelessly attends meetings, supports investigators, manages grant submissions, understands budgets, answers questions, supports travel arrangements, and organizes shipments of time sensitive medications and testing equipment to countries far from the U.S. — all the while assuring us this is ‘just part of her job.’”

In addition to her problem-solving prowess, colleagues are also quick to praise the care and respect Martin employs with investigators and administrators from cultures across the globe.

“She recognizes when a global health partner has less capacity in the relationship and reaches out to help strengthen their capacity,” said Michael Vinikoor, M.D., associate professor of Medicine, citing financial policies and grant submission components as examples. “These values strengthen UAB’s reputation in the world and help us build important partnerships with diverse people and institutions around the world,” Vinikoor said.

That is one of the many reasons Martin is considered “one of the most critical members of our highly productive ID global research team,” Dionne added. “Our growing and expanding efforts would not be successful without her foundational excellence in all that she does.”