Seven honored as Outstanding Women for 2018

UAB will honor seven Outstanding Women during a special ceremony 4:30-6 p.m. March 15 in the UAB Alumni House.

For 25 years, UAB and subsequently the UAB Commission on the Status of Women have presented the awards during Women’s History Month to honor women in the UAB and Birmingham communities who have mentored or served other women, taken a courageous stance or overcome adversity to achieve a goal. Periodically, new awards have been added to the scope; this year the committee introduces a new one, Nevertheless, She Persisted Award.

Recipients for the award are nominated by UAB faculty, staff and students, Birmingham residents, mentors and others from around the country and are selected by a committee of university and community women.
The 2018 recipients who will be honored:

  • Kristen Noles, Outstanding Woman UAB Staff Member
  • Yvonne Akins, Susan D. Marchase Outstanding Woman UAB Administrator
  • Susan Chu Walley, M.D., Becky Trigg Outstanding UAB Faculty Member
  • Isabella Mak, Outstanding Woman UAB Undergraduate Student
  • Jacelyn Peabody, Outstanding Woman UAB Graduate Student
  • Lydia Cheney, Outstanding Woman in the Community
  • Lauretta Gerrity, DVM, Nevertheless, She Persisted Award

noles insideKristen Noles
Staff member

Kristen Noles, a nurse manager in the Acute Trauma Care Unit and the Outpatient Clinical Decision Unit (OCDU), helped implement the clinical nurse leader (CNL) position throughout UAB Hospital. CNLs assume accountability for patient-care outcomes through evidenced-based practice to design, implement and evaluate care delivery at the microsystems level, and Noles has served as a “true front-line mentor” to those CNLs, a nominator said.

“UAB’s Steering Committee has looked to Kristen’s leadership, her ability to make sense in this very complicated system and to be steadfast in her commitment to improving the safe passage of our clients and to provide knock-your-socks-off service through patient engagement,” they continued.

While working with students, Noles doesn’t shy from explaining the obstacles one can face when working in a complex health system, but always reiterates the importance of maintaining hope and compassion for patients, caregivers, providers and other students.

In 2015, Noles helped develop the OCDU, a 20-bed dedicated unit for protocol-driven care of a specific subset of patients in observation status, collaborating with physicians in the UAB Hospital Emergency Department and Hospitalist Service and senior nursing leadership.

Noles also is committed to community service, using her personal time and resources to support the Courage Network for UAB’s breast-cancer survivors.

“Kristen has a far-reaching impact and is a true scholar,” a nominator wrote.

akins insideYvonne Akins

Akins, an executive administrator in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, has provided an example of strength and resilience during her many years at UAB, nominators say. Around 12 years ago, Akins was diagnosed with skin cancer, which she fought and beat; 10 years later, however, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After surgery and chemotherapy, she began a grueling six-week radiation schedule — but continued to show up to work like always.

“She made sure her appointments were scheduled as early as possible to ensure she would arrive to work on time each day after the treatment,” a nominator wrote. “She never missed a work commitment or deadline. Her optimism and dedication not only inspired many in our department, but throughout the UAB campus.”

Colleagues also admire Akins’ ability to handle conflict in the professional sphere; she is never afraid to speak up, even when the topic is controversial, a nominator said.

“In meetings, I am always in awe that she is not afraid to ask the tough questions,” they wrote. “Even in the face of adversity, she always handles herself in a professional and diplomatic manner.”

From mentoring women with whom she works, to sending encouraging notes to a male colleague’s wife while he was deployed, Akins consistently inspires the women within her unit and outside it.

“Akins’ continuous commitment to UAB, the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, colleagues and friends is a true testament to her total being,” one nominator said.

walley insideSusan Chu Walley

Walley, M.D., an associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics, is known for actively seeking out women members of her unit to encourage and mentor. Using her large network of professional contacts and her own experience, Wally assists residents, fellows and junior faculty in identifying their niche within the department.

“Dr. Walley is a role model for women physicians,” one nominator wrote. “She is an advocate for herself and other women — inside and outside of work — and her patients.”

Walley also is well-known throughout the UAB community through her stance on banning tobacco products. She is on the executive committee for the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Tobacco Control, and she has co-authored multiple policy statements, advocated and lobbied for increased tobacco control and helped educate health care providers, school employees and counselors. Additionally, she has been awarded an $80,000 grant from the Alabama Department of Health to study youth tobacco use in the Birmingham area.

“Currently at Children’s [of Alabama], the campus still has a smoking area, but I think that, with her determination, that too will end soon,” a nominator said.

As a member and prior chair of the Continuing Medical Education committee at Children’s of Alabama, Walley advocated for Grand Rounds lectures to be simulcast online and be archived as durable medical education materials for future CME uses.

mak insideIsabella Mak
Undergraduate student

Isabella Mak, a senior majoring in neuroscience, has had many irons in the fire throughout her tenure in the UAB Honors College Global and Community Leadership Honors Program. From working with the Student Advisory Council in TRIO Academic Services to serving as the director of Undergraduate Research Ambassadors in the Office of Undergraduate Research and Service Learning to working as a resident assistant for UAB Housing and Residence Life, Mak has had nearly unlimited opportunities to mentor and advocate for young women — all of which she’s maximized, nominators say.

“She has consistently supported many women, especially minorities, first-generation college students and students with financial need,” one nominator wrote. “Isabella enjoys sharing academic and career advice, helping students find their passion and potential as well as caring for the overall well-being of the students she works with.”

Mak, who was named Ms. UAB in 2016, is a member of the Alabama Student Advisory Council of the Birmingham chapter of the American Association of University Women, for which she has helped plan the annual Alabama Women Student Leadership Conference. The conference connects hundreds of women college students across America and educates them on ways to address policies or issues affecting women and minorities.

As a first-generation college student from a single-parent household who has lived in the United States only about five years, Mak supports herself financially, which nominators say makes her work advocating for other women even more special.

“Isabella hopes to set an example to promote social justice and to break the cycle of poverty,” one wrote. “She devotes her time to lifting other women up, especially those who have other backgrounds and resources.”

peabody insideJacelyn Peabody
Graduate student

Peabody, an M.D./Ph.D. student in the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), splits her time between her rigorous academic obligations and several voluntary leadership positions.

As one of only eight MTSP students, Peabody’s mentorship counts a great deal to students rising through the ranks, said one nominee: “Jacelyn leads by example and has made it easier for other women to pursue careers as physician scientists by bolstering a love for science and helping them navigate the waters.”

As the head of the OB/GYN interest group in the School of Medicine, Peabody has sponsored a Women’s Health Day at UAB’s local student-run clinic, Equal Access Birmingham, to ensure low-income, uninsured women have access to health care. She also is invested in helping transgender individuals get the medical support they need.

The first of her family to pursue a medical degree or doctorate, Peabody’s motivation has always come from within, a nominator said, and she uses that energy to encourage others. For example, Peabody began the Letters to a Pre-Scientist program, which connects medical students in a pen-pal format with a child in a local middle school who is interested in the health sciences.

“Jacelyn will continue to be a strong advocate for women here at UAB and around the country,” one nominator said, “and she deserves to be applauded for the impact she’s had on her colleagues, local women she will likely never see again and young girls around the country who may one day be working with her.”

cheney insideLydia Cheney
Community member

Cheney is a longtime supporter of UAB and of initiatives to empower women in the Birmingham community and beyond. From 1997 to 2010, while working at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center as program manager for cancer education, Cheney “was a constant source of warmth and encouragement for anxious families,” one nominator wrote.

Cheney also invests her time and energy into Growing Kings, a local nonprofit that works with hundreds of under-served male youth each school year to improve their academic, behavioral and societal outcomes. Like many young people, one nominator wrote, the students who work with Growing Kings, for which Cheney is a board member, have big dreams and aspirations, but often are from single-parent, mother-led households that lack the support systems needed to make those dreams a reality.

“I have not met another individual more dedicated to seeing our mission achieved than Lydia Cheney,” that nominator continued. “She has not only given unselfishly beyond expectation but invests her time and energy into our organization’s success.”

Cheney also has two scholarships named after her at UAB, both of which give preference to students from low-income, under-served communities.

An art collector, Cheney has been a steadfast patron of women artists, advocating on their behalf in a highly competitive art market often dominated by men, one nominator said. Another said they refer to Cheney as the Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts’ “guardian angel,” due to Cheney’s unfailing ability to show up to every reception, artist lecture and event. Once she even allowed an exhibiting artist to stay in her home after they became stranded in Birmingham.

“Her faith in what UAB and AEIVA are, and are capable of, has helped to propel AEIVA’s and UAB’s art community to the national stage,” that nominator wrote.

gerrity insideLauretta Gerrity
Nevertheless, she persisted

Gerrity, DVM, the senior associate vice president for research administration, is never one to take the path of least resistance, according to her nominators. During the 1990s, Gerrity advocated for additional funding for UAB’s Animal Resource Program (ARP). When told there was none, she didn’t back down, but instead she worked to figure out what was needed and how it could be achieved.

Gerrity’s advocacy for the ARP comes from her veterinary background. In the 1970s, she graduated with a doctorate from Texas A&M University’s veterinary program and joined UAB as the director of the ARP in the mid-1990s. She holds certificates from the American College of Laboratory Medicine and the American Board of Medical Genetics and has served on numerous field-related committees and boards.

Gerrity also is part of two national organizations — the Federal Demonstration Partnership, a unique forum for individuals from universities and nonprofits to work collaboratively with federal agency officials to improve the national research enterprise, and the Council for Governmental Relations, which advocates for policies and practices that reflect mutual interests and separate obligations of federal agencies and research institutions with respect to research and graduate education. In these meetings, a nominator said, “there are still a majority of men in the higher levels of administration, so I have enjoyed the fact that Lauretta stands out in this group as a woman who has achieved a high-level university position and readily offers her knowledge of research policies and effective practices at these national forums, challenging bad regulations and promoting positive change.”

“I have always admired Lauretta for her determination to make the right decision and take the right action,” another nominator wrote. “She makes her decisions based on what is best for the institution, its mission and the people who work for it.”