Searles is Preventive Medicine’s go-to person for tech support

Written by 

searles streamRich Searles, information systems specialist with the Division of Preventive Medicine, didn’t always want to work with computers and technology. While growing up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he first wanted to be a veterinarian, but after taking a job as a vet tech during high school, he realized there might be a better fit out there.

“I think the reason I became interested in computers after that is because computers are clean and aren’t always trying to bite you,” Searles said. “It turns out solving problems with computers was something I was good at, and I’ve been doing that ever since.”

For the past 16 years, he’s been doing it at UAB, and his calm demeanor, positive attitude and dedication to a job well done has earned him UAB’s Employee of the Month for December. He credits supervisors he’s had during his time in the division — Chris Stokes, William Belser and Byron Chancellor — with laying the foundations for his success at UAB.

“If taking one extra step to help someone is going to make someone’s experience better, then I’m going to take that step.”

“I learned a lot from each of them,” he said.

Colleagues are quick to note Searles’ affinity for Apple computers, saying he is an expert who can take something complicated and make it seem simple and takes time to teach people skills.

“He has a unique way of explaining even the most complicated IT processes so anyone can understand,” said Allison McGuire, program director in the division. “He also invests in the growth of others by educating and teaching how to do things rather than doing them for you. He is the epitome of customer service.”

All Searle’s co-workers agree that he is invaluable to the division, noting that he always is readily available to help and always is dependable. Plus, he is a team player and is always upbeat and personable.

“Rich is helpful and kind and always works well with others. When technical issues arise, he resolves them expeditiously, and he is patient with questions and welcomes ideas and discussions to help solve problems,” said Ann Smith, program director in the division.

“Rich Searles is the person in this division to go to with any questions related to computers, network, media, cell phones, video production, you name it,” echoed Maria Pisu, Ph.D., associate professor in the division. “He does his job with a great attitude and always is available, courteous, attentive, considerate and thoughtful.”

Each month, UAB recognizes an outstanding employee for their dedication, hard work and contributions to the university’s success. If you know of a great employee, you can learn how to nominate them for this recognition at

Searles says that maintaining a positive attitude isn’t difficult.

“I think about how I’d like to be treated, and if taking one extra step to help someone is going to make someone’s experience better, then I’m going to take that step,” he said.

He added that, in addition to the tech support aspect of his job, he also enjoys working with vendors from around the world to buy computer equipment and other electronics — many of whom aren’t familiar with UAB’s many accomplishments.

“I tell them that the work being done in Preventive Medicine helps to prevent disease before it occurs, and many of them have never heard of such a thing,” Searles said. “I work with people who are preventing and curing diseases — if I can help them with the technology that makes that possible in any way, that’s the biggest honor.”