Six chosen among first to be named UAB VIP

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Lisa Harvey, Timothy Key, Malcolm Marler, Kerry McAlpine, Akia McCurdy and Justin Roth are the first six honorees of the UAB Shared Values in Action Program (UAB VIP Award), launched in January to honor employees whose work exemplifies and embodies one or more of values of integrity, respect, diversity and inclusiveness, collaboration, excellence and achievement, accountability and stewardship.

Three employees, nominated by their colleagues and selected by a committee of individuals from across the campus and hospital, will be honored each quarter. One of the 12 VIP Award honorees in 2021 will be selected for the new President’s Award for Excellence in Shared Values beginning in 2022.

Meet those honored for the first and second quarters of 2021:

Environmental headshot of Lisa M. Harvey (Clinical Trials Administrator, Urology), May 2021.Lisa Harvey Lisa Harvey, the clinical coordinator for the Kidney Stone Service Line in Urology, does not have a “time-clock mentality,” according to colleagues who say she exemplifies integrity, honor, respect, inclusiveness and collaboration in her work and communications with co-workers and patients who are ill or in pain.

Harvey engages in team-building and problem-solving and is described by those who work with her as “a fierce advocate” who embraces all team members and helps them understand their role in the clinic to “ensure they reach their full potential.” As a result, they say “her peers look up to her and take her advice on how to handle difficult situations and circumstances.”

Harvey’s cell phone is an open portal for support, and she is always available — evenings, weekends and holidays — to reassure patients and help them overcome any barriers to accessing medical care and navigate the complex health care system.

“I receive compliments just about every working day from patients and their families regarding Lisa’s empathy, superb communication skills and dedication to her job,” said Dean Assimos, M.D., professor and chair of the department.

“Dr. Assimos and I are always ranked in the top tier for patient satisfaction, but this really has little to do with us and everything to do with her and her availability, unmatched empathy and constant involvement in our patients,” said Kyle Wood, M.D., assistant professor of urology. “She has helped our group move beyond just episodic care and start treating our patients holistically.”

Environmental headshot of Dr. Timothy Key, MD (Occupational Health Medical Director, Environmental Healthy and Safety), June 2021.Timothy KeyTimothy Key, M.D., director of Occupational Medicine and Research Safety, is described as a driven and hardworking individual who approaches work challenges with respect, wisdom and patience — and an ear to listen.

What makes him a good doctor and team member? “Among the usual: commitment, competence and compassion. Among the less predictable: empathy, optimism and sense of justice,” one team member said.

The COVID-19 pandemic was no exception, his nominators say. Key demonstrated excellence and achievement through his leadership in the UAB Culture of Safety task force championed by President Ray Watts to improve safety throughout the UAB enterprise. He helped develop COVID-19 protocols to enable students and employees to return to campus safely, and he helped develop and expand the campus occupational health program that provides flu shots, vaccines and other protective medical services to campus employees and researchers.

Key sets a daily example for others in the workplace, and “he also uses his gifts and talents to help serve others within our community and abroad,” a nominator wrote. In January 2018, he and his wife, Barbara, traveled to a remote area in Africa. “There, he helped others to see, feel and understand the beauty, grace and word of our gospel, once more demonstrating his selfless nature.”

Malcolm Marler 400Malcolm MarlerThe restrictions around visiting COVID-19 patients have been challenging for patients and chaplains alike, and in the early days Malcolm Marler, D.Min, chaplain and senior director of Pastoral Care, was limited to praying on the other side of a patient’s door or placing his hands on the glass enclosure that separated them.

Before he and his team of 30 chaplains could resume face-to-face visits, Marler spent time in the COVID Clinic to better understand what patients were experiencing. He also learned the safety measures that would enable him and his team to be present at the bedside of patients who needed comfort and helped make it possible for all staff chaplains to be properly fitted for and trained with Universal N95 Mask and PPE equipment.

Because of these efforts, UAB chaplains were able to offer patients weakened by the virus in body and spirit more comfort than when they were constrained by audio and visual technology.

To connect with patients while still practicing social distancing, Marler adopted a new habit, one he picked up from a friend, a retired Methodist minister. Placing one hand over his heart and patting his chest, Marler tells them, “I want you to know that I am holding you right here in my heart.”

Environmental headshot of Kerry McAlpine (Administrative Supervisor, Occupational Therapy), June 2021.Kerry McAlpineThe primary responsibility of Administrative Supervisor Kerry McAlpine is to manage admissions for Occupational Therapy’s graduate and post-professional programs.

It is a role that demands the ability and personality to work with applicants, advisors and others to ensure that applicants are well prepared and understand the profession and opportunities UAB can provide. 

Despite the pressures, McAlpine “always demonstrates a positive and upbeat attitude, which is the first impression seen by all our potential applicants,” a nominator said. “Without Kerry, we would not have the quality and breadth of the applicant pool we get, and without the students we would not have the national reputation we enjoy.”

McAlpine is said to exemplify and embody each of the values that propel the university. As one of UAB’s Global DEI Ambassadors, he seeks opportunities to better ensure diversity and inclusion in the applicant pool and implements his knowledge and experience into our admissions process. 

“He is exactly the person you want in this position as he knows that kindness, respect and courtesy are at the root of a positive admission experience,” colleagues say. Equally important, McAlpine never wavers from the highest level of professionalism. “He truly embodies this every day… and he does not fail.”

During the pandemic, Kerry worked to help manage admissions for a new program — the first of its kind in Alabama. Through his efforts, the department will welcome 60 highly qualified young people who will ultimately be the first students to graduate from UAB with a Clinical Doctorate in Occupational Therapy. 

Environmental headshot of Akia McCurdy (Registered Respiratory Therapist, Respiratory Care), June 2021.Akia McCurdyAkia McCurdy is a respiratory therapist, a role she had held with UAB Medicine for nine years by the time the pandemic unfolded. For many stricken with the coronavirus and the acute respiratory distress syndrome it often causes, professionals such as McCurdy can be the link to their next breath.

And though clinical skills are essential to the job, it is the empathy and compassion she displays that often play an important role in health care. 

“This cannot be taught,” a nominator wrote of McCurdy. “It often changes bad days into good ones and can even change outcomes above and beyond medical knowledge or clinical skills.

“Everybody usually has someone during a hospitalization who just helps them get through the tough spots.

“Akia was my person. In a very scary hospitalization, she was the calming force. She left the clinical side and entered the human side at the point when I needed that the most.”

Environmental headshot of Dr. Justin Roth, PhD (Associate Director of Research Health and Safetyt - Biosafety, Environmental Health and Safety), May 2021. Justin RothJustin Roth, Ph.D., the UAB Biosafety Officer, was front and center during the pandemic, advising researchers on biosafety and oversight of the UAB SEBLAB high containment research facility. While SARS-CoV-2 was entering the lexicon, Roth and UAB researchers began planning for disruptions and formulating recommendations to address staffing concerns, PPE use in labs, working safely with the virus in a research environment and emergency preparedness.

As the pandemic emerged, he delivered many presentations across campus detailing the challenges that should be expected and recommended ways to prepare for home and work lives to change. Colleagues say he has shown respect to others while working toward the common goal of returning the world to a more stable place, and his collaborations with several oversight committees have yielded many returns.

Roth’s accountability has risen to an entirely new level during the pandemic, one nominator said, and during this time he has demonstrated integrity by his willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty to educate, facilitate and promote a safe laboratory working environment.

Nominations for third-quarter honorees are open through Sept. 9. Submit a nomination online.