3 chosen as UAB VIPs for second-quarter 2022

uab vip award squareCarol Ballinger, Ph.D., program director in the Department of Microbiology; Dylan McDonald, financial officer in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences; and Robert Welch, electronic specialist in UAB Radio Paging, are the second-quarter 2022 honorees for the UAB Shared Values in Action Program. The UAB VIP Awards honor employees whose work exemplifies and embodies one or more of the university’s shared values — integrity, stewardship, collaboration, accountability, respect, excellence and achievement, and diversity and inclusiveness.

Honorees are nominated by their colleagues and selected by a committee of individuals from across the campus and UAB Hospital. Nominations for fourth-quarter 2022 honorees are open through Dec. 1; submit a nomination online. One of 12 VIP honorees throughout the year will be selected for the new President’s Award for Excellence in Shared Values.

Carol Ballinger

carol ballinger VIP insideCarol Ballinger, Ph.D.Ballinger is respected and admired by many both in her department and beyond for her commitment to UAB’s shared values of collaboration and excellence and achievement. Her colleagues credit her as greatly contributing to the department’s rise to a top-10 ranking in NIH funding, up from the top-20 ranking in 2019.

 “Our department’s excellence in research is due in no small part to Dr. Ballinger’s attention to detail and development of grant administrative standard operating procedures that actively support our science,” said Fran Lund, Ph.D., director of the UAB Heersink School of Medicine Immunology Institute and chair of the Department of Microbiology.  “As both a scientist and an administrator, I do not think we could ask for a better partner to pursue excellence in research.  Carol makes us all better and is highly deserving of the VIP Award.”

Kristina Sinclair, director of Special Projects for the Heersink School of Medicine, agreed: “Dr. Ballinger’s dedication and commitment has achieved an environment of administrative excellence in Microbiology’s research program, which poised the department to become a top 10 NIH-ranked research program within the past few years.”

“I sincerely think that part of my lab's success during the last years is due to Carol's unconditional support, guidance and wiliness to go the extra mile so that the grant applications meet the highest standard,” said Andre Ballesteros-Tato, Ph.D., associate professor of immunology and rheumatology.

More than a dozen of Ballinger’s colleagues wrote letters supporting her nomination as a VIP Award honoree — clear evidence of her commitment to collaboration. 

“I know without doubt that without Carol, who performs the bulk of the day-to-day back-and-forth between Microbiology and the UAB Office of Sponsored Programs, Microbiology and Maryland and Microbiology and NIH, that is required for the myriad of subcontracts, progress reports, invoices, etc., that come with these grants, the scope of my collaboration with Dr. Tettelin would unquestionably be smaller. Thus, the scope of my research program, and my collaboration with Dr. Tettelin, is made possible by Carol,” said Carlos Orihuela, Ph.D., professor and interim chair in the Department of Microbiology.

“In my opinion, her shining achievement is her relationship with faculty, how much she cares about science and her ability to create an environment that allows investigators to submit and successfully manage increasingly complex and large program grants,” Sinclair continued. “She serves as an invaluable partner for principal investigators and institutional leaders alike.”

“Carol is the model for how a department research administrator can collaborate with faculty, staff, university administration, funding agencies and other institutions,” said Molly Lerew, fellow program director in the department.

dylan mcdonald VIP insideDylan McDonaldDylan McDonald

McDonald has worked at UAB for more than eight years, beginning his career on campus after graduating from the Collat School of Business with his master of business administration in 2015. He joined the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences in 2018 and has made a profound positive impact on his department during the last four years.

“His work has provided significant financial insight to the department, allowing it to make informed projections on required bridge funding for investigators,” said Brian Samuels, M.D., Ph.D., Dennis Endowed Professor in Glaucoma Research and interim chair in the department. “Prior to him joining our department, few of us knew up-to-date details on our grant spending, employee effort coverage or unobligated balance outlook for each grant.”

“Dylan is an organized, self-motivated, responsible individual who embodies all of UAB’s shared values,” said Megan Yeatts, executive administration in the department. “Simply put, our entire department runs more smoothly due to his hard work and dedication.” 

McDonald is committed to communication and collaboration, driven to make his work and findings clear to his colleagues so they in turn can make the best decisions.

“Regardless of the complexity of the math and the project to manage, the hardest part of the job, as I see it, is to bring people to the realization of the unquestionable reality of numbers,” said Massimo Fazio, Ph.D., associate professor.  “Dylan, even in more complex and contentious situations, always communicated with the involved parties with professionalism, calm, diligence, completeness and respect.”

McDonald has proven his integrity over the years, Yeatts says: “I can trust that any work he does will be accurate, thorough and include multiple sides or scenarios, and will ultimately be a responsible use of departmental resources. He truly strives for excellence in all he does.”

That excellence in McDonald’s work is noted by many of his colleagues: “Through knowing Dylan, I have gained a newfound appreciation for the complexity in the detailed monthly grant reports he creates using his own format and formulas,” said Jennifer Spears, program manager. “They are as close to works of art as I expect a spreadsheet can get.”

“Dylan’s work ethic and professionalism are an example to others,” Fazio agreed.

robert welch VIP insideRobert WelchRobert Welch

Welch is a valued member of the Radio Paging team and crucial to communications within the UAB community, colleagues say. Credited with improving his department’s backup systems among other things, Welch always strives to improve.

“He pushes us to excel in every way, and he often has ideas and suggestions for improving our technology or methods of operation,” says fellow electronic specialist Robert Wilson. “He has pushed for upgrades to our systems that help improve public safety and the reliability of the paging system.”

Welch also is admired for his integrity and inclusiveness: “He treats every situation with an employee or a customer with dignity and aplomb,” Wilson continued. “He learns everyone's name, even if they are not your stereotypical ‘important’ person. He celebrates the differences in people and makes them feel special, no matter who they are.”

Also dedicated to collaboration, Welch welcomes spending time teaching and guiding new employees; sharing his experience and knowledge is important to him.

“Robert Welch is an exemplary employee who goes out of his way to help, teach and relate to everyone,” Wilson said.

Nominations for fourth-quarter 2022 honorees are open through Dec. 1; submit a nomination online. One of 12 VIP honorees throughout the year will be selected for the new President’s Award for Excellence in Shared Values.