Four faculty and staff from the School of Health Professions have been selected to receive the inaugural President’s Award for Excellence in Shared Values. The award honors Blazers who demonstrated one or more of UAB’s shared values in the course of their work during the extraordinary times presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The 20 members of the inaugural class of 2021 represents five schools and six institutional units across UAB.

Brenda Bertrand

values bertrandBrenda Bertrand, Ph.D., professor and director of the master’s program in nutrition sciences, embodies the shared values of integrity, respect and diversity and inclusiveness.

In addition to her instructional roles, Bertrand chairs the school’s Faculty Affairs Committee and works with Dean Andrew Butler to develop and implement new initiatives to support junior faculty and cultivate collaboration among departments — work that is particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic, a nominator wrote.

“I’ve seen firsthand her integrity of character, respect for others and inclusiveness of individuals with differences in opinions,” the nominator said.

Anthony Cunningham

values cunninghamAnthony “Deek” Cunningham, assistant professor of occupational therapy and academic fieldwork coordinator for the master’s in occupational therapy program, epitomizes the shared values of respect, diversity and inclusiveness and excellence and achievement. He is well-known at UAB for going above and beyond his duties, nominators say.

Cunningham works closely with students, advocating for new and unique fieldwork opportunities that best prepare them for success. He factors in each student’s unique set of needs, interests and skills when helping them find placement, a nominator says; even throughout the COVID-19 pandemic he was able to place all students into fieldwork. His work with students has earned Cunningham spots on numerous committees and special projects, and he often encourages students to attend national professional events.

“There is a constant line outside of his door, with students — with and without appointments — waiting to meet with him about their needs and preferences for fieldwork placements,” the nominator said.

Rachelle Lawhorn

values lawhornRachelle Lawhorn, administrative supervisor in the Department of Health Services Administration (HSA) exemplifies the shared values of collaboration, excellence and achievement and stewardship. HSA is a large and complex department, a nominator says, and amid the uncertainty and stress experienced as faculty moved courses online, internships were changed or canceled and employees transitioned to remote work, Lawhorn organized weekly huddles, check-ins and other routine communications.

A multitude of additional tasks added to Lawhorn’s plate during the pandemic, yet she did not drop the ball or miss a single deadline.

“As a result, our already trusting, positive climate remained that way,” nominators said. “Rachelle showed a true commitment to excellence and achievement.”

Jessica Hillman Williams

values williamsJessica Hillman Williams, Ph.D., associate professor of health services administration, exemplifies the shared value of diversity and inclusiveness. During the pandemic and periods of civil unrest in the country, Williams facilitated conversations about diversity with students and helped Master of Science in Health Administration students form a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Council to ensure future cohorts remain committed to fostering inclusive environments among students.

Williams also volunteered to facilitated DEI discussions among students in the Department of Physical Therapy, which was outside of both her academic and research responsibilities, a nominator wrote.

“Dr. Jessica Williams has risen above the challenge of this year to help countless members of our community cope and thrive, to become better leaders and community members, to learn how to truly behave and believe that everybody counts every day,” the nominator said. “She is creating a community in which we actively seek varied perspectives in our decision-making.”