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Students/Faculty News Jessica Jernigan October 03, 2022

Each year during Homecoming Week, five students in the School of Health Professions are awarded a Blazer Forever Scholarship. Students are selected based on their essay answers. This year, in honor of The World Games and the homecoming theme The Blazer Games, we asked students to talk about the ways classroom collaborations and/or team-based learning has made them stronger teammates. Read below for their answers.

  • Katherine Ham
    Katherine Ham

    Katherine Ham, Occupational Therapy

    As a single mom, UAB alum, and current graduate student, I am very grateful for UAB’s celebration of diversity and implementation of team-based learning. My cohort members represent geographical, cultural, racial, professional, and life circumstance diversity. Throughout my team-based learning experiences, I always find myself appreciative for each member’s unique perspective. Not only do their perspectives open my mind and my thinking, it also helps model future career settings. As future occupational therapists we will be expected to work with diverse clients, families, caregivers, and other health professionals. Acquiring team-based learning skills and effective communication skills will prepare us for our future careers.

    One critical skill I have gained from team-based learning at UAB is collaboration. With my more passive personality, sometimes I default to letting a stronger personality lead our conversation or project. Throughout my years at UAB, I have learned to express my appreciation for my teammates’ views and affirm that their points are valid. Simultaneously, I also advocate for my own ideas and express to my teammates how our collaboration can contribute to our learning goals. I believe that communication is paramount to effective teamwork.

    Team-based learning experiences at UAB have strengthened my communication skills because my undergraduate and graduate program provided me opportunities to work in diverse groups. Team members often have different preferences for style and delivery of communication. Some people prefer more direct communication, while others prefer a more gentle or open approach. I have noticed that people typically prefer direct style communication when most of the members are passive and or agreeable on all group decisions. In these circumstances, a conversation needs to be facilitated more directly to encourage more contribution from other members. Some group members require a more gentle approach if they are struggling to share their thoughts and ideas with confidence. It is important to communicate in ways that make all teammates feel valued and safe, especially when sharing personal experiences or struggles. Learning my teammates’ communication preferences allows for more open and honest dialogue. Building rapport with others through their preferred communication styles is a skill that will extend throughout my career and any other life pursuits.

  • Alyssa Mendoza
    Alyssa Mendoza

    Alyssa Mendoza, Physician Assistant Studies

    Throughout my career at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, teamwork, and collaboration has been at the center of my education. Not only have I been encouraged to grow as a medical professional, but I have been able to evolve as a teammate. In doing so, my academic program has challenged me to recognize my shortcomings and pushed me outside of my comfort zone, therefore advancing me as a teammate and as a healthcare provider.

    While at UAB, I have recognized how much my pride prohibits me from not only reaching my own goals but also how it may hinder my classmates from reaching their own goals in a team setting. Initially, I had difficulty realizing that I was not omniscient. I realized that despite my success throughout college, I still had knowledge gaps. Filled with pride and obstinance, I let myself down by not asking for proper help from my peers. I saw my grades suffer. After underperforming on several other tests, I decided I needed to work differently. I asked my classmates to study together in preparation for our anatomy and pathology classes. They were able to further my comprehension of each topic with silly mnemonics and in-depth conversations. As a result, not only did I form a stronger camaraderie with my classmates, but I was able to better understand the information presented to me. With this experience, I realized the power of utilizing my classmates and their perceptions of our class material. As such, this confluence of information gave me a fuller understanding of essential concepts for my career.

    Another example of this is throughout my surgical disease class. Our class was structured to be a team-based learning environment. We had weekly assessments in which we were prompted to diagnose and treat our patients. Still blinded by my pride, I felt the need to work on my own without leaning on my teammates to properly diagnose the patient. Due to my isolation, my team would often struggle between diagnoses and would finish our timed team quizzes with only seconds to spare. As my time at UAB progressed, I let down my pride and adopted a sense of humility. I found myself consistently asking my peers with more knowledge to educate me on topics that I was completely unfamiliar with. In addition, I learned how to lean on my teammates in my surgical disease class and properly diagnose our patients. Although just an academic exercise, we were able to provide better care to our fictional patient. This repeated collaborative exercise continued to instill the practice and application of teamwork for the benefit of our patients.

    Healthcare is undoubtedly a team-oriented career. I am extremely grateful to my team-oriented experiences at UAB to help me break down my pride and advance further into my occupation. These experiences in collaboration have solidified the importance of humility to advance my team's success and provide better care for my future patients.

  • Elea Moore
    Elea Moore

    Elea Moore, Physician Assistant Studies

    As a student in the Physician Assistant (PA) program as well as a graduate of the biomedical sciences program at UAB, I have collaborated with several students throughout my classes. Team-based learning has taught me about myself as a leader and team member. I have had to alter my approach to team projects throughout my UAB career. I found that I am initially looked upon as a leader of the group, because I tend to express my ideas and interject my opinions. My time in my physiology- pharmacology (phys-pharm) course at UAB taught me the importance of ensuring that everyone shares their opinion on a subject. There can often be multiple ways to approach a medical case study, so it is important to learn how other people think through a situation. I would say that working in a team has expanded my way of thinking by encouraging me to look at every possible side to a problem and exploring multiple solutions. This experience in phys-pharm also encouraged me to ensure that everyone had the chance to share their opinion in meetings, and I became the team member responsible for making sure that everyone got a chance to speak every time we met.

    Furthermore, the PA profession is all about collaborating with other healthcare professionals. My time in the PA program so far has encouraged me to get to know as many of my classmates, because it is important to learn from your teammates. Each person has different experiences and ranges of knowledge. This is important information to know when working as a team, because it can help gauge the strengths of the team. I have come to learn that I might not have the most detailed background when it comes to anatomy, but I have been able to work with fellow students who have experience in orthopedics to help me learn material in new ways. I have also been able to share my knowledge from my background in oncology during teamwork in pathology. Working in teams has allowed me to better understand gaps in my knowledge as well as my strengths. This acceptance has allowed me to be a more collaborative teammate by ensuring that everyone feels welcomed on the team and benefits from the teamwork. The team-based learning environment created by both UAB’s biomedical sciences program and PA program has taught me the importance of collaboration and the strategies necessary to help produce a conducive environment for teamwork.

  • Breia Pettaway
    Breia Pettaway

    Breia Pettaway, Biomedical Sciences

    A good teammate is someone who is reliable, resilient, innovative, and able to collaborate collectively with others. In fact, collaboration is one of the most important traits to have, especially in medicine. Medicine is a field that is ever-changing and increasingly complex. New discoveries are constantly being made, and difficult problems require the collective work of many individuals to be solved. Throughout the years, I have engaged in team-based learning in my classes. Team-based learning has taught me valuable skills and assets that will serve me greatly in my career. Team-based learning has also taught me how to be a good teammate in my classes and in the real world.

    When I first learned about team-based learning, I was reluctant. This was due to prior experiences with group work that negatively impacted me. In those instances, I was one of few individuals completing the assignment, and it was not a group effort. However, my perception about working and collaborating in teams has changed since attending UAB. With its first introduction in BMD 317, team-based learning has become one of my favorite aspects of attending class. Working closely with my team mates to solve cases of individuals with complex diseases, I have greatly improved my communication skills. I have learned how to talk to my group about the disease process. I share my thoughts about treatment and receive feedback about other aspects of diseases, greatly expanding my knowledge. Good communication skills also apply in the field of medicine where you are collaborating closely with other physicians and healthcare providers to treat patients.

    Team-based learning has also taught me how to expand my beliefs and to be more open-minded. Open-mindedness is a trait that will benefit me immensely in my career, and it has continued to benefit me in the classroom setting. For instance, as a physician, I have to be open to other viewpoints, and I have to be willing to hear my teammates or colleagues’ thoughts. In the classroom, I must hear others’ thoughts about diseases, treatments and procedures to come to the correct conclusion. Being open-minded also strengthens my role as a teammate because it makes my team members feel heard and appreciated. This further increases the efficacy of the team, and it builds trust.

    One may wonder about the importance of collaboration and team-based learning in the real world. However, I have reaped or seen the benefits of team-based learning outside the classroom first-handedly. For instance, I shadowed a dermatologist and observed how the physician was collaborating with other specialties, clinics and hospitals to treat a patient with a rare disease. In my research team, I take the skills I learned from team-based learning and apply them to my research project with underserved populations. Not only has team-based learning taught me how to be a stronger teammate in the classroom, but it has also taught me how to transfer such skills to the real world.

  • Phuong Quach
    Phuong Quach

    Phuong Quach, Rehabilitation Sciences

    According to an African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Sometimes success comes not only from the strength of individuals, but also from the strength of the whole group. Collaboration is where people work together to form a unified group, in both thought and action, in order to achieve a common goal. At UAB, collaboration is more than that. First of all, at UAB I have a chance to meet and learn from many students from around the world because UAB is ranked as one of the most diverse universities in the U.S. Studying in a diverse population like that gives me more chances to not only learn academically but also learn culture from people from different perspectives. On my academic journey, my colleagues in PhD programs come from a variety of backgrounds and skill sets. I have learned different cultures, beliefs, and perspectives from many different countries such as Croatia, China, America, etc. When I put myself in someone's shoes, I understand their opposite opinions with more sympathy.

    As an international student, using English to communicate has always been a challenge for me. Along with my introverted personality, I always feel self-conscious about my accent when I have to speak in English with my teammates. However, they always patiently listened to me, tried to understand my opinions, and encouraged me to be more confident. Their kindness and empathy make me feel welcome and inclusive. Also, this sympathy helps me gain more confidence when communicating or presenting in English. That is a great way to encourage me to step out of my comfort zone.

    Being a teammate in such diverse groups brings me unique opportunities and experiences to collaborate with many people. I have learned to be more involved in the conversations and discussions. Furthermore, UAB values learning in a team environment. The teachers in our class intentionally create opportunities for us to collaborate, which also give me the opportunity to develop my ability to make choices, solve problems, and deal with conflicts of ideas. We have learned to work together as a team sharing a common goal. As Bill Gates said: “Teams should be able to act with the same unity of purpose and focus as a well-motivated individual.” Sharing a common goal allows me to learn to trust and work with others. Furthermore, my leadership skills are also developed through many activities in the classroom. I have been appointed as the group leader of the journal clubs in class. This activity helps me to learn how to organize a journal club, make decisions, and be responsible for these decisions. The class is the students' first experience of practicing skills for their career as well as for their life. The ability to work as a team is one of the key qualities that business leaders are looking for. I appreciate the opportunities UAB has given me to learn and develop my collaboration skills.

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