Butler and BlazeDr. Butler and Blaze (pre-stay at home orders)School of Health Professions' Dean Andrew Butler joined Amanda Dorsey, faculty member in the Department of Health Services Administration, for their "Quarantine Conversations" recently. This is a series of candid conversations posted on the department's LinkedIn page that captures people in their "natural habitat" during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dorsey: How are you on a scale of 1-10?

Butler: I’m an 8. Personally, I’m doing well - exercising every day, eating well, learning to master Zoom and getting enough rest. I’m even thinking of mustering up the courage to cut my own hair soon after I watch a few YouTube videos.

Dorsey: With full acknowledgement of the heartbreak and misfortune this pandemic has brought on, what are some of the positive things you're seeing coming out of this?

Butler: The Blazer family in the School of Health Professions has gone above and beyond to look for ways to work together to support each other. Some are hosting Zoom movie nights, others are having virtual cocktail hours and the Department of Nutrition has even been providing free weight management tips to avoid the Quarantine Fifteen. Over 50,000 people across the country have shared their symptoms on the Zap It/Track It website developed by faculty in the Department of Health Services Administration.

Dorsey: Have you joined the national trend of picking up any new hobbies?

Butler: Yes. In addition to exercising more regularly, I’ve tried a few interesting recipes that can be made in the Instant Pot. I didn’t realize how easy it was to make yogurt in one of these! Like many people, I’ve baked the occasional loaf of bread and even attempted to make cinnamon rolls.

Dorsey: How do you think this pandemic will shape higher education?

Butler: I think we’re going to see a much wider role for online learning for students. We had almost no warning but managed to successfully transition to all distance learning environment in less than two weeks, and by many measures we’re finding both students and faculty really like it. It’s allowed people to become even more creative with their classes. Slack and Zoom were relatively unknown a month ago and now they’re mainstays. Other faculty have been using gaming tools like Twitch and Discord in their Canvas classrooms. The pandemic is forcing us to find new and innovative ways to collaborate – like transitioning traditional, hands-on clinical experiences to telemedicine formats, and faculty presenting at national conferences using teleconferencing. We’re also finally having a serious conversation about what telework could look like when we come back. We’ve now been off campus for over 37 days and everyone has managed to stay very productive so we probably won’t go back to the old ways so strictly. Did you know that in 1665, Cambridge University in England closed because of the plague? Sir Isaac Newton was sent home from the university to study and discovered calculus and the laws of motion during that time. Just saying.

Dorsey: Any favorite leadership or management philosophies that you rely on in trying times?

Butler: Yes. First and foremost, during trying times leaders must be absolutely straightforward; they must tell people the truth. Even though information can change from day to day, you've got to have a level of candor that convinces people that what they're getting is the best information available at the time. And don’t overpromise. People tend to give you a break if you don’t have the answer, but they won’t give you a break if you are not telling the truth. Another quote I go back to is from Winston Churchill. In 1940, Britain was about to lose the war and what he didn’t say is “We're winning” or “We’re going to win”. In one of his most famous speeches he said, “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.” Churchill built confidence for the long haul. I think that's what leaders have to give at every level: confidence.

Dorsey: As the Dean of SHP, what message do you have for current students? Future students?

Butler: These are unprecedented times. While we may have to make some sacrifices, we’re going to keep going and we’re going to keep going as long as it takes to beat this pandemic. We’re not going to give up. We don’t know when the pandemic will end, but it will, and UAB will be here for you. Please take care of yourself and each other. Stay strong, stay safe, and for now stay at home.