Written by Matt Windsor | UAB Reporter

rep pres award 2021 hearld 450x420pxKristine Ria Hearld, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Health Services Administration, director of the doctoral program in Administration-Health Services and past chair of the UAB Faculty SenateKristine Ria Hearld, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Health Services Administration, director of the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Administration-Health Services and past chair of the UAB Faculty Senate, will receive the 2021 President's Award for Excellence in Support of UAB and Shared Governance.

The award is given to a member of the UAB faculty, staff or student body who exemplifies and embodies the UAB core value of unity of purpose through shared governance that propels our institution to achieve excellence in all parts of its mission. Recipients are recognized for their use of collaborative dialogue and open communication to promote collective success and their ability to work with multiple constituencies to initiative positive change.

“I was only one small part of an extremely devoted group of people dedicated to shared governance during a historic year,” said Hearld, a faculty member of the School of Health Professions since 2015. “Each member of the 2020-21 Faculty Senate Executive Committee played an important role to ensure the university got through the year intact. I am extremely grateful for the past year's experience, witnessing firsthand how administration, faculty, staff and students can work together to ensure the well-being of our community.”

Perhaps at no time in UAB's history has the need for collaboration and communication been more urgent than in the past year, as a global pandemic and nationwide attention on longstanding issues of racial injustice led to unprecedented responses from the entire university community.

"During the early days of COVID, Dr. Hearld worked with administration and the faculty senate committee leadership structure so that faculty had input into the tough decisions resulting from the significant health care and financial pressures assailing UAB," said Jamey Worrell, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Accounting and Finance and a past chair of the faculty senate, who has worked alongside Hearld for years. "Timely and thoughtful faculty input was made possible by Dr. Hearld's commitment to shared governance," he said.

"Her knowledge and expertise in the realm of health care administration, coupled with her affable and approachable nature, helped her be a voice of reason and leadership during a difficult time for the university," said Josh Carter, Ph.D., executive director for Strategic Leadership Recruitment in the School of Medicine. "I am certain that her leadership in the Faculty Senate helped the university with the smooth transition to remote operations. She helped champion the needs of the faculty as they migrated to a fully online teaching format. Throughout it all, she always maintained a calm, cool and collected demeanor."

“During the early days of COVID, Dr. Hearld worked with administration and the faculty senate committee leadership structure so that faculty had input into the tough decisions resulting from the significant health care and financial pressures assailing UAB. Timely and thoughtful faculty input was made possible by Dr. Hearld's commitment to shared governance."

Those same qualities helped the UAB campus "as our nation was gripped with social unrest" in summer 2020, Worrell said. Dr. Hearld again showed leadership in marshalling the senate's efforts around faculty response and engagement, he said. "Through her guidance, the senate created a new standing committee on diversity, equity and inclusion. Additionally, she worked with students, staff and administration to foster understanding and identify appropriate courses of action."

It is important to note that the new diversity, equity and inclusion committee will be on par with the other standing committees of the faculty senate, said Michael Sloane, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Psychology and chair of the UAB Faculty Senate. "It is indeed an impactful contribution and fitting legacy of Ria's term as chair that this committee will continuously keep these issues at the forefront of the faculty senate's consciousness."

Hearld also ensured that the faculty senate spoke with a united voice in this trying time. "Following the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, Ria was quick to compose, and have all members of our Executive Committee sign, a public statement on behalf of the senate condemning the long legacy of institutional and structural racism in this country," Sloane said. "The statement reaffirmed the senate's 'dedication to work tirelessly to fight racism and injustice, finding ways to approach each other with respect, support non-violent protest and use our right to vote to fight the legacy of racism and slavery that continue to economically disadvantage, sicken and endanger members of our community.'"

Hearld's concern for vulnerable and under-served people has been a hallmark of her research. In her work, she seeks to identify and evaluate health care innovations to improve health and well-being among populations at high risk of experiencing stigma and discrimination, including racial minorities and immigrants, religious minorities and sexual and gender minorities. Hearld has published more than 45 peer-reviewed articles in academic journals and books, and she served as the chief demographer and statistician for a research study co-led by John Waters, M.D., with the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition, and Henna Budhwani, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Health Care Organization and Policy in the School of Public Health, to determine the population size of men who have sex with men, transgender women and female sex workers in the Eastern Caribbean States. The study, funded by The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, was the recipient of the Robert Carr Research Award at the International AIDS Conference in July 2020.  Hearld is the program chair of the Health Care Division of the Academy of Management.

Hearld earned her Doctor of Philosophy in Demography from the University of Pennsylvania and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan.

"She is a case study in combining compassion, diplomacy and resolve," Worrell said. "She has demonstrated time and again an unwavering willingness to tackle difficult faculty issues and balance the faculty needs and concerns with our complex enterprise's mission."