Meet Students, Faculty Featured in New UAB Promos

By Matt Windsor


What do you want to be? What do you want to change today? That’s the call to action delivered by UAB faculty and students in two new 30-second advertisements focused on student recruitment (click here to watch) and philanthropic support for the university (above). The ads mark the second phase in the university’s branding campaign, “Knowledge that will change your world,” and the launch of The Campaign for UAB: Give Something, Change Everything, the university's largest-ever fundraising campaign. 

Once the cameras finished rolling, UAB Magazine talked with several participants in the new commercials to learn the stories behind their star turns. (Read how music student Kevin Peek wrote the music for these commercials in this related story.)

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Olaf Kutsch, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Division of Infectious Diseases, UAB School of Medicine

Co-Director, UAB Center for AIDS Research

Many scientists struggle to explain their work in layman’s terms. Olaf Kutsch can accomplish the task in three words: cure HIV-1 infection. “We are trying to identify means to eradicate the virus from infected patients,” Kutsch says.

Antiretroviral medicines block the production of HIV-1 in the body, but reservoirs of the virus live on in immune cells known as memory T cells. To create a cure, scientists must find a signal that can reactivate these dormant viruses and then destroy the infected cells. Kutsch’s laboratory is trying to discover drugs that may be able to provide that signal.

“The most exciting part of my research program is that it gives me the possibility—hopefully one day in the near future—to make a difference for many people," Kutsch says. "Finding a cure for HIV-1 infection would end the hardship for many affected individuals and families.”

Read more about Kutsch's research in this UAB Magazine feature.

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Mirjam-Colette Kempf, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Associate Professor of Nursing and Health Behavior

A Fulbright scholarship brought Mirjam-Colette Kempf to UAB from Germany in 1991. She returned home to earn her doctorate, but UAB’s “nurturing, collaborative, hospitable” environment drew her back as a post-doc in 1998, and she has been in Birmingham ever since. For much of that time, Kempf has been studying the plight of women with HIV, an often-overlooked group.

Contrary to popular belief, “50 percent of the roughly 35 million people living with HIV worldwide are women,” Kempf says. In the United States as a whole those numbers are lower, closer to 25 percent, “but the majority of HIV-infected women in the U.S. live in the Southeast—our backyard,” she says. Nationwide, one of the fastest-growing groups affected by HIV is African-American women in the South, Kempf says.

Kempf and other researchers have a unique opportunity to help women at risk as UAB joins the national Women’s Interagency HIV study. “Women in the South not only face the risk of HIV infection, but multiple chronic conditions, such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease,” Kempf says. “Understanding the interplay of these conditions in an aging population of women affected by HIV will be critical in the management of HIV care.”

Learn more about the study here

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Asia Sullivan

Sophomore majoring in public health

On any given Friday, Asia Sullivan could study ancient Egyptian history, hear from an African refugee, and discuss the economics of Harry Potter—then “learn how they all relate,” says Sullivan, a member of the University Honors Program. “The lectures are the most interesting experiences I’ve ever had,” she says. “I’m absolutely in love with this honors program.”

Sullivan, who is a part of UAB’s new undergraduate major in public health, plans to become a surgical physician assistant. “I chose this career through job shadowing in lots of different medical professions,” she says. “This was the one that really resonated with me.”

In addition to a “stellar education thus far,” UAB “has given me a family,” Sullivan adds. “I know that I belong here at UAB and that I am appreciated among all of the diversity. Being a student at UAB has not only given me the knowledge, but the confidence to change my world.”

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Johnathon Palomarez

Senior majoring in nursing and premed

As a child, Johnathon Palomarez was a master tinkerer. “I loved to fix anything that was broken and thought I would be on the path to becoming an engineer,” he says. But he also discovered another passion: helping people. He decided to become a registered nurse and then go on to medical school “to educate and fix—that is, heal—those that are in need,” he says.

Palomarez, who comes from a military family, was born in San Antonio, Texas, but grew up “all over the U.S.” He decided to come to UAB after numerous recommendations from health-care professionals. “UAB has started giving me the right tools I need to build my future as an RN and an M.D.,” Palomarez says.

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Angelica Jaimes

Sophomore majoring in Spanish and international studies

The welcoming atmosphere and diverse student body at UAB attracted Angelica Jaimes, a native of Mexico City who went to high school in Homewood. Her classes, particularly those related to her international studies major, have opened her eyes to the social and economic challenges faced by people around the world, she says. “It is evident that many global problems are too big to solve immediately, but with commitment they can slowly be resolved,” Jaimes says.

Jaimes isn’t yet sure where her career path will lead, but she does know where she would like to make a difference in the world. “I want to work with a nonprofit organization that helps educate underprivileged children across Latin America, in particular girls,” she says.

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