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Fall/Winter 2023

Our newest issue of UAB Magazine closes out the year with fascinating profiles of UAB employees, students and alumni, as well as features on an innovative grant improving health outcomes in Alabama's Black Belt region, the achievements of some of our graduate student leaders, what it's really like behind the scenes at UAB, and how an English instructor documented her float trip along the Cahaba River.

Earning His Miles

James Earl Corley returns from The Amazing Race
By Clair McLafferty • Photos courtesy of CBS
James Earl Corley and Denise Williams on the Amazing Race
James Earl Corley returns from The Amazing Race
By Clair McLafferty • Photos courtesy of CBS
Photo of Corley running with lamb and beef(Above) Corley hauls heavy racks of lamb and beef during a challenge in Argentina. (Top) Corley and his mom near the starting line.
For the adventurous set, living the dream means waking up, hopping on a plane at a moment’s notice, and diving into cultures around the world. For 2015 UAB School of Medicine graduate James Earl Corley, M.D., and his mother, Denise Williams, that dream became daily life when they competed on the 27th season of The Amazing Race.
After years of wanting to compete on CBS’s round-the-world reality show, the filming schedule fell between Corley’s graduation and the beginning of his residency program at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis. “It was the perfect time, which is why Mom and I applied for this year,” says the Prattville, Ala., native. “Luckily, we made it onto the show.”

African Adventures

The two-person teams race to win $1,000,000, but competitors often cite the experiences along the route as their most valuable takeaway. Team Alabama, which ultimately placed fifth out of 11 teams in the race, won the segment set in Zimbabwe. To do that, Corley had to swing on a rope into a gorge over the Zambezi River. “It was amazing,” he says. It’s something you never think you would do in real life.” Next, he and his mom walked with lions. “Then we had a foot race with fruit baskets on our heads. Luckily, we came out on top. That was exciting because we didn’t know how we’d fare against some of the younger teams.” The next day, all teams flew to France for more challenges.
Photo of Corley and his mother with host Phil KeoghanAfter dressing a polo horse, Corley and his mother meet host Phil Keoghan (left) at one of the race's Pit Stops in Argentina.

Mental Preparation

Corley says he didn’t use his UAB medical training for first aid, but it helped in other ways. “Medical school taught me how to be patient with people, and you need that during the race,” he explains. “There are moments where you haven’t slept in many days, you haven’t really eaten either, and you’re both frustrated at a challenge. I never lost my cool with my mom.”
His experience with UAB’s Best Medicine Show, an annual creative event benefitting the Equal Access Birmingham student-run clinic, also prepared him for TV. “I was OK with completely embarrassing myself for Best Medicine Show ads and videos,” Corley says. “And that mindset helps in the race because you don’t know what to expect. At one point in time, I went from rolling around in garbage bins collecting cardboard to learning the female part of an Argentinean tango. I was able to live in the moment and not get embarrassed or self-conscious.”
Corley’s time on The Amazing Race also impacted his relationship with his mother, he says. “I have a new respect for her. She is a tough lady who competed with 20-year-olds. We had issues in the past when I came out as gay, but the race made us grow closer together.”

A Culture of Caring

As he gets further into his residency, Corley plans to incorporate the biggest lessons from the race into his practice. “I’ve learned a lot about different people around the world,” he says, adding that it’s important to respect patients’ cultures and customs when caring for them. “We have to keep that in mind,” he says.
And if another race beckoned, “I would do it in a heartbeat, and so would my mom,” Corley says. “Fingers are crossed that they call us back for an all-star season.”

Photo of cast of the Amazing RaceTeam Alabama (in pink) joins competing teams and Keoghan prior to the start of The Amazing Race.

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Published April 2016