Patrick Cagle has been named the new president of the Alabama Coal Association, succeeding George Barber, who has elected to retire after seven years of service to the coal group which was first formed in 1972.
Cagle, who has worked with the association on legislative matters in the past, has more than 10 years of experience in navigating Alabama’s political landscape. As executive director of JobKeeper Alliance, a 501c(4) nonprofit whose mission is to protect and create quality jobs, he previously worked hand-in-hand with the coal industry to oppose onerous, job-killing regulations.
Cagle and his wife, Molly, have a 15-month-old son, Bankston. They are active members at Church of the Highlands. Cagle is an avid outdoorsman and a member of the Conservation Advisory Board, which assists the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources with the formation of hunting and fishing regulations.
YHRadio: Church of the Highlands Mark Pettus Calls In
Mark Pettus of Church of the Highlands calls in to talk about the exciting things the church has in store. He mentions how blessed he is for his time there and what Motion means to him and even talks about his football days at UAB.
UAB’s genetic counseling team helps families cope with unexpected news
Many doctors treat patients under the belief “You are your genes,” meaning that every person is a product of his or her own unique heredity.
The statement is true to some degree, said Dr. Anna Hurst, a medical geneticist and pediatrician in the Department of Genetics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). That is because hereditary factors predispose every person to myriad characteristics including hair, eye and skin color, as well as height, physical conditions and diseases.
Recently, there has been a huge increase in awareness about genetic predisposition following actress Angelina Jolie’s announcement that she carries a faulty copy of the BRCA1 gene, indicating that she has a strong hereditary tendency toward breast and/or ovarian cancers. Jolie elected to undergo preventative surgery to ensure she would not develop the cancer that killed her mother.
Most cases are not so clear cut, said Dr. Anna Hurst, a medical geneticist and pediatrician at UAB Hospital. In her role, Hurst trains pediatrics and genetics residents at Children’s of Alabama in Birmingham. She and a genetic counselor often see patients together, screening family history forms and meeting as a team to discuss their findings with the patients and medical providers.
“I’ve always been fascinated by the subject of genetics and how it affects people’s lives. It’s a complicated science topic, with implications for an entire family,” said Hurst, who trained in pediatrics at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and studied medical genetics at UAB. She earned a master’s degree in genetic counseling at the University of South Carolina and an M.D. at the Medical University of South Carolina.
A tough discussion
Hurst works in UAB’s Genetics Clinic, which assists with gathering patient information. She performs patients’ physical exams and prepares parents for the possible results.
“Up to 15 to 20 percent of the time, there can be an inconclusive result,” Hurst said. “There can also be unexpected familial news, and you must prepare the patient and family for the psychosocial results. It is definitely difficult to discuss potential genetic conditions. But, by offering these results, we empower people about how they can use the results to better their health care.
“We treat the patient first, not their genotype, or genetic information,” Hurst said. “With patients who are in our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit or in prenatal, it’s really difficult to discuss. The defect can be part of a larger picture. We try to be supportive throughout that time.”
Working with families, Hurst said that it’s the counseling team’s role to determine whether there is a genetic reason behind the occurrence of a health condition, or whether the difference occurred spontaneously. Many conditions happen unexpectedly.
“Many conditions are sporadic and aren’t preventable,” she said.
On the cutting edge
The counseling team – comprising a consulting physician, a genetic counselor and other staff – directs families and patients to support groups as needed. UAB sees patients from throughout the Southeast. Hurst noted that insurance companies cover most genetic counseling and some lab testing.
The UAB Genetics Clinic accepts referrals and sees patients at the UAB Kirklin Clinic and Children’s of Alabama. Prenatal genetic counseling appointments can be scheduled through the Women & Infants, and Children’s Center. The department also participates in ongoing research opportunities such as the Alabama Genomic Health Initiative. The AGHI allows Alabama residents to take part in a biobank – a type of biorepository that stores human biological samples – for use in research. UAB performs initial genotyping, checking 59 actionable genes.
Hurst works on the Pediatric Genomic Sequencing Project funded by HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology and Children’s of Alabama, seeking to identify genetic diagnoses for children with intellectual disabilities and developmental delays. The goal is to see whether earlier diagnoses help in treating individuals.
“UAB really is on the cutting edge for genetic testing,” Hurst said. “Genomic medicine has real, practical implications for individuals and patients. UAB has an Undiagnosed Diseases Program for individuals with severe chronic medical conditions who are undiagnosed. We try to find opportunities for people to get genetic testing. We are very fortunate to have programs for neonatal and pediatric patients and adults.”
(By Donna Cope, Courtesy of the Alabama News Center)
YHRadio: UAB Head Football Coach Bill Clark joins The Ford Faction
UAB Researchers Make Major Progress in Treating Seizure Disorders
Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham have made a new discovery in seizure and epilepsy diseases in the brain.
The researchers found that a dietary supplement, glucosamine, is able to alter proteins in the brain and significantly dampen the effects of seizures in rat and mouse subjects. According to the Birmingham Business Journal, the protein, named O-GlcNAcylation, was discovered to have a regulating effect in treating pathological hyperexcitablility (overreaction to stimuli) in the brain.
The results provide researchers with a target for potential therapeutic treatment of seizure disorders. Proteins are essential to the functions of the brain, and any change can have drastic consequences in both improvement and reduction of conditions. Therefore, researchers acknowledge that it is imperative to better understand the interworking of proteins within neural circuit changes before developing any concrete form of treatment.
“Our findings support the conclusion that protein O-GlcNAcylation is a regulator of neuronal excitability, and it represents a promising target for further research on seizure disorder therapeutics,” the UAB researchers wrote in their research significance statement. They acknowledge that the process is likely to be very complex. However, the discovery is a promising step toward treatment of epilepsy and other seizure disorders in children and adults.
DeKalb County Man Will Serve 25 Years After Killing His Mother With Baseball Bat
As reported by WHNT News, Tyler Blansit, 24, has pleaded guilty to beating his mother to death with a baseball bat back in 2015. As part of his plea deal, he was sentenced to a 25-year prison sentence, with the possibility of parole in 15 years.
Records indicate that the trial was set to start next week, and Blansit was facing life in prison if convicted. However, because the plea deal that was reached with prosecutors, the time he will serve behind bars has been drastically reduced.
Blansit was arrested in 2015, while he was a student at UAB. And he now admits to killing his mother because of an argument he was having with her over his grades.
Speaking to the media about the murder, DeKalb County Sheriff Jimmy Harris called it “one of the most brutal deaths I’ve ever seen.”
Unless he commits other crimes in prison, Blansit will be eligible for parole at the age of 39.
Return of UAB Football Is An Instant Hit in Birmingham
Saturday marked a day that many have been anticipating for years now – the return of UAB football. A record attendance of 45,212 packed into Legion Field to see the Blazers return to the South’s most beloved sport. The boys on coach Bill Clark’s team put on a show for the anxious fans, defeating Alabama A&M 38-7.
UAB football died back in 2014 after board members and trustees decided that the cost of upgrading athletic facilities and covering operating expenses would far outweigh the revenue that the team actually brings in. However, football on the southside campus returned in full force on Saturday, truly rising out of the ashes. According to Alabama News Center, this was not the UAB football experience that some may remember from the past.
A few years ago, the tailgating scene at Legion Field would have been lackluster at best. Perhaps a few tents would be strewn across the parking lot. However, Saturday’s 2:30 game brought dozens of tailgaters, sprawled across the stadium parking lot around to the west side.
In addition to tailgaters, a new and improved children’s play area was located on the practice field of McClendon Park. According to Alabama News Center, “It was part of Blazer Village, which also had expo booths, student tailgating and corporate hospitality tents.”
“It’s lots better,” said Guntersville’s Jane Hill. “The kids are really, really enjoying it.”
Players and coaches received a roaring welcome as the UAB band, cheerleaders, and fans formed an extended Blazer Walk as they made their way into the stadium. Craft O’Neal, chairman of O’Neal Industries and member of the Gang of Seven that contributed the necessary funds to bring back UAB football, reflected on seeing the Birmingham community’s overwhelming support for the Blazers.
“I think Birmingham decided it was time to step up and meet its potential as a city and UAB is the driver of our community. It was a great investment and as you look around you’re seeing the return on that investment.”
Saturday’s pre-game festivities highlighted some of the more heart-tugging contributions to UAB football. When Bennet Williams was just five years old, he learned that UAB’s football program would be cancelled. He decided to give the only dollar he owned to help revive the program. Now eight, Bennett was invited to take part in the coin toss on Saturday.
However, another UAB supporter stole the show Saturday. Timothy Alexander, a paraplegic who has become the face of UAB football, rose from his wheelchair and walked 28 steps to hand the game ball to the referee. “I just threw it out there with faith and met it up with action and we walked out today,” he said. “It was good just to show people what you can do if you believe. We passed the legacy over to this team.
Saturday proved that the university, players, coaches, fans, and city of Birmingham are all behind UAB football. The Blazers have returned in full force, and fans are excited for the future of their beloved program.
Calhoun County Man Contracts West Nile
As reported by ABC 33/40, an 80-year-old man is being treated at UAB for West Nile Virus.
According to the family, the man became ill last week. At first, he had double vision, soon becoming unable to walk. He was rushed to the ER, where doctors, unable to determine his illness, treated him for numerous conditions.
His health continued to deteriorate, so he was transferred to UAB in Birmingham. Once there, the doctors quickly realized what he was suffering West Nile Virus.
Reliving the events that unfolded over the past week, his daughter, Karen Gallahar said,
“He had the classic neck pain, headache, fever, loss of movement in arms and legs,” she said. “So we suspected Meningitis, but not West Nile virus.” “We want the community to be aware, it can happen anywhere,” Gallahar said. “There’s children in this area and my dad is really worried about them, he said: ‘make sure they know.’”
The family suspects that the man likely contracted the disease while working in his garden. According to them, that is where he spends much of his time, so it seems likely that he encountered the infected mosquito there.
UAB Blazes Past Ticket Sales Goal
The entire city of Birmingham is gearing up for the return of UAB football. Government leaders, community members, restaurants, and hotels are partnering to ensure that thousands of UAB fans have the best game day experience possible. With all of the excitement surrounding the return of the program, the school made a big announcement yesterday – the program has surpassed its goal of 10,000 season ticket sales.
Mark Ingram, athletics director at UAB, told the Alabama News Center that the program has sold 10,134 season ticket packages as of Wednesday morning. “We’re going to have more people at our games than we’ve ever had before,” he said. “That’s been the hard work of a lot of people coming together and we don’t intend to stop. We encourage the city of Birmingham to continue getting behind this team and supporting us.”
In order to continue to draw those fans in throughout the season, UAB has hired the Bruno Event Team to manage its home game events. Gene Hallman, CEO of the Bruno Event Team, expressed the importance of coming out of the gate strong on the first game day.
“We’ve got to be dead-solid perfect – and I mean perfect – on that first day because we have so many first-timers coming out to Legion Field to experience UAB football. We want them to return for games two through six and subsequent seasons. We have got to get it right collectively on the first day.”
In order to ensure that the city is prepared to host Blazer fans from all over, the Bruno Event Team is working with the city of Birmingham, the Birmingham Police Department, and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office. Together, these departments will monitor traffic issues and push re-routing information through dedicated social media channels.
In addition to the parking spaces around Legion Field, UAB will also shuttle fans to the stadium from parking lots on UAB’s campus. The University has also announced other game-day enhancements including, improved concessions with brand new vendors, a bigger Blazer Village and kids’ zone, student greeters, and a new student tailgating area. Hallman added that fans can expect “a whole litany of other things, including a couple of big announcements that we’re finalizing the details on relative to the game-day experience.”
With the return of UAB football being publicized on a national level, Birmingham Mayor William Bell sees an exciting opportunity for the city. He estimates that the return of the program will have a $50 million economic impact on the city.
“When people come out for the football experience, they want the total package and we’re working with Bruno Event Team to give them the total package. All of the restaurants and businesses, they’re geared up. They’re going to be green and gold and dragon country.”
The future is already looking bright for UAB football. There have already been talks of replacing the aging Legion Field – often called the “Old Gray Lady on Graymont” – with a new stadium located near the BJCC. A change of location could be superb addition to UAB’s already fresh start. Mayor William Bell confirmed the speculation surrounding a new stadium, adding the the future of the program continues to look bright.
“We’re only going to have a couple of more seasons for the Old Gray Lady and then we’re going to put her out to pasture. We’re working to make sure that this is just the beginning of great excitement for the next decade and decades to come for UAB Blazer football. We know we’ve got to put the resources in place, we’ve got to put the facilities in place and we’re working on that as we speak. Just hold on. It’s only going to get better from here.”
UAB will play its first game at home against Alabama A&M on September 2.
UAB Studies Effects of Cannabidiol Oil on Other Medications
In a new study conducted by the University of Alabama at Birmingham, researchers have discovered potential interactions between Cannabidiol oil (CBD oil) and common anti-epilepsy drugs. According to the Birmingham Business Journal, researchers set out to determine the viability of using CBD oil, a derivative of the cannabis plant, as a treatment for epilepsy. Researchers also sought to determine any potential interactions between CBD oil and patients’ currently prescribed anti-epilepsy medicine.
The study consisted of examining the blood levels of 81 patients enrolled in the CBD trials, 39 adults and 42 children. Researchers found that when taking CBD, there was typically an increase in the level of the anti-seizure medication found in the patient’s blood. This increase was found to be outside of the normal therapeutic range for the drug. A small number of patients also saw an increase in liver enzymes, which researchers say is a precursor for potential liver damage. While the extent of these negative side affects was relatively small, further research is still needed.
Cannabis oil has been at the forefront of state politics across the country as advocates for its medicinal uses have strongly supported its decriminalization. The Alabama state legislature passed “Leni’s Law” last April, making it legal to use CBD oil to treat seizure disorders and other severe medical conditions. Since then, researchers have sought to determine the impact that CBD oil could have on a patient’s drug regimen. With very little data to go on, it is imperative that the oil be researched and treated like any other drug placed on the market.
Tyler Gaston, assistant professor in the neurology department in UAB’s School of Medicine, pointed out that it is essential that physicians are aware of any potential side effects resulting from CBD oil.
“If CBD oil gets FDA approval, physicians will need to know about any potential interactions before they prescribe. Right now, health care providers don’t know what to check for. Our study found a few interactions, which now need to be confirmed and disseminated to providers so they can monitor their patients appropriately.”
While UAB’s study was able to determine a few interactions between CBD oil and other drugs, researchers stressed that additional, in-depth studies are needed. The next step for researchers is to compare patients using CBD oil with a placebo to those using CBD oil with other drugs. This would allow researchers to confirm this study’s findings under controlled conditions.
The Magic City Gets Professional Soccer Team
The United Soccer League announced yesterday that Birmingham will be the home of a new professional soccer team.
The USL is a soccer league comprised of 30 teams throughout the U.S. and Canada. And according to President Jack Edwards, there are more than 2 million USL fans throughout the country.
In a press release by the USL, CEO Alec Papadakis said,
“The USL continues to lead the growth of professional soccer across the country and we are thrilled to announce Birmingham as our newest market. With the increasing popularity and demand for professional soccer across the country, more and more fans recognize the high level of competition and excitement of the USL. We continue toward our goal of becoming one of the top Division II leagues in the world, on par with the English Championship, Liga Adelante and 2. Bundesliga. We will achieve that goal by continuing to deliver a first-class soccer experience for fans, players and communities like Birmingham by providing unparalleled league support to all our clubs, and building one of the best ownership groups in professional soccer.”
As the first to take the stage at the event, Edwards said, “Because of the business and sports culture here, we’ve had our eye on Birmingham for a longtime.”
The team will be jointly owned by Jeff Logan, co-owner of the Birmingham Barons; James Outland, founding and managing partner of New Capital Partners; and Lee Styslinger III, chairman and chief executive offer of Altec, Inc.
Speaking to how the dream of professional soccer in Birmingham became a reality, Morgan Copes, Vice-President of USL Birmingham said that the idea all started over a beer with friends.
A name and logo for the team have yet to be decided, and the first game is not expected to be played until 2019.
When addressing where the games would be held, Mayor of Birmingham, William Bell said, “A site has not been finalized yet, but some of the first games could be played at UAB’s stadium until a more permanent location is found.”
This is another huge step for the Magic City. Since the creation of Regions Field, Birmingham has seen staggering economic growth as people and businesses start to move back into the city.
The USL has a dedicated fan base and averages around 6,000 attendees each game. And judging by the excitement at the event yesterday, it’s evident the new Birmingham club will have no problem filling seats.
UAB Unveils $50 Million Proton Cancer Therapy Center
The University of Alabama at Birmingham has unveiled that it will partner with Proton International to bring a proton therapy center to Alabama, the first in the state. The $50 million project will be constructed at the current parking lot 55 at the corner of 20th Street and 5th Avenue South.
Proton therapy is one of the most technically advanced forms of cancerous radiation treatment. It delivers a precise dose of radiation to a tumor, without seriously affecting surrounding areas. According to the UAB School of Medicine, these protons must accelerate to around 114,000 miles per second in order to be focused on one specific tumor. When the protons reach the tumor, their positive charge destroys the cells’ DNA and causes them to die.
The new Proton Therapy Center will house a 90-ton machine called a cyclotron, which is the machine used to accelerate the protons. Inside this massive machine is a superconducting magnet cooled by liquid helium that causes the protons to spiral until they reach 60% the speed of light. They are then funneled into a beam that is used to treat the cancer patient’s specific tumor.
The center at UAB will be one of only 25 other Proton Therapy Centers in the nation. It will be able to treat patients with many forms of solid cancer tumors such as those found in the brain, lungs, prostate, and spine. Chris Chandler, CEO of Proton International, told UAB:
“Proton therapy is already having a tremendous impact on the health of people around the world. Experts conservatively estimate that about 250,000 cancer patients in the United States alone could benefit from proton therapy. We are excited to partner with UAB and put this outstanding tool into the hands of the best oncologists in Alabama.”
Proton International will build and own the facility. However, the medical staff will be exclusively from UAB. Construction on the three-story building will begin this summer and will take two years to complete. Once operational, it is estimated that the center will be able to treat around 40 patients per day.
Auburn, UAB Working to Schedule a Non-Conference Football Game
AUBURN, Ala. — With UAB’s football program returning this season, the athletic department has a big-time future opponent on its mind: the Auburn Tigers. According to reports, both UAB and Auburn have a shared interest in playing a non-conference game in the future. However, the parties have yet to find a date that works for both teams.
The Tigers and Blazers last faced off in a 29-0 Auburn rout back in 1996. Jay Jacobs, Atheltic Director for Auburn University, told Al.com that he would like to see another matchup between the in-state schools. “We’ve had conversations with them,” Jacobs said. “We’d love to play them again if we can work it out on the schedule, but finding a common date is often difficult to do sometimes.”
Auburn has some prominent non-conference opponents in the upcoming years, including PAC-12 powerhouses Washington and Oregon. Add in the contracts the school has with Southern Miss, Kent State, Tulane, and Liberty and it is not tough to see why scheduling UAB any earlier than 2020 is a difficult task.
Even without Auburn, the Blazers have plenty of top-notch SEC competition coming down the pike. Over the next three seasons, UAB will travel to play the Florida Gators, Texas A&M Aggies, and the Tennessee Volunteers.
The UAB Football Team was controversially eliminated back in December of 2014 as one of the several programs cut within the Athletic Department. Officials from the University announced in 2015 that the program would return for the 2017 season following community outrage and increased financial support for the team.
Here’s how far every Alabama division one school has made it in March Madness
This past weekend, the NCAA Tournament field narrowed down to the prestigious Final Four, with only North Carolina, Gonzaga, Oregon, and South Carolina remaining. Two of the four schools (Gonzaga and USC) will make their first-ever Final Four appearance on Saturday, and another (Oregon) will make its first appearance since it won the tournament in 1939.
Besides the Tarheels of UNC, the tournament field is now devoid of the typical power programs that have come to dominate the sport. But the absence of the Dukes and UCLAs of the world have given other programs the opportunity to reach unprecedented heights.
In Alabama, however, no program has ever experienced the euphoria of a Final Four Appearance. Among the nine division one basketball programs in the state, the highest a team from the Heart of Dixie has ever advanced is the Elite Eight.
But several programs, including Alabama and Auburn, appear to be on the upswing. Recruiting for the state’s two major programs is on the rise, and two smaller schools (Jacksonville State and Troy) both earned bids this year with victories in their conference tournaments.
Every D1 school in the Yellowhammer State has made the tournament at least one time. Each school’s best March Madness performance to-date is listed below.
Alabama Crimson Tide: Elite Eight (2004)
UA’s 2004 tournament run was helmed by Mark Gottfried, who briefly had the Tide ranked number one in the country in 2003. After beating one-seed Stanford, Bama lost to the Huskies of UConn, who went on to claim the national championship.
Auburn Tigers: Elite Eight (1986)
AU’s 1986 tournament campaign was highlighted by a thrashing of one-seed St. Johns in the Round of 32. Like the their arch-rival did in 2004, the Tigers lost to the eventual national champion that year, Louisville.
UAB Blazers: Elite Eight (1982)
Led by school legend Gene Bartow, the Blazers knocked off several blue bloods in the ’82 tourney, including Bob Knight’s Indiana Hoosiers.
South Alabama Jaguars : Round of 32 (1989)
The Jaguar’s deepest run in the tournament was made possible by an upset of the Alabama Crimson Tide. In a close first round game, the Jags upset Bama 86-84 and went on to lose to Michigan in the next round.
Alabama State Hornets: Round of 64 (2001, 2004, 2009)
Troy Trojans: Round of 64 (2003, 2017)
Samford Bulldogs: Round of 64 (1999,2000)
Jacksonville State Gamecocks: Round of 64 (2017)
Alabama A&M Bulldogs: Round of 64 (2005)
MADNESS: Troy qualifies men’s and women’s teams for NCAA basketball tourney
TROY, Ala. — Winning your conference’s end of the season tournament? Pretty tough. Winning both the men’s and women’s tournament for your conference? Almost impossible.
In winning both the men’s and Women’s Sun Belt Conference Tournaments, Troy University is one only seven schools to accomplish this incredible feat. In doing so, the school will be participating in both iterations of “March Madness.”
The men’s squad will face off against the hot Duke Blue Devils in their first game. The Trojans won the Sun Belt Conference Tournament and earned the 15 seed in the East region. Duke, a two seed, is fresh of off its latest ACC Title and hopes to win its sixth national championship. Their game will be broadcast on TBS at 6:20 p.m. on Friday.
The Trojan’s 59-53 Sun Belt Title Game victory over Texas State earned the program its first NCAA bid since 2003. They finished the season with a 22-14 record.
As for the women’s team, they clinched their bid with a 78-64 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette. They will appear in the tournament for the second year in a row after not making the field since 1997.
The Lady Trojans do not yet know their opponent, as the NCAA Women’s Selection Show will take place tonight at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN.
Only Florida Gulf Coast, Princeton, Bucknell, Texas Southern, Gonzaga, and New Mexico State won both their men’s and women’s conference tournaments. No school in the so-called “Power Five” accomplished the feat.
Elsewhere in Alabama, the state’s other schools are prepping to make some postseason runs as well. JSU’s men’s basketball team was the first to clinch a bid to the NCAA Tournament. In winning the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament, the Gamecocks qualified for March Madness for the first time ever. Also a 15 seed, JSU will face of against the Louisville Cardinals in the Midwest region.
JSU was the fourth seed in the OVC Tournament and upset two seed UT Martin in the championship game. In winning the final, JSU completed a remarkable comeback season at 20-14, after going 8-23 last year.
The Alabama Crimson Tide men’s team did not earn an invitation to the NCAA tournament, but they will be participating in the NIT. As a three seed, Alabama will face eight seed Richmond in Tuscaloosa. UA finished the season 19-14 in Coach Avery Johnson’s second season.
Both the Auburn Tigers and the UAB Blazers men’s teams failed to qualify for either major post-season tournament.
UAB, football legend Tony Dorsett partner in creating sports helmets that prevent concussion
Former NFL star and Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett graduated from the school of hard knocks.
Years later, he’s paying the price for his determination to excel on the football field with memory loss and other physical ailments.
Dorsett talks openly about sustaining numerous concussions and the resulting brain injury he suffered as a result of the sport. Dorsett’s new life’s mission is to protect today’s football players from the serious injuries he sustained.
“I’ve been involved in quite a few concussions, mostly from the NFL,” Dorsett said. “I’ve taken a lot of hits. But look at the helmets I was wearing.”
“I wouldn’t wish on anyone what I go through every day,” he said. ”I have good days, I have bad days. Thank God for GPS. If not for GPS, I’d have a tough time. I think new helmets from VICIS will keep athletes from experiencing what I experienced.”
That’s why Dorsett visited the University of Alabama at Birmingham campus on Jan. 24. He and Dave Marver, CEO of the helmet manufacturer VICIS, met to announce the creation of a football helmet that will revolutionize the sport in terms of safety.
Several neurosurgeons, along with Dorsett, Roger Staubach and other sportsmen, partnered with VICIS to develop ZERO1, a state-of-the-art helmet that promises to make head injuries a thing of the past.
VICIS has reduced the impact of forces on the helmet. The VICIS design aligns with the technology coming out of a UAB Engineering lab. UAB’s Dean Sicking, Ph.D., and his team of researchers designed technology based on physics principles that inspired much of the work he has accomplished during 30 years as a world leader in impact reduction in sports.
President Ray Watts said he is extremely proud of UAB researchers who are working to improve helmet safety, based on science and engineering, to help prevent injury and concussion.
“We’ve identified the markers of concussion,” Watts said. “The core of this project is to keep the athlete safe. We have formed the ideal partner in VICIS.”
The ZERO1 features “omnidirectional layers” that absorb the impacts of hits from any direction, Marver said. “It’s a multilayered, highly engineered solution, and it will make a difference. We are so pleased to have forged a relationship with UAB.
“Four million kids play football,” Marver said. “That’s one reason we’re doing this with UAB, to make a difference in children’s lives.”
Marver said that VICIS plans to launch the helmets to the NFL, the Canadian Football League and major college football leagues in April.
“It’s a damn good padded helmet,” Dorsett said. “It looks like it’s got all the protection you’d need. I think we’ll see a lot less head injuries because of this. I’m impressed with this helmet.”
As one of football’s best-known players, Dorsett’s mission was to gain yards as a running back. He was the first college running back to gain 1,000 yards all four years in college, and the first to total 6,000 yards.
It was an unlikely achievement for someone who remembers himself as a “very introverted, very shy kid” while growing up in Pittsburgh. The fifth of five brothers, Dorsett played pee-wee football.
“I had four older brothers I wanted to be like,” he said. “My brothers were my role models, they were outstanding athletes and they also pushed me hard in the classroom. My dad always said, ‘Get yourself a quality education’ because he knew education was the way out of the steel mills.
“I put rocks in my pockets to make the weight requirement so I could play football,” Dorsett said.
When Dorsett went to play football at the University of Pittsburgh, then-Notre Dame Coach Ara Parseghian motivated Dorsett to take down the Fighting Irish.
“They put out a story that Dorsett was a skinny little kid who’d never make it in college football,” Dorsett said, cracking a smile. “The grass was 6 to 7 inches deep. They were trying to slow down the rushing game of the Pittsburgh Panthers and Tony Dorsett.”
Dorsett’s football career is the stuff of legends. He led the Panthers to the national title as a senior in 1976 and won the Heisman Trophy. He was the first-round draft choice of the Cowboys in 1977, the second overall selection. Dorsett was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and played for the team for 11 seasons, through 1987. He played for Denver the following year, then retired because of injuries. He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame.
Dorsett is proud of his “glory days” and wants others to have their own glory, without suffering the traumatic brain injuries resulting from concussions.
“I’ve played a small part in the development of this helmet by VICIS,” he said. “In my opinion, it’s probably going to be considered one of the best helmets on the market. From what I’ve seen so far, it seems to be a very safe helmet. It’s going to reduce concussions, something that I experienced a lot as a ball player.
“I am sure that, over the years, it’s probably going to get better and better,” Dorsett said. “It’s probably going to be, “quote, unquote” the best helmet of football.
“I wouldn’t be surprised,” he said.
Revolutionary blood processing lab opens at UAB
Until now, a team of late-shift clinical technologists in the University of Alabama at Birmingham analyzed between 4,000 and 5,000 tubes of blood every night, providing information to help guide patient care, while keeping watch for abnormal test results that require immediate notification to clinicians.
Now a new $6.8 million, automated lab in the UAB Department of Hospital Labs, Division of Laboratory Medicine does the work. With clicks, whirrs and blinking lights, a moving track carries tubes to workstation machines that can centrifuge the tubes, remove caps, process samples to place in aliquoted tubes for chemistry and reference testing, count cells and create smears on microscope slides, replace caps, and place finished tubes in refrigerated or room-temperature storage towers. At each stop, the tubes are twirled in front of a laser light as a sensor reads their bar codes. The work goes on, untouched by human hands. Yet, the lab employees monitor and keep the analyzers maintained with reagents, so there is a human element.
“Every tube represents a patient,” said Mary Alice “Mac” Crum, retired administrative manager for UAB Laboratory Medicine and consultant for the new lab during its installation and months of validation studies and fine-tuning.
While the automated line was being installed and calibrated, the hands-on analysis by laboratory technologists had to continue in other lab spaces. “It’s like redesigning a plane while you are flying it — the technologists and lab techs have been phenomenal employees working in such complex conditions during the renovation this past year,” said Sherry Polhill, MBA, the administrative director of UAB Hospital Labs and Respiratory Care. Polhill says the technologists and lab techs are able to make a move to newly established laboratory industry lines within Hospital Laboratories as the automated equipment is coming online. Donna Scott, the lab medicine administrative manager, monitored data on the effectiveness, efficiencies and productivity of the workload to advise the best timing to move personnel.
Thousands of tubes processed
Each day brings a flood tide of work to the new lab in University Hospital’s Spain Tower.
One to 5 a.m. is the busiest time. Blood tubes arrive from the hospital floors in large pneumatic carriers like the ones used at drive-through banks. Lab techs load the tubes into racks, and place the racks at the start of the long, moving track that winds around three sides of the lab. Then the analyzers take over.
Tubes with gold caps, after automated centrifugation, hold serum for immunological, reference or chemistry tests such as sodium, potassium, glucose and bilirubin levels. Tubes with blue caps, after centrifugation, hold plasma for coagulation studies. Tubes with lavender caps, which are not centrifuged, are used for hematology testing, where white blood cell counts, red blood cell counts, platelet counts and other blood analysis take place.
At the end of the line, small, grasping mechanical arms pick up the tubes and place them into refrigerators that can hold 10,000 tubes or into room-temperature storage for 5,000 tubes, in case further testing is needed.
Staff watch for yellow warning lights on the top of each workstation that signal low levels of reagents or a problem reading a bar code. Medical technologists retrieve tubes that show abnormal test values and verify the information for immediate reporting, as necessary.
Routine findings are automatically updated into each patient’s electronic health record.
During the hospital lab renovation, the work area was sealed and kept under negative air pressure to prevent any dust from escaping. The project also required construction above and below the lab — an emergency power generator in the basement and new air-handling equipment on the third floor, to deal with heat produced by the line.
As is common in high-tech fields like genome sequencing or super computers, the laboratory workstations have been given names to make it easy for staff to talk about which station needs attention.
“The techs voted to pick names from the television show “The Big Bang Theory,”’ Crum said. “There are Sheldon, Leonard, Bernadette, Raj, Penny and Howard.”
The automated line was purchased from Beckman Coulter. After delivery of the equipment in two tractor-trailers in January, teams of Beckman installers, application personnel and service engineers worked for three months to get the first of the line going, as further installation and validation continued. Three UAB laboratory staff went to Beckman for training as key operators.
“This is an investment by the University Hospital that will shorten turnaround time and allow testing to become standardized for quality purposes,” Polhill said.
“This $6.8 million project will have significant impact in our patient care in Birmingham and the state of Alabama,” said X. Long Zheng, M.D., Ph.D., medical director of the Division of Laboratory Medicine. Zheng holds the Dr. Robert B. Adams Endowed Professorship in Pathology.
Polhill and Juan de Onis, director of Program Planning for UAB Facilities Planning, were co-chairs for the laboratory renovation project. De Onis, Jared Sparks, Robert Sharpe, George Griswold Jr. and Faith Blocker were partners from Facilities Planning for the project, and Susan Markem served as the UAB Health System Information Services project manager.
UAB’s new, $6.8 million lab is an investment by the University Hospital that will shorten turnaround time and allow testing to become standardized for quality purposes. (Jeff Hansen)
WATCH: UAB men’s basketball receives ESPN’s praise for its Block Cancer Initiative
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — In the past few years, ESPN’s flagship program has instituted “Stars of the Night” where the anchors select an athlete or athletes from around the world to praise for an impressive performance. On Wednesday, anchor Kevin Connors highlighted the UAB Blazers men’s basketball team, but not because of their performance on the court.
This season, first-year Blazers coach Rob Ehsan started the Block Cancer Initiative, wherein he has pledged a $10 donation to the Gene Bartow Memorial Fund for Cancer Research for every blocked shot this season. Additionally, players have pledged to donate for each blocked shot in Conference USA play with money from their own pockets.
UAB currently leads Conference USA with 87 blocks, which puts them in the top 25 for all of Division I basketball. Since the implementation of the program, Ehsan has been dubbed “The Mayor of Blockingham.”
Bartow, the namesake of the cancer research fund, coached the Blazers from 1978-1996, accumulating 647 wins. A member of both the Alabama Sports and College Basketball Halls of Fame, Bartow took over the UCLA Bruins from legendary coach John Wooden and led them to the Final Four.
During his time at UAB, he led the Blazers to numerous NCAA Tournament appearances, including a 1982 trip to the Elite Eight. He also served as the athletic director of the school until 2000, and has been known as “the Father of UAB Athletics.” He passed away from stomach cancer in 2012.
Smart pitching: UAB engineer investigates rise of the teen Tommy John surgery
Glenn Fleisig, Ph.D., an alumnus and adjunct faculty member of the School of Engineering, has done pioneering research that is making baseball safer for Major Leaguers, and Little Leaguers.
As the epic 2016 World Series between the Cubs and the Indians wore on, there was one question on everyone’s mind: When will Aroldis Chapman’s arm wear out? (The answer: Game 7, 8th inning.)
When sports biomechanics expert Glenn Fleisig, Ph.D., an adjunct professor in the UAB School of Engineering and graduate of the school’s doctoral program in biomedical engineering, looks at fire-throwing pitchers like the Cubs closer, he sees a more fundamental problem: How can any human throw 100 miles per hour without his arm falling off?
Fleisig, the director of research at Birmingham’s American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI), answered that question during a standing-room-only lecture at UAB’s Heritage Hall as part of the weekly lecture series hosted by the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Fleisig also encouraged the crowd of undergraduates to investigate the growing field of sports biomechanics research.
Ligaments strike out
“Baseball is in general a safe sport,” said Fleisig. Except, that is, for pitchers. As Fleisig pointed out, more than one-quarter of current Major League pitchers have already had a major elbow surgery known as “Tommy John surgery.” For decades, Fleisig has studied pitchers at all levels of the game, from Little League to the Major Leagues, compiling detailed biomechanical analysis on thousands of players in the ASMI database. He is a member of the Major League Baseball Elbow Task Force, a research collaboration established to find out what’s behind the epidemic of Tommy John surgeries among professional and amateur players. (See chart below.)
Tommy John, a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, tore his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in 1974 and was the recipient of an experimental UCL reconstruction surgery by Dodgers team doctor Frank Jobe, M.D. (Fleisig noted that Jobe had been pondering the problem of UCL reconstruction since a torn ligament ended the career of Dodger legend Sandy Koufax a few years earlier.)
The surgery, and John’s successful post-surgery career, made the procedure standard practice. Still, “there were only about 5–10 Tommy John surgeries per year among professional (Major League and minor league) pitchers for 20 years,” Fleisig said. “And then it started going up and up. Then a year or two ago it went way up, to 100 per year or so.” As Fleisig pointed out, more big leaguers had the surgery in 2014 than in the all of the 1990s combined. This increase was obviously troubling to Major League teams. Despite the historic success of the surgery, and post-Tommy John careers for most pitchers, some 20 percent of players don’t return to their old level after the operation. And the increase in UCL reconstruction surgeries among youth and high school athletes was perhaps even more concerning.
Fleisig and James Andrews, M.D., the noted sports surgeon who is a founder of the American Sports Medicine Institute, have led several studies looking into the problem. That includes long-term research following hundreds of youth and professional players, along with cadaver studies investigating the biomechanics of the joints and tissues involved. “We have data from testing of more than 2,000 pitchers at ASMI, including an elite database of more than 100 professional pitchers who throw greater than 87 miles per hour during testing,” Fleisig said.
Using a high-speed, three-dimensional, automated motion analysis system, the researchers computed kinematics (motions) and kinetics (joint forces and torques) to gauge the stress on the crucial elbow and shoulder joints during a pitch. During a critical instant when the arm is cocked back, the stress on a major leaguer’s elbow is 100 Newton-meters. He illustrated the concept with an analogy and a visual image: “That’s the equivalent of having five 12-pound bowling balls pulling down on your arm,” he said. “It makes sense that this ligament is near its maximum on every pitch.”
Beginning in spring 1999, Fleisig and Andrews followed 476 youth pitchers, tracking their innings pitched and injuries over a full season. “Then we called these same kids every year for 10 years,” Fleisig said. In a 2011 paper, they published the results, showing that athletes who pitched more than 100 innings per year had more than triple the risk of arm injury compared with those who pitched less than that threshold.
TMP + PM = TJ
Fleisig summarized the results of all that research in a single slide. There are two main risk factors for baseball arm injuries, he said:
• Too much pitching
• Poor mechanics.
“This isn’t just a Major League problem, or a Little League problem, but a baseball problem,” Fleisig said. “So the solution has to be at all levels, too.” The ASMI research has had a significant impact, with numerous leagues adopting pitch limits for players. The Elbow Task Force also developed a website with Major League Baseball, called Pitch Smart, that summarizes its findings for coaches and players of all levels. The site includes detailed pitch counts and rest recommendations for players at various age levels. It also includes a step-by-step guide to proper mechanics.
That type of translational research, which is helping thousands of young athletes avoid injury and surgery, and improve the game he loves, is thrilling, Fleisig said. “Biomechanics is big and exciting and fun.”
He also welcomed any interested students to apply for internships at ASMI, noting its location just down University Boulevard from UAB. “You can tie in motion studies and cadaver studies and more to solve problems that are important to real people.”
UAB, Jefferson County offer free eye exams, glasses to low-income patients
University of Alabama at Birmingham Eye Care and Jefferson County Department of Health are partnering again this year to provide comprehensive eye exams and glasses for low-income or underinsured patients through the outreach program Community Eye Care, Nov. 30-Dec. 3.
Established in 2013, the Gift of Sight program provides patients with complimentary eye care at the Western Health Clinic in Midfield and the UAB School of Optometry. Eyeglasses are provided to patients who need them, thanks to the generous support of the program’s partners, VSP, Remote Area Medical, Lions of Alabama and Allergan.
“Though the Gift of Sight is a relatively new event for our school, it has very quickly become something that our students, faculty and staff truly anticipate,” said Dr. Kelly Nichols, O.D., Ph.D., dean of the UAB School of Optometry. “We spend countless hours in the classrooms and teaching clinics preparing our students for what they will encounter as practicing optometrists; but during these few days each year, we all have the opportunity to learn, invest and provide care in ways that can’t be taught in a classroom.”
Applications to qualify for the eye exams are available through the Jefferson County Department of Health and the UAB School of Optometry. Early this fall, UAB School of Dentistry provided teeth cleanings, fillings and extractions at no cost to those in need throughout the Greater Birmingham area. The Dentistry Cares Community Day provided another platform for UAB’s Gift of Sight program to provide applications to those in need.
UAB Community Eye Care provides eye exams at little to no cost to thousands of patients each year at the Western Health Center in Midfield, The Foundry in Bessemer, Lovelady Center in East Lake, M-Power Ministries in Avondale and the United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Birmingham Adult Day Program at LincPoint in Homewood. UAB Community Eye Care also partners with various campus entities to provide care to underserved residents throughout the Birmingham metro area, as well as the Black Belt communities throughout Alabama.
To inquire about making a donation to the Gift of Sight, call UAB Eye Care at 205-975-2020.
UAB attracts record number of students from in-state, out-of-state and internationally
Enrollment at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, bolstered by record recruitment and retention gains, increased by 1,202 students year-over-year to a record-high 19,535 for the fall 2016 semester, including a 24.7 percent increase in the freshman class.
The 6.56 percent increase in the student population from 2015 to 2016 is significant at a time when many universities across the nation struggle with declines.
“This increase exceeded even our best-case year one scenario and is evidence of the unparalleled opportunities and value UAB offers,” said Vice Provost for Enrollment Management Bradley Barnes, Ph.D., who has launched several initiatives to increase enrollment since joining UAB in July 2015. “Enrollment increases were not limited to a few popular paths or programs; they were seen across the enterprise.”
Every school, as well as the Honors College and College of Arts and Sciences, grew this semester, and Barnes says this is just the beginning.
UAB President Ray L. Watts says these are the kinds of results envisioned when he established enrollment as a strategic priority and set a goal to have 20,000 students enrolled by 2018.
“The work our students, faculty and staff are doing in education, research, patient care, community service and economic development is making a real difference in Birmingham, Alabama and beyond,” Watts said. “And the more students who become Blazers, the bigger our impact will be.”
Watts says Enrollment Management has done a tremendous job, and they did not do it alone.
“Bradley and his team share this success with everyone who has played a role in making UAB the best place for students to be,” he said. “We are telling our story more effectively than ever before, and the world is seeing UAB through the pride and many accomplishments of our students, faculty and staff.”
Watts and Barnes also cite aggressive improvements the Information Technology team is making to the information infrastructure; unique programs faculty and staff are creating that prepare students for success in the real world; campus beautification efforts and new state-of-the-art buildings like the Hill Student Center the Facilities team continues to bring online; the unprecedented investment in UAB’s success from community leaders, fans and alumni; statistics that show the UAB Police Department has helped make UAB among the safest universities in the state; and continued support for aggressive growth from the System Office and Board of Trustees.
“Those,” Watts said, “are just a few examples of how so many people are involved in our success.”
UAB is the largest single employer in Alabama, has a $5 billion annual economic impact in the state and spans more than 100 city blocks — roughly a quarter of downtown Birmingham.
“The fact is that the days of UAB as a commuter school are long gone,” said UAB Provost Linda Lucas. “We have a vibrant campus full of in-demand programs and opportunities, and students who do their research recognize that quickly.”
A promising student body
UAB welcomed its most accomplished freshman class to campus last year, with an average composite ACT of 25 and GPA of 3.66. At the same time overall enrollment increased this year, UAB remained consistent with last year’s record high-achieving freshmen with an average ACT of 24.9 and GPA of 3.65 in 2016. Freshmen with a 4.0 or higher GPA represented 29.6 percent of the freshman class, an increase from last year’s 28 percent. Also, 17.6 percent of the freshman class had an ACT score of 30 or higher.
After the early success in retention rates of Blazing Start students, enrollment increased 229 percent in that program, growing to 92 students from 28 the previous year. The UAB Honors College — which recently produced UAB’s third Rhodes Scholar (more than any other university in the state since year 2000) — enrolled its largest-ever freshman class of 502 honors students. Those students average a 4.08 high school GPA and 30.3 ACT, to bring the college to a record-high total enrollment of 1,540 honors students.
Freshmen and undergraduates
After a 24.7 percent year-over-year increase to 2,021, the incoming freshman class is the largest in UAB history. The previous high-water mark of 1,773 was accomplished in 2013. The undergraduate student population also increased roughly 7.5 percent.
UAB invested in additional Enrollment Management staff, including a bigger presence in Alabama and four regional recruiters in strategic markets across the country.
“Building our team strategically has been effective,” Barnes said. “We are also bringing guidance counselors to campus, getting great results with our recruitment materials and expanding opportunities for students to earn scholarships.”
Retention boosts enrollment
Overall retention increased by a rate of 3.1 percent from 78.7 to 81.8 percent in 2016, a key indicator of student support and success that factors heavily into the semester’s record enrollment.
“Enrollment is much more than getting new students on campus,” Lucas said. “We have to make sure that all of our students are engaged, enjoying the campus experience, and have access to the support services and resources that enable success.”
UAB awarded 4,522 degrees this year — more than any previous year, which exceeds the milestone of 140,000 in the institution’s history, a trend Lucas says is another area of positive momentum on which she plans to build.
More Alabamians #ChooseUAB
UAB is committed to ensuring opportunities for qualified in-state applicants, and the student body has 662 more in-state students in 2016 than 2015. Over the last few years, UAB has increased outreach to public school students around the state and launched many initiatives to enhance access, including Blazing Start, the Woodlawn Early College Initiative, GEAR UP, and the two-year college Joint Admissions and transfer agreement initiatives.
“We are committed to dramatically increasing the level of scholarship support for Alabama residents and will continue to accept all in-state applicants who qualify for enrollment,” Barnes said. “Our campus has the capacity to accommodate increased enrollment of in- and out-of-state students.”
Out-of-state and international students
Out-of-state enrollment is up 13.7 percent, and international enrollment is up at least 18.6 percent over last year. UAB can accommodate out-of-state enrollment growth, including international growth, while maintaining a commitment to in-state students
“We are proud that UAB is one of the most diverse college campuses in America, and increased international enrollment will help us grow on that success,” Watts said
In December 2015, UAB launched a strategic partnership with INTO, a private global educational company working with 22 leading universities across the world to expand opportunities for higher education, ensuring international student success and achieving globally diverse and integrated campus communities. By the fifth year of the partnership, it is estimated that more than 700 international students will have enrolled through the new joint venture.
Diversity as a priority
Diversity is a longstanding core UAB value, with “rich diversity” appearing in the first line of the alma mater. The institution has been recognized by the Princeton Review for diversity, and UAB continues to be one of the most diverse universities in the nation; 37.8 percent of the student body is minority, and minority students make up 43.7 percent of the freshman class. Students enrolled at UAB now represent 105 countries. The student population is 21.4 percent black and 61.1 percent female.
Students who transferred to UAB increased 17.8 percent in the fall semester year-over-year, from 1,357 in 2015 to 1,598 in 2016. In 2013, UAB launched its Joint Admission program with several two-year colleges to increase access to UAB and opportunities for students. The Joint Admission program provides automatic acceptance to UAB and a $2,000/year scholarship for students who earn an associate degree at participating institutions. It also allows students in the program to access UAB amenities and resources while enrolled in community college. In 2016, UAB instituted a reverse transfer agreement that enables credits earned by students at UAB to count toward an associate degree at Jefferson State.
The Birmingham effect
Barnes’ team is on the front lines of interaction with potential students. Prospects, he says, are choosing UAB for many reasons, including unique programs, new state-of-the-art facilities, world-renowned faculty, unprecedented excitement in Athletics, undergraduate research opportunities other schools cannot offer, and economic value, among others.
Another consistent theme is the value of Birmingham to UAB students.
“Our city’s resurgence and growth continue to bring new amenities and create internship and service learning opportunities unparalleled in Alabama,” Barnes said. “Students have access to resources on and off campus that add to their college experience and career preparation.
“The reciprocal pride between UAB and the city of Birmingham also goes a long way with students and prospects. They are aware of the investments being made in UAB by the community through the $1 billion Campaign for UAB, including Athletics fundraising efforts and a resulting momentum in enhancing the student experience. It builds confidence in their college choice when they see some of the most prominent business leaders in the state backing our institution and their futures.”
In a truly mutually beneficial relationship, increases in UAB’s student population create wins for the Birmingham region. The influx of students brings diversity, new ideas and promise, and exposes more young adults to the building excitement surrounding Birmingham’s continued growth while boosting the local economy.
A complete student experience
UAB was once considered a commuter school, but now more than 72 percent of the record freshman class lives on campus.
UAB Vice President of Student Affairs John Jones and his team have been working to implement and enhance programs that build on opportunities for a first-class student experience.
“Student engagement is at an all-time high at UAB,” Jones said. “We have the facilities, faculty, staff and students who deliver a full range of offerings and experiences, and our students take a very active role with us in building programs they most want and need. We work in partnership with our students to create a holistic student experience. UAB is truly a very special place, and it is rewarding to see it reflected in our enrollment and an energized and engaged student body.”
Access additional enrollment statistics online on the UAB Institutional Effectiveness website.
Alabama psychologist to parents: Stop over-scheduling your children’s lives!
By Alicia Rohan
A new school year means new after-school activities, which can lead to a balancing act of schedules for parents. Between sports, music lessons, youth groups and other activities, it is easy for parents and children to quickly become overcommitted.
“Busy schedules have become a part of our culture,” said Josh Klapow, Ph.D., clinical psychologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “As much as we would like to keep our children active and engaged, overscheduling is simply not good for them or parents.”
An overbooked family spends little time together, is usually worn out and stressed, and tends to argue, creating a fine line between being busy and overdoing it. Klapow suggests setting house rules, educating kids about activities and their choices, balancing adult and kid activities, establishing family time, and recognizing that down time is important.
If you have a busy schedule and your kids are displaying any of these signs, there is a good chance they are being stretched too far:
• Easily distracted
• Headache and/or stomachache complaints
• Having a tough time keeping their grades up.
The question for many parents becomes, “How do you keep your busy schedule in check?”
As a parent, ask yourself a set of questions:
• How many hours per week should be spent on extracurricular activities?
• What activities is your child interested in?
• What will your child’s homework load look like?
• Is it practical to have more than one activity per season?
• What are the means for transportation to and from each activity?
• What activities are your other children involved in?
• What are your activities, and how do these play into scheduling?
• What are your commitments professionally?
Klapow recommends laying out ground rules before making commitments, such as playing only one sport or activity per season or no more than two practices per week. Set priorities and expectations for schoolwork and obtaining good grades.
Having a conversation with children about activities is important. Make sure they know what they are signing up for and the expectations for coaches and peers. Conversations about time commitment are important, specifically expressing how this could cut into their social time with friends.
“Be upfront with your kids,” Klapow said. “If the activities require that the child be at practice right after school, note that this will cut into their play time with their friends, as homework will need to be completed when they get home before dinner.”
Parents have to balance activities for their children and themselves. As a parent, consideration for a child’s activity should be taken from a personal perspective, including getting the child to and from practice, attending games or recitals, and making sure the child is performing the activity well with additional practice at home.
In addition, parents should carve out time for their own activities they enjoy, as well as opportunities to stay healthy.
“Driving your health into the ground in order to accommodate your child’s schedule is simply not a smart thing to do,” Klapow said.
Family time is also important. Parents should set aside family time at the very least, one night a week. Eating dinner together or playing a card game, a time when everyone living in the house sits down to spend quality time together.
“It’s critical that everyone in the house be a part of family time,” Klapow said.
Down time offers a chance for parents and children to relax, reflect on the day or just do nothing.
“We live in a very busy world, and we want the best for our kids,” Klapow said. “Sometimes the best means less.”
‘Together We Are Greater’ — Birmingham community continues rallying around UAB
By Michael Tomberlin
UAB unveiled a new video today, kicking off a campaign for the 2016-17 season a year before football returns to the school.
The “Together We Are Greater Birmingham” video and promotion taps into the revived interest in football and other sports at the school after the football program was eliminated in December 2014. The return was announced six months later after a public outcry.
Burton Advertising produced the inaugural video for the campaign, which can be viewed below.
“The entire Birmingham community has rallied around UAB and this campaign is a way to show our appreciation for what the city has worked so hard to accomplish,” UAB Athletics Director Mark Ingram said. “UAB is a world-class institution located in a world-class city, and together we can achieve unprecedented levels of success. We are living proof of that.”
UAB just broke ground on a new football complex with practice fields and offices, the result of a major fundraising effort led by some of Birmingham’s largest corporations and business leaders.
“The support has been unwavering,” football coach Bill Clark said. “We have put shovels in the ground for our new Football Operations Center and it wouldn’t have been possible without Birmingham believing in UAB and our vision of becoming a championship caliber program.”
Although the returning football program is a point of emphasis, the new campaign will connect to all 18 Blazer sports programs. Fans are being asked to use the #TogetherWeAre hashtag on social media this season.
BJCC’s $300M master plan: Renovate, build open-air stadium, expand entertainment district
The latest master plan to expand the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex goes topless, revealing the new direction to focus on adding outdoor sports to the venue.
Kansas City-based Populous presented its latest plans to the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center Authority board of directors, calling for extensive renovations and expansion of Legacy Arena, modernizing the entire complex’s look and access, adding an open-air stadium and expanding the Uptown entertainment district.
The open stadium is a departure from past plans focused on a domed stadium on the site.
The new plan aims to make the BJCC more competitive for the next two decades as it seeks to draw conventions, concerts and other events to the Magic City.
“We have looked forward to reviewing the work of Populous and master plan revisions for the BJCC,” BJCC Executive Director Tad Snider said. “The process of assessing key enhancement and expansion opportunities based on the underlying goal of creating a flexible framework to meet the future vision and needs of the BJCC has been extremely rewarding.”
The 45,000-seat open-air stadium would be built north of Uptown and could be expanded to 55,000 seats. Designers spoke with the University of Alabama at Birmingham and ESPN, which produces the annual Birmingham Bowl, to gauge their needs and input.
The stadium is projected to cost $174 million and the other improvements will total $123 million. There was no discussion of how the projects would be financed.
Mark Ingram, athletics director at UAB, said he is pleased to see the proposal out in the public.
“We continue to be encouraged by the progress made by the BJCC,” Ingram said. “It’s exciting for all to see their plans, which will be a tremendous benefit to Birmingham, UAB, our athletics department and football program.”
The master plan shows an expanded Uptown next to the stadium and to the south of the current district. An additional hotel and parking deck east of the stadium is on the master plan, though that was not a focus of Wednesday’s presentation.
The plan includes aesthetic enhancements to Legacy Arena with a new facade, new entrances and an expansion that will add a suite level and premium club space. Inside the arena, enhancements will improve crowd flow, and food and beverage options for patrons.
Long a source of criticism for its dated design and lack of open space, the new design of the piazza outside of the arena has a more open plan that would provide better pedestrian flow between the arena, concert hall and theater.
Dennis Lathem, chairman of the BJCCA board, praised the master plan update.
“This plan creates an exciting vision for the future of the BJCC,” Lathem said. “The BJCC’s success is Birmingham’s success.”
Past plans called for a domed stadium rather than an open-air venue because of the ability to use a covered space for conventions and non-sporting events for when the BJCC’s current 200,000 square feet of exhibit halls, meeting rooms and three entertainment venues were in use or booked.
Others have pointed to a need to replace Legion Field with a modern stadium, especially now that UAB has re-established its football program with games starting in the 2017 season.
Three Alabama cities among the nation’s most stressful
When you imagine Sweet Home Alabama, you don’t typically envision high stress. But an analysis from website Wallet Hub found three Alabama cities among the top 10 most stressed.
The rankings of the nation’s 150 largest cities placed Mobile second, Birmingham third and Montgomery 10th.
The study collected data from the cities, rating their stress in five areas: work-related, money-related, family-related, health and safety-related stress, and coping with stress. The data used stressful factors such as job security, cost of living, divorce, mental health and physical activity. Detroit topped the list as the most stressed while Fremont, Cal. was the least stressed city.
Of course, cities themselves aren’t stressful – it’s what’s going on in the lives of the people.
“Psychological stress is an individual experience,” said Dr. Josh Klapow, a clinical psychologist and professor at UAB. “It is only experienced by the individual and can only be quantified by indicators or variables associated with perceived stress.”
Klapow noted that an area may have a large number of people experiencing stress, yet it does not mean that any one individual has a very stressful experience by living in that area.
Klapow said it’s not the existence of stress in these cities but how people deal with it that is key.
Crime, divorce, cigarette smoking rates, environmental conditions, joblessness and the economy all can contribute to a person’s stress. High stress levels can lead to early death, disability, psychiatric disorders, lost work productivity, crime and poor overall well-being. These create new sources of stress in what becomes a vicious cycle.
Though stress levels have declined since 2007, there is always room for improvement.
Klapow recommends a few ways to lower stress.
Changing the situation or environment, changing the thoughts about the situation and changing the physiological reaction to the environment are all options, he said. Though reducing stress is not the easiest thing to do, it’s important.
Representatives from the ranked Alabama cities disagree with the rankings, saying the survey is based on unrelated statistics that don’t accurately paint a picture of a place and its people.
“I don’t see Mobile as a high-stress city – we are in the South, we are known for our Southern hospitality, and laid-back lifestyle,” Mobile City Councilwoman Gina Gregory said. “We swim, ski, surf, fish, hunt, listen to live music and dance at multiple music festivals, support the arts with an ever-growing Art Walk, and take pride in having some of the best seafood in the country.”
Mobile has co-working spaces, new restaurants, attractions, shops and galleries opening – all of which scream “fun,” not “stress,” Gregory said.
“More and more people are visiting Mobile because they enjoy the experience here, and international companies like Airbus and Austal chose to open their facilities here for a reason,” said Stacy Hamilton, vice president of marketing and communications at Visit Mobile.
Dilcy Hilley, vice president of marketing and communications with the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau, was similarly surprised at the Magic City’s ranking as a “stressed city.” Birmingham has been continuously growing and innovating in recent years with new attractions, restaurants and businesses that don’t suggest an area of high stress.