The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather


    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower


    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships


    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

9 months ago

UAB Community Advisory Board members work to remove stigma in men’s health, prostate cancer awareness


Charles Latham can never forget the 16 men he has spoken to, one-on-one, over the years about the need to be screened for prostate cancer.
They included friends and even two of his own brothers. Fifteen of the men heeded his advice and were tested, diagnosed and successfully treated for prostate cancer. Still, the one man who waited too long to get his screening will forever remain at the forefront of Latham’s mind.

“He said, ‘Tell my story. I should have listened to you,’” Latham said, remembering a conversation with his late friend in his final days. “I always have to talk about the one who asked me to tell his story.”


Latham, a member of the Community Advisory Board at the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center, is among many associated with the Cancer Center’s Office of Community Outreach & Engagement who are dedicated to spreading the message of screening, early detection and survival.

Through its staff, its Community Health Advisors and its Community Advisory Board, the Office of Community Outreach & Engagement continues to reach more men and their families and to stress men’s health and prostate cancer awareness.

At least 179 of the current 213 Community Health Advisors have a history of prostate cancer or have a relative with a history of the disease. Latham, Charles Feagin and Nathaniel Rutledge are Community Advisory Board members who also serve as hands-on advocates for men’s health and prostate cancer awareness.

As members of the Office of Community Outreach & Engagement’s Prostate Cancer Working Group, the three men also advise in a study to develop culturally appropriate messages and tools to increase prostate cancer screening rates among African American men. Black men die of prostate cancer at a rate 2.5 times higher than that of their white counterparts.

The effort is sponsored by the Mike Slive Foundation for Prostate Cancer Research. Results will be used to increase knowledge and improve attitudes toward prostate cancer screening across the state. Other Community Advisory Board members participating in the working group are the Rev. Curtis Jackson and Trevis Smith.

Latham’s personal story of survival continues to motivate him as an advocate for prostate cancer awareness.

Latham was 50 years old and preparing to return home to his native Grenada, Mississippi, to retire when he received a disturbing report from his doctor. It was a positive diagnosis of prostate cancer.

“I decided to have the cancer taken out of my body. I’m convinced that, had I not gone in for that examination, I would be dead today,” said Latham, now a 16-year cancer survivor. “Any time that a person is faced with their own mortality, it changes the way you see things. It changes the way you approach life.”

Jerry Feagin

Nearly everyone in his Butler County community knew Jerry Feagin’s father. Willie George Feagin was a businessman and church deacon. However, when the elder Feagin died of prostate cancer in 1997, there was little talk about the disease, much less talk of the need for early testing. Grief led his son to find a new calling to educate himself, his family and his community about prostate cancer.

“Everybody knew my dad, so when he passed, a lot of people were affected by that,” Feagin said. “He just didn’t have the treatment options that we have today. It was a shocker because a lot of guys weren’t aware of prostate cancer.”

Since then, Feagin said men in his family, from Niagara Falls to Texas, have created a network of support for each other.

It has paid off. At least seven of Feagin’s relatives were diagnosed early and successfully treated for prostate cancer.

“I became an advocate for it, urging my family members to get tested,” Feagin said. “They’ve all started getting checked, going to the doctor and sharing family history. All the men became aware of it and urged each other to get checked.”

In 2013, Feagin was also diagnosed with prostate cancer, but his earlier experience with his father left him prepared.

“It wasn’t bad. They removed it, and thank God it was early,” he said. “Had we had the technology that we have today, I do believe my father would have survived prostate cancer.”

Five years ago, Feagin formed a partnership with the Homewood-based Urology Centers of Alabama to coordinate an annual prostate screening clinic in Butler County. “When we brought screenings down here, you’d be surprised at the number of men we found with prostate cancer,” he said.

The Butler County screenings have grown to reach an even broader demographic of men. The message is spreading, he said.

“Losing my father was one of the most drastic things I’ve ever dealt with,” Feagin said. “But by losing dad, it helped a lot of people too.”

Nathaniel Rutledge

Nathaniel Rutledge’s involvement in men’s health care began when he led the Bessemer Police Department as its chief. He noticed that too many of his officers were in poor health and were reluctant to consult doctors.

“I found that, far too often, men try to take things in stride and operate with the attitude that no news is good news and ‘what I don’t know won’t hurt me,’” Rutledge said. “Obviously, that’s one of biggest mistakes we could make. We found out that my officers were more susceptible to having issues with the prostate, and they weren’t going to the doctor.”

Rutledge then devised a plan to get his officers to the doctor’s office more often. He organized physical training programs for the officers and urged them to seek medical clearance from a doctor to participate. While meeting with their doctors, many officers discovered serious medical conditions.

“It was a long stretch to try to get the guys to look at themselves, but once they did it, [it] became a catalyst to getting more things checked and that’s what we were hoping to get to from the beginning,” Rutledge said. “If you can just get the conversation started, that is the key.”

While talking to communities in Bessemer as the police chief, Rutledge encourages citizens to be aware of their surroundings and call officials when things appeared suspicious. He calls it “JDLR,” an abbreviation for something that “just don’t look right.” Rutledge said the same principles apply for men’s health.

“The best thing is for gentlemen to pay attention and not dismiss things that just don’t seem right,” Rutledge said. “That’s when it’s time call the doctor. I give examples of why it is important to be checked and why I am regularly checked. You try to take your message to as many people as possible.”

Candor, humor and genuine concern

Each man brings his own personality and communication style to conversations with groups or individuals when discussing personal issues related to men’s health.

Feagin’s easygoing style allows some men to both confide in him and seek information from him, he said. As a dental hygienist, Feagin often has time for small talk with patients in between procedures.

“When we sit there talking, I have a little time, and I can discuss things with them,” he said. “When they say you have cancer, cancer is not waiting on you to make a decision. I know some horror stories about men who did not make it because they waited too long.”

Both Feagin and Latham mix both humor and frank talk when discussing sensitive issues associated with embarrassment and intimacy that are related to prostate cancer screening and treatment.

“If I can help save other men, I talk to them straight up,” Latham said. “I tell it like I see it: ‘Don’t worry about any limitations afterward. You are still alive.’”

Latham often talks about his friend, the 16th man, who was too embarrassed and fearful to seek treatment for his prostate cancer. When he finally agreed to be treated, the cancer had spread and it was too late, Latham said.

Latham does his best to personally relate to any concerns as he urges men to agree to seek screenings or undergo treatment after a diagnosis.

“I tell men and women that this is going to test your relationship. I say to the men, ‘If you have a woman that’s willing to stick by your side throughout this situation, you ought to appreciate that woman,’” he said. “That’s how I get some of the men to prepare for what’s ahead. I’m telling you, from the perspective of a man who has gone through it.”

Learn more about prostate cancer and screening.

This story originally ran in the September 2020 issue of Community Connections, the monthly newsletter of the Office of Community Outreach & Engagement at the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

10 months ago

UAB employee Tara Bowman: Empowered by loss, committed to cancer education


Tara Bowman knows the statistics by heart. She can also recite health manuals nearly from memory when it comes to cancer awareness, health disparities and the need for early screening and treatment.

Bowman’s own family history is a painful lesson in the urgency of cancer screenings and health awareness, which she generously shares.


“I do it both from the book and, personally, from the heart,” said Bowman, program manager in the Office of Community Outreach & Engagement at the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB. “When you are real with people, they listen to you better.”

Bowman knows the devastating effects of cancer at its deepest levels after the deaths of her own father, stepfather, stepmother, aunt and uncle, all from 2015 through 2017. Bowman recalls that she later flipped through her calendar and was shaken by all the notations made for funerals within such a short time.

Bowman is not defined by her loss. Instead, she has become empowered by it in her daily mission to provide essential information about cancer to help save lives.

“At first, it made me numb,” Bowman said. “At the same time, it gave me an internal drive for the job that I was doing. When I started telling people about my stories, they wanted to know, in detail, what happened. They wanted to know more about it, and that has led to them wanting to get screened.”

Bowman’s official job title understates her multiple roles in the office where she works with individuals in the community to remove barriers related to cancer screenings. She is responsible for developing and implementing several cancer outreach and research programs that focus on increasing cancer screening rates and healthy lifestyle efforts.

Bowman is especially passionate about creating awareness for lung cancer, the illness that claimed the life of her father, Joseph Henry Bowman III, who died in 2016.

Her father’s death came just six weeks after her stepfather died from bone cancer following previous bouts with prostate cancer and throat cancer.

On June 16, Bowman took part in the 2020 Virtual Lung Cancer Voices Advocacy Summit, where she helped deliver messages to members of Congress about the importance of federal funding for lung cancer research.

“Our voices were powerful, and without a doubt, our personal stories helped their offices understand what it’s like to live with or care for someone with lung cancer,” Bowman said. “My drive now is to get as many people screened for all of these cancers because early detection saves lives.”

At the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center, Bowman manages six coordinators who oversee more than 178 Community Health Advisors. She also coordinates 44 CHAs on her own in Jefferson County.

Claudia Hardy, program director of the Office of Community Outreach & Engagement, called it remarkable that Bowman could channel her own loss into an even greater determination to promote cancer awareness.

“Tara is a good health educator because she knows the information and how to deliver it to audiences of all sizes and varieties,” Hardy said. “What makes her an exceptional educator is her ability to connect one-on-one with individuals and explain on a deeply personal level why cancer awareness and cancer screenings are so essential.”

Bowman doesn’t mind sharing her stories of family loss and said she hopes that they motivate others to take action for themselves and their own families.

“When we had a breast and cervical project, I did pretty well to share the message and say, ‘Hey, my stepmom ignored the signs. Take advantage of the opportunity,’” Bowman said. “I think I got a lot of people to sign up for testing because I shared my story. It was my calling to come to the O’Neal Cancer Center.”

While Bowman is known to dispense her own style of awareness and education, she said her energy comes from everyone around her and their shared vision of reducing cancer deaths and cancer disparities.

“They trickle down energy, and I feed off positive energy,” she said. “Any time they ask me to do something, I know it’s a good project. I don’t realize how much work I’m doing because there’s so much energy surrounding it.”

Bowman said she never anticipated changing her path to focus on cancer awareness and community outreach. She was originally trained as a social worker and spent years working with children and families, but she said she’s found her niche at the O’Neal Cancer Center, where her skills are being used and expanded to include health advocacy.

“In this field, it’s like you are doing some social work because you refer them to resources, and it’s a personal conversation. It’s about relationships,” Bowman explained. “It’s something that has to come from the heart. If you don’t have a natural heart for this, you can’t teach it.”

Bowman remains excited about her work to spread the message of healthier living, whether she’s doing so in person or virtually, and to ensure that the people of Alabama have access to life-saving health care and educational information.

“There’s so much to be done. I don’t have time to get tired now,” Bowman said. “My dad always said that he would rest when he dies, and that’s literally what he did. He would be proud of me.”

To learn more about services offered by the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Office of Community Outreach & Engagement, contact Claudia Hardy, director of Community Outreach, at or 205-975-0003.

This story originally appeared on the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s UAB News website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

10 months ago

O’Neal Cancer Center and ADPH bring enhanced cervical cancer education and screening options to 13 counties in state

(UAB/Contributed, YHN)

Women in 13 counties across Alabama are gaining better access to education and screening for cervical cancer through a collaboration between the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the Alabama Department of Public Health.

The ADPH Family Planning Community Education and Outreach Pilot, which began Aug. 1, provides a team of community health workers who will work to increase cervical cancer screenings throughout the state in Barbour, Bibb, Blount, Bullock, Butler, Chilton, Dallas, Fayette, Lowndes, Macon, Shelby, Walker and Winston counties.


Cervical cancer causes the deaths of about 4,000 women in the United States each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Alabama has one of the highest cervical cancer mortality rates in the country.

Most cervical cancer is caused by the human papillomavirus infection but can be treated successfully if found early. The HPV vaccine is effective in preventing cervical cancer and other HPV-related cancers in men and women.

“We are excited to partner with ADPH to do this work. Local health departments are the only means of health care for many women and families in our medically underserved communities,” said Claudia Hardy, MPA, program director of the O’Neal Cancer Center’s Office of Community Outreach and Engagement. “Our goal is to increase the number of people who use the local health department for health care.”

Seven community health workers from the Cancer Center, who live in the targeted areas, will educate the public about the services of local health departments, including cervical cancer screening and HPV testing. The team will also connect patients to additional resources within their communities.

The pilot program will run through Dec. 31. The initiative adopts a local grass-roots model already used by the Office of Community Outreach and Education to promote health awareness and cancer education.

“Historically, individuals in underserved communities are suspicious of health care systems,” said Grace Thomas, M.D., medical officer of Family Health Services at the ADPH. “Community health workers will serve a vital role in bridging this divide, particularly as the nation weathers the COVID-19 pandemic and women are less likely to seek routine well-woman care.”

Hardy called the initiative a natural fit for the Office of Community Outreach and Engagement, as cervical cancer is already among the “impact cancers” that the office targets. Additionally, Hardy says the program comes at a pivotal time when many health care needs may have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

For additional information on the partnership and resources, please contact

(Courtesy of UAB)

12 months ago

O’Neal Cancer Center at UAB urges continued cancer screenings during pandemic

(UAB/Contributed, YHN)

Delayed cancer screening and testing during the novel coronavirus pandemic could bring dire consequences and roll back significant gains made in recent years in reducing cancer deaths.

“As we continue our vigilance in the fight against the coronavirus, we must also remain mindful of other essential health services, such as cancer screenings and cancer treatments,” said Barry Sleckman, M.D., Ph.D., director of the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “Failure to do so could bring significant consequences for those with cancer and compound health disparities and the ill effects of the pandemic.”

Cancer deaths in the United States have decreased over the last two decades primarily due to the effectiveness of screening procedures. These procedures detect cancer at its earliest stages, allowing for cancer treatments that are curative or more effective in cancer control when started early in the disease progression.


The recent coronavirus pandemic has prevented patients from undergoing much needed screenings and hindered access to these procedures that could result in late-stage presentations and cancer death.

National trends showing a dramatic reduction in cancer screenings and participation in clinical trials since the start of the pandemic are alarming. Additionally, recent statistics and estimates from the National Cancer Institute illustrate a grim scenario if action is not taken to address reduced and delayed medical care in the age of COVID-19.

NCI modeling on cancer screening and treatment solely for breast and colorectal cancer over the next decade suggests nearly 10,000 additional deaths. NCI estimates that the number of additional deaths could peak even higher, cutting through all cancer types.

“Even a short-term delay in screening and care can lead to more deaths,” Sleckman said. “A missed diagnosis of cancer now can pose a bigger problem later if it progresses to a later stage, leading to a worse prognosis.”

While there has always been a commitment to provide uninterrupted cancer care, the O’Neal Cancer Center is also attuned to the development of needed therapies that result from continuous research efforts.

“During this period, we are also closely monitoring our clinical trials to make sure that patients on trials receive uninterrupted treatment and to keep as many potentially lifesaving trials open as we can do safely,” Sleckman said. “I am happy to say that we have been able to successfully do this due to the strong commitment of our physicians, health care workers and staff. We owe a lot to them, and our patients have benefited greatly.”

Some cancer treatments can safely be delayed, while others simply cannot.

“We urge patients to continue to undergo age-appropriate cancer screenings and reach out to their health care providers regarding options,” said Monica Baskin, Ph.D., professor in UAB’s Division of Preventive Medicine and associate director for the Cancer Center’s Office for Outreach and Engagement. “The risk of missing cancer treatments or medical appointments must rightfully be weighed against the need to protect against potential COVID-19 exposure. These are discussions that patients should have directly with their health care provider to receive individual guidance.”

Even at the pinnacle of the pandemic, the O’Neal Cancer Center has been providing efficient and optimal patient care with new safety protocols in place.

“Additionally, our community outreach and engagement efforts are ongoing as we reach underrepresented and vulnerable populations,” Baskin said. “We are vigilant and are utilizing creative strategies during this rapidly evolving situation so that everyone in the communities we serve can safely still get the care they need.”

The O’Neal Cancer Center’s staff and community health advisers throughout the state remain on duty in their home counties to provide up-to-date information about ongoing initiatives and developments regarding COVID-19 and cancer prevention and screening.

“It is more important than ever to provide our outreach team, who usually work physically in the communities they serve, especially in rural communities, with accurate information to help combat misinformation and complacency,” Baskin said.

Sleckman recognizes the consequences of a toxic combination that could exacerbate conditions and impede significant gains in the fight against cancer.

“It is important to meet every patient right where they are in the cancer continuum of prevention, diagnosis, treatment or survivorship,” he said. “No matter how simple or complex the cancer and no matter how complicated the current public heath situation, our doors remain open.”

UAB Medicine has always followed strict guidelines for cleaning; but it has also taken numerous steps to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, including special cleaning measures and practicing social distancing throughout its operations. Patients, visitors and staff are required to wear masks, practice appropriate hand hygiene and comply with entrance screenings.

“We are doing everything possible to keep our patients safe,” Sleckman said. “We understand the importance of getting the best care when you need it most.”

(Courtesy of UAB)