4 chosen as UAB VIPs for fourth-quarter 2023

by Brooke Carbo and Nicole Strickland

UAB VIP Award iconNominations for first-quarter 2024 honorees are open through Jan. 25; submit a nomination online.Whitney Covington, clinical research coordination manager for the Department of Emergency Medicine; Brooke Gleason, post-award grant administrator in the School of Health Professions Dean’s Office; Lynne Jarreau, communications director for the School of Dentistry; and Amanda Sherman, director of alumni engagement in the School of Health Professions, are the fourth-quarter 2023 honorees for the UAB Shared Values in Action Program. The UAB VIP Awards honor employees whose work exemplifies and embodies one or more of the university’s shared values — integrity, stewardship, collaboration, accountability, respect, excellence and achievement, and diversity and inclusiveness. All three honorees have made a lasting impact on the fabric and culture of UAB by exemplifying the university’s shared values.

Honorees are nominated by their colleagues and selected by a committee of individuals from across the campus and UAB Hospital. Nominations for first-quarter 2024 honorees are open through Jan. 25, 2024; submit a nomination online. One of the 2023 VIP honorees will be selected for the annual President’s Award for Excellence in Shared Values.

Whitney Covington

erep whitney covington 400pxWhitney Covington is never satisfied with simply fulfilling the duties of her role with the Department of Emergency Medicine. Last year, Covington was promoted to clinical research coordination manager, a position which allowed her to work on broader research initiatives while managing a team of staff across a variety of projects, according to Interim Executive Administrator Cali Myers.

“Whitney has been highly innovative in this role,” said Myers, citing her ongoing efforts to develop a program that would allow “departments across the institution who wish to enroll patients onto their studies in the emergency department to do so by utilizing our research associates.”

Colleagues say Covington often goes above and beyond to ensure the best outcomes for both her community and UAB. Emergency Medicine Associate Professor and Vice Chair Lauren Walter, M.D., recalls Covington’s collaboration with external reviewers to ensure that the department’s emergency department-initiated medication for opioid use disorder clinical intervention was meeting stated aims.

“(She) contacted study participants regularly to ensure they were appropriately linked to follow-up care and even went downtown to buy bus tickets to assist patients with transportation issues to ensure they were able to get to their follow-up appointments,” said Walter.

Covington was invited to speak on the topic of emergency department-initiated medication for opioid use disorder, and its impact on quality of life, at this year’s annual meeting of the Society of Academic Emergency Medicine and was invited to collaborate on two articles published in the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine.

“Whitney’s community involvement, research, publications, and innovative nature underscore her dedication to underserved populations and to furthering the missions of UAB,” Myers said, citing her work with the UAB Minority Health & Health Equity Research Center (MHERC). While earning her Master of Public Health degree, Covington completed an MHERC internship that included managing the group’s Healthy Happy Kids program and facilitating statewide meetings of its Building Healthy Communities coalitions.

Since then, Myers said Covington has remained committed to bringing healthy initiatives to disadvantaged communities, serving as a member of the MHERC Young Professionals Board since 2016, participating in the group’s community mobile fresh market, working in the Bessemer and Kingston community gardens, and organizing a career and college fair for Kingston youth.

“In this capacity she regularly organizes fundraisers which give back directly to undeserved Birmingham communities and neighborhoods.” added Walter. ­“Whitney truly has a servant’s heart, and her work is guided by a desire to engage and provide for others.”

Brooke Gleason

erep brooke gleason 400pxA desire to excel was one of the first things colleagues noticed about Brooke Gleason when the post-award grant administrator joined the School of Health Professions.

“Only weeks into the job she told me she had pulled every notice of grant award for the department’s active grants and read them thoroughly,” recalled Grants Administrator Jill Meredith, adding that Gleason’s reviews of SHP awards often find details that others have overlooked. “It is rare to find someone who will take that type of initiative in a new role, so I knew then that Brooke was special.”

Gleason consistently goes above and beyond to make her colleagues’ jobs easier, adds Wendy Denmark-Wahnefried, Ph.D., R.D., professor and Webb Endowed Chair of Nutrition Sciences.

“Brooke makes it her business to know every single grant deadline and prompts me in advance — often preemptively filling out much of the paperwork, making it so much easier,” Denmark-Wahnefried said. “She stays on top of every single detail and makes sure that each budget is optimized.”

Collaboration is a high priority for Gleason. In addition to guiding colleagues through the complicated business of using and keeping a grant once it has been awarded, Gleason is also a willing collaborator outside of her job description when her team is in need.

“She has become so familiar with Nutrition Sciences that she is often able to assist with tasks outside of her purview while they are without a Business Officer,” said Meredith. “She is willing to step in and help with whatever needs to be done.”

Justin Daigneault, Financial Officer III in the School of Health Professions, who served as interim executive director in the Dean’s Office when the key position was vacated, described Gleason as a valuable resource to Nutrition Sciences faculty and staff, making his own workload more manageable.

“If she had not shown this spirit of collaboration and dedication to excellence, the Department of Nutrition Sciences and the Dean’s Office administration would have suffered significantly,” Daigneault said. He added that he constantly hears praise for Gleason’s “work, work ethic and willingness to help.”

This reputation is not limited to the School of Health Professions, said Barbara Gower, Ph.D., professor and interim chair of the Department of Nutrition Sciences.

“I frequently receive glowing comments concerning Brooke from other faculty in our department,” Gower said. “She has been a joy to work with. She has enhanced our school’s research enterprise, and she is a valued colleague and friend.”

Lynne Jarreau

erep lynne jarreau 400pxJarreau, the communications director for the School of Dentistry, is known for her innovation and integrity.

“If there is ever a problem, she always has ideas on how to solve it,” said Communication Specialist Mary Sims. For instance, Sims said Jarreau has recently put together multiple events to boost staff motivation by showcasing the school's appreciation for their hard work.

According to Sims, Jarreau strives for excellence in all she does, citing her work with the department’s social media platforms, in particular the UAB SOD Instagram.

“She is a perfectionist when it comes to publishing articles, making sure that the stories are written in the highest caliber,” said Sims. “She actively seeks to promote and highlight the successes of each department in our social media, e-news, website publications, etc., as well as staff and faculty that are typically not highlighted or noticed.”

Colleagues often turn to Jarreau for guidance and are met with respect and willingness to collaborate.

“Lynne understands that every person here at the school plays an integral role in keeping the school running and successful,” said Sims. “She is honest and transparent with others as she keeps the school's success in the forefront of her goals.”

Amanda Sherman

erep amanda sherman 400pxAmanda Sherman, director of alumni engagement for the School of Health Professions, has touched many lives and helped many people throughout her time at UAB. In more than 15 letters of recommendation for the UAB VIP Award, Sherman is consistently described as an inspirational leader dedicated to excellence, inclusiveness and integrity.

“She sets ambitious standards for herself and others, leading by example and inspiring those around her to embrace honesty, accountability and transparency,” said Mary Foster, a colleague in the School of Health Professions. “Her commitment to ethical leadership is unwavering, ensuring shared values are not compromised for short-term gains.”

Sherman’s drive has led to tangible successes for her department. According to SHP Professor Christy Lemak, Ph.D., Sherman’s engagement with department alumni has helped raise nearly $4 million and added over 30 new endowed scholarships since 2014.

Lemak also credits Sherman’s organizational skills, noting that she created and diligently used her own checklists for alumni communication, events and records.

“We joked about getting ‘Amanda’s Checklist’ because we knew it would help make our work better and she led us through after-meeting reviews where we learned from our experience, updated and improved the process, and did better the next time,” Lemak said. “We are so fortunate to have her commitment to excellence and improvement.”

In 2022, Sherman won the SHP Dean’s Award for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and was recently elected by SHP staff to serve as the chair of the SHP Staff Council.

“This is a well-deserved recognition of her dedication, leadership, and (illustrates) the trust her colleagues have in her,” Foster said.

Added Lemak: “Amanda’s answer is never no. Instead, she responds, ‘We’ll figure it out’ or ‘we’ll make it awesome,’ and she does.”