Meet three women championing a new generation of health care pioneers
UAB is where Donna Slovensky, Ph.D., earned multiple degrees, developed a career, and built lasting relationships. “UAB is my home,” she says. “It has been my family.”
That family will keep growing because of Slovensky, the senior associate dean of academic and faculty affairs in the UAB School of Health Professions. Working with the UAB Office of Planned Giving, she will help future students enjoy the opportunities and camaraderie of a UAB education. She has planned to leave a bequest that will create a scholarship for doctoral students in the School of Health Professions’ program in health services administration. The award will support student travel and professional development.
“UAB allowed me to pursue my master’s and my doctorate using my employee benefits,” Slovensky says. “But not everyone has access to such benefits. I want to provide resources that will help people who never thought they could get this far academically to learn that they can.”
Read on to learn more about Slovensky and two other women whose lives were shaped by UAB—and who, in turn, will help shape the lives of others through planned gifts to the School of Health Professions.
Moving careers forward
Slovensky fondly recalls three UAB mentors who pushed her toward success, connected her with people to help advance her career, and continued to inspire her when she was a faculty member. Those mentors—Myron Fottler, Ph.D., who served as director of the administration-health services program; Howard Houser, Ph.D., professor emeritus in the School of Health Professions; and Joe Van Matre, Ph.D., professor in the Collat School of Business—all served on her dissertation committee and co-published research with her. Each also established a scholarship at UAB.
Slovensky hopes to help others grow professionally, just as her mentors helped her. “They helped me see that when you’ve gained as much as I have, you need to help other people move forward as well,” she says. “I hope that through this award, students will build strong professional relationships and collaborations, and that the network they build will be part of their professional careers and their lives.”
Paving the way for others
Though she retired in 2017, Neeysa Biddle continues to lead the way in health care administration—typically a male-dominated field, she says. For more than 25 years, she held multiple executive roles for Birmingham health care systems, including serving as CEO of St. Vincent’s Health Services. She also is the first woman to endow a scholarship in the Department of Health Services Administration.
“Participating in [UAB’s M.S. in Health Administration program] changed my life and the whole trajectory for me and my family,” Biddle says. She was a professional working with medical records when she decided to further her education at UAB, earning a bachelor’s in allied health (now health care management) before pursuing her master’s. She also was a first-generation college student. Now the Neeysa Davis Biddle Endowed Scholarship in Health Administration gives priority to those following in her footsteps.
“I want to encourage women in particular to break the cycle,” Biddle says. “It takes brave people to do that, especially when you have little support. You have to be very determined and very stubborn. I wanted to give back and wanted to target recipients who are in a similar situation as I was.”
Opening doors to a promising future
Christy Harris Lemak, Ph.D., says she has been inspired by the students, faculty, staff, and alumni she has met during her tenure as chair of the UAB Department of Health Services Administration. So she and her husband decided to leave a bequest to the university that supports the One MSHA Endowed Scholarship, a fund that advances recruitment of top students into the M.S. in Health Administration program, which is ranked number one in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
“We felt strongly that we should give of ourselves to support and acknowledge the past, present, and future of health care leadership at UAB,” Lemak explains. “This is an incredible group of people who have already done a lot for the health care industry—and there’s so much potential to keep changing it for the better.”
Both Lemak and her husband supported themselves while they were pursuing an education. But she understands that not everyone has the opportunity to do that and that graduate school is more expensive today. “We feel strongly that education shouldn’t be available only to those who have financial means, but to everybody,” Lemak says.
At the same time, UAB must continue to attract the right people to the field of health care leadership in order to address the challenges facing the health care system, Lemak adds. “We need people who are smart, driven, and who care about their communities and about changing the world. That’s who we want in our programs and classrooms. And in order to compete for them, we have to offer scholarships to them. It’s the right thing to do.”
QUESTIONS? I CAN HELP.
Kimberley S. Coppock, J.D.
Director of Development
Office of Planned Giving
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