If there is one person that is responsible for helping to define Ed’s Bridging the Gap program, it is our friend and partner, Amanda DuBois.
A longtime resident of Birmingham, DuBois grew up in the UAB Hospital System, and received her BA in English from Tulane University in 1988 and a Masters in Social Work from the Univ. of Alabama in 1994. Prior to her current position, she worked for a variety of agencies and organizations focused on the geriatric population, from the Jefferson County Office of Senior Citizens Activities to a local retirement community and three home care agencies. Most recently, DuBois was the Director of Operations for a private duty home care agency and coordinated their franchise development and expansion before joining UAB in 2009. Since then, DuBois has served as a Manager in Guest Services, overseeing the Patient Advocacy and Volunteer Services departments, as well as the UAB Townhouse and a variety of special services and projects – including Bridging the Gap.
The UAB Hospital System has been hugely supportive of Ed’s work in general, and Bridging the Gap (BTG) in particular. The first signature partner for the program and first to expand the model into the junior year, DuBois and the staff at UAB helped to define BTG, sketching out a series of monthly events to expose 10th-grade students to the wide variety of careers available to them in the healthcare field and at UAB. This year, UAB piloted BTG expansion, implementing job shadowing in 11th grade and, next year, plans to support internships for seniors that have matriculated through the program.
DuBois’ efforts characterize the sentiment of UAB as an organization when it comes to workforce development. She says, “Our aim is to open the students’ eyes to a wide variety of careers in health care – careers they may never have known existed – and in doing so, we’re creating a win-win situation. Students can learn about potential fields of study and lucrative employment opportunities. At the same time, we at UAB are fostering an educated, interested, and enthusiastic future work force.”
On the ground, DuBois coordinates the efforts of upwards of 60 individuals who will participate in Bridging the Gap in any single year, scheduling speakers, recruiting tours guides, and facilitating orientations at the schools – which is no small endeavor. “Planning and managing the logistics of this program has been challenging at times,” DuBois notes, “but ultimately it is rewarding and even humbling. Working in such a large institution means simple tasks can easily turn into feats of endurance, but every month, once the students arrive at 9 am, and the experts start sharing their enthusiasm for their fields, I am awed by the generosity of these busy professionals’ time and the passion in their voices.”
Ed is particularly grateful to have a partnership with UAB and allies like DuBois who take the initiative to plan exceptional experiences for students as part of Bridging the Gap, and we recognize that everyone involved in the process often goes above and beyond the call of duty that is outlined in their job descriptions.
[Working with Ed on Bridging the Gap has] been an excellent and productive partnership,” DuBois says. “I love being included in a new project and having the opportunity to work with smart people to create something from the ground up. The whole project fills me with hope for the future of these students and for the future of UAB.”
Ask the students that have gone through the program what they want to be when they grow up and they’ll hit you with a assortment of answers, from cytologist to occupational therapist to biomedical engineer to forensic pathologist. You may even get a couple who say “I don’t even know any more!” and at that, we always smile, knowing that the possibilities that are rising up in front of them now after this experience are endless.
“When I look in the audience and see that the students are really listening, I can almost see the wheels turning in their heads,” says DuBois. “I am also particularly fond of seeing the returning students and realizing they are still interested in careers in the health sciences. I’m so proud and honored to have a small part in the wonder of their discovery.”