Partnership with BWWMH first of its kind for UAB

For more than a year the Tombigbee Healthcare Authority board worked long hours to form a partnership with the University of Alabama at Birmingham Health System.

The hard work became official Oct. 1 when the two entities signed a Management and Affiliation Agreement.

At the Wednesday meeting of the Demopolis Rotary Club, Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital board vice chairman Alan Bishop explained the benefits of the partnership with the hospital and to the Demopolis area. He told local Rotarians that the process has been “quite a journey.”

“The time that has been spent has been unbelievable,” he said.

Cooperation started early with the formation of a transition team of representatives from the hospital, UAB, the city and the county. Former Robertson Banking Company President Al Garrett came out of retirement to chair the team.

While UAB has expanded its medical services to Montgomery and other larger communities, the partnership with BWWMH is the first venture into rural health care. The move was made possible because of legislation in 2016 opening the door for University Health Authorities to help rural systems. The collaboration brings with it the Birmingham-based hospital’s management and expertise, marketing, physician recruitment and purchasing, Bishop said.

Such affiliation also brings with it UAB’s reputation strength, he continued.

Already in place was a recently opened branch of the University Medical Center in the Outpatient Building of the hospital, joining UMC’s two other locations in Tuscaloosa and Northport.

Two UAB officials now serve on the BWWMH board. “I thought they’d send down a couple of middle managers,” said Bishop. Instead, the two are Don Lilly, senior vice president of network development and affiliate operations, and Sean Tenney, chief operations officer for the Medical West Hospital. The two sat in their first board meeting on Oct. 26.

UAB is very conscious of its brand. Within the next two to three months, an approved UAB sign will be erected on U.S. Hwy. 80 to let everyone know of the relationship between UAB and BWWMH.

While the link with the Demopolis hospital is the first venture into rural health care for UAB, Bishop said it probably won’t be the last. Lilly’s focus has been to expand UAB’s outreach.

Such a partnership is a win-win for both facilities. With BWWMH handling cases that normally would be transferred to UAB, beds will be freed in Birmingham for more acute medical needs.

“UAB is not here just to be a nice guy,” said Bishop. “UAB is here to make money.”

The new partner is studying the survey that BWWMH conducted to determine what services are needed in the area.

Sweet Water standout Smith to sign with UAB

Jonah Smith

SWEET WATER – The Bulldog ace has picked a new home. Sweet Water High School senior Jonah Smith has parlayed his dominant junior campaign into a Division I scholarship after committing to sign with the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

“It’s just a great academic school and I really like their head coach, Coach (Brian) Shoop. He’s a Christian and I like that about him,” Smith said of the opportunity to take the mound for the Blazers when his high school career is complete.

Jonah Smith receives the Class 1A MVP trophy from Luke Hallmark.

Smith earned 2017 Class 1A Pitcher and Player of the Year honors from the Alabama Sports Writers Association as well as Super 10 recognition after helping to lead the Bulldogs to the state championship.

“He’s a player of great character. He’s going to hustle. He’s a bulldog. He’s a team player. He’s not selfish and he’s going to work as hard as he can. UAB is getting a good one,” Sweet Water head coach John Gluschick said of the player UAB is getting. “The sky is the limit. UAB has a great coaching staff. There are a couple of things I know Jonah needs to work on and we’re going to touch that here. Probably his slide step, quicker to the plate, mixing up his moves. Coach Shoop, Coach (Perry) Roth, awesome, awesome coaches and Jonah is in great hands. The sky is the limit for him. He’s going to be a good one.”

Smith, who got the extra-inning walk-off hit that won the Bulldogs the state championship, made his reputation on the mound as one of the most dominant pitchers in the state at any level last season. He went 14-2 on the mound with three saves while posting a 1.11 ERA with 123 strikeouts over 88 innings of work. Smith allowed only 49 hits and 14 earned runs all season to boost a microscopic 0.78 WHIP.

“I don’t think it has set in yet because I’m still in high school and I’ve got to finish my senior year, but I’m expecting that to happen very soon,” Smith, who also garnered attention from programs at Auburn and East Central Community College, said of his new circumstances. “It’s a big relief because now I can worry about my senior year and just make the grades I have to make, then go to UAB.”

As Smith and his squad set their sights on repeating as Class 1A state champs, the hurler has a list of personal gains he would like to make in order to improve his game before facing collegiate competition.

“Just throw more strikes, try to stay in the strike zone more than I did last year, and try to cut off the walks,” he said.

“It’s huge because, now that Jonah has signed and we had some other guys sign with junior colleges,” Gluschick said of the impact such a signing has on a prep program. “These guys want to do the same thing. They love baseball. They love the game. And any way you can further your education through baseball, that always helps. That’s a goal for some of these kids now. They see that it’s attainable.”

Smith will likely autograph his National Letter of Intent during the early signing period in November.

BWWMH, UAB exploring potential collaboration

The University of Alabama at Birmingham Health System and the Tombigbee Healthcare Authority, operator of Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital in Demopolis, Ala., have entered into a nonbinding memorandum of understanding to explore a possible relationship between the organizations. The action follows legislation passed in 2016 by the Alabama Legislature creating University Health Authorities to help Alabama hospitals.

“One of the main goals of this legislation was to help find ways to assist rural hospitals in remaining viable for the future,” said Will Ferniany, Ph.D., CEO of the UAB Health System. “This will be one of the first opportunities to utilize this legislation and explore ways in which UAB and Bryan Whitfield Memorial can work together to improve health and wellness in Demopolis and the surrounding region.”

“We are excited at the prospect of potentially working with UAB for the future benefit of providing health care for the patients we serve,” said Art Evans, CEO of Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital. “We look forward to our continued progress and moving forward through this process.”

About UAB

Known for its innovative and interdisciplinary approach to education at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, the University of Alabama at Birmingham is an internationally renowned research university and academic medical center, as well as Alabama’s largest employer, with some 23,000 employees, and has an annual economic impact exceeding $5 billion on the state. The five pillars of UAB’s mission include education, research, patient care, community service and economic development. UAB is a two-time recipient of the prestigious Center for Translational Science Award. Learn more at UAB: Knowledge that will change your world.

Demopolis soccer standout Brooker signs with UAB

Adam Brooker sends the ball toward the goal, just out of reach of a defender during the 2015 Demopolis High soccer season. Brooker signed to play with UAB.

Adam Brooker sends the ball toward the goal, just out of reach of a defender during the 2015 Demopolis High soccer season. Brooker signed to play with UAB.

For the first time since 2008, the Demopolis High School soccer program has a collegiate signee. Senior standout Adam Brooker inked a scholarship offer with UAB Wednesday, becoming only the second male player in Demopolis history and the first since Rob Cooke inked with Faulkner University to sign with a college soccer program.

“As a center-striker, center-forward,” Brooker said of how UAB coach Mike Getman intends to utilize him. “They said they had two strikers last year that were graduating, so they needed someone to come in and take action right away. I’m hoping I’ll be able to start immediately.”

Brooker’s signing with the only NCAA Division I men’s soccer program within the state marks the latest indicator of success in pursuit of a sport that has deviated from the rich placekicking history that populates his family’s archives.

“It was awesome. I’ve really enjoyed it,” Brooker said of receiving the UAB offer. “All my life, everybody has been pushing me to kick just like my family but it was my passion to go toward soccer and it worked out well.”

Brooker has proven himself a particularly skilled player to this point in his high school career and took his game to new heights last season when he scored 27 goals to go along with 21 assists while helping his team to a 12-4 record and an appearance in the second round of the state playoffs. That junior campaign put him at 62 goals thus far in his varsity career.

“I think it has improved greatly,” Brooker said of his skillset, which has been aided in its development by the work he has put in during club soccer opportunities and his time in the Olympic Development Program. “I still have some things to work on and there’s always room for improvement, but the ODP and club soccer has helped tremendously for me.”

As his senior season rapidly approaches, Brooker is focused on the goals of helping to get his team deeper into the state playoffs while simultaneously developing his abilities in view of his collegiate days.

“I need to get better at communication and playing to my teammates. I’m hoping UAB should be a comfortable fit,” Brooker said. “It’ll be a new game for me, college soccer, but anything that he has for me, I’ll be willing to take it and learn from.”

Brooker intends to major in computer science at UAB and has an interest in programming.

Adam Brooker (seated, center) signs to play soccer at UAB as his mother, Diane, sister, Madelyn and father, Brian, look on.

Adam Brooker (seated, center) signs to play soccer at UAB as his mother, Diane, sister, Madelyn and father, Brian, look on.