Well folks, I bid adieu to UAB.
That’s right. Colloquially, it’s called “retirement,” since I’ll receive the good benevolence of the American people via Social Security and Medicare. However, I’d prefer to say that beginning June 1, I’ll be focusing my creative efforts in arenas outside the hospital. Besides, I’ve done what I came here to do.
I came here in 2014 to develop a Support Team Network for UAB Hospital through the Department of Pastoral Care. I threw myself into the effort like an idealistic seminary graduate, though I was fast approaching 60 years of age at the time, and over the next five years launched 165 Support Teams.
The work took me to places like Montgomery, Tuscaloosa, Auburn, and all over the Birmingham region. I met some delightful people and put together a loose network of congregations who wove a Support Team method into their congregational care. By 2019, I had enough data to analyze the effectiveness of Support Teams and my subsequent research indicated that the readmission rate for patients with such teams ran at about 6%. The overall hospital readmission rate during the same period ran at just under 12%. In light of these findings, I designed a program that would make Support Teams more available in the community and sent the proposal “up the line.”
While all of this was going on, I underwent treatment for two separate cancers. In 2016, early-onset prostate cancer demanded an aggressive radiation and hormone treatment process which made it a challenge to launch Support Teams. Then, in 2021 came the diagnosis of metastatic cancer in my throat and neck. Together with the pandemic, my work at UAB came to a halt as surgery, radiation and chemotherapy severely curtailed my ability to work. During that time, I hardly noticed my 67th birthday. I have to admit – that second cancer rattled my cage!
This past April 8, one year and two days after the surgery to remove the tumor from my throat and 15 sets of lymph nodes from my neck, I turned 68. I want to spend whatever time I have left in the woods, on the trails, and kayaking the streams rather than pacing the halls of the hospital. I will ever be grateful for the time I’ve had at UAB, what I’ve learned, and the colleagues I’ve met. Now, the data, experience, reflections, and proposals I developed from these last eight years of experience and research will be on file if anyone wants to bother with them. What UAB does with them is up to the powers-that-be.
I will not be idle. Vicki and I have some biking and hiking trails to cover. We have a grandson in Virginia. And I will become more active with the environmental groups we’ve only supported with our giving. I’ll also spend more time with the Institute for Conscious Being learning and teaching the ancient wisdom of the Enneagram. I hope to complete some long-delayed writing projects. I’ve also delayed two major recording projects which I intend to bring to fruition. In other words, I’m going to have fun, but . . .
. . . there’s a deeper call I hear. Wendell Berry’s poetry describes it perfectly. I intend to “go lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds . . . “ and “. . . come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.”
So, Adieu, and joy be to you all!