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The Flor-Ala

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Healthcare Heroes Plaza honors healthcare workers

Healthcare+Heroes+Plaza+honors+healthcare+workers
Whitney Veazey

The Healthcare Heroes Plaza, located in front of the University of North Alabama’s Anderson College of Nursing and Health Professions, honors healthcare workers through the naming of bricks, benches and plaques, among other tributes. 

The idea for the creation of this plaza was formed by Vice President for University Advancement and Executive Director of the UNA Foundation Kevin Haslam, who noticed the similarities between this area and other features of campus.

“I was on a walk with my wife one evening, and we came around in front of Harrison Hall,” said Haslam. “We saw the plaza and thought that it isn’t very dissimilar to Harrison Plaza, so we thought, why couldn’t we do here what we’ve done there with any of the money that’s raised benefitting the Anderson College of Nursing and Health Professions?” 

Haslam presented this idea to Dr. Tera Kirkman, Dean of the Anderson College of Nursing and Health Professions, who was thrilled by the idea. Once proper approval for the plaza was acquired, the idea turned into a reality. 

An important step in creating the Healthcare Heroes Plaza was finding a donor who would be willing to supply the money without naming the plaza after themselves. This donor turned out to be Briget McCabe. 

“It’s very unique in that she’s not an alumni,” Haslam said. “She’s a friend of the university, and her mom had been a nurse, so she loved [the concept] and decided to give the gift.” 

The gift that McCabe gave was used to create an endowment for the Anderson College of Nursing and Health Professions. This endowment will generate money yearly, which can then be used by the College in areas of need. For everything else that is named at the plaza, the money given will go to a use fund in the Anderson College of Nursing and Health Professions, which will be used for the same purposes. 

The plaza will include benches, trees, bricks and plaques, all of which can be named in honor of healthcare workers. At the center of the plaza stands the Opler clock, which was donated by Nancy Opler’s husband in honor of her. Opler is in full support of the Healthcare Heroes Plaza and is honored to have the clock be the centerpiece.

Halsam believes that the Healthcare Heroes Plaza is important because of the role that it plays in honoring those who have worked or currently work in healthcare fields, while also paving the way for those who will work in healthcare in the future. 

“If you look at the Anderson College of Nursing and Health Professions and the work that they do, they’re exceptional,” Haslam said. “Looking at the most recent N-CLEX scores, we’re third in the state of Alabama. They’re performing at an exceedingly high level. Being able to secure funding to empower them to continue to do their great work, and to give donors the opportunity to partner with them in doing great work, is critically important. Also, our healthcare workers have been exceptional for a very long time, though we’ve all become exceedingly aware of it over the last four years. To have a way to honor them and to pay tribute to them is a very good thing.”

Dean of the Anderson College of Nursing and Health Professions Dr. Tera Kirkman enjoys the opportunity to recognize those who often go unnoticed, yet help others every single day.

“Establishing Healthcare Heroes Plaza is a tribute to the dedicated healthcare professionals who demonstrate unwavering commitment to caring for individuals during their most vulnerable moments,” said Kirkman. “The esteemed recognition according to nursing and healthcare-related fields in the 2024 United States News and World Report Best Jobs list, where they occupy top positions, emphasizes the significance and demand of these roles in our society. Despite the demanding nature and high-pressure environments in these professions, the remarkable contributions of those who serve often go unnoticed. Healthcare Heroes Plaza is a testament to their selfless dedication and offers a well-deserved acknowledgement of their invaluable service.” 

Dr. Michelle Nelson, Associate Dean of the Anderson College of Nursing and Health Professions, is excited to see the impact that the plaza will have on the community. 

“Establishing the Healthcare Heroes Plaza is a beautiful way to show appreciation for healthcare workers,” said Nelson. “It honors their dedication and sacrifice and symbolizes gratitude from the community and the Anderson College of Nursing and Health Professions. This plaza will not only be a physical space, but also a place of reflection and recognition for the selfless efforts of healthcare workers, especially during challenging times. It will serve as a reminder of the invaluable contributions made by these heroes and inspire future generations to pursue careers in healthcare. The Healthcare Heroes Plaza is a testament to the Anderson College of Nursing and Health Professions’ commitment to honoring healthcare workers and strengthening its bond with the community. We are excited about the positive impact this plaza will have, and we look forward to seeing it become a beacon of appreciation and 

inspiration for all.”

As part of UNA’s Shine On, Gold campaign, Haslam encourages anyone who is interested to pay tribute to a healthcare worker in their lives by naming a part of the Healthcare Heroes Plaza after them. For more information, go to www.una.edu/healthcareheroes.

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About the Contributors
Kelley Peters, Managing Editor
Kelley is a junior from Tupelo, Miss. who is majoring in English literature with a minor in applied linguistics. She is currently Managing Editor for The Flor-Ala. She has loved reading for as long as she can remember, which developed her love of storytelling and the English language. Her career goal is to become an English professor at a university. She was previously a volunteer writer in the Fall of 2021, became a Staff Writer in January of 2022 and moved to being News Editor in January of 2023.
Whitney Veazey, Chief Photographer
Whitney is a sophomore from Greenville, Ala. She is working towards a BFA with a concentration in photography. Whitney started at The Flor-Ala in Fall 2022 as a staff writer/photographer and is currently serving as chief photographer.

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