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Mental Health: Fact or Fiction?

Childhood and adolescence can be challenging, especially when children are feeling down, have a hard time paying attention or face difficulties at home or school. If these things are not talked about or treated, children can develop low self-esteem, perform poorly at school, have trouble with relationships or struggle to reach their potential.

For Mental Health Awareness Month, Children’s of Alabama counselors and psychologists came together to share facts and dispel myths about children’s mental health, so parents feel more equipped when talking about these topics.

Keep reading to learn if popular statements about mental health are fact or fiction.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

  • OCD is just being a neat freak – Fiction
    • OCD is a mental health disorder characterized by obsessive, intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. These thoughts and behaviors get in the way of performing typical and necessary day-to-day activities.

  • Everyone has a little bit of OCD – Fiction
    • While many people have quirks or preferences for how things should be done, OCD involves distressing and time-consuming obsessions and compulsions. Typically, there is a sense of dread or unrealistic beliefs that go along with the behaviors.

  • People with OCD can just stop doing their compulsions – Fiction
    • OCD is often a chronic condition that requires ongoing treatment and management. Consult with a physician, psychologist, or therapist for help getting started.


  • A depressed mood is required for a diagnosis of depression – Fiction
    • While many people with a diagnosis of depression have a depressed mood, it is not required. Instead, some individuals lose interest or pleasure in things they typically enjoy. Often, children will be more irritable rather than sad or depressed.

  • Physical symptoms like headaches, weight change, aches and pains can be a sign of depression – Fact
    • Depression may not only include problems with mood and thinking, but also physical symptoms. Changes in sleep or appetite are quite common. Problems with digestion, muscle aches and back pain may also occur.

  • All teenagers become depressed at some point – Fiction
    • While it’s true that adolescence can be a difficult time, most teenagers will only experience short episodes of sadness that resolve with support from family and friends. When an adult notices a significant change in a teen’s mood, behavior or habits, it’s important to talk with them and their pediatrician about the changes and if professional help is needed.

  •  Depression can appear to happen “out of the blue,” without something bad happening – Fact
    • Difficult life events can cause depression. However, there are other factors that can contribute to depression as well such as genetic, environmental and psychological factors like family history, serious illness like heart disease, side effects of medications or the result of drug or alcohol abuse.

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

  • ADHD is the most common neurodevelopmental disorder seen in childhood – Fact
    • A neurodevelopmental disorder is a disorder that affects behavior, memory, motor skills or the ability to learn. An estimated 5% of children are affected by ADHD.

  • Kids with ADHD can’t pay attention for long – Fiction
    • Kids with ADHD can pay attention, but they have difficulty directing attention to activities that do not hold great interest such as things that are boring or unmotivating. However, they can pay attention to activities that are rewarding, engaging and interesting to them.

  • I have told my child with ADHD not to do something, so when they keep doing it, it is because they are being defiant – Fiction
    • Children with ADHD have difficulty stopping and thinking about things before they act.  Frequently, behaviors in children with ADHD that look like they are “purposeful” really are not, and in fact, are related to their ADHD.

  •  ADHD can’t be cured – Fact
    • ADHD can’t be cured, but it is a highly treatable. About two out of five children with ADHD continue to experience symptoms as teens. While there is not an absolute cure for ADHD, most individuals can manage symptoms with a combination of behavioral and environmental and sometimes medication support. Sometimes the symptoms can become milder with age. An adult can “grow into” the disorder, choosing employment and social interactions that are complimented by the childhood challenges associated with ADHD.

Contributed by Nashedra Barry, Ph.D, Kathryn Phillips, Ph.D. Paul Tierney, LPC-S, Wayne Fleisig, Ph.D, Kristen Smith, and Debra Patterson, Ph.D.


Together, We Are the Patient Experience

April 23-28 is Patient Experience Week, a time to celebrate all Children’s of Alabama staff impacting patient experience every day. Children’s joins the Beryl Institute in defining the patient experience as “the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture, that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care.”

Every employee, physician and volunteer at Children’s impacts the patient and family experience. From Child Life to Information Technology to Guest Services and beyond, together, we are the patient experience.

Throughout the week, we will share stories from employees across the hospital who make the patient experience great. Each of the employees featured here contributes to our core values of trust, teamwork, compassion, innovation and commitment. We thank them for sharing their stories of impact and inspiration.

André Green, Lead Coordinator Web Applications, 15 Years of service

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?

Fortuitous circumstances. I actually had my first experience working at Children’s as a freelancer assisting with the annual service awards event with an outside contractor. Those professional connections I made during that time led me to the organization when a position became available as a web designer/developer within the corporate communications and marketing department.

How do patients at Children’s of Alabama inspire you? How do you impact the patient experience?

I’ve been inspired by the Children’s of Alabama patients in both expected and unexpected ways over my time here. The trials and tribulations that I have witnessed and those miraculous stories of overcoming are what you come to expect of a hospital that cares for children. However, it’s the resiliency and strength that is the unexpected part; the smiles, the light, and in some cases, the sadness that may accompany medical and personal situations. We go from tears to cheers on a daily basis, from the big wins to the small wins and everything in between. And for me, witnessing this in my career at Children’s has been all inspiring.

For my little part in the grand scheme of things, I believe having the responsibility of managing our website(s) and making them the best that we can impacts the patient experience. The website, in many cases, serves as the very first connection point that a patient or patient family may have with our organization. It is the digital face of Children’s of Alabama. Whether our visitors are looking for immediate care, physician references, education or something as simple as directions to an appointment; the website plays a part in that patient experience and thus I have a part to play as well.

Deanna Miller, Quality Improvement Manager, 23 Years of Service

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?

A desire for professional growth led me to Children’s of Alabama. I was working in a reference laboratory as a microbiologist and I wanted to gain more experience in other types of laboratories and other disciplines of the clinical laboratory. Children’s of Alabama offered me that opportunity as a generalist medical technologist, where I gained experience in hematology, chemistry, immunohematology, and microbiology.

How do patients at Children’s of Alabama inspire you?

Children’s patients inspire me every day because I know our patients’ satisfaction is the key to overcoming or effectively managing any adversity affecting their health. Positive patient experiences that provide meaningful engagement empowers patients and patient families in health care decisions and, ultimately, set the patient on the right path to achieve better outcomes.

Jill Smith, Director of Hearing and Speech, 23 Years of Service

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?

When I was in college, I watched the building of Children’s South. I had no idea what services would be offered at Children’s South or the nature of work that would be done there. I just KNEW I wanted to work there and at Children’s. I was drawn to a career path that worked with people and children, and I fell into audiology during my last quarter at Auburn University. Fortunately, I completed my graduate internship at Children’s, and a job as an audiologist opened. I’ve had several roles at Children’s for the past 23 years and wouldn’t trade it for anything!

How do you impact the patient experience?

As a director, I rarely participate in direct patient care. However, I do get to see families in the clinic halls and talk to them (or when people need directions around the organization). I LOVE when kids “accidentally” come into my office, mistaking me for the exit! Having interactions with families is a highlight of my day. In my role, I have the opportunity to highlight families to the foundation, media, and community resources, and connect families to one another. Knowing that I continue to serve patients indirectly fills my drive to help, treat, and care for them. Also, hearing the stories from staff on their journey with patients gives me great satisfaction knowing advocating for purchasing equipment, materials, supplies, extra iPads and more, has touched and changed lives for good!

William Weaver, Instructional Systems Technologist II, 3 Years of Service

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?

The COVID-19 pandemic was a big reason I came to Children’s. I had applied to work here before the pandemic started, but the opportunity presented itself after a few months into the pandemic. Things fell into place, and I was put in a position where it was the right place and the right time. A few years later, I am so happy to be here.

What do you want each patient to know and feel when they come through the doors at Children’s of Alabama?

I know hospitals can be a scary place, for both adults and children, but especially children. I would like each patient to know that we will do our best to take the “scariness” out of their hospital visit. We do this by providing happiness and joy through events like the Children’s of Alabama Thanksgiving Day “parade” and Tele-Santa. Also, we help keep their minds busy before surgery and other procedures with interactive games utilizing projectors, cameras and fish and bubble “walls.” My hope is that even though it could be the worst day of their life, we can do something to brighten their day. At the end of the day, it is all about helping the children. That is why we are here and why we do what we do.

Irsia “Sissi” Castrejon, Language Services Coordinator, 7 Years of Service

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?

I moved to Birmingham and was looking for a fulfilling job in healthcare. I found a position available here in the language services department and I thought it was a perfect place to further my career while being able to help my community at the same time.

How do you impact the patient experience?

I work diligently on a daily basis to facilitate effective communication between our limited English-proficient patients and families and Children’s staff by coordinating language needs with available interpreting resources.

Laura Lee Baldwin, Guest Services, 10 Years of Service

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?

I spent a lot of time here when I was younger. I had a few surgeries at Children’s related to my cerebral palsy. I came to a lot of clinic appointments as well as physical and occupational therapy appointments. I was also a volunteer; I have always loved interacting with and helping people.

How do you impact the patient experience?

I interact with patients when I’m working at the information desk. At the desk, I mainly assist patient families and friends getting checked in and make sure it is the smoothest experience possible for them, so they can focus on their child. Sometimes, I help guide people around the hospital by taking them to their appointments and it helps them feel less stressed. Lastly, I have the opportunity to deliver packages, gifts and mail to patients and it is a joy to see the smile on their faces.

Val Slater, Nurse Clinician, Clinic 8, 32 Years of Service

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?

Since I was 7 years old, I always wanted to be a nurse, and that desired dream never changed. I just had a love for caring for people. What led me to a career at Children’s in 1990 was after my pediatric ­­­rotation on 4West. The nurses there were so loving and passionate toward the kids, and I have such a big heart for children. Prior to my rotation, I had put in applications at Children’s but never got a call back. On my last day of my rotation, I mentioned to Mrs. Johnson (one of the nurses) that I had put in applications but never got a response, and I really want to work at Children’s. She took my name and phone number and told me that she would give it to her director (Bonnie Barnett). The next day, I received a call from Mrs. Barnett, had my interview, and was hired the very next day. That is God putting the right people in my space, and I knew then this is where the Lord wanted me to be and still going strong 32 years later.

How do you impact the patient experience?

I try to make each patient feel as comfortable as possible. Being in the hospital can make anyone feel uneasy, especially children. I try to focus their mind on other things that are pleasant or comforting. I find out what they are interested in, and I listen to them. I will even sing, dance, play games or walk around with them if it helps get their mind off their hospital stay. Because I have built a relationship with them, it makes me feel really good inside when they see me, give me a hug and a smile. This is how I know that I have made a good impact on them.

Sarah Schaeffer, Child life specialist, 6 Years of Service

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?

For most of my life, I have been drawn towards working with children in some capacity. I was torn between a career in medicine or education and found my perfect middle ground in the field of child life. I moved to Birmingham after finishing my master’s degree in child life in New York and began volunteering at Children’s shortly after relocating. I recognized what a special and unique place Children’s is and was able to solidify a child life specialist position when the time was right.

How do you impact the patient experience?

I currently work in outpatient radiology, which, like most places in the hospital, can be overwhelming and frightening at times. As a child life specialist, I have the pleasure of helping patients and families navigate the stressors of diagnostic imaging. I always tell my patients, “No one likes surprises at the doctor or the hospital, and I want to make sure you, as the patient, understand what to expect.” I work to decrease the fear and anxiety patients experience by providing developmentally appropriate education and preparation, positive coping techniques, support, and distraction. I work closely with the medical team, which allows me to advocate for my patients and families while also acting as a two-way bridge of communication, which is crucial. I strive to help patients and families master their hospital experience to give them a sense of control and empowerment. I feel honored and fortunate to have such an impactful role in so many patients’ and families’ healthcare journeys at Children’s of Alabama.

Clinton Maddox, Security Officer, 4 years of service

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?

Former Security Director, Michael McCall, led me to Children’s. Shortly after his arrival here, Mr. McCall asked me to come work for him. He would always tell me how much he loved Children’s and enjoyed working here every day. Finally, after a few years, I joined him in 2019 and have loved it ever since.

How do patients at Children’s of Alabama inspire you?

Seeing all the smiling faces of patients, no matter the situation they’re going through reminds me to be grateful and inspires me to embrace every day that I have. The bravery patients face their situations with is unmatched. They may be little, but they are some of the strongest people.


Child Abuse Prevention Month: What You Need to Know

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, but Children’s Hospital Intervention and Prevention Services (CHIPS) staff works year-round to facilitate healing from physical, mental and emotional abuse and to provide prevention education.

Parents and caregivers should look for signs of abusive situations. The child who has endured abuse the longest typically has the longest healing process. The quicker an abusive situation is reported, the faster a child can be provided with medical care, therapy and counseling to heal. “Abuse is not the child’s whole story,” Debra Schneider, director of the CHIPS Center at Children’s of Alabama said. “There is hope when intervention occurs.”

Children who are being abused might:

• Have new onset fears
• Have a vocabulary too advanced regarding sexual activity
• Be withdrawn from friends and family
• Have nightmares
• Experience a drop in their grades
• Change in appearance (wearing clothes that don’t align with the weather)
• Not want to go home
• Start using drugs
• Bully others
• Be sad or depressed
• Have stories to explain injuries that don’t make sense or keep changing
• Not want to be with the abuser
• Act out at school

Signs to watch out for in abusers:

Abusers usually walk the victim through a grooming process. Schneider said it is important to remember that the child is usually not abused 24/7. The relationship often consists of a more positive bond. The abuser knows what the child likes, is curious about and afraid of, and they use it to their advantage. Some sort of ‘relationship’ is formed, and a trust is established between them. That way, when harm enters the picture, the child is less likely to question their character and actions. Other signs include spending more time with the child than is appropriate, giving extraordinary gifts to the child more than what’s normal, using excuses to be alone with the child and implementing gaslighting techniques.

Most children think abuse comes from a stranger, but abusers are usually someone a child knows. Schneider suggests teaching about “stranger danger;” however, build off that concept to make them aware that abusers can be someone they know. Schneider states most children are taught about stranger danger, but children need to be taught that most sexual abuse happens with someone a child knows.

What adults, parents or caregivers can do:

Children in an abusive situation need a trusted adult to confide in – parents, grandparents, a teacher, friend’s parent/caregiver or guidance counselor. School prevention education programs encourage a child to tell three adults: two inside and one outside their family. That trusted adult can clearly communicate to the child, “I am here for you if anything is going on. I am not here to judge.”

Adults who suspect abuse should approach the child gently. If the adult asks too many questions, the child may feel in trouble. Adults should never make promises to not tell anyone, since that is a key action to be taken when stopping abusive situations. Remind the child that abuse is NEVER their fault.

Since conversations about abuse can be very difficult to bring up, Schneider suggests bringing up an incident from the news as a segue into a conversation about the abusive situation. In addition, having these conversations in the car creates a more relaxed, noninvasive environment.

If you suspect an abusive situation, report it immediately. Anyone can provide a report of suspected abuse to the local department of human resources or a child protective services agency. All it takes is a suspicion of abuse; the caller doesn’t have to have specific evidence. You can also contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). You don’t have to give your name. If the child is in immediate danger, call 911.

The CHIPS Center at Children’s of Alabama:

CHIPS staff is a team of specially trained counselors, doctors, social workers and pediatric sexual assault nurse examiners (PSANE). The staff works with law enforcement, the Department of Human Resources and child advocacy center representatives to provide the best possible care for children and families affected by child maltreatment. Services provided include forensic medical evaluations, social work assessments, play therapy, counseling, care coordination, prevention education, court support, expert court testimony and specialized support for victims of human trafficking. In 2022, the Sunrise Clinic held within the CHIPS Center received the inaugural “Outstanding Victim Protection in Countering Human Trafficking” award from the Center for Countering Human Trafficking within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

For more information on the CHIPS Center, call 205-638-2751 or visit

Children's, News

Talking to Your Kids about the News

Children hear about what’s going on in the world through social media, friends, or adults’ conversations. Sometimes the news is uplifting — like kids their age taking a stand on social or environmental issues. Other times, children may worry about current events like the recent school shooting in Nashville and need an adult to help make sense of what’s happening.

Help your child understand the news and feel more in control by taking these steps: 

Find Out What Your Child Already Knows

  • Ask your kids questions to see if they know about a current event. For school-age kids and teens, you can ask what they have heard at school or on social media. 
  • Consider your child’s age and development. Younger kids may not grasp the difference between fact and fantasy. Most kids realize the news is real by the time they are 7 or 8 years old.
  • Follow your child’s lead. If your child doesn’t seem interested in an event or doesn’t want to talk about it at the moment, don’t push. 

Answer Questions Honestly and Briefly

  • Tell the truth, but share only as much as your child needs to know. Try to calm any fears and help kids feel safe. Don’t offer more details than your child is interested in.
  • Listen carefully. When kids hear about an upsetting event like a school shooting, they may worry, “Could I be next? Could that happen to me?” Older kids may have lots of questions. Focus on what your kids ask so you can help them cope with their fears. An adult’s willingness to listen sends a powerful message.
  • It’s OK to say you don’t know the answer. If your child asks a question that stumps you, say you’ll find out. Or use age-appropriate websites to spend time together looking for an answer.
  • Limit how much kids watch online, on TV, and social media about the events. The strong images may be upsetting for kids and teens. 

Help Kids Feel in Control

  • Encourage your child to talk. If your child is afraid about what’s going on, ask about it. Even when kids can’t control an event — like a school shooting or natural disaster — it can help them to share their fears with you.
  • Urge teens to look beyond a news story. Ask why they think an outlet featured a frightening or disturbing story. Was it to boost ratings and clicks or because the story was truly newsworthy? In this way, a scary story can be turned into a discussion about the role and mission of the news.
  • Teach your children to be prepared, not panicked. For example, if the news is about a school shooting, talk about the ways schools are keeping kids safe. If it’s about a natural disaster, make a family plan for what you might do. If an illness is spreading, talk about ways to protect yourself and others.
  • Talk about what you can do to help. After a tragic event, finding ways to help can give kids a sense of control. Look for news stories that highlight what other people are doing. Articles such as School Violence: What Students Can Do may be helpful for older kids and teens. 
  • Put news stories in context. Broaden the discussion from a specific news item about a difficult event to a larger conversation. Use it as a way to talk about helping, cooperation, and the ways that people cope with hardship.

Limit Exposure to the News

  • Decide what and how much news is appropriate for your child. Think about how old your kids are and how mature they are. Encourage them to take breaks from following the news, especially when the topics are difficult.
  • Keep tabs on the amount of difficult news your child hears. Notice how often you discuss the news in front of your kids. Turn off the TV so the news is not playing in the background all day.
  • Set limits. It’s OK to tell your kids that you don’t want them to have constant exposure and to set ground rules on device and social media use. 
  • Watch the news with your child and talk about it. Turn off a story if you think it’s not appropriate for your child. 

Keep the Conversation Going

  • Talk about current events with your child often. Help kids think through stories they hear – good and bad. Ask questions like: “What do you think about these events?” or “How do you think these things happen?” With these types of questions, you can encourage conversation about non-news topics.
  • Watch for stress. If your child shows changes in behavior (such as not sleeping or eating, not wanting to be around people, or worrying all the time), call your child’s doctor or a behavioral health care provider. They can help your child manage anxiety and feel better able to cope.

More Resources from Our Partners


March is Women’s History Month

Children’s of Alabama is here today because, more than a century ago, a group of dedicated women saw the growing need for quality health care for children. In those early days at Children’s, an all-female group of volunteers did whatever was needed to operate the charity hospital, from scrubbing floors to sitting with sick children. The hospital’s first trustees were all women.

Today, women are involved throughout our hospital – from the board room to bedside. The women featured here all have very different roles at Children’s, but all are key to fulfilling the promise of the hospital’s original founders.

The Women of the Children’s of alabama Executive team

At Children’s of Alabama, 86 percent of our workforce is female. And you’ll see that reflected in hospital leadership as well.

This group of women has nearly 250 combined years of service at Children’s. Their leadership stretches from patient care, nursing and operations to customer service, finance, risk management and government relations.

Pictured left to right: Suzanne Respess, vice president, Government Relations; Lori Moler, vice president, Customer Service; Sandy Thurmond, vice president, Primary Care Services; Delicia Mason, vice president, Nursing Operations and Chief Nursing Officer; Chandler Bibb, Chief Development Officer; Heather Hargis, vice president, Operations; Stacy White, senior executive leader, Behavioral Health; Vickie Atkins, vice president, Risk Management; Heather Baty, vice president, Ambulatory Operations; and Jamie Dabal, vice president, Operations. Not pictured: Dawn Walton, Chief Financial Officer.

Kaylee Montgomery, BSN, RN PICU Charge Nurse

What led you to a career in healthcare?
My heart has always been drawn to pediatric healthcare. I love caring for others and being part of their medical journey. I am blessed to be a part of such an incredible facility.

Who are some women who have impacted your life?
My mom has always been very influential to me. She is a dedicated wife and mother that has always been determined to give her family the best. I am forever thankful for everything she has taught me.

What message do you have for women trying to make their mark on the world?
Women are successful and powerful in the workplace and I believe women are a necessity. Women bring knowledge, empathy and grace. There’s nothing a woman cannot accomplish!

Tracey Williams, Patient Services Manager, Food Services

What led you to a career at Children’s?
I have worked in healthcare food services since my days in the U.S. Air Force. My career working in hospitals started and flourished in Oklahoma City. For eight years, I served as a food service manager for a behavioral health facility that focused specifically on children. Just two years ago, I returned home to Alabama and started working at Children’s. I know I am meant to be here – I have a passion for food and children.

Who are some women who have impacted your life?
My mother and my grandmother are the women that have impacted me most in my life with their love of good food, their nurturing and caring nature and strength to get any job done the right way.

What message do you have for women trying to make their mark on the world?
My message for women trying to make their mark on the world would be to stand strong in your beliefs and work hard for your dreams. Also, to have faith and be better tomorrow than you were today!

Ashley Beasley, MD, Midtown Pediatrics Pediatrician

What led you to a career at Children’s?
Since childhood, I have dreamed of becoming a physician. I loved watching my pediatrician, especially using the tools in the exam room. I learned very early that a career in healthcare would be rewarding. 

Who are some women who have impacted your life?
My late mother definitely impacted my life greatly. Each day, I strive to become as loving, hardworking and dedicated as she was to her family and career. 

What message do you have for women trying to make their mark on the world?

I would like to encourage and empower all women to reach for the stars. There is no race or time limit in obtaining success. Work hard and at your own pace to achieve your own personal goals.

Payton McBryde, MS, OTR/L, Inpatient Occupational Therapy Coordinator

What led you to a career at Children’s?
I have always been driven to help people and find great satisfaction in serving others. When I was a freshman in college, the field of Occupational Therapy found me. I was having lunch with a friend who said, “I think you would really love occupational therapy and you’d make a great OT.” The following semester I completed a practicum at The University of Florida Shands Hospital with a pediatric OT and fell in love with the profession and the acute care setting. To be able to play a part in a child’s recovery process and to bring joy and hope to some of their most difficult days is a gift and immensely rewarding.

Who are some women who have impacted your life?

My mom and sister have impacted me in so many positive ways. My mom is the most energetic and positive person I have ever known.  She is a special education teacher and has served this population for 51 years.  Her passion for making a difference in the lives of these children is unparalleled. She is a ruthless advocate for her students and goes above and beyond to set them up for success. I have always admired her passion and commitment and the positive impact she has had on so many. My sister has taught me the importance and value of advocating and caring for myself in addition to others.  She is a successful businesswoman, effective communicator, and strong leader. I have always admired that she has made and followed her own path. I am beyond grateful for them and can only hope that I impact others in the way they have impacted me.

What message do you have for women trying to make their mark on the world?

Pursue your passion and don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. There will always be challenges, stay strong and give things your best effort. Some things will come easy, but it’s the struggles and challenges that you will look back on and be most proud to have overcome. Try your best not to get caught up in comparison. Everyone’s path looks different, and regardless of how things look, things are not always as they appear.  Perhaps most importantly, find the joy in what you do.  It makes the “hard stuff” seem less significant.  

Ann Slattery, DrPH, RN, RPh, DABAT, FAACT, Director, Alabama Poison Information Center

What led you to a career at Children’s?
Serendipity! I was a chemistry major. I loved chemistry and math and wasn’t quite sure what to do with these degrees. My classes were filled with nursing, pharmacy, and pre-med students, so I gave it a try. I first worked in a NICU, but my true passion turned out to be toxicology.

Who are some women who have impacted your life?

Lori Moler impacted my life by believing in me. LaDonna Gaines impacted my life by encouraging me to have a work life balance. Erica Liebelt taught me that being a strong, intelligent woman is a good thing.  My daughter Mary Margaret impacted me by opening up another world by watching her grow.

What message do you have for women trying to make their mark on the world?

Education, Education, Education….It’s free to listen to new viewpoints. Knowledge in and of itself is not dangerous. The lack of it can be. John Mason Brown once said, the only true happiness comes from squandering ourselves for a purpose…for me it has been toxicology.


The largest department at Children’s is the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Along with housing 48 private rooms and 4 ECMO rooms, more than 230 women work in the department. From neonatologists to nutritionists to nurses and more, these women are making a profound impact on our tiniest patients.  


Inclement Weather Updates – February 16, 2023

February 17, 2023 8:00 am

All practices are open and back to normal business hours and operations.

February 16, 2023 3:30 p.m.

Due to the potential for severe weather, Greenvale Pediatrics Alabaster, Greenvale Pediatrics Brook Highland and Greenvale Pediatrics Hoover closed at 3pm today.

Nurses will be available for assistance and doctors will be available for telehealth visits as needed. The answering service can be reached at 205-930-4204.

If you have a medical emergency, call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room.

February 16, 2023 2:30 p.m.

Due to the potential for severe weather, Pediatrics West Bessemer and Pediatrics West McAdory are closing at 2:30pm today.

A physician is on call for urgent medical needs. For Pediatrics West Bessemer patients, please call 205- 481-1886 to be connected to the after-hours answering service. For Pediatrics West McAdory patients, please call 205-426-3010 to be connected to the after-hours answering service.

If you have a medical emergency, call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room.

February 16, 2023 2:00 p.m.

Due to the potential for severe weather, North Alabama Children’s Specialists is closing at 3pm today.

A provider is on call for urgent medical needs. Please call 256-533-0833 to be connected to the after-hours answering service.

If you have a medical emergency, call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room.


Severe Weather Preparedness

Severe weather can happen at any time and in any part of the country. In Alabama, we are no stranger to this kind of weather, especially tornadoes. It is important to be prepared for these weather events and to have a plan for your family to stay safe. If you don’t have a severe weather plan, now is a good time to make one.

Children’s of Alabama experts recommend families discuss their severe weather plan in advance, including where they will go for safety. Specifically, you want to make sure to go to an area without windows. The basement of a house is ideal or an interior room without windows in the lowest level of the home. A bathroom or closet are also good options. Experts suggest that families practice going to their safe place to become more comfortable with the process.

Safe Place

  • Without windows
  • Lowest level of the home
  • Interior room

Additionally, families should prepare a severe weather bag for each member of the family. The bags should always be stored in their safe place. This bag should contain essentials such as:

Severe Weather Bag

  • Helmet
  • Flashlight
  • Hard-soled shoes
  • Clothing appropriate for rain and severe weather
  • Name band (filled out by parents)
  • Snacks

It is also recommended to keep a weather radio with an extra set of batteries in the safe place.

For more information on severe weather preparedness, visit


Dealing With a Stomach Bug

If you have little ones, you’re not a stranger to the infamous stomach bug. It spreads quickly among classmates at school, causes an upset tummy and, fortunately, only lasts a few days.

So, what exactly is the stomach bug? Gastroenteritis, often called the stomach bug or the stomach flu, is a common illness that causes nausea, vomitingdiarrhea, and belly cramps. Dr. Alicia Webb, emergency medicine at Children’s of Alabama, says most stomach bugs run their course within a few days with plenty of fluids and rest at home.

What Causes Gastroenteritis?

Gastroenteritis happens when germs (viruses, bacteria or parasites) infect the stomach or intestines, causing inflammation. In kids, viruses are the most common cause of gastroenteritis.

Many of the germs that cause gastroenteritis spread easily. Someone can get sick if they:

  • Touch something contaminated and then touch food or their mouth.
  • Share food or drinks with someone who is sick.
  • Live with someone who’s infected, even if that person isn’t sick.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Gastroenteritis?

The most common signs of gastroenteritis are vomiting and diarrhea. Many children also have a fever.

When kids have diarrhea or vomiting, they lose lots of fluid. This can lead to dehydration. If that happens, the body can have trouble working as it should.

How Is Gastroenteritis Treated?

There is no specific treatment for gastroenteritis, and most kids can be treated at home.

“It is okay if your child is less interested in food, but it is important to make sure your child stays well hydrated,” Dr. Webb says. Keep your child hydrated by offering plenty of liquids. Kids with more severe dehydration may need treatment in the emergency department or hospital.

Mild dehydration is treated with oral (by mouth) rehydration. This usually includes giving oral rehydration solution (such as Pedialyte, Enfalyte or a store brand). It has the right amounts of water, sugar and salt to help with dehydration. You can buy it without a prescription at drugstores or supermarkets. If you can’t get oral rehydration solution, talk to your doctor.

If your child has mild dehydration and your doctor says it’s OK to start treatment at home:

  • Give your child an oral electrolyte solution as often as possible. If your child throws up, start with small sips, about 1 or 2 teaspoons every few minutes.
  • Babies can continue to breastfeed or take formula as long as they are not throwing up repeatedly.
  • Don’t give babies plain water instead of oral rehydration solution. It doesn’t have the right nutrients for babies with dehydration.
  • Older children can have frozen electrolyte popsicles.
  • Do not give your child full-strength juice (undiluted), soda or sports drinks. These have a lot of sugar, which can make diarrhea worse.

When your child stops vomiting, you can offer small amounts of solid foods, such as toast, crackers, rice or mashed potatoes. Yogurt, fruits, vegetables and lean meat, like chicken, are also acceptable. 

A child who isn’t throwing up can eat a regular diet, if they feel up to it. It may take time for them to feel like eating. There’s no need to avoid dairy unless it makes the vomiting or diarrhea worse. Avoid fatty foods, which can make diarrhea worse.

To help your child feel better, let your child rest as needed. You can give medicine for fever or pain, like acetaminophen or ibuprofen (do not give ibuprofen to babies under 6 months old), if your doctor says it’s OK. Follow the package directions for how much medicine to give and how often.

Don’t give medicines for diarrhea or vomiting unless your doctor instructs you to do so.

Keep your child out of school or childcare until 24 hours without vomiting or fever and diarrhea has improved.

When Should I Call the Doctor?

Dr. Webb says it’s important to “call your doctor or seek medical care if your child has vomiting or diarrhea and starts to act very sick, has signs of severe dehydration, develops a rash, or you notice blood in the vomit or diarrhea.”

Additionally, call the doctor if your child:

  • can’t drink for several hours
  • is peeing (urinating) less often (more than 4–6 hours for babies and 6-8 hours for older children)
  • has signs of dehydration, such as crying with few or no tears, having a dry mouth or cracked lips, feeling dizzy or lightheaded, acting very sleepy or less alert
  • has a high fever
  • is vomiting for more than 24 hours or the diarrhea doesn’t get better after several days

Children’s of Alabama Celebrates Black History Month

February is Black History Month, a time to honor the accomplishments and contributions of African Americans. At Children’s of Alabama, we are united in our mission and dedication in providing the finest pediatric healthcare to all children. Each of the employees featured here contribute to our core values of trust, teamwork, compassion, innovation and commitment. We thank them for sharing their stories of inspiration and impact.

Lantze Grissette
Benefit Counselor, 2 years of service

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?
Before Children’s of Alabama, I was living and working in Atlanta for more than 20 years. When the opportunity opened up here at Children’s, it really was a no brainer: a tremendous opportunity to work for an organization that has such a stellar reputation.

What other African Americans have inspired you?
For inspiration, first and foremost I have to credit my Dad. He has always been there for me when things get tough. I look at his life and despite all of the hardship and trials he has endured, he finds a way to overcome obstacles without a complaint, a harsh word or blaming others. In fact, I have NEVER, ever heard him complain about anything EVER! He just pushes through with a smile. I love that guy!

What kind of impact do you hope to have? How do you hope to inspire others?
My intent (like most people here at Children’s) is to help in any way I can. What I mean by that is you can make a one-time grand gesture or you can do the little things every day like smile, follow up or lend an ear to people’s troubles. As a benefits counselor, I believe it’s the smallest things that can make the biggest impact. I believe I am built to do just that.

Jacquese Smith, MS, MLS (ASCP) CM
Hematology and Chemistry Laboratory Supervisor, 4 years of service

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama? 
Being born and raised in Birmingham, Children’s of Alabama has always been an institution known throughout the community for the significant impact in helping children when they are not feeling their best. When I decided to transition in my career, I could not think of a better place to join. Children’s aligns with my personal values of compassion, commitment, teamwork, trust and innovation.

What other African Americans have inspired you?
My parents Kendrick and Kimberly Foy have been an inspiration to me all of my life and have continuously provided the tools that I needed to be the best me I could be. My father taught me to be compassionate and fair while in areas of leadership; my mother taught me to be consistent and intentional with my actions. They encourage me to continue to set goals for myself, work hard to play hard and to never lose sight of the greatness in myself as well as in others.

What kind of impact do you hope to have? How do you hope to inspire others?
I hope to inspire others to never take the word “no” to mean “never” when it comes to obtaining your goals. Instead, take it as a “not right now” and a challenge to yourself to take the time to ready your mind, body and spirit for the achievement of the goal so that when the time comes for you to achieve it, you are equipped with the discipline to surpass even your own expectations.

April Hooper Weatherly
Assistant Director of Nursing, Inpatient Behavioral Health, 18 years of service

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?
I completed my undergraduate studies at Tennessee State University in Nashville, TN. I’d planned to spend the summer before graduation at home in Birmingham, but I also desired to work while I was here. I secured a position at Children’s of Alabama for the summer on what was 4 Southeast at the time. I loved the team and working on the unit, and it wasn’t long before I realized that I wanted to work in pediatrics. The summer was coming to an end, and I was preparing to return to school. I was informed about a scholarship program the hospital offered that provides tuition assistance in exchange for working at Children’s after graduation. I completed the necessary paperwork and soon after was notified I was a scholarship recipient. After graduation, I was thrilled to have an opportunity to return to 4 Southeast as a staff nurse. That moment has come full circle again as I serve in leadership on 4 Dearth, which comprises what was previously 4 Southeast.

What other African Americans have inspired you?

The African American who inspires me the most is my mom. She leads with a servant’s heart and is one of the most generous and caring people I know. As I’ve grown more in my professional career, Michelle Obama, Stacey Abrams, and Ketanji Brown Jackson are a source of inspiration. As an African American woman, I observed and analyzed how these women maneuvered in roles that were not traditionally inclusive. Their poise, tremendous restraint, graciousness and grit amid unwarranted attacks and attempts to disgrace and devalue their accomplishments are a playbook, of sorts, for those who feel pressure to quit when adversity comes their way.

How do you hope to inspire others?
The rarity of someone like me, an African American woman with a degree from an HBCU, serving in a leadership position, begs the question, how did you do it? I’m striving to create a legacy of hope by serving as an exemplar for those who need to see someone like them excel. I also hope to impact others by being a change agent, pushing forward difficult conversations where those with muted voices have a platform to share. I hope to inspire others by dispelling the myth that titles are the only measure of success or greatness. True success is diligence in work put before you, investing in yourself to nurture your craft, and doing what brings you happiness, not just financial gain. In the words of Stacey Abrams, “Not everyone’s ambitions will be world domination or Carnegie Hall, but we should be driven beyond what we know and feel safe doing.”

Demi Nicholson
Lead Respiratory Therapist, 16 Years of Service

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?
I’ve always enjoyed working with kids. I was a student studying respiratory therapy at UAB when Children’s of Alabama was introduced to me as a future place of employment after graduation. I thought it would be the best of both worlds…working with kids in my field of study!

What other African Americans have inspired you?
Of course I appreciate the well-known famous African Americans for their inspirational stories, lives, events, inventions and sacrifices…such as Martin Luther King, Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes and other classic historical figures just to name a few….but my most inspirational African Americans are the ones who not only introduced me to God but also showed and taught me about God by the countless ways they love me. I am so blessed to be able to call them mom and dad! My parents…God showed out when he blessed me with them. My dad has since transitioned but his love for me lives on. I don’t have to look far at all to see or be reminded of their sacrifices, advice, life lessons, words of wisdom, charity and Christian lives that they have set before me. They are the wind beneath my wings and my biggest inspiration!

What kind of impact do you hope to have? How do you hope to inspire others?
My motto is Live, Laugh, Love…love being the biggest! 1 Peter 4:8 tells us to love each other deeply! Laughter is the simplest form of happiness! When you’re enjoying, engaging and experiencing a good laugh, you aren’t thinking about any problems or negativity. Your undivided attention is on whatever it is that’s making you laugh and that in itself is the purest form of happiness, even if it’s only for a moment…what an amazing moment to LIVE in!

William Woods Jr.
3rd Shift Maintenance Supervisor, 28 years of service

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?
After working 26 years in the military as a sergeant first class, I retired. At the time, my cousin was working in shipping and receiving at Children’s of Alabama and that is what brought me here when I finished active duty with the military.

What other African Americans have inspired you?
I thank God for my parents and family who have influenced me greatly. First, my wife, Mrs. Woods, along with my brother, Dana Woods, have inspired me. Dana is a battalion fire chief and fire marshal. Additionally, both of my cousins have been an influence: my cousin, Gary Richardson, is the Mayor of the city of Midfield, Alabama and my cousin Felicia Rucker Sumerlin was the first black female deputy chief for Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department. I also had great influences from my time in the military. Lieutenant General AC Roper was my brigade commander and General Colin Powell was our joint chief of staff when I enlisted in the military. I have been around so many great leaders, all of whom influenced me in some way.

What kind of impact do you hope to have? How do you hope to inspire others?
I hope to give outstanding service to all of our staff members and patients. I hope to continue to have great relationships with Children’s staff by checking in on them. For the maintenance department and 3rd shift, I hope to inspire those I work with by selflessly serving – putting my staff ahead of my needs. Lastly, I desire to impact others through esprit de corps, a feeling of pride, fellowship and common loyalty.

Shannon Parker
Lead medical social worker, 5 years of service

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?
I have always wanted to work at Children’s, since the beginning of my career as a Social Worker. After receiving my undergraduate degree from Miles College, I worked for the Alabama Department of Human Resources, focusing on Child Protection Services (CPS) for several years, advancing from caseworker to supervisor over investigations, ongoing family services, foster care and reunification services. Although I have experience working with adults as well, my specialization in graduate school at the University of Alabama was to work with children and families. Once I made my way here as a Medical Social Worker, I got a chance to witness the profession through a completely different lens. I had to put my skills of advocacy, assessment and intervention to the test, all while maintaining a level of compassion and understanding. To work for an organization whose primary focus is to serve and care for sick children, aiding families & eliminating barriers, all while withstanding the test of time, is truly amazing.

What other African Americans have inspired you?
My initial inspiration comes from my wonderful parents, Chester & Shirley Parker. They have always been my biggest supporters- encouraging me to never stop growing and advancing. In addition to my parents, Mary McLeod Bethune always stood out to me because of her educational activism and leadership. Then there is Shirley Chisholm, who was a huge advocate for early education and child welfare policies.

What kind of impact do you hope to have? How do you hope to inspire others?
Whenever I engage with someone, I always hope that they see my genuineness and know that I truly care. I always make an effort to be present and available for my colleagues and the population I serve. I hope to encourage others to always be humble. Go about your day with the understanding that you will never know what the person next to you is truly going through so always be kind.


RSV in Children: Everything You Need to Know

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) can resemble a common cold. For children, though, especially those younger than 2 years old, it can be more serious.

RSV is an infection of the lungs and airways – it is a major cause of respiratory illness in children. In the Northern Hemisphere, including the United States, RSV occurs most frequently between November and April. However, the virus was on the rise earlier this year and has not slowed down since.

Keep reading to learn more about RSV, including symptoms, treatments and when you should call the doctor.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of RSV?

Kids with RSV might have cold symptoms, such as:

Sometimes, an RSV infection can lead to:

Is RSV Contagious?

RSV is highly contagious. It spreads through droplets containing the virus when someone coughs or sneezes. It also can live on surfaces (like counters or doorknobs) and on hands and clothing. So people can get it if they touch something that’s contaminated.

Because it can spread easily by touching infected people or surfaces, washing hands well and often can help stop it. Wash your hands after being around someone who has cold symptoms.

RSV can spread quickly through schools and childcare centers. Babies often get it when older kids carry the virus home from school and pass it to them. School-age kids who have a cold should keep away from younger siblings — especially babies — until their symptoms clear up.

How Is RSV Treated?

Most cases of RSV are mild and don’t need medical treatment. However, the infection can be more serious in babies and toddlers. Some might need treatment in a hospital where they can be watched closely and get supportive treatment for any breathing problems or dehydration.

Home Care

At home:

  • Make your child as comfortable as possible.
  • Allow time for recovery.
  • Provide plenty of fluids. Babies may not feel like drinking, so offer fluids in small amounts often.

If your child is too young to blow their own nose, use saline (saltwater) nose spray or drops and a nasal aspirator (or bulb syringe) to remove sticky nasal fluids. Clearing a baby’s nose before offering fluids can make it easier for them to drink.

Treat discomfort from a fever using a non-aspirin fever medicine like acetaminophen or, if your child is older than 6 months, ibuprofen

When Should I Call the Doctor?

Call your child’s pediatrician if your infant or child:

  • develops a fever after having a cold or has a high fever
  • has a cough or other symptoms that get worse
  • is wheezing
  • has labored or rapid breathing
  • shows signs of dehydration, such as fewer wet diapers than usual
  • refused to breastfeed or bottle-feed

Get medical help right away if your child:

  • is struggling to catch their breath
  • is very drowsy
  • has lips or fingernails that look blue