Stories from the front lines of the Pandemic that has changed all of our lives.

Lyon's Electrolysis & Lashes

After a career in the lighting industry, Kristie Lyons turned to a profession where she felt she could really help people. The convenience and permanency of electrolysis is the best solution for unwanted facial or body hair. Medical professionals have long recognized the effectiveness of this technology.

Kristie had been having electrolysis treatments herself for about two years and really loved the results she got. Her mother struggled with unwanted hair due to hormonal imbalances, and unfortunately back then Kristie didn’t know the permanent results that could be gained from electrolysis. She never got the chance to help her mom before she passed away. But the experience sparked the drive to help other women with unwanted hair and set Kristie off on a new journey in life.

“I offer anyone who needs it a chance to get rid of unwanted hair once and for all,” said Kristie, whose passion for helping others feel better about themselves has become the driving force behind her business.

“I connect with every one of my clients. It is truly a pleasure seeing each and every one of them. I listen to their problems and try to help them as much as I can while they are in my studio. I console them when needed. I laugh and cry with them.

“My clients really do change right in front of my eyes,” Kristie says.“If you’ve never dealt with unwanted hair, you wouldn’t understand how it makes others feel. It’s embarrassing and depressing.”

In addition to electrolysis services, Kristie is a certified Lash Stylist. She performs Xtreme Lashes Eyelash Extension procedures, and they are the global leader in eyelash extensions. “Lash extensions take years off your
face,” she says. “They brighten and open up your eyes in a way that lets you say goodbye to your mascara.”

Kristie’s life-altering work is being performed in her brand new salon in Vestavia. She updated and invested in these gorgeous new surroundings so that the beauty of the salon would match the beauty she uncovers in her clients. And in a beautiful expression of generations working together, her daughter Hope Underwood has joined the salon.

Lyons Electrolysis & Lashes
1078 Montgomery Hwy., Vestavia Hills, AL 35216
Salon: (205) 407-4975 • Mobile: (205) 515-6528


Personal Space
An interview with family lawyer Jessica Kirk Drennan.

Corona Diaries
Stories from the front lines of the pandemic that has changed all of our lives. (Bill Caton, Cathy Sloss Jones, Paget Pizitz, Alexander Shunnarah, Don Lupo, Dr. Alyssa Pfister, Katrina Adams, Kelsey Jacks)

The Searchers
The origins of Remdesivir, the COVID 19 Treatment Drug, began almost a decade ago through the innovative leadership of Dr. Richard Whitley at UAB..(text by Jack Landham) 

I Too Sing America
Sherrel Stewart on being black in Birmingham. (Photography by Chuck St. John)

Special Section: The Power of Women
How female energy and talent is powering the Magic City.


Food, art, fun and parties you missed.

Glamorous Life
By Sunny Brown 

Bleacher Seat
By Luke Robinson 

BHM to the Max
By Max Rykov

By Joey Kennedy


In It Together

Disease, civic unrest, deep-seated divisions to overcome. What is next a plague of locusts or some other pestilence to disturb our days and destroy our livelihoods. Since everyone’s understanding of life in these unsettled times is very personal, we put together diary entries from a wide variety of people who shared their experiences of life, work, love and worry in these dangerous days. Turn to page 22 for our Corona Diaries.

Joe O’Donnell Editor/Publisher

Amy Tucker Marketing Specialist
Elizabeth O’Donnell Accounting

Contributing Writers
Javacia Bowser, Lee Ann Brown, Micah Cargo, Tom Gordon, Angela Karen, Joey Kennedy, Brett Levine, Lindsey Osborne, Cody Owens, Phillip Ratliff, Luke Robinson, Max Rykov 


Contributing Photographers
Billy Brown, Edward Badham, Marc Bondarenko, Cameron Carnes, Liesa Cole, Eric Dejuan, Larry O. Gay, Beau Gustafson, Angela Karen, Nik Layman, Jaysen Michael, Alison Miksch, Karim Shamsi-Basha,
Jerry Siegel, Chuck St. John,

B–Metro is published by Fergus Media LLC
1314 Cobb Lane South, Birmingham, AL 35205
(205) 202-4182

B-Metro Logo



After many difficult weeks, more than two dozen florists created this bouquet to the city at the entrance to Rotary Trail to give people something to smile about.
(Photo courtesy of Larry O. Gay.)

Talk: Personal Space

Jessica Kirk Drennan

a one-on-one conversation with
Jessica Kirk Drennan,
family law attorney.

The Corona Diaries

Dispatches from the front lines of the Pandemic that has changed all of our lives.

Time to Be Alive

Bill & Ann Caton and Grandchildren

A gentle rain fell on this cool, late-spring day and two geese moved in the creek that glides through Homewood Park. Up the creek, and then back down. Silent. Only a slow wake marking their time with the water.

Ann and I had the time to eat a picnic lunch in our car and watch the geese and the creek and listen to the rain because the Novel Coronavirus quieted the clamor of our important daily lives.

We are fortunate to be able to work from the safety of home, so our experience of the last few months has not been as difficult as it could have been. We miss being together with our families and hugging grandchildren. We miss being with our friends at church and teaching Sunday School for five-year-olds. We miss visiting with the good people at all the small local places – Devinci’s, Diplomat Deli, Ranch House, Golden Rule, Savages and Demetri’s. This disruption has been jarring.

It started for us in early March when we watched from the car as our son and daughter-in-law picked out dresses and shoes from Jack n Jill and Sykes that the children would not be able to wear to church on Easter. Evelyn, with the wisdom only a three-year-old can possess, said to her one-year-old sister, Mallory: “Granny and Poppy are trapped in the car.” So different than when we bought another granddaughter, Caroline, her first Easter dress there 10 years ago.

Days slipped away and we often found ourselves confused and angry. It was like breaking any habit, I suppose. But we started building small things into our lives. We began streaming excellent Bible studies and services from Trinity United Methodist Church. We can no longer go inside Devinci’s on Wednesday nights so they drop a pizza in our trunk that we carry home to eat. The same with our other haunts where we have come to know the proprietors. This separation is difficult, but these kindnesses provide their own depth of community.

Bread, cookies, coffee cake from Savage’s. Meat from Mr. P’s. Barbecue from Golden Rule. We even have a new friend who does most of our Shipt-shopping for us. She found some excellent Easter candy and of course we shared some of our marshmallow eggs with her. We were unable to get disinfectant wipes for several weeks, so she gave us some of hers.

We visit with Evelyn and Mallory from the car and leave them treats hidden around the yard. We ache to hold them, but we have fun. Every Sunday night we have a Zoom meeting with children and grandchildren from Auburn to Philadelphia.

Ann and I play cards and talk. It occurred to us that in our nearly 40 years of marriage we have never spent this much time together. And so this virus and its deadly consequences has given us something we could not have imagined in our earlier busy lives – space within our time.

I have started planting and taking care of flowers and herbs on our deck and sunroom. It no longer seems like work. I tear mint leaves and drop them in to brew with the tea bags. Potatoes get fresh chives.

We are separate from friends and family, but closer in many ways than before. We “visit” like my grandparents did on Sundays. Just spending time. We leave cookies on porches to let folks know we are thinking about them. We even drag up chairs to sit in friends’ yards to talk from a distance and the time seems precious.

There is beauty in pace. Not leisure, but space to expand into the spring air, into the world where we actually live, the world outside our minds. There is danger in this world, but there is sun, birdsong and breeze. There is time to turn off the TV, open the doors and listen. Time to walk outside and gaze at the trees, the bees and the blooming flowers. Time to stand in the itchy grass in the heat and humidity of our South. Time to be alive in this living world. —Bill Caton

Lucy's Last Cup

The last 6 weeks have been the hardest of my life. I have cried so much and slept so little. I have made the decision not to reopen Lucy’s. I feel such a wide range of emotions…sadness, anger, confusion, fear and loss. I have spent 27 years of my life at the intersection of University and 20th. Owning that little coffeeshop has given me the greatest joy and the hardest challenges. I have made life long friends and had the best of times there…art shows, concerts, Inauguration viewing, 20th anniversary party, End of Starbucks celebration. I MET MY HUSBAND THERE But even in the best of times, making ends meet was often elusive. I know every small business owner knows exactly what I’m saying.

For me, the times ahead are too uncertain for me to wrap my head around financially, emotionally and health-wise, as I have a pretty bad case of asthma.

Thank you to my husband, Brian and my family and friends for always believing in me. My Mama, Frances, for being just the best. Thank you to my brother Graham for co-signing my business loan at The People’s Bank of Greensboro. Thank you to my sister, Polly, for helping me keep the shop sparkling and stocked. Thank you Jimmy Tracy, for allowing me to put my coffee cart in front of your restaurant even though you didn’t even know me! Royal Cup Coffee for always being there for me, even going so far as to help me set up a mobile espresso rig so I could make coffee for Michael Stipe at a REM concert. Craig Smith and Todd Green…my first regulars and dearest of friends. Arris and John Jebeles for being great landlords, especially during these trying times. The Cusicks for their love and support. My cousin and best of friends, Elise, for helping me set up the shop…painting, furniture shopping. Through that shop, I’ve met the best group of friends one could EVER ask for. My heart swells when I think of their love and support.

To the folks, past and present, who worked with me at the shop…thank you for always supporting me. Thank you for taking ownership of the shop and loving it as much as I did. For taking care of the shop so I could relax and have some down time. Thank you for being my FRIENDS for life.
My customers. My UAB family. It has been my honor and privilege to serve you. Over the years, I have met thousands of people from all around the world. Brilliant minds working to solve problems and make our world a safer place. I loved walking through the shop and hearing different languages being spoken, the scientific languages as well. I often said I had the smartest clientele in Birmingham. I will miss you desperately but I’m gonna figure out a way to stay involved with you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your help over the last 6 weeks. ‘m sorry if I have let you down.
Pivot. This word is being used a lot these days. Lucy Bonds will pivot, but Lucy’s will not. I’m gonna take my 27 years of memories, before hand sanitizer, masks and thermometers, and tuck them away.

What will I do? I’m gonna forge a new path for myself. Maybe I’ll come up with a product line. Maybe I’ll work with Brian in real estate. Maybe I’ll see if I can be of help to a whole bunch of folks. Volunteer. I love this city so much and I am so grateful to be part of this community. Thank you so very much. Please stay safe and healthy.

I want to thank everyone for all the kind words of support and love I have received in the last week. It has been an emotional rollercoaster to say the least.

Cooking through the pamdemic

In the Kitchen with K Marie is a blog started by Katrina Adams for her passion for cooking and entertaining. 

I love to share and create recipes. My passion for event planning, cooking, baking, and entertaining started early. I believe the kitchen is the heart of the home. You can have so much fun making wonderful meals for your family and friends. Many great memories in families are made through great meals. Family and friends ask me for recipes and ideas all the time and I thought this would be helpful for them as well as others.

As a little girl I watched my grandmother, mother and aunts prepare meals with love and passion, I realized early that I have it in my genes too. My love for weddings, bridal showers, and baby showers started at an early age. I have also loved to decorate too. These passions helped birth Cooking with K Marie.

The mission of In the Kitchen with K Marie is to bring out the domestic diva in all ladies and help everyone know the kitchen is the heart of the home!

I absolutely love easy weeknight dinners and this casserole is a winner!! It’s tasty and easy which is the perfect combination.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Tomato Soup Casserole


  • 2 cups of elbow macaroni
  • 2 cans of tomato soup
  • 1 lb of ground turkey or beef
  • 1 1/2 cups of shredded cheese
  • 1/2 cup of water


  1. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box
  2. Cook ground turkey and season to taste, drain grease
  3. Add tomato soup, meat , 1/2 cup of water, and 1 cup of cheese in your baking dish
  4. Mix all ingredients together well and add 1/2 cup cheese on top
  5. Bake on 350* for 20- 30 minutes
  6. Enjoy

Your Day Can Look Like Anything

Kelsey Jacks, a registered nurse in the Medical ICU at UAB Hospital, has been taking care of critically ill patients diagnosed with COVID-19 for the past several months. She shared this audio diary that she recorded during a shift last week on WBHM.

I just got to work and have parked in the parking deck. It is 6:17 in the morning and I am just sitting in my car and am in denial about waking up and going into work. No, really I’m just I’m buying a few more minutes of peace and quiet and getting to sit down before I go in and start the day.

I don’t know what my assignment’s going to be like today, so I’m kind of anxious about that. Your day can look like anything. Sometimes you can walk in and have stable patients, you know, they’re still on life support, but nothing big is happening with them at that moment. And then there’s a lot of these patients who are in acute respiratory failure, and we have to do this, I guess it’s a procedure. It’s this therapy called manual proning, and it’s where the nurses and the respiratory therapists will physically turn a patient and lay them on their stomach. And that essentially helps the lungs to recruit more oxygen and perfuse properly and just heal from what this virus has done to their lungs. But all of these people are on the ventilator and sedated, so they’re just flaccid and you’re having to pick up their whole body weight on your own. So it’s just, it’s physically exhausting.

So my day so far, both of my patients that I’m taking care of, I just have developed a kind of just a bond or an attachment to. One of the patients is very sick. They’re on multiple I.V. drips. She’s on her stomach and just very unstable. Every time I try to leave the room, something decompensates and I have to put on all the gear and go back in, so I just haven’t been able to get away from that room this morning.
It’s been overwhelming at times. I mean, all of us nurses and [respiratory therapists] and nurse practitioners and doctors will talk about how we’ve all had moments where we just, we just break down from the overwhelming stress of seeing people with this illness and then wondering if you have it yourself and knowing how bad it can get.

I think the hardest part has been having to watch people die alone. I’m so sick of that. You know, these patients, they can’t have their visitors come and see them because it’s too much of a risk. Sometimes family can come and say bye, but only for about 20 minutes because when you take someone off the ventilator, that’s one of the most dangerous times that you can get coronavirus. So families will come and say bye to a patient before they are taken off the ventilator. And then when they leave is when we actually withdraw the life support and begin the end-of-life process. And it takes a piece of you every time that you do it because it’s just so sad. And I can’t tell you the dozens and dozens of faces of patients and family members I remember just over the past few months. And it just stays with you. But those are also the moments when I feel most proud to be a nurse or when I am most proud of my coworkers and my work family.

There was one instance wherein a nurse and a nurse practitioner put on all the protective gear and just went and sat in a room with the patient and just held her hand for hours as she passed and they gave her medicines to make her comfortable and played her favorite music and read to her. And it was just, it was just beautiful and tragic. And those are the stories that I wish we’re told more often. And those are the things that I wish the public knew. But that’s the most difficult thing for me. And I hope that by hearing about this for people who aren’t in health care, you kind of understand more of our passion as health care workers for the social distancing movement and wearing masks. Because when we say those things, it’s because we’ve had to literally be in the room when people die from it. It’s a reality for us and it is a reality. 

(Content courtesy WBHM. Link to online audio)

The Drive-Through Market

The drive-through market at Pepper Place

As the COVID-19 pandemic exposes flaws and inequities in every corner of American society, so too is it forcing us to consider the future of an iconic American trade–that of small, family-owned, family-run farms.

Our nation’s farmers are no stranger to hard times. They have fed us through wars and economic crises, often at great sacrifice. But as the novel Coronavirus effectively halted food supply chains over the last two months, many farmers question whether their livelihood will outlast the disease, or vice versa. School and restaurant closings have dramatically decreased sales, commodity prices have dropped 20-30%, and a recent University of Missouri study estimated that net farm income could fall by $20 billion in 2020 alone. 

In the midst of this grim reality, a model from Birmingham, Alabama is emerging as a new standard for local food ecosystems in our post-COVID world—one that not only helps farmers and restaurants survive, but thrive like never before. 

Twenty years ago, I was alarmed by a different kind of threat in my native Alabama: small farms were disappearing due to competition from agribusiness and suburban development. New economics and changing demographics called for a strategy to connect the abundant supply of fresh, local produce in the state to the individuals and restaurants that wanted it. 

So in the spring of 2000, we began setting up tents in an empty parking lot in Birmingham. We invited seven farmers and threw in live music and chef demo for inspiration. Within months, The Market at Pepper Place had a growing list of vendors and a loyal following of neighbors eager to fill their baskets. Fast forward two decades, and the Market had grown to 100 tents and 10,000 customers every Saturday morning, with an estimated economic annual impact of $20 million. 

Then COVID arrived in Alabama. Our bustling market had become a vital source of revenue to farmers and a weekly pilgrimage for shoppers—but it was no longer safe. We began playing with the idea of the country’s first scalable, “contactless,” drive-thru farmers market. Customers would preorder/prepay for all items online in advance and then pick up from farmers at the Market location. After testing the idea with five farmers, we launched on, March 21 and 7 weeks later, the results are a beacon of light in an otherwise dark time. 

At our drive-thru market, farmers are consistently selling out within days, sometimes hours. Many say they have sold much more product than they ever did at the regular market. Customers want more locally grown food, especially during the pandemic, and they are willing to spend more when shopping online.  And we’ve included our chefs as well, highlighting special meals and dishes available for pickup.

In a recent survey by The Purdue University/CME Group Ag Economy Barometer, 42% of farmers said their utmost worry was how their farm would access markets during and after the pandemic. Another 37% of farmers cited financial concerns. The Market at Pepper Place is solving for both. With this model, participating farmers and vendors have not only made solid sales, but also identified new customers and a valuable new revenue stream that will help sustain them in the uncertain times to come.

We are still learning and adapting. When the Market drive-thru first launched, we saw 1200 cars and a two-hour wait. After adjusting the layout, streamlining traffic flow with added pickup lanes, and adding a new online shop, customers are now picking up their orders, without contact, in minutes. We’ve also prioritized the needs of Birmingham’s more vulnerable neighbors: we created a workaround to ensure citizens can use SNAP EBT in our online store, and we are also delivering food to Birmingham’s community food bank at the end of every market day.

In April, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a $19 billion assistance package, but small holder farmers are understandably skeptical that the support will reach them. As 60 Minutes reported earlier this month, a similar package passed in 2018 primarily benefited large farming operations—not to mention hundreds of recipients in big cities—rather than supporting small, family-run enterprises that are increasingly threatened by this crisis. One-third of that money will go to just 4% of the country’s farming operations, leaving the vast majority of smallholder farmers without the assistance they need. 

The good news is that local farmers markets have the opportunity to step in where government assistance is falling short. By linking farmers directly to households, markets across the country are integrating the food supply chain, which ultimately improves access to healthy food and creates more equity for producers, distributors, and consumers. [opportunity to highlight other innovative markets around the country]

The COVID-19 pandemic does not need to be the end of small farms in America. While local farmers markets may not resolve this crisis for every farming family, they do give us a blueprint for the future of local food systems in which prosperity is shared more equitably and sustainably. 

Cathy Sloss Jones is the founder and Board Chair of The Market at Pepper Place in Birmingham, Alabama. She is an urban planner, community advocate, and former Loeb Fellow at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.

A Rare Gift

Restaurateurs Paget Pizitz and Harriet Reis

When Joe asked Harriet and I to write a piece for the Corona Diaries, I immediately said YES before he could finish the question. Let me be honest, I have a lot to say on the subject. The day we realized how bad it was going to be was Harriet’s birthday. Even then, we couldn’t fully comprehend what was headed our way. Happy birthday, lady! I don’t really remember the first few days, as it was a mad rush to develop a plan and find some form of consistency. I consider Harriet and I to be some of the lucky ones. This may sound crazy but I have good reasons. 

After week two, everyone’s nerves were frayed. We had been working with just six to seven people at both Melt and Fancy’s, upwards of 14 hours a day, five days a week. One thing was for certain, we were determined to stay open for curbside and delivery as well to make safe and healthy decisions for our staff and guests. I remember sitting in the mafia booth at Fancy’s with our managers. Tempers were beginning to show and the tension was rising. I looked Harriet in the eye, and we both knew. We have been in this relationship long enough to know what the other is thinking. We were at a very critical point. We were either going to crack under pressure and turn on each other or use this as an opportunity to become closer as a team. 

This is why I say we are the fortunate ones because at that moment, we decided this was going to be our bond. Our small team had now become thick as thieves and we started to become a real family. I saw my managers develop the most impressive leadership skills, learn to problem solve and see things with an all new perspective. I don’t have children, but at that moment I realized this was my family and we would not let each other fall. Our hearts grew because we knew we were going to make it. Has it been easy? not at all. Has it been rewarding? Yes, in more ways that I can begin to describe. 

Harriet and I have a very unique relationship. We have our strengths and weaknesses and we have learned to depend on the other person for balance. We have been through a lot of good together, and a tremendous amount of heartache. We both knew that if we could overcome our professional and personal obstacles as two unified friends and partners, that COVID would bring us all out to a better place. Please don’t think it has all been rainbows. There were many times we sat in the booth together, emotionally worn and physically exhausted, but this only drove us to make it work. 

In the beginning, we had our staff, the cast of characters, lip sync songs with our own unique lyrics for social media. We did not do this to make light of the situation, rather to bring smiles to a community scared and bewildered. Harriet and I decided that titles were no longer a thing. Job descriptions went out the window. Not my job was a forbidden phrase. We were doing it all and making it work. We also saw a bond form between other local restaurant owners. The “us” verses “them” was no longer a thing. We came together as an industry, leaning on the other for support, comfort and answers. 

We are both excited to slowly bring on pre-existing as well as new staff and teach them this new way of working, this new normal. We decided that the unknown of the new normal would be exciting rather than scary, opportunity and not loss. Our team has been tremendous. We have seen Nicole rise as an empowered business woman. We saw Scotty handle situations with a professionalism that gave us pause. Marcus went from a cook at Melt to a leader and a source of strength. Megan has kept a smile on her face when totally out of her comfort zone, as her bar was empty and her regulars sat in cars. And then there is Chef. Cory Bolton walked into an already very unique situation but instantly became family. His fresh perspective on things has helped lift our spirits. He brought on his longtime friend, José, just three days before the world changed. What an incredibly intimidating way to begin a new career. For a solid month, it was just chef and José working in the kitchen, but still sending out food too pretty to go into a box. Day after day, they came to work with a positive attitude and smiles that were contagious. As a team and a family, we are making it work. I personally am not happy this has all happened, but it has given me a perspective on this industry and most importantly, life. I am so thankful for a business partner who is my rock and sounding board. 

One thing I know to be true, is we will not let the other fall. I am eternally grateful for this team who took a horrible situation and created opportunity and hope. We don’t know what the future holds and the new normal is a scary and unknown place, but we take comfort in knowing we have each other, and that’s a very rare gift indeed. —Paget Pizitz

AMong the Homeless

Certainly we’ve never gone through anything like this before. I’ve experienced hurricanes, tornados, plane crashes, but I certainly never experienced anything like this. It in many ways has pulled a lot people together. A lot of good things have opened out of this. You’ve seen a lot of cooperation between the city and the county. You’ve seen a lot of cooperation between those and the health department.
We’ve been able to work side by side with people we really didn’t know before.

Our people on the street: The number of positive cases have been very low. I actually told people in the beginning that the numbers would come back low. Because they’ve already been quarantined. They’ve been by themselves. 

Our numbers in our homeless street people have been very low. Our numbers in our shelters have been almost negligible. Almost nothing because the shelters did such a good job because they came up with some protocols that really worked. You would think they would be one of the breakout points with numbers going through the roof, but they’ve done such a good job in cooperating with one another.
This pandemic has brought people together and they have stepped up, joined forces with other people that they hadn’t before; and are providing food clothes and all sorts of services to our people on the street. They are literally taking care of hundreds of people, three meals a day. That is pretty amazing when people just come together like that.

Our faith-based community has hit a home run. All have thrown in and helped during this pandemic. You’ve had people from St. Luke’s and Canterbury working alongside folks from Ensley First Baptist. You’ve had people from the mosque working alongside people from IPC.

Here is the best thing: There was a guy who is released from work release down in Alex City, he gets to Birmingham on a bus on a Tuesday. He gets off the bus and he is somewhere in North Birmingham. He sleeps on the ground under a tree. Wakes up the next morning and walks down the street. He asks a man where he could get help. They told him the Salvation Army. They couldn’t let him in until he’d been tested. So we took him to where we do the tests and we got him tested on a Thursday. And it took until Tuesday to get his results. He was positive. So we tell him he is positive. This man is 52 or 53 or whatever. He basically goes to his knees and says I’m just not ready to die. And I said you are not going to die, you don’t even have any symptoms. You’re not sick but you have the virus. 

He says I have a son he’s 29 and I haven’t seen him since he was 1. He lives in Houston and I want to see my son. We call the son and tell him what is going. We put him in quarantine for two weeks he got out of quarantine yesterday and is back at the Salvation Army. And on Monday, George Sarris is going to hire him as a dishwasher.

There are so many. Tom Saab owns Bocca and Bistro 218. His restaurants were closed for two months. Three days a week he and his kitchen help came in and made 100 pasta dinners that we gave out on the streets. Bernie and Sam at Bamboo fed doctors and nurses at Princeton. Marco at La Fresca fed infectious disease doctors and nurses at UAB. Ted’s over on 4th and 12th: His customers started a fund and so Tasos every day is feeding people at UAB with this fund that was set up. 

Frank and Pardis and Chris and Idie (and Mauricio from Brick and Tin)…they shut their restaurants. They gave all their food to the different shelters around town. I am talking about pickup truck loads. 

Vestavia Hills Elementary School, the school system, Anthony Krontiras does the food for these schools. They gave us truckloads: milk, cheese, sausage, bacon, frozen pancakes, all sorts of stuff. Jack’s gave us french fries, hamburgers, sausage, bacon, butter. Just truckloads because the food was going to go bad, so they just loaded us up. The people in this community during this community have been amazing.

—Don Lupo, operations director, City of Birmingham.

Out of Africa

Dr. Alyssa Pfister.

Dr. Alyssa Pfister completed her internal medicine and pediatrics residency at UAB, but has worked as a physician in Kenya and Burundi for the last 10 years. She was here for a visit when COVID 19 stranded her in Birmingham, away from her work in Africa. Seeking to put her talents to use, she signed on with the Jeffco Health Department.

So I quickly tried to find a role that I could use my medical training to help with the pandemic efforts here in Birmingham. The health department was a great fit for me, where I am primarily doing testing or people experiencing homelessness in the county.

Certainly this has been different than anything I’ve ever experienced. I have obviously a lot of experience practicing medicine in limited resource settings and taking care of diseases that are new to me that I had not cared for before or that I needed to learn about, but I think we’re all faced with the kind of challenges that I see from my work overseas. The uncertainty is hard for everybody You know nobody is able to plan their next month or next week.

You know overseas I work with a lot of people who don’t know where their next meal is going to come from. So that uncertainty might be easier for some Africans then for Americans And then the other big piece that I see is individualism versus collectivism I think American culture is very individualistic and so we focus on our individual rights. And yet when you face a global pandemic you have to go with what’s gonna be the best for everybody, how can we protect the most number of people with the resources that we have. That’s been hard for Americans you know who have had to sacrifice some of their individual liberties in order to protect other people. But if you look at countries that have handled this well, a lot of them have a collectivist focus like some of the Asian countries and African countries.

The Jefferson County Department of Health opened a testing site for homeless people, to avoid any sort of COVID outbreak in the shelters, in the communal living facilities. Thankfully we’ve not seen a big outbreak in this population And some recent testing in the shelters has shown that there are very few people with COVID. So that’s a testimony to what has been done to maintain social distancing and all the C D C guidelines. No, it’s not easy but they’ve done a great job.

My personal plans are to go back to my work in Africa as soon as the borders reopen and I can get a visa again. I’m the director of pediatrics at a hospital over there and they miss me, and I miss it. That’s my hope to get back soon. But in the meantime I’m thankful to have work to do here locally and to participate in this moment in history in our country.

OPtimism And Will

We’ve been very fortunate. All in all we have about 300 folks at the law firm, and not one has come down with COVID. So that’s a blessing.

We are an essential business and we stayed open as a firm. But I have to give credit to my managing attorney, Sara. She saw this coming. Around the first week of March she came up to me and said hey we need to talk. “All the lawyers have remote access. We have to get all the staff able to work remotely, too.”
It is all about timing. About March 10, they had it all in place and it wasn’t but a few days more when they told everybody to go home. We didn’t open back up until May 11. So we were down for about two months. I mean I went in some, but there was nobody there. Logistically it was pretty difficult, but we still operated. We just made it work.

My resilience comes from the fact that I understand the mind is the strongest thing we have. It controls our bodies and our thoughts, obviously. But I truly believe what you see in your mind, you become. I think we live in a time when we have it easy. We have more than we ever had and we’ve been given more than we’ve ever been given.

The mind and the body are connected and I think we are as weak minded as we have ever been. It is like we can’t handle anything and adversity scares everybody. Before COVID-19, we were living in the best economic time in the history of the world.

I learned growing up that you have to have a warrior mentality and be strong minded. All the cliches are so true. One guy sees a glass half empty; the other one sees it half full. It is about optimism and will. But you have to act on it, too. You can’t just hope that things are going to turn out okay. But luck and opportunity go hand in hand. What is luck? Being at the right place at the right time. Meeting the right person. Unless you put yourself in that position, you are not going to get that luck.

We wanted to figure out ways to give back to the community, which is very important to us. The firm began this initiative to give back to the unsung heroes in our communities in Alabama that are making a difference and keeping our communities moving forward during the corona virus pandemic.  “Unsung Heroes” are our community’s essential workers who deserve recognition for their everyday bravery in keeping this country moving. They are still delivering our mail, providing our groceries, and protecting our streets. Unsung Heroes could be mail carriers, firefighters, police officers, waste collectors, bank tellers, delivery drivers, grocery store clerks, gas station employees, cooks, and many others. There are so many individuals out there that deserve to be recognized, honored, and shown deep gratitude for all they are doing day after day for others during this unforeseen time. The firm asked people on social media to nominate people via a Google form so that the process was completely anonymous. The firm picked 40 of the submissions and sent them a $50 VISA gift card to say thank you for everything they’re doing. 

Then we did this pizza challenge which grew out of this relationship I have with a group of lawyers who get together a few times a year in different cities. We get involved in community outreach and charitable work, as a group. I was challenged by a Louisiana law firm to join in the 777 pizza challenge. The challenge plays off of the 7th amendment and challenges law firms to purchase 777 pizzas from local pizzerias to donate to local healthcare heroes for their efforts during the corona virus pandemic. So we donated pizzas purchased from Slice Pizza and Brewhouse and Pizzeria GM to UAB Hospital and St. Vincent’s. The pizzas were delivered in mid-May.

One other thing we decided to do was develop a program to help business owners through this time. I do understand money, finance and business. I bet I had a hundred different attorneys reach out to me. It was amazing to me how all of their psyches were different and how everyone interpreted COVID in a different way. It was just all across the board. The one thing they all had in common was that they wanted their business to continue to grow.

So I wanted to help business owners in Alabama who are struggling through the pandemic. Our world is facing a “new normal” in terms of how we interact with each other in public and especially how we do business. Businesses across our country will need to pivot and really get creative in terms of new ways to interact with their customers and new ways in which to provide their goods and services.
I selected ten small business owners to win a 30-minute business strategy session via Zoom video chat. During these video calls, I worked with business owners, listened to their concerns and brainstormed ideas with them on how to move forward with their business in our new normal. Regardless of the business, I am going to help, encourage, and share. 

–Alexander Shunnarah


The Searchers

The origins of
Remdesivir, the
COVID 19 Treatment
Drug, began
almost a decade ago
through the
leadership of
Dr. Richard Whitley
at UAB.

Our annual list of the top women doctors in metro Birmingham.

In my Birmingham world in the 1970s,

I was
introduced to
Langston Hughes’


In my house, we often were reminded, “Do not speed. If the police stop you, keep your hands on the steering wheel. Answer any question with ‘yes, sir’ and ‘no, sir.’ “Those words were from my father, a preacher who just wanted his kids to make it home safely every day.

(Story by Sherrel Wheeler Stewart)

(how female energy and talent is powering the Magic City)

read the bios of women making a difference