The University of Alabama at Birmingham is no ordinary institute of higher education. Not only are its 23,000 employees responsible for the education and well-being of more than 22,000 students, but many have also been tasked with caring for thousands of pandemic-stricken patients.

“We’ve had almost up to 300 Covid patients at a time with 30% in an ICU,” says President Dr. Ray Watts. “They have done it without complaint. The resilience of our employees during these times of greater stress had been remarkable.”

More than half of Watts’ employees work at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital, which is among the 20 largest hospitals in the United States. To ensure their health this past year, Watts says all employees have been supplied with ample personal protective gear. After an outpouring of donations from the community and the university, the hospital had to open a 20,000 square foot warehouse, where it now stores more than 100,000 masks, 150,000 reusable isolation gowns and 5.5 million exam gloves. All employees were also given access to mental health resources, including a mental wellness app developed at the university.

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