Dr. Mary Nell Spraberry is the UAB School of Public Health 2016 Alumna of the Year. Dr. Spraberry earned both her MPH and DrPH from the UAB School of Public Health. She is credited for bringing the first computer to the UAB Hospital. She and her team were also the first to automate processes at the UAB hospital. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, Dr. Spraberry was Associate Chief Medical Technologist and Director of Health Data Systems at University Hospital. Later, she became the Assistant Vice President for Health Affairs and Information Systems at the UAB Medical Center. During her tenure overseeing technology, it is believed that she was the only woman to hold such a position in the entire country. She also held a faculty position at Central Michigan University and an adjunct position at the UAB School of Public Health. Dr. Spraberry has been an active member of the UAB National Honor Society Public Health Chapter since her graduation in the 1980s and has given many contributions to the School along the way.
Dr. Spraberry came in to Public Health by accident, as she applied for a Masters degree in Microbiology but was informed that the program did not accept women. Luckily, the Public Health program did accept women and she went on to complete her MPH and DrPH. She credits her advanced degrees with helping her climb the corporate ladder and allowing her to be considered for promotions, especially during a time when not many women held executive leadership positions.
When asked to describe a particularly fulfilling moment in her career, Dr. Spraberry chose a time she helped save the lives of babies during an E. coli outbreak in a nursery. She says, “Since I’m very knowledgeable about bacteria, I knew that certain things in E. coli were different. When I got the serum, I shut everything else off and got to work on testing every baby to find out what it was. I found it. I was passionate about helping find results that would lead to bringing health to that person who was really sick. I was very much involved in the diagnosis of bacterial and fungal problems and finding the vaccinations that would be useful in killing them.” Dr. Spraberry found her passion in helping find results to make those who very sick healthy again. She is a true public health hero.