As part of her UAMS job, Sharon Martin talks to many Arkansans who are struggling, but a recent call with an elderly Little Rock woman was different.
Martin, based at the UAMS East Regional Campus in Helena-West Helena, works as a research coordinator for the UAMS Rural Research Network within the Translational Research Institute, contacting potential research participants. On Nov. 4, she was calling prospects about a UAMS diabetes study when one of the contacts revealed her dire situation.
The woman, who declined to be identified publicly, told Martin that she and her two dogs were freezing and began to cry. Martin learned that she was without insulin for her diabetes, that her home’s gas had been shut off due to a leak she could not afford to fix, and that she was hungry, with no way to cook or heat food. She was also grieving, having recently lost her husband and mother.
“I run across many people to help, but this one really tugged at my heartstrings, and she was in an unsafe situation,” Martin said.
Given the urgency, she immediately contacted local resources in central Arkansas to assist. A friend helped get the woman’s insulin supply restored at a low monthly cost, and one of Martin’s many former foster children who lives in central Arkansas provided food, a microwave, and a space heater while a local contractor fixed her gas leak at no cost.
Martin has traveled to Little Rock twice to see her, once with her local 4H chapter the day before Thanksgiving. She continues to check on her twice a week by phone.
Her actions did not go unnoticed; she got a surprise visit Thursday from Chancellor Cam Patterson, M.D., MBA, who presented her with the UAMS MVP Award.
Becky Hall, Ed.D., center director at the UAMS East Regional Campus, said Martin’s big heart is no surprise to her.
“She is one of the very most caring, loving, and action-oriented people I have ever met,” Hall said. “She always puts the needs of others before her own, many times spending her hard-earned money to help someone in need.”
Hall said Martin also identified a single dad of a young girl who did not have any food in his house.
“We helped gather food, and Sharon rallied our staff to pitch in to buy his little girl a coat, several outfits, shoes, a backpack, and toiletries,” Hall said. “She is an amazing lady.”
“Compassion is a core value of UAMS and its employees,” Patterson said in his announcement about Martin. “Thank you, Sharon, for putting such heart into your work and caring for others like you do.”
Martin will be recognized in several ways as January’s MVP. Her photo will be posted on the Employee Appreciation Wall outside the Chancellor’s Suite in the Central Building. She will receive free parking for a month. She will be featured in a Faces of UAMS video and receive some great UAMS swag. She will also be presented with a certificate and monetary award at an upcoming UAMS cabinet meeting and will be honored at the year-end MVP luncheon.