Leadership Council Member Spotlight
“I first went to the altar there, and that resulted in a longtime spiritual commitment - which Gerrie and I share - finding a future wife, and meeting my long term friend, Dr. Mark Rutland, who just retired as president of Oral Roberts University,” said Bill. “It appears Gerrie was meant for me as our paths continued to cross at Auburn and when I was in medical school. But we had no commitment until I was in my medical internship. We saw each other for years while I was in medical school at the Medical College of Alabama in Birmingham, but we did not marry until the day after I completed my internship. We moved immediately to Fort Worth, Texas, where I worked with young drug addicts.”
Following his work with drug-dependent youth, the Hansfords moved to Arizona where Bill worked with the U.S. Public Health Service on a Navajo Indian reservation. In the 2007 edition of Journey magazine, COSAM’s yearly print publication, Bill described working closely with the medicine men on the reservation.
“There was a real need for the medicine man on the reservation. They served as minister, psychologist and healer, and were often so correct in their understanding of the patients’ needs,” he said. “When someone came in with a spiritual or psychological problem, it was clear I could not help them as much as the medicine man. When it was evident it was a medical problem, they always looked to me to take the lead.”
The Hansfords with Kathryn Milly West, Faculty Coordinator for Laboratory and Medical Technology
Bill provided primary care to the Navajo and describes it as one of the most rewarding experiences of his life, an experience that changed the trajectory of his medical career. He left Arizona to begin an ophthalmology residency but quickly realized, based on his enjoyment of working closely with the Navajo and building personal relationships, he was better suited for family practice. As a result, he completed a Lloyd Noland residency training program in pediatrics, which included intensive care neonatology, pediatric hematology and pediatric neurology at The Children's Hospital of Alabama. He then established a family practice in Opp, Ala., where he worked for nine years. The Hansfords then moved to Birmingham, Ala., where Bill served at Lloyd Noland Hospital as a staff physician and medical director of Family Care Outpatient Clinics and later as chairman of the Department of Family Practice. After working four years as a part-time physician advisor in Health Management, he joined Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama as a medical director.
"Fortunately, I have had a broad background in medicine. I am interested in rural health, missionary work, and the morals and ethics of medicine. Also, I have a good knowledge of insurance and how it works, having been a medical director of BCBSAL,” Bill said. “I enjoyed my education at Auburn, and I am very interested to see COSAM become the leading academic school in the south and see it become the number one school for pre-health studies in the south.”
Gerrie, who graduated from Auburn with a degree in medical technology, agrees: “COSAM has excellent leadership, outstanding instructors and amazing advisors who truly care about the students. We are interested in seeing Auburn and COSAM become a very elite academic institution.”
Gerrie’s background is also in the medical field, and before “starting her main career as a mother” she completed a one-year internship at Carraway Methodist Hospital in Birmingham, was a board certified medical technologist through the American Society for Clinical Pathology, and had special training in blood bank technology at Ortho Pharmaceutical in Raritan, N.J. She also led the effort to have the blood bank at Carraway Hospital certified by the American Association of Blood Banks. The couple’s common background in medical science is the driving force behind their support of the college.
“Bill and I have established a scholarship in COSAM and continue to give to COSAM,” she said. “We were fortunate to get our education at Auburn and would like to know that we have helped someone else do the same.”
The Hansfords are also members of the 1856 Society and the Petrie Society, as well as Life Members of the Auburn Alumni Association. Beyond financial giving, Bill takes a personal interest in the pre-biomedical sciences students at Auburn and volunteers his time by talking to undergraduates in Alpha Epsilon Delta, the pre-health honor society, in large-group settings as well as one-on-one, imparting some of the wisdom he has accrued during a career that has spanned nearly 45 years.
“I believe medicine is an art, not a science. I think this concept should be introduced to students in pre-medicine or before. One should be taught to be compassionate, understanding and a good listener by allowing patients to express their concerns and problems and ventilating their feelings - ventilating can be curative,” Bill said. “Science is absolutely necessary, but loving your patient, touching your patient and true concern for your patient must come first. Some of this has been lost in the rush of modern medicine.”
Bill is originally from Andalusia and Gerrie grew up in Luverne, Ala. They have three grown children, Anne, Amy and William, and five grandchildren, Jay, Ellie, Cass, Cooper and Neva. The couple resides in north Shelby County in Birmingham, and they attend Canterbury United Methodist Church where Gerrie started a group called the “Knit Wits,” a prayer shawl ministry. In addition to knitting, she enjoys needlework, reading, travel, and spending time with their children and grandchildren". reading and needlepoint. Both are involved in Bible study groups and enjoy their enormous collection of Navajo art that is displayed throughout their home. Bill’s hobbies include growing camellias, gardening, reading, studying, traveling, collecting Indian artifacts, collecting antiques and collecting art paintings. He also enjoys studying architecture and designing buildings and building additions.
“My parents attended University of Alabama, and I came to Auburn as an architect student,” Bill said. “When my parents left me at Auburn to begin my freshman year, my mother had big tears running down her cheeks. I still do not know if it was because she was leaving me at Auburn or because I was going to Auburn.”
For more information on the Dean’s Leadership Council, contact the COSAM Office of Development at 334.844.2931.