TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Members of The University of Alabama and Tuscaloosa communities will have the opportunity to learn the history of the Bryce Hospital, now the Bryce Campus at UA, during the Alan V. Kaufman Phi Alpha Symposium on Friday, Nov. 18, at UA.
Steve Davis, historian for the Alabama Department of Mental Health, and Steve Flanagan, coordinator of psychiatric social services at Pickens County Medical Center Senior Care, will discuss the social work and mental health care practices of the historic Bryce Hospital from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. at Bryant-Jordan Hall on the Bryce campus. The event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.
The symposium is named for Dr. Alan V. Kaufman, professor emeritus of the UA School of Social Work.
UA bought the Bryce Campus in 2010 and has moved multiple offices and departments to the property, including the UA School of Social Work, while Little Hall is being renovated.
“We want to answer the unanswered questions that the community has about the historical buildings that are being renovated to restore history and expand the University as a whole,” said Dr. Carol Drolen, associate professor of social work at UA and Phi Alpha adviser.
“We find it fitting that the School of Social Work is currently being housed in Capital Hall because of the history of Bryce Hospital and mental health care, being that it is something that we as social workers work to improve every day,” said Erika Marsh, Phi Alpha president. “According to government sources, 60 percent of mental health professionals are clinically trained social workers.”
Davis, a UA alumnus, has worked in multiple capacities for the Alabama Department of Mental Health for more than 40 years. He said people are typically surprised that Bryce Hospital still exists –- on Ruby Tyler Parkway in Tuscaloosa.
“There’s often a general lack of any knowledge of our history, how many patients were there, the commitment laws in Alabama that didn’t change until the 1970s, and how antiquated they were,” Davis said.
Davis will also discuss the progressiveness of Peter Bryce, a psychiatrist for whom the facility was renamed, and his relationships with former UA President Josiah Gorgas and his wife and former UA librarian Amelia Gayle Gorgas.
“There’s a wealth of history here, like the patient records we have starting in 1861,” Davis said. “Bryce, at one time, had 5,299 patients on campus – people are surprised by how big it became.”
The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.