Emily Boydston '06

Emily Boydston ’06 has a job you may not have heard of. In fact, the position is so unique, she is likely the only one in the world who has it. 

She’s a uterine transplant coordinator. 

Just a couple of weeks ago, UAB Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama, announced their first uterine transplant patient had given birth to a healthy baby boy. This news, while exciting for the medical profession as a whole, was especially thrilling for Emily, who had walked alongside the patient throughout the entire process. “I am a patient’s go-to person. I talk to these women more than anyone on the team, whether it’s helping with medications, showing them around the hospital, or going to clinic visits with them, we offer a very concierge service,” she says. “This is a very personal and rigorous journey for our patients. We’re bringing another life into the world, so we want to make sure we are selecting the right candidates for the program.”

A uterus transplant is an elective surgery available through UAB Hospital for women who have had a hysterectomy for medical reasons or who were born with Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) Syndrome, a rare congenital disorder that causes females to be born without a uterus. In addition to the patient who recently gave birth, there are four others currently in different stages of the process, which can take up to three years when you account for the creation of embryos, transplant surgery, pregnancy, and birth.

As one can imagine, Emily didn’t grow up knowing she wanted to be a uterine transplant coordinator. In fact, she thought she wanted to do something entirely separate from the medical field. “My mom and grandmother are both nurses and I was determined I wanted to do something different, but a friend encouraged me to apply to nursing school because she felt I would be great at it,” she explains. So in 2008 she started nursing school at UAB and continued working at the hospital as a thoracic surgery recovery nurse after graduation. She then elected to earn her master's degree and moved to Florida for a position before Birmingham beckoned her back. For five years she worked as a lung transplant coordinator until, in the summer of 2020, she hopped on a recruitment Zoom call with Dr. Paige Porrett, who was headed to UAB from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

“I was hooked as soon as I heard her speaking,” Emily remembers. “Her passion was contagious.” So she joined the team and helped build the program from the ground up. 

Success is nothing new to Emily, who, as a member of the varsity volleyball team at GPS, set the school record for most kills in a career and contributed to the school’s highest win record of 54-3 during her tenure. In fact, her success on the court led to her induction in the GPS Athletic Hall of Fame in 2021. But little did she know during her time participating in high school athletics that she was also learning what it took to be a leader. “GPS helped me develop leadership skills, which I didn't even realize until I began nursing. I was like, “Oh, this is like being the captain of the team,” she said. “That was a huge thing for me.”

She continues to use those leadership skills in her role today and even credits GPS to helping her become an eloquent speaker (though she jokes Mrs. Pierce told her her legs were shaking during her entire Chapel Talk). “It’s important to build those speaking skills, and they have translated to my career. I’ve been a charge nurse, who is the go-to person on the floor during a shift, and last year I spoke at a transplant coordinator conference in Florida. I definitely think GPS gave me that confidence and empowerment to be in a leadership role and to speak eloquently and get my point across.”

Emily says her mom often asks if she feels like her GPS education was worth it given they drove 45 minutes each way and lived in another time zone. She knows it was. “I feel like it helped me build the foundation of who I am as a woman, a leader, a woman leader in healthcare, and specifically working with women,” she says. “I think it all comes full circle.