Pediatrician Cindy Sheets “was enthralled by the proven notion that reading aloud with children helps brain development, builds family bonds, and creates a healthy environment for children to grow in."
By Casandra Andrews
When beloved pediatrician and avid reader Cindy Sheets, M.D., died recently after battling lung cancer, her friends, family and colleagues quickly launched a book donation in her honor.
A passionate advocate for early childhood literacy, she was recognized as one of the first pediatricians in Alabama to become a Reach Out and Read program provider, an initiative she personally and professionally supported for more than 17 years.
Response to the call for books was swift. In only a few days, more than 200 children’s books were collected and delivered to USA Health’s pediatric medical offices at the Strada Patient Care Center.
Her husband, Jonathan Scammell, Ph.D., assistant dean for admissions, chair of comparative medicine, and professor of comparative medicine and pharmacology at the Whiddon College of Medicine, said his late wife would have been truly delighted to see the donations.
“It shows that the program is just as vibrant as before, and it also highlighted the generosity of our community participants who made the effort to make the donations possible,” he said, adding “thank you and keep them coming."
Married for 43 years, Scammell said his wife’s love of books began in childhood. Later, it was the written word that helped her cope with cancer treatment: “When challenged by her illness the last two years, she gained strength and solace from losing herself in a good story."
After a research fellowship at the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, and a pediatrics residency at the Yale-affiliated Bridgeport Hospital, where she was chief resident, Sheets moved to the Mobile area in 1986. After working in private practice on the Gulf Coast, she joined USA Health and the Whiddon College of Medicine in various roles.
"Cindy's clinical career centered on serving her patients and their families, especially the underserved,” Scammell said. “She was driven by seeing her patients reach their milestones, by encouraging moms and dads and other family members in their caregiving, and by seeing her patients grow to become parents themselves.”
She was an advocate for the Reach Out and Read Program from the beginning, he said, adding that she “was enthralled by the proven notion that reading aloud with children helps brain development, builds family bonds, and creates a healthy environment for children to grow in."