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Dr. Sandral Hullett, Former CEO of Birmingham’s Cooper Green Mercy Hospital, Dies at 77

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Sandral Hullett, M.D., who became the first African American female hospital CEO in the state of Alabama as medical director of the now downsized Cooper Green Mercy Hospital in Birmingham, had died. (Provided)

By Barnett Wright | The Birmingham Times

Sandral Hullett, M.D., who became the first African American female hospital CEO in the state of Alabama as medical director of the now downsized Cooper Green Mercy Hospital in Birmingham, has died.

Dr. Hullett, who dedicated her medical career to improving health care for underserved, underinsured, and rural Alabamians, died on March 22 at the Hospice of West Alabama. She was 77.

“She worked tirelessly to uplift her community and the people around her,” said her daughter, Marika N. Johnson. “She became a parent by marriage but was inherently an amazing mother and nurturer to myself and to my twin sister, Maisha. She was loved and will be missed greatly.”

Dr. Hullett took reins at Cooper Green, the then county-owned hospital for the poor, in 2001 and served until 2012 when the county commission began steps to downsize the facility. Cooper Green Mercy Health Services Authority is now an affiliate of the UAB Health System.

Former Jefferson County Commissioner George Bowman, who worked with Dr. Hullett during his term in office, remembered the hospital administrator as a person of integrity.

“She was first class, she had the heart of the patients and the heart of her employees at the forefront at all times,” Bowman said. “She was a lady that never had an enemy, I never knew anybody who did not genuinely like Dr. Hullett because her heart came through with everything that she did. She was a very smart women … and her heart was as beautiful and golden as her mind.”

Growing up in the Hudson City neighborhood of Birmingham, which is now Inglenook, Dr. Hullett graduated from George Washington Carver High School. She attended Alabama A&M University and received a bachelor’s degree in biology, her medical degree from the Medical College of Pennsylvania and her master’s in public health from The University of Alabama at Birmingham. She was the first female and the second African American accepted into The University of Alabama Tuscaloosa Family Medicine Residency Program.

She began her career, as a family physician, at Greene County Hospital/Clinic. For over 22 years, Dr. Hullett served as both a physician and director for the not-for-profit Family HealthCare of Alabama where she supervised the operation of 24 primary health care facilities serving 20 rural counties.

In 1982, Dr. Hullett became the first medical doctor, first female, and second African American trustee appointed to The University of Alabama Board. Her contributions to higher education were recognized in April 2001 when she received the national Distinguished Service Award in Trusteeship, the nation’s top honor bestowed on a lay board member of a public university.

Active in many local, state, and national organizations, she served as a member of the nearly a dozen groups including Practicing Physicians Advisory Council for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; the Institute of Medicine; the National Academy of Sciences; the Steering Committee for the Alabama Partnership for Cancer Control in Underserved Populations and  the Advisory Committee for the Minority Medical Education Program.

She also served as a project manager and principal investigator for grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Kellogg Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

She received numerous awards including the National Rural Health Association’s “Rural Practitioner of the Year”; Leadership Alabama’s “Distinguished Leadership Award”, the National Black Churches Family Council’s “Rural Leadership Image Award”, Alabama Healthcare Hall of Fame Awardee, and in 2000 she was inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor. She was also a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and The Links, Inc.

Dr. Hullett was preceded in death by her parents, Ransom and Annie (Wright) Hullett. She leaves to cherish her memories: husband, Charles Robertson, three stepchildren; Dr. Ischaji (Elena Cruz, transcended) Robertson, Maisha Robertson, Marika (Patrick) Johnson; sister Gloria Hullett-Smith; brother Elder Charles (Martha) Hullett; sister-in-law Khadijah Ishaq; devoted nieces; Strelitzia (Kenny) King, Amberley Sandral Smith and devoted cousin Deborah (Arthur) Gray; 5 step grandchildren; several nieces and nephews; cousins and many other relatives and friends.

In lieu of flowers or gifts, Dr. Hullett requested donations in her memory to be lovingly sent to the Greene County Hospital (Attn: Dr. Marcia Pugh, 509 Wilson Ave., Eutaw, AL 35462) and/or the Dr. Sandral Hullett Endowment Scholarships at The University of Alabama (https://give.ua.edu/?d=4280A2EF-4984-4EA4-8478-44AA30952A33).

Dr. Hullett’s viewing will be held March 29, from 12 p.m.-6 p.m. at Poole’s Funeral Chapel, her Celebration of Life will be held March 30 at 12 p.m. at the Cathedral of the Cross A.O.H. Church of God, and she will be laid to rest at Jefferson Memorial Gardens.

Updated at 10:42 a.m. on 3/28/2024. To correct Dr. Hullett’s age. She was 77, not 78.