Please mark your calendar to attend this special event on Wednesday, April 2, 2014, to congratulate all of this year’s award winners!
Ray L. Watts, M.D., President of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, cordially invites you to the Faculty Awards Convocation recognizing the recipients of the President's Awards for Excellence in Teaching, the Odessa Woolfolk Community Service Award, and the 2013 Ellen Gregg Ingalls/UAB National Alumni Society Award for Lifetime Achievement in Teaching.

The ceremony will be held Wednesday, April 2, 2014 at 4:00 p.m. in the UAB National Alumni Society House, 1301 Tenth Avenue South. A reception will follow the pesentation.

Parking is available in Lot 15D. Enter on 12th Street between 10th & 11th Avenue South.

Please mark your calendar to attend this special event, to congratulate all of this year’s award winners! No response is necessary.

The President's Award for Excellence in Teaching

Asim K. Bej, Ph.D. ~ College of Arts & Sciences
Laura Forbes, Ph.D. ~ Education
Alecia K. Gross, Ph.D. ~ Optometry
John Hansen, Ph.D. ~ Business
Jason R. Hartig, M.D. ~ Medicine
Meredith L. Kilgore, Ph.D. ~ Public Health
Silvio H. Litovsky, M.D. ~ Joint Health Sciences
Stephen C. Mitchell, D.M.D., M.S. ~ Dentistry
Haibin Ning, Ph.D. ~ Engineering
Erica Rihl Pryor, Ph.D., R.N. ~ Nursing
Tino Unlap, Ph.D. ~ Health Professions

The 2013 Ellen Gregg Ingalls UAB National Alumni Society Award for Lifetime Achievement in Teaching

Gregg M. Janowski, Ph.D.

The Odessa Woolfolk Community Service Award

Cynthia Ryan, Ph.D.



Faculty News

New mechanism triggers endothelial permeability in vivo
New mechanism triggers endothelial permeability in vivo
UAB discovery gives better understanding of and potential therapies for septic shock and reperfusion injuries.

amit gaggarAmit GaggarA single layer of endothelial cells and extracellular matrix lines the inside of blood vessels, like the inner tube inside a bicycle tire. Injury and inflammation can damage this thin layer, allowing a dangerous leakage of fluid from blood vessels to tissues. When this happens in the lung it can lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome, or ARDS, a major cause of death in hospital intensive-care units.

In a paper published today in Science Advances, University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers identify for the first time a new mechanism for this increased permeability, and they also show the ability to block it in cell culture, animal disease models, and in human specimens from patients with ARDS.

In the future, this discovery could lead to therapy to target ARDS, and also other human diseases that have extracellular matrix turnover and blood vessel leakage, including reperfusion of organs after they have been cut off from oxygen, lung vascular disease, kidney injury and heart attacks. In all of these, the critical biological function of the endothelium is altered by inflammation or disease.

Key to this new mechanism of blood vessel permeability is a small peptide called “acetylated proline-glycine-proline” (N-α-PGP). The UAB researchers have discovered that N-α-PGP is a critical regulator of endothelial permeability, and its signal couples extracellular matrix fragmentation to that leakage.

When tissue is damaged or infected, part of the inflammatory response is the release and activation of proteases that degrade the collagen of the extracellular matrix; the matrix is made up of secreted molecules that help glue endothelial cells together. One of these degradation products is N-α-PGP.

N-α-PGP has long been known to act as a signal that attracts neutrophils — the white blood cells that are the first line of defense to engulf infecting bacteria or respond to injury — thanks to seminal work conducted by Roswell Pfister, M.D., and J. Edwin Blalock, Ph.D., at UAB. The N-α-PGP acts on the neutrophil’s CXC chemokine receptor 2 (CXCR2). Since endothelial cells also have those receptors, the senior co-authors — Rakesh Patel, Ph.D., UAB Department of Pathology, and Amit Gaggar, M.D., Ph.D., UAB Department of Medicine — decided to test whether N-α-PGP might also act as a signal upon endothelial cells. Now, they and colleagues report the first evidence that N-α-PGP acts on the endothelial cell CXCR2 receptors and activates the downstream signaling that is seen for other pathogenic factors that disrupt vascular permeability.

This discovery could lead to therapy to target ARDS, and also other human diseases that have extracellular matrix turnover and blood vessel leakage, including reperfusion of organs after they have been cut off from oxygen, lung vascular disease, kidney injury and heart attacks. In all of these, the critical biological function of the endothelium is altered by inflammation or disease.

Several of their experiments had vivid results. The endotoxin LPS (lipopolysaccharide) is a potent mediator of septic shock, but it does not act directly on the CXCR2 receptor. In mouse models, the local administration of N-α-PGP caused a vascular leakage, and the systemic administration of N-α-PGP caused increased lung permeability — both similar to the effects of local or systemic LPS. When the researchers gave the mice a combination of LPS and the peptide RTR (arginine-threonine-arginine), which inactivates N-α-PGP through binding, the RTR blocked the LPS-induced blood vessel permeability.

This showed a role for N-α-PGP as a novel effector of endotoxin-induced injury.

“LPS is a very generic sledgehammer,” Gaggar said. “The fact that you could attenuate that was eye-opening.”

This first example of RTR’s targeting endothelial permeability in vivo suggests that endogenous bioactive PGP-containing peptides help mediate lung fluid accumulation in ARDS.

“That tells us that this is important in vivo,” Patel said.

The other vivid experiment was in cell cultures with ARDS patient samples. The research team showed that blood plasma from ARDS patients increased the permeability of endothelial cells in vitro; but if RTR was added to the plasma, it blocked about 15-20 percent of that increased permeability — presumably by acting on N-α-PGP.

“As a clinician,” said Gaggar, a pulmonologist who cares for patients in the ICU setting, “I find it very exciting to think there is something that is targetable that might become a therapy for ARDS.”

The title of the paper is “The matrikine N-α-PGP couples extracellular matrix fragmentation to endothelial permeability.”

The first three authors of the paper contributed equally. The first two are Cornelia S. Hahn, M.D., Ph.D., and David W. Scott, Ph.D., who did the research as a UAB Department of Medicine internal medicine resident and a UAB Department of Pathology graduate student, respectively, and are now both at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. The third author is Xin Xu, M.D., Ph.D., UAB Department of Medicine. The other authors are Mojtaba Abdul Roda, Pharm.D., Gregory A. Payne, M.D., J. Michael Wells, M.D., Liliana Viera, Ph.D., Preston Bratcher, Ph.D., Patricia L. Jackson, Ph.D., and J. Edwin Blalock, Ph.D., UAB Department of Medicine; Colleen J. Winstead, Ph.D., UAB Department of Pathology; and Rolf W. Sparidans, Ph.D., Frank A. Redegeld, Ph.D., and Gert Folkerts, Ph.D., Utrecht University, the Netherlands.

UAB’s College of Arts and Sciences aims to grow enrollment, undergrad programs, students’ global awareness and success
UAB’s College of Arts and Sciences aims to grow enrollment, undergrad programs, students’ global awareness and success
As UAB’s strategic planning process continues, top CAS priorities include undergraduate program development, and recruitment, retention and graduation; building a new College of Arts and Sciences building and renovating Campbell Hall; and growing leadership and personnel.

heritage hallHeritage HallNearly two years into the college’s strategic planning process, University of Alabama at Birmingham College of Arts and Sciences Dean Robert L. Palazzo has updated campus leaders on his plans and progress on topmost goals, which include preparing students to succeed in a new global environment, offering them an immersive, interdisciplinary educational experience, and ensuring each student obtains the tools he or she needs to succeed.

Every undergraduate student who enters the university will pass through the College of Arts and Sciences, Palazzo says. The college is dedicated to helping them develop ethical and moral reasoning, the scientific method, communication and cultural competence skills, and confidence in the face of complexity.

“We strive to help students grow through a rigorous curriculum grounded in formal instruction in the liberal arts and sciences. We will prepare students to operate and succeed and help them to become self-aware, culturally nimble and confident,” Palazzo said. “We are responsible for ensuring that all students develop expertise in a chosen discipline, while providing opportunities for personal maturation and character development.”

The college’s strategic planning process began two years ago and was completed in September 2013. The results of that work are now part of the university’s largest, most comprehensive, institutionwide strategic plan initiative.

The College of Arts and Sciences is home to strong academic programs, outstanding teaching and a diverse student body. With 19 departments — home to more than 300 faculty and offering more than 30 baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral degrees — it is the most diverse UAB academic enterprise. CAS is home to research centers and community outreach programs and is engaged in numerous campuswide interdisciplinary initiatives.

Top priorities for CAS are undergraduate program development with continued focus on freshman enrollment and overall student retention and graduation; improving infrastructure by building a new CAS administrative and classroom building and renovating laboratories, offices and educational facilities in Campbell Hall; and growing leadership and personnel with ongoing recruitment.

The College of Arts and Sciences is home to strong academic programs, outstanding teaching and a diverse student body. With 19 departments — home to more than 300 faculty and offering more than 30 baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral degrees — it is the most diverse UAB academic enterprise. CAS is home to research centers and community outreach programs and is engaged in numerous campuswide interdisciplinary initiatives.

Five new department chairs have been recruited in the past two years, and four new chairs will join the college this summer: Julian Arribas, Ph.D., in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures; Patrick Evans, DMA, in the Department of Music; Timothy Levine, Ph.D., in the Department of Communication Studies; and Yuliang Zheng, Ph.D., in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences. More appointments are expected by fall. More than 60 new faculty have been recruited to the college in the past two years.

The College of Arts and Sciences has developed five strategic priorities to ensure that each student graduates with the knowledge he or she needs to compete and thrive in an expanding and complex global future: globalization, undergraduate education, research and graduate education, diversity, and entrepreneurship and innovation.

The goal of globalization is to increase the college’s international profile and enhance students’ global perspective. The CAS English Language Institute is growing, from 30 students in 2009 to 81 in 2015. Scholarships to support international travel for students are being increased, as well as partnerships with international universities to boost student enrollment.

For undergraduate education, the college will strive to double the number of student applications within five years and increase student enrollment by 30 percent in seven years. That will be accomplished by collaborating with campus partners to offer novel interdisciplinary programs and course offerings, recruiting and retaining a world-class faculty and body of students, enhancing advising and mentoring, and improving technology and facilities.

Among the college’s achievements rank Rhodes, Truman, Fulbright and Critical Language scholarship winners; nine students out of 17 total Clinton Global Initiative scholars; Guggenheim and Humboldt prizes awarded to two faculty in 2014; a new Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in musical theater; the launch of UABTeach to increase STEM educators in Alabama in 2014; and the SACS re-accreditation in 2015.

Among the college’s achievements rank Rhodes, Truman, Fulbright and Critical Language scholarship winners; nine students out of 17 total Clinton Global Initiative scholars; Guggenheim and Humboldt prizes awarded to two faculty in 2014; a new Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in musical theater; the launch of UABTeach to increase STEM educators in Alabama in 2014; and the SACS re-accreditation in 2015. CAS developed and taught 21 honors-designated sections in fall 2014 and 18 in spring 2015. Advising last year grew from 15 to 19 advisers, for a ratio of 350:1, with more than 35,000 logged contacts with students. Instructional Technology Services has been restructured, developing online master’s programs and growing by 150 percent since 2010.

Grants awarded in research and graduate education have increased by nearly 16 percent in the last fiscal year. More than $1.7 million has been redirected to develop competitive Ph.D. programs, and UAB is one of nine universities chosen by The MITRE Corporation to serve on the Academic Affiliates Council, solely dedicated to enhancing the security of the nation’s information systems. More detailed information on CAS achievements is available online.

To foster a diverse community, CAS created an Institute for Human Rights to raise awareness and understanding of human rights issues; a search for a director is underway. UAB is nationally ranked for diversity, so recruiting and retaining a faculty that reflects society, including adding more women and underrepresented minorities in leadership positions, is a priority. Scholarships available to students from underrepresented groups have been increased, and faculty from historically black colleges and universities have partnered with their CAS peers on various interdisciplinary projects. Of faculty hired since October 2012, 56 percent have been women and 26 percent from an underrepresented minority. Partnerships are in discussion with the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and Birmingham Area Consortium of Higher Education.

To further a culture of creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship, CAS wants to offer opportunities at every level of the college experience. That means providing faculty and students with resources and chances to explore solutions to real-world challenges; partnering with corporations, industry and other academic institutions to pursue areas of mutual interest; encouraging faculty to submit large-scale interdisciplinary grant proposals focused on forging academic-industrial partnerships; and bringing entrepreneurs and innovators to campus for inspiration. Among achievements in the realm of innovation and entrepreneurship are four CAS junior faculty NSF Early Career awards totaling $2.61 million, an NSF Partnership for Innovation Award of $600,000 and NIH Innovation Corps award of $25,000, and five graduate entrepreneurship awards of $10,000 each for students to pursue commercialization efforts with faculty and industry mentors.

“The College of Arts and Sciences continues to make tremendous progress under Dean Palazzo’s leadership,” said UAB President Ray L. Watts. “With a lot of positive momentum, CAS faculty, staff, students and supporters are rallying around a clear and ambitious vision that continues to build on a strong foundation.”

UAB Hospital only 12th hospital worldwide to receive fourth consecutive Magnet designation for nursing
UAB Hospital only 12th hospital worldwide to receive fourth consecutive Magnet designation for nursing
The American Nurses Credentialing Center honor is the most prestigious designation a health care organization can receive for excellence in nursing and patient outcomes.

UAB Hospital was granted recognition as a Magnet-designated organization today for the fourth consecutive time by the American Nurses Credentialing Center Magnet Recognition Program®, becoming only the 12th hospital worldwide to receive this designation four consecutive times.

The American Nurses Credentialing Center honor is the most prestigious designation a health care organization can receive for excellence in nursing and patient outcomes.

UAB Hospital Awards, Recognition

  • Recognized annually by U.S. News and World Report as one of America’s best hospitals with specialties ranked in the top 50 nationwide
  • Named by Becker’s Hospital Review among the “100 Great Hospitals in America” and “100 Hospitals with Great Women’s Health Programs”
  • Recipient of the 2015 Women’s Choice Award for America’s Best Hospitals for Cancer Care
  • More than 300 UAB physicians recognized as the Best Doctors in America®
  • Recognized as one of the “100 Most Wired” hospitals in America
  • UAB Medicine named by Becker’s Hospital Review as one of the “150 Great Places to Work in Healthcare”
  • UAB Hospital and The Kirklin Clinic are HIMSS Analytics Stage 6 EMR Adoption Model, placing them at the forefront of the electronic health record adoption model

“It is a tremendous honor to achieve Magnet recognition once again for achievements in nursing and patient care,” said Terri Poe, DNP, chief nursing officer of UAB Hospital. “Magnet organizations provide the highest-quality safe-patient care. UAB strives to maintain a culture of professional nursing practice standards and interprofessional collaboration, which is reflective of the achievement of Magnet designation. I am very proud of the entire UAB nursing team and our excellent partners in patient care.”

UAB is the only hospital in Alabama designated a Magnet organization and one of only 410 worldwide. It was first designated in 2002, and then again in 2006 and 2011. A 2015 recognition ensures Magnet designation through 2018. Fewer than 100 hospitals in the world have achieved three consecutive Magnet designations. UAB’s fourth consecutive designation, which includes UAB Highlands for the first time this year, puts UAB in extremely rare company.

UAB earned this designation following a rigorous review of the facility and its various programs. During the past four years, UAB has encouraged and enabled nurses to participate in the decision-making process regarding safety and patient care in their units. This increased input has led to a number of nurse-driven improvements and innovations, which has contributed to recognition nationally by a number of organizations, including Becker’s Hospital Review

Magnet recognition has become the gold standard for nursing excellence and is taken into consideration when the public judges health care organizations. In fact, U.S. News & World Report’s annual showcase of “America’s Best Hospitals” includes Magnet recognition in its ranking criteria for quality of inpatient care.

Surveyors from the Magnet Commission visited UAB Hospital from March 9-12 to assess how the hospital meets the Magnet Components. A unanimous vote is required to receive the re-designation.

Magnet re-designation is a vigorous process that becomes more difficult with each consecutive four-year application. To be re-designated as a Magnet organization, a hospital must provide documented evidence of how Magnet concepts, performance and quality were sustained and improved over the four-year period since the hospital received its last recognition. If there is strong written evidence, then an on-site review is conducted by Magnet appraisers. 

Documentation is scored against five standards, including:

  • Visionary leadership;
  • Empowered staff;
  • Competent, dedicated, skilled nurses;
  • Innovative programs and research; and
  • Demonstrated and sustained quality and patient care outcomes.

The Magnet Recognition Program was established in 1993. The goals of the program are to recognize excellence in nursing services and promote and disseminate successful nursing practices.

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