The Center for Teaching & Learning welcomes Dr. Tino Unlap.

Tino UnlapTino Unlap, PhD (Biotechnology Program, Clinical & Diagnostic Sciences Dept., School of Health Professions) joined the Center for Teaching & Learning on August 25 in a part-time role. Dr. Unlap will be working to expand faculty enrichment opportunities. 

Dr. Unlap is a geneticist/biochemist with considerable experience teaching STEM undergraduate and graduate students.  He has received multiple teaching and mentoring awards, the most recent being a recipient of the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Faculty News

HIV pioneer: Use lessons from the epidemic to improve health-care system
HIV pioneer: Use lessons from the epidemic to improve health-care system

Michael Saag, M.D., spreads message from first book to TEDxBirmingham attendees; says three lessons can help enact change.

Saag2Studying and treating HIV since it first appeared in 1981 has led to the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Michael Saag, M.D., becoming widely recognized for helping turn the most deadly virus in human history into a manageable chronic disease. But Saag says accomplishing this has come with more challenges than the disease itself produces.

“I went into medicine to fight diseases; but early on I found myself in a daily struggle, hand-to-hand combat against something we euphemistically call the American health-care system,” Saag, professor of medicine and director of the UAB Center for AIDS Research, said recently to a crowd of TEDxBirmingham attendees, who come together because they believe in the power of ideas to change the world.

Saag’s TEDxBirmingham talk comes a year after he released his first book, “Positive,” which he published to both chronicle his journey in the HIV epidemic and shine a light on what he says is a broken health-care system.

“The United States health-care system can be summed up in two words, ‘deadly chaos,’ and all of us in the system play our part,” Saag said. “When I see a patient in clinic, I need to know their vital signs — blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate and, paramount in our system, insurance status. Yes, that’s right, insurance status is a new vital sign. It tells me what I can and cannot do for a patient before I see them.”

Failing to ask critical questions — what does our current health-care system look like and is it sustainable — has led to the current issues on both sides of the insurance debate, Saag says.

“It costs us twice as much to provide care as it does in other industrialized countries, and part of the reason for this is we spend 33 cents of every health-care dollar on administration or overhead, compared to the 7 cents on every dollar paid by every other industrialized country on Earth,” Saag said. “In our system, a lot of the cost is paying for disparity between those who have insurance and those who don’t. You may have heard the talking heads on cable news say, ‘we’re not paying for the uninsured now, why should we do this under the Affordable Care Act?’ Of course we’re paying for them now; we do this by overcharging those who have insurance to pay for those who don’t. Such popular arrogant ignorance is deadly.”

The message Saag shares in his book and in his TEDxBirmingham talk is that, to fix the existing issues, changed must be enacted.

“What I propose is that we learn the lessons from the war on AIDS that gave us the success,” Saag said.

Lesson 1: Be aware. “HIV is a deadly virus; it took awareness to begin to make a dent in the epidemic. And I’m telling you our health-care system is deadly. We need to become aware of the facts,” Saag said.

Lesson 2: Organize. “We can get our act together and take care of people as one. Gay men in the 1980s organized to make a dent in the epidemic — we can do the same."

Lesson 3: Stop being afraid of showing passion. “Passion is what got us to where we are in HIV. Without passion in the streets, gay men showing placards in front of cameras and politicians, without the anger and the fear and the terror and the compassion it sometimes brought, we wouldn’t have gotten anywhere with HIV,” Saag said. “For most of us, we’re afraid of being noticed. Let’s get over that.”

The story, Saag says, is longer and more complicated; but the message is simple: Be aware, organize and give it passion.

“For us to be effective, we need to organize ourselves and go out and challenge political trends to make a difference,” Saag said. “Thirty-three years ago, a disorganized, dying group of gay men made it happen. Today, the choice is up to us.”

Listen to Saag’s complete TEDxBirmingham talk.

UAB Bioethics Bowl team claims national title
UAB Bioethics Bowl team claims national title
UAB beat out teams from universities including Dartmouth, UCLA, Georgetown and Rutgers to win national championship in bioethics.

ethics2Professor and coach Gregory Pence, Kevin Shrestha, Melanie Nichols, Ameen Barghi, Brynna Paulukaitis and Eric Kim.The University of Alabama at Birmingham Intercollegiate Bioethics Bowl team defeated six teams to win the 2015 Bioethics Bowl on Saturday, April 11, in Tallahassee, Florida.

Seniors Ameen Barghi, Brynna Paulukaitis and Kevin Shrestha and freshmen Eric Kim and Melanie Nichols – all honors students – beat out teams from universities including Dartmouth, UCLA, Georgetown, Rutgers and Samford for the title.

Each year, undergraduate teams from around the country compete in the Bioethics Bowl, debating some of the most pressing bioethical issues of the day. During competition, teams discuss and debate their views on a series of case studies.

“These students had the motivation to excel because they will use bioethics as they begin medical school,” said Gregory Pence, Ph.D., team coach and chair of UAB College of Arts and Sciences Department of Philosophy. “They know that they will be facing situations similar to those they are asked to debate in competition. This bright group of students won because they’ve mastered bioethics at UAB and received great advice from other UAB faculty.”

UAB cemented its win with what Pence calls a passionate and articulate attack by Paulukaitis and Nichols regarding a Tallahassee judge’s 1996 decision to force a pregnant mother to undergo a Caesarean operation to protect her unborn child.

“Our success was a result of tons of hard work, dedication, guidance from Dr. Pence and, most of all, team camaraderie,” said Barghi, team captain. “We faced some tough competition and close rounds, but ultimately the time various UAB faculty experts donated to our preparation put us ahead.”

The Bioethics Bowl Championship is held in conjunction with the National Undergraduate Bioethics Conference. The UAB ethics bowl team is sponsored by the Department of Philosophy.

The UAB ethics bowl team won its last national championship while competing at Duke University in 2011.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment that exemplifies the world-class opportunities UAB offers to our undergraduate students,” said Provost Linda Lucas. “I want to thank Dr. Pence for his expertise and leadership and recognize these five talented students with very bright futures for representing UAB so well in such an important arena.”

Heudebert to lead Alabama chapter of national doctors group
Heudebert to lead Alabama chapter of national doctors group
UAB physician chosen to lead state chapter of the American College of Physicians.

heudebert webGustavo R. Heudebert, M.D., FACP, will become governor of the Alabama Chapter of the American College of Physicians, the national organization of internists. Heudebert, who is currently governor-elect, will begin his term as governor during Internal Medicine 2015, the ACP annual scientific meeting in Boston, April 30-May 2.

Heudebert is a professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine, in the Department of Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine, and assistant dean for graduate medical education.

Governors are elected by local ACP members and serve four-year terms. Working with a local council, they supervise ACP chapter activities, appoint members to local committees and preside at regional meetings. They also represent members by serving on the ACP Board of Governors.

Heudebert earned his medical degree from Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia in Lima, Peru. He has been a fellow of ACP since 1994. FACP is an honorary designation that recognizes ongoing individual service and contributions to the practice of medicine. Among Heudebert’s professional interests is improving the health of Alabamians through the action of ACP members.

The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization and the second-largest physician group in the United States. ACP members include 141,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness.

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