Faculty News

Assistant professor awarded $100,000 to study cardiometabolic diseases among Latinos
Assistant professor awarded $100,000 to study cardiometabolic diseases among Latinos
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has awarded UAB postdoctoral fellow Bertha Hidalgo, Ph.D., with a 24-month grant to learn whether genetic and epigenetic differences exist between subgroups of Latinos for cardiometabolic diseases.

bertha hildagoBertha Hidalgo, Ph.D., MPH, assistant professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Epidemiology, has been awarded a $100,000, 24-month grant through the New Connections program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Hidalgo is among a select group of junior investigators to receive the grant, which will allow her to learn whether genetic and epigenetic differences exist between subgroups of Latinos for cardiometabolic diseases like cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes by first investigating differences in obesity among subgroups of Latino children through an epidemiologic study.

“I am extremely proud to be among those honored with this prestigious grant,” Hidalgo said. “This award will connect me to a network of established experts in research and evaluation related to health and health care, while providing me with an opportunity to evaluate a program that has far-reaching implications for the health disparities of cardiometabolic diseases and, specifically for this project, nuances between subgroups of Latino children and obesity.”

New Connections is a national program designed to introduce new scholars to RWJF and expand the diversity of perspectives that inform the Foundation’s programming.

$3.75 million endowed chair will boost vision research at UAB
$3.75 million endowed chair will boost vision research at UAB
A unique philanthropic partnership between Research to Prevent Blindness, EyeSight Foundation of Alabama, and Susan and Dowd Ritter will fund ophthalmology research.

endowed chairThe University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Ophthalmology will establish the Research to Prevent Blindness/Susan and Dowd Ritter Endowed Chair in Ophthalmology Research with a $3.75 million endowment, one of the largest in UAB history.

The endowment will enable the department to recruit a world-class scientist to join its existing roster of international experts in the study of blinding diseases such as macular degeneration and glaucoma.

The endowment is funded by Research to Prevent Blindness, the largest nonprofit organization dedicated to funding eye research in the world, the EyeSight Foundation of Alabama, the department’s and university’s largest donor, and Susan and Dowd Ritter. Both RPB and ESFA have a long history of support for UAB and recognized that they could leverage their individual philanthropic impact with equal matching support from an additional private philanthropic partner.

Dowd Ritter, former CEO of Regions Bank, and his wife, Susan, agreed to become that private partner and pledged to provide the crucial third matching gift.

The endowment will enable the department to recruit a world-class scientist to join its existing roster of international experts in the study of blinding diseases such as macular degeneration and glaucoma.

“We’ve gone to the Department of Ophthalmology for family eye care for years, and all the doctors we’ve encountered have been fabulous — it’s a stellar part of UAB, and as it grows is going to be a real jewel for the city,” said Susan Ritter. “We liked the fact that this is a public and private partnership that’s going to allow UAB to bring top ophthalmology researchers to Birmingham to improve vision care for the entire world.”

Christopher A. Girkin, M.D., chair of the UAB Department of Ophthalmology and holder of the EyeSight Foundation of Alabama Endowed Chair of Ophthalmology, says UAB researchers have made many significant contributions to vision science, many of them funded by RPB, an organization that has been associated with nearly every major breakthrough in the understanding and treatment of vision loss over the past 50 years.

“RPB’s partnership with the Ritters and the EyeSight Foundation provides an opportunity at a critical juncture for expansion of the department’s research program,” Girkin said. “Having a $3.75 million endowed chair will enable us to recruit another stellar individual who will add even more depth and breadth to our already outstanding research faculty.”

RPB has awarded grants and pledges totaling $2.18 million to the School of Medicine at UAB since 2008.

“RPB is interested in supporting upward trajectory in vision science, so this concept of a highly leveraged endowed research chair with potential to attract a truly excellent national vision researcher to UAB was appealing to us,” said RPB President Brian F. Hofland, Ph.D. “We see this project at UAB as an effort that may well prove to be a model for other such partnerships in other parts of the country.”

The ESFA is also supportive of Girkin’s vision for the department’s research goals, according to Torrey DeKeyser, executive director of the organization.

“Under his leadership, there is an emphasis on research that is generating excitement among the scientists, and this collaborative endowed chair will help boost and continue this momentum,” she said. “The EyeSight Foundation board and staff could not be more pleased to be part of this strategic funding collaboration with the Ritters and Research to Prevent Blindness.”

Communication professor’s scholarship lauded by national organization
Communication professor’s scholarship lauded by national organization
Body language expert Mark Hickson, Ph.D., honored by National Communication Association.

mark hickson2
Mark Hickson, Ph.D., professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Communication Studies, is the 2014 recipient of the National Communication Association Gerald M. Phillips Award for Distinguished Applied Communication Scholarship.

The award is given annually to scholars responsible for writing bodies of published research and creative scholarship in applied communication. Hickson will be presented with the award in November during the 100th Annual Convention in Chicago. The NCA is the largest communication association in the United States.

Hickson is an expert on body language and co-author of eight books and 120 articles on the subject, and he has served as a consultant for legal cases on communication. He is the founding editor and publisher of the Journal of Applied Communication Research, which is now published by the NCA.

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