New Lease on Life

Gifts to UAB’s Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Clinic enhance the patient care experience.
In March 2012, the new 11,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art UAB Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Clinic opened its doors. More than 10,000 kidney and pancreas transplant patients visit the clinic each year, and UAB performs 250 to 300 transplants per year, making it one of the top three largest kidney and pancreas transplant programs in the country.

Generous gifts from a number of donors have helped to enhance the patient experience at the UAB Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Clinic. According to Robert S. Gaston, M.D., medical director of kidney and pancreas transplant at UAB and co-director of UAB’s Comprehensive Transplant Institute (CTI), “the gifts given by patients, families, and physicians alike have made the facility friendlier and impart a sense of the incredible tradition of transplantation at UAB. Seeing the plaques with the names of so many grateful patients who have benefited from the care and knowledge they received in our programs must be comforting to those facing these same challenges for the first time.”

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Robert Becnel
Most donors were motivated to give because of the quality of care they received as transplant patients at UAB. Such was the case for New Orleans attorneys Robert M. Becnel and his wife, Diane K. Zink. “In September 1991, I drove over to Birmingham,” Becnel says. “A couple of days later I had kidney transplant surgery, and it was just a phenomenal experience. I was up and walking again shortly after the surgery, and I was out of the hospital in just a couple of days. I spent some time hanging around and exploring Birmingham, and that’s when I became interested in UAB.”

During this time, Becnel was introduced to Arnold G. Diethelm, M.D., who served as chairman of the UAB Department of Surgery from 1982 to 1999 and was instrumental in developing UAB’s internationally recognized transplantation program. The two remained friends after Becnel’s successful transplant surgery, and when the time came to form a patient advisory committee to consult on the design of the new clinic, Becnel was asked to be on the committee. “My wife and I decided to give to the reception area at the new clinic,” Becnel says. “It’s the first area that patients encounter, and we want to help them to have as comfortable an experience as possible.”

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John Curtis Bruce Julian
A group of former UAB transplant nephrology fellows and current faculty members banded together to make a gift to name two outpatient treatment rooms at the new clinic in honor of two of UAB’s most distinguished transplant nephrologists: Bruce A. Julian, M.D., professor emeritus in medicine and surgery, who joined the UAB faculty in 1984, and John J. Curtis, M.D., professor emeritus in nephrology, who instituted UAB’s transplant nephrology training program in 1988. The gift highlights a key advantage of the new clinic, which features treatment rooms for outpatient procedures that previously might have required hospital admission.

According to Roslyn B. Mannon, M.D., director of research for CTI, the naming of the treatment rooms is an apt tribute to the legacies of Drs. Julian and Curtis. “Dr. Curtis made outstanding contributions in the field of transplant nephrology and mentored a significant number of highly successful physicians who have gone on to direct transplant programs or are internationally recognized leaders in transplantation. Dr. Julian has trained many nephrology fellows over the course of his years at UAB and is someone I continue to look up to in terms of being the ‘triple threat’—clinician, scientist, and educator. He sets an incredibly positive example to trainees and junior faculty.”

Gaston says philanthropy was key to making the new Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Clinic the patient-centered experience it is today. “Though UAB will always be committed to providing state-of-the-art transplant services regardless, philanthropy not only has made the clinic more aesthetically pleasing, but also has enabled recruiting and retention of top-notch physicians now working here. For the future, gifts have facilitated training of new transplant physicians and surgeons, and funded four key research projects that may translate into better clinical care for our patients.”

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The Gift of Art

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James Emack Jr., Henrietta Emack, Susan Emack Alison, and Anne Emack Couch
The family of James Henry Emack wanted to honor his memory and help make the patient experience at the clinic as pleasant as possible, so they donated a painting by Birmingham artist Barbara Evans, the acquisition of which was facilitated by Little House Gallery, which has represented Evans since 1960. The large-scale, abstract painting is now prominently displayed in the reception area of the new clinic.

“After years of UAB’s excellent care of our husband and father, our family is honored to share this cheery yet serene work of art to greet all of the patients and caregivers who enter the transplant clinic’s doors,” says Susan Alison, daughter of Mr. Emack. “The work is titled ‘Clearing the Morning,’ and we think it not only represents Daddy’s sunny, charming spirit but also is fitting for the kind of optimism and peace we hope it brings everyone who views it.” The Emack family previously made a generous gift to sustain and advance the research efforts of the UAB Division of Transplantation Surgery in honor of Mr. Emack.