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Coming Home

October 15, 2013

Vickers-Bookcase

Senior vice president and dean Selwyn Vickers

Thomas Wolfe famously said you can’t go home again, but today, for the second time in my life, I would amend that statement to say if you're lucky, you get to go home again.

Today is my first day as senior vice president and dean of medicine at UAB, and I am both honored and humbled by the opportunity this role presents. I was born in Demopolis, grew up in Tuscaloosa and Huntsville—where I met my wife, Janice—and, like many bright-eyed and ambitious young Alabamians, I chose to head northward for college and whatever lay beyond.

Decisive Moments

My undergraduate, medical school, and residency years at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore were formative, as were my summer research fellowships at the NIH and Oxford University in England. But when the opportunity came to return to Alabama in 1994 as an assistant professor of surgery, Janice and I jumped at the chance to come home, to raise our family near our families, and to work alongside truly remarkable physicians, scientists, and educators at UAB.

That was a great decision for us, and as our family grew to include four children, so did my respect for this institution and its people. My specialty—GI surgery, with an emphasis on pancreatic cancer—was and remains a top priority for UAB, both in patient care and research. UAB's high volume of complex cases, coupled with our world-renowned Comprehensive Cancer Center—and, starting in 2002, our Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center—provided extensive opportunities for collaboration with other physicians and scientists, and a chance to make a real impact on the lives of others. 

The decision to leave Alabama and move to the University of Minnesota in 2006 to serve as chair of surgery was not an easy one, but once made, we knew it was the right one for us, for it provided new challenges in a context that is in many ways very different from Birmingham and UAB. I learned valuable lessons and gained new perspectives over the last seven years, including a deeper appreciation for what truly makes an institution worthy of the term "world-class."

And then came the invitation from President Ray Watts to rejoin UAB as senior vice president and dean. Although we had come to love Minneapolis, the opportunity to join the senior leadership team at this dynamic, exciting, collaborative university—and to return to the place we still call home—felt like the chance of a lifetime.

Energy and Excitement

So today is Day One of what I believe will be another transformative experience for me and, I hope, for the School of Medicine family. No doubt that this is a challenging time for all academic medical centers, and indeed for all of us who practice medicine. But there is a sense of energy and excitement at UAB that demonstrates our commitment to staying focused on what is mission-critical: taking care of our patients, making discoveries that will advance medical science, ensuring that our students receive the very best training and mentoring we can offer, and maintaining ties to our alumni, whose success as highly skilled and compassionate physicians is a key measure of our success as a medical school.

I look forward to meeting our medical alumni in the coming weeks and months, both at the receptions we have scheduled in cities around the Southeast and informally as well. I want you to know how important you are to our more than 1,100 faculty, 879 medical students, and 814 medical residents, and I welcome your ideas on how we can continue to improve and excel.

Please feel free to contact me at somdean@uab.edu, and please know how much I look forward to working with you. Together, we will make great things happen for our school.

Sincerely,

Selwyn M. Vickers, M.D., FACS
Senior Vice President and Dean