Last Sunday, I attended one of my favorite annual events when the School of Medicine welcomed our incoming first-year medical students at the White Coat Ceremony. On hand to help students don their new white coats were Roger Smalligan, M.D., regional dean of the Huntsville Regional Medical Campus; Gustavo Heudebert, M.D., incoming interim dean of the Montgomery Regional Medical Campus; and Richard Streiffer, M.D, regional dean of the Tuscaloosa Regional Campus. The cloaking of incoming MS1s in their white coats by school leaders is a physical representation of our faith in these students’ abilities to carry on our profession. It is also a reminder of the commitment we make to support our students throughout their medical school journey.

This year’s ceremony featured remarks from two new leaders: Christina Grabowski, Ph.D., our new associate dean for admissions and enrollment management, and Timothy Hecker, M.D., the new Medical Alumni Association president. The keynote address was presented by Lisa Willett, M.D., the 2016 recipient of the Leonard Tow Award for Humanism in Medicine and the Tinsley Harrison Internal Medicine Residency Program director. School of Medicine awards were presented to third-year medical student Lindsay Sheets, the 2017 recipient of the Sara Crews Finley, M.D, Endowed Leadership Scholarship, and Vineeta Kumar, M.D., associate professor in the UAB Division of Nephrology and medical director of UAB’s Incompatible Kidney Transplant Program, who received the Brewer-Heslin Award for Professionalism in Medicine.

It is always uplifting to be with these young people and their families on a day that they have dreamt of for so long. You can watch the full White Coat Ceremony on our website.

Each incoming class of medical students is unique, but the Class of 2021 represents a special milestone for our school: This year’s incoming class includes 29 students from populations that are underrepresented in medicine (UrIM), the highest number of UrIM students of any class in our school’s history. The School of Medicine is committed to fostering a more inclusive student body and faculty in order to better serve the needs of our increasingly diverse society. This commitment is not merely about equity. It is about excellence, and it represents our core belief in the power of different perspectives and experiences to enrich the learning environment.

Furthermore, we believe providing culturally competent health care is also key to reducing—and ultimately eliminating—a range of health care disparities among African-Americans, Hispanics, and other medically underserved populations. To make a true and lasting impact on such disparities, we need those populations and communities represented in our classrooms, laboratories, clinics, and leadership ranks, and this year our school has taken a significant step forward in that regard.

Lastly, students, faculty, and staff across campus are gearing up to celebrate the return of UAB Football on September 2, when the Blazers take on Alabama A&M at Legion Field. Alumni and community support has been integral to the return of Blazer Football, and I invite you to come be a part of history in the making. Season packages and single-game tickets are available for purchase online now. 

Sincerely,
Selwyn M. Vickers, M.D., FACS
Senior Vice President for Medicine and Dean
James C. Lee Endowed Chair

August 2017