Senior vice president and dean Ray Watts
The impact of the devastating storm system that hit the Southeast on April 27 will be felt for some time by residents in communities across Alabama and neighboring states.
Many of our alumni have been personally affected, as well as some of our students. Our Medical Student Services group, led by Dr. Laura Kezar, associate dean for students, worked nonstop after the storms to account for all students. Although our Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, and Huntsville campuses dodged significant property damage, we have identified several medical students who have sustained major losses, including total loss of homes and/or vehicles. I want to let you know that through the foresight and generosity of the Medical Alumni Association, these students have received emergency financial help through the MAA’s Medical Student Assistance Fund. This is a wonderful example of how our alumni association supports our students, and I thank all alumni who have made gifts to the MAA’s fund.
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It will take much more for them and for our neighbors across the state to fully recover from this unprecedented event, and we will make every effort to do our part to help those in need. I want to thank our emergency medicine physicians and surgeons, nurses, and staff at UAB Hospital and Children's Hospital who treated more than 130 patients from Tuscaloosa, Cullman, Anniston, and the Birmingham area in the storm’s aftermath. Dr. Loring Rue, our chief of trauma surgery, says the response has been a team effort that has saved lives. Many of our alumni have been on the scene as well, tirelessly providing emergency care in hard-hit communities around the state.
Our students also have leapt into action. Dr. Kezar tells me that several volunteered at hospitals across the state and signed on for relief efforts immediately after the storms passed. One student, a National Guard member trained as a first responder, participated in the initial search and rescue phase in Jefferson County. Class officers and leaders of several student organizations, working with Dr. Steve Smith in Medical Student Services, are now developing a six-month plan to support affected students and their families through a combination of donations and service.
Nancy and I continue to keep our fellow Alabamians in our prayers, and I hope you will as well.
Source of Strength
Dean Watts and Dr. T. Riley Lumpkin at the alumni reception in Tuscaloosa. Click to see a photo slideshow of the reception.
Earlier in April, I met with faculty and students at the Tuscaloosa campus and visited with area alumni at the University Club. We discussed how our branch campuses help fulfill our school’s education, research, and clinical care missions across the state—particularly in training primary care physicians and doctors for our rural communities. These physicians have been on my mind in recent days because many of them are working in the most devastated areas, serving as a source of strength to the people who need it most.
A Day of Promise
May 15 is a highly anticipated day on our calendar. On that Sunday, we will celebrate the class of 2011 at our Commencement Ceremony. I am so proud of our new graduates and wish them all the best as they begin their residencies across the country and take up their new roles as fellow physicians. Be sure to keep an eye on this group. They are going to accomplish great things.
I invite you to attend the Commencement Ceremony in person to congratulate our new alumni. The event is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. at the Concert Hall in the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex. Commencement is a bright moment and a reminder that the world still has promise and hope, even when our families, communities, and state are facing great challenges. I look forward to seeing you there.