Seasons of Learning

August 1, 2012

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Senior vice president for medicine and dean Ray Watts

Teaching, along with research and clinical care, is a year-round responsibility for the School of Medicine, which means we don’t slow down during the summer. Last month, for example, 285 new residents and fellows from all corners of the United States began their training in our graduate medical education programs.

These eager new arrivals are welcome additions to our 76 accredited residency and specialty programs, and they bring us to a grand total of 940 residents and fellows across all of our campuses. I cannot emphasize how invaluable these physicians are to our health care enterprise as they learn and grow as physicians. They serve on the front lines of care, attending to patients of all ages and backgrounds in our hospitals and clinics. They also support the work of our primary care mission by helping our faculty bring quality care to communities from north Alabama deep into the Black Belt.

Transitioning from Student to Fully Trained Specialist

Seeing the new residents and fellows reminds me of my own residency and fellowship training in neurology at Massachusetts General. After studying engineering at UAB and then completing medical school at Washington University in St. Louis, residency felt like the first time I could truly begin to make an impact on health care by taking care of patients with serious, frightening, and often debilitating conditions. It also fueled my desire to find answers to neurological questions that stood at the intersection between engineering and medicine—including many that continue to challenge us today. That’s the kind of experience we want our graduate trainees to have at UAB. It’s why we continue to invest our expertise and resources to create opportunities for these physicians to contribute to research and patient care.

School of Medicine Residents
by Campus

   • Birmingham: 241 new; 846 total

   • Huntsville: 27 new; 54 total

   • Montgomery: 11 new; 25 total

   • Selma: 6 new; 15 total

Dr. Gustavo Heudebert, our assistant dean for graduate medical education, says residents and fellows in training are drawn to UAB by our robust research opportunities, patient volume, and complexity of cases. To that list I would add our outstanding faculty leaders, who make our school a truly great place to learn. Here residents and fellows can work with and be mentored by the leading experts in their fields and learn from the visionaries responsible for groundbreaking discoveries. There’s no better place to make the transition from student to fully trained physician, and no better group of faculty to guide the way.


Faculty Focus

To support our faculty, and to further signify our commitment to our educational mission, we have developed a new Department of Medical Education as part of our AMC21 strategic plan. Chaired by Dr. Hughes Evans, senior associate dean for medical education, the department will help provide faculty with the academic tools to become even better teachers and mentors. These might include research into what methods of teaching work best in the classroom and clinic, or programs to help current faculty become experts in specialized areas of medical education, such as simulation of clinical situations and invasive procedures. This is an investment that pays double dividends by cultivating the skills and expertise of our teaching faculty and ultimately benefiting new generations of physicians.

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Dr. Dean Assimos

New Visions for Urology

This month we mark the arrival of Dr. Dean Assimos as the inaugural chair of our new Department of Urology. Moving urology from a division within the Department of Surgery to a stand-alone department reflects the evolution of the field, which encompasses medical and behavioral management of urological problems in addition to surgical solutions. He joins us from Wake Forest School of Medicine, where he served as professor and vice chair of the Department of Urology.

Dr. Assimos is an internationally known researcher, clinician, and educator who is an expert on the treatment of kidney stones. As department chair, he plans to pursue growth in several areas that will raise the profile of our urology program, including the expansion of research and clinical care in urologic oncology, kidney stone disease, pediatric urology, and incontinence. He also will spur the establishment of clinical, translational, and basic research programs focusing on benign urologic conditions and genitourinary malignancies. Dr. Assimos emphasizes that the department will have a robust educational environment for students, residents, fellows, and others, including practicing urologists. The creation of the Department of Urology and the recruitment of Dr. Assimos are two important milestones for UAB, and I look forward to their success.

Volumes of Knowledge

Many of our faculty are having a productive summer. For instance, Dr. Dennis Boulware, a clinical professor of immunology and rheumatology, and Dr. Heudebert have edited the new edition of Lippincott’s Primary Care Rheumatology, a key resource for residents and fellows as well as practicing physicians. The book is designed to help practitioners with the diagnosis and treatment of common rheumatology-related problems in primary care settings.

Our clinical and scientific leaders routinely write, edit, and contribute to key texts used in schools and practices across the country and around the world. In doing so, they follow in the footsteps of the legendary Dr. Tinsley Harrison, the physician behind Principles of Internal Medicine and its innovative approach to medical education. I have no doubt that our current faculty can be as effective in shaping modern medical education as Dr. Harrison was in his day.

I hope that you have had an enjoyable summer as well, and that you will stay tuned as a new academic year—and a new class of first-year medical students—begin at the School of Medicine. It’s going to be another busy, exciting season, and I look forward to updating you on our successes and accomplishments, and I hope to see many of you at the alumni receptions we are planning for fall in cities around the state.


Best regards,

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Senior Vice President for Medicine
Dean, School of Medicine
James C. Lee Jr. Endowed Chair