Growing Our Faculty

October 2, 2012

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Senior vice president for medicine and dean Ray Watts

It’s hard to believe that a year has gone by since we set in motion our AMC21 Strategic Plan for the School of Medicine. As you can imagine, the past 12 months have been both busy and productive. I want to commend our faculty and staff, alumni, friends, donors, and other supporters for dedicating their time, knowledge, and resources to help us make a promising start. We are well on our way toward our goals of accelerating research that will bring new treatments and cures to patients; providing outstanding, compassionate patient care; offering innovative educational opportunities for lifetime learning; and improving the state of primary care in Alabama.

The growth of our faculty is one of the most visible outcomes of our progress. By recruiting rising stars and established leaders, we have been able to fill crucial gaps in expertise and build new bridges between different disciplines. We also have strengthened our efforts to retain the world-renowned faculty we already have through the creation of new funds to support pilot projects and continuing research.

Fresh Insights and Future Therapies

I am pleased to report that since our planning process began, we have recruited key faculty for most of our seven research pillars: cancer; cardiovascular biology and diseases; diabetes, obesity, and metabolism; immunology and autoimmunity; infectious diseases, global health, and vaccines; neuroscience; and transplantation. Among them are seven new department chairs and more than 20 other research and clinical leaders.

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Dr. Harry Erba

Each new physician and scientist brings a unique perspective, fresh insights, and an impressive track record of discovery to our labs, clinics, and classrooms. For example, Dr. Harry Erba, who recently joined our Division of Hematology and Oncology and Comprehensive Cancer Center, is a prominent expert in leukemia and has helped to develop many new drugs for the disease. Beginning this month, he will chair the leukemia committee for SWOG, a major national cancer research network. Dr. Guangxiang (George) Luo, a new arrival in our Department of Microbiology, is a virologist who will work closely with Dr. Michael Saag, director of the Center for AIDS Research, on an initiative targeting hepatitis C, a curable disease with a treatment roadmap similar to that of HIV. Dr. Rajeev Samant and Dr. Lalita Samant, in the Department of Pathology, have brought us their understanding of the molecular switches and signals that appear to regulate tumor progression and metastasis—work that could one day lead to new cancer-fighting therapies. We also have been increasing our roster of faculty with expertise in informatics. Their role is to help us do a better job of mining health data for nuggets of information that can help physicians select the most effective treatments.

Teacher, Clinician, Mentor

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Dr. Richard Streiffer

When we search for job candidates, we look for people who can excel in multiple areas of our mission: teaching, research, and clinical care. Dr. Richard Streiffer, our new associate dean and the dean of our Tuscaloosa branch campus, the University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences, is one such leader. An alumnus of our Tuscaloosa family medicine residency program, Dr. Streiffer spent 25 years caring for patients in a rural practice in Mississippi while also serving as a preceptor and mentor for medical students. Later, he entered academia and led family medicine residency programs in Colorado and Louisiana. In his new role, Dr. Streiffer will make important contributions to our successful rural medicine programs and to our strategic goal of meeting the state’s pressing need for more primary care physicians and for better delivery of community medicine across the state.

Support for Success

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Dr. David Rogers

Another of our new hires, Dr. David Rogers, will help us nurture and support our faculty, whether they have just arrived or have been here for years. As senior associate dean for faculty development, he will help establish a foundation for success for our colleagues, overseeing services ranging from physician health to professional development. He also will play an important role in our future recruitment efforts. Dr. Rogers says he will build on the work of Dr. Kathe Nelson, who helped to establish faculty development benchmarks in the position for many years before her retirement this summer. Dr. Rogers has some great ideas, and I look forward to seeing him put them into practice. He also will co-direct the UAB Healthcare Leadership Academy, which provides clinicians with the necessary skills to manage health care organizations in an ever-changing environment .

Investing in Excellence

To date, we have directed 75 percent of the total investments in our strategic plans toward retention and recruitment, which proves just how crucial our faculty are to our growth and future success. I am pleased—and grateful—that many of our alumni and friends also recognize the importance of this invaluable resource and have aided our efforts through contributions to endowed chairs and professorships. I encourage you to continue making your own investments in our success. To ensure that we stay on the leading edge of research, clinical care, and education, we must continually cultivate our faculty and provide them with the tools and resources to accomplish great things for the people of Alabama.

I look forward to telling you about more new recruits in the future, but for now, I encourage you to join me at one of the alumni receptions scheduled throughout the state this fall. At each one, I will share more of the milestones that we—faculty, alumni, and friends working together—have achieved with our strategic plan.


Best regards,

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