Doctor, Teacher, Mentor

Former Resident Comes Full Circle

By Caperton Gillett

Alice Goepfert
Alice Goepfert (right) has won honors and admiration for her work with medical
students and residents.

When Alice Goepfert, M.D., was appointed director of the School of Medicine’s ob/gyn residency program last year, she felt a special connection with her new charges. That’s because she once literally stood in their shoes as a UAB ob/gyn resident herself.

“It’s really exciting to be so involved in their training and making sure they’ll be excellent ob/gyns when they finish,” says Goepfert, who also treats mothers and babies as a maternal-fetal medicine specialist. She hopes to pass along some of the excitement and inspiration she received from her own teachers. “Obstetrics is fascinating because we deal with two patients at once, and there are so many physiologic changes during pregnancy,” she says.

A Selma native, Goepfert attended medical school at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, where she met her future husband, Paul Goepfert. When the time came for them to choose residency programs—ob/gyn for her, internal medicine for him—she was ready to come home. “UAB had an excellent internal medicine program and ob/gyn residency program,” she says. “It was our first choice, and we were lucky to end up matching here. We’ve been here ever since.”

“Ever since” has included Goepfert’s UAB residency, which she completed in 1995, her fellowship in maternal-fetal medicine, and an invitation to join the UAB faculty in 1997. In her first job, she was ob/gyn clerkship director, watching students experience their rotations. “There have been so many great students, and many of them have become our great residents,” she says.

In 2007, Goepfert was tapped to head a new educational experience for all first-year SOM students—the Patient, Doctor, and Society course. It’s the initial course of their medical careers and an introduction to medicine’s true fundamentals—ethics, communication, compassion, and “what makes an excellent physician in terms of impacting patients and the community beyond your medical knowledge,” she explains.

“It was a little out of my realm of comfort,” Goepfert says of her role as curriculum director. “I’m not an ethics expert, and I don’t study professionalism per se, but I use them every day in my clinical practice. It was challenging but exciting.”

When the position of ob/gyn residency program director opened in August 2009, Goepfert was invited to step in. “It’s a big responsibility,” she says. “We’re guiding and mentoring future ob/gyns and future academic physicians. I had so many powerful mentors as researchers and clinicians, and that really inspires me.”

Goepfert’s accomplishments recently were recognized in two ways. She received the 2010 UAB President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching for the SOM. And earlier this year, UAB’s new Women & Infants Center opened with a space named in her honor. In recognition of her efforts on behalf of her patients, residents, students, and colleagues, Goepfert’s friends and family across Alabama and around the country raised money to put her name on labor and delivery room number four.

“My wonderful friends did this because they know how important it is to me, to all of the people I work with, and to the women and infants of Alabama,” Goepfert says. “They’ve seen how much it means to me to take care of patients and work with the medical students and residents. They know how much I love what I do.