May 20, 2013

From graduation to collaboration

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It’s not often in the hectic world of academic medicine that we have the opportunity to pause and reflect on the good that we do daily and the greatness of our cumulative efforts.

However, the past week has presented at least two such occasions.

On Sunday, May 19, 169 students graduated from our medical school. Our invited speaker, Dr. David Chestnut, an alumnus and former chair of Anesthesiology at UAB who currently is associate dean of the Western Academic Campus of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, was humorous and gracious as he imparted words of wisdom with a large dose of humility. He recounted his own experience as a medical student and resident and he encouraged the graduates to be humble, to protect their personal relationships, to nourish their souls, maintain the altruism that led them into medicine, and to be thankful.

We can all be thankful for, and take pride in, this latest class of physicians. They are impressive as a class and impressive as individuals, and each of us – whether faculty, staff or fellow student – plays a role in shaping, educating and informing these young people who will soon enough be treating patients all on their own.

For the third year in a row we held a special ceremony Sunday  morning for 14 UAB graduates who are entering the military. Dr. Laura Kezar, associate dean for students and a former Navy physician, created this ceremony. In an exemplary spirit of community she invited graduates of Samford’s McWhorter School of Pharmacy to participate. Military medicine is a special commitment to care for active duty personnel and their families. They honor all of us with their service to medicine and to our country.

You can see photos and videos from commencement on our School of Medicine news page and  Facebook page.

On Friday, May 17, many School of Medicine leaders gathered to present updates of our AMC 21 strategic plan. A representative from each of the strategic areas discussed their path of progress and their plans for the future. Both I and President Watts, who attended the meeting, reinforced the message that our people are our most important asset; we will continue to invest in retaining and recruiting the very best people.

I was most impressed with the high level of collaboration among the strategic areas. Our neuroscience faculty are working with faculty in Radiology on imaging science; members of the Comprehensive Cardiovascular Center are collaborating with members of the Comprehensive Diabetes Center, the Center for Exercise Medicine and the Center for AIDS Research; 50 researchers have used our microbiome core, a new facility at UAB and a relatively new area of interest for science in the United States. The examples go on and on.

These collaborations are indicative of UAB’s collegial environment. By working together we temper and hone our scientific and clinical abilities, and with this stronger, sharper edge we become more competitive for research funding and for recruiting and we improve education and patient care.

With these two recent events I was able to heed Dr. Chestnut’s advice to our graduates: be glad, and thankful, for the lessons each day brings us.

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