UAB Department of Pathology
Welcome to the UAB Department of Pathology website. The UAB Department of Pathology provides extensive clinical services and teaching while maintaining large and productive research programs. Currently, the Department has over $20 million per year in extramural research funding and our clinical services, including inpatient, outpatient and outreach, completes over 6 million procedures per year. Our training programs are among the finest in the country and our faculty have achieved national and international recognition in service, teaching and research.
UAB Cancer Center and ASU Receive Grant to Address Cancer Health DisparitiesThe University of Alabama at Birmingham Comprehensive Cancer Center and Alabama State University have received a $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute that establishes a partnership to create a critical mass of research and researchers to reduce cancer health disparities in minorities.
The grant will allow both institutions to conduct cancer-related research and training in terms of career development and education to aid underserved communities. The four-year project will be guided by two distinguished scientists at each institution.
The grant, divided between the two institutions, is the culmination of a yearlong collaborative effort on the part of Upender Manne, Ph.D., M.S., professor in the UAB Department of Pathology, and Isabel Scarinci, Ph.D., MPH, professor in the UAB Division of Preventive Medicine, and Manoj Mishra, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, and Karyn Scissum-Gunn, Ph.D., professor of Microbiology and associate provost of Academic Affairs at ASU.
The specific aims of the partnership are to enhance, by development and mentorship of junior faculty members, the research and administrative infrastructure necessary to conduct competitive basic and community-based cancer research at ASU; to develop investigators committed to research in cancer disparities at both partnering institutions; and to establish a pipeline of minority cancer disparity researchers and health professionals between ASU and UAB.
In the South, cancer health disparities are attributed to a variety of factors, including lifestyle, culture, environment, health care access, socioeconomics and population-specific genetic differences. Although community-based participatory research has gained national attention, the number of minority investigators to do this type of research is low. It has become increasingly important to build up the skilled manpower to conduct cancer disparities research that will aid in creating personalized cancer therapies for this segment of the population.
“The idea is that, in view of the unequal burden of cancer borne by African-Americans, the locations of ASU and the UAB Cancer Center place this partnership in an ideal geographic region to address cancer health disparities within the state of Alabama by developing a pipeline of students, scientists and health care professionals from minority and medically underserved populations,” said Manne, lead principal investigator on the grant and a senior scientist at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Both institutions possess unique strengths that supplement each other.”
At ASU, which is classified as a historically black college or university, more than 90 percent of the students and more than 60 percent of the faculty belong to a minority community in which health disparities are a significant issue in various areas, including cancer.
“ASU is the ideal place for students and faculty to be invested in cancer disparities research,” Manne said.
“This NIH/NCI grant will address relevant issues with a persistent, multifaceted strategy by combining multidisciplinary cancer research projects to unravel the basis for cancer disparities,” said Mishra, the lead principal investigator at ASU. “This grant will allow us to jump-start our cancer research and education programs for our faculty and students at ASU.”
Basic research efforts will focus on prostate and colorectal cancers, which affect a disproportionate number of minority individuals.
The UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center has a long history of addressing cancer health disparities and has an extensive infrastructure in place that is needed for a sustained research program.
Manne is also the UAB lead principal investigator of another NIH/NCI-funded partnership that was established among the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Morehouse School of Medicine and Tuskegee University, which has provided an ideal infrastructure to build the current UAB Cancer Center/ASU partnership. The UAB–Morehouse–Tuskegee partnership has contributed substantially to reducing the gaps in cancer incidence and morbidity and mortality between Caucasians and African-Americans, and it has enhanced the capabilities of the three institutions to conduct cancer research that is directly applicable to minority populations. Investigators in that partnership have published more than 100 manuscripts relating to health disparities.
In addition,the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Deep South Network for Cancer Control is nationally recognized as a leader in community outreach for its work in increasing education and awareness of cancer in minority and underserved populations.
“This grant builds upon and extends the goals and commitment of UAB and the Cancer Center to reduce cancer and health disparities,” said Edward Partridge, M.D., director of the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Furthermore, it strengthens efforts to advance cancer research, training and education for researchers at both UAB and ASU.”
Students and others interested in cancer health disparities research may visit the Morehouse/Tuskegee/UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center Partnership or the UAB Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center websites.
--This story was reprinted from the UAB Medicine News website.
Faculty Spreads Knowledge, Technology to New African Medical SchoolsSharing resources is one way to spread knowledge. Pathology Professor Peter Anderson, DVM, Ph.D., knows this. He also knows a grant awarded to him five years ago is making possible his work with medical schools in Zambia and elsewhere in Africa.
“Without the grant, I wouldn’t have had the slides available to give to the Copperbelt University School of Medicine,” Anderson said. “It was a real circle-of-life moment.”
Anderson said he was contacted by Craig Wilson, M.D., director of the Sparkman Center for Global Health, about traveling to Zambia to learn what UAB could do for the University of Zambia School of Medicine. UAB has been conducting HIV-related research and patient care in Zambia for 20 years.
“I initially wanted to get involved because it sounded exciting to go to Africa; I had never been to the continent,” Anderson said. “Once I got over there and started working with the faculty, I was overwhelmed by how bad things were for the teaching faculty and students and how poor the health-care systems and facilities were.”
Medical education in ZambiaThe ratio of doctors to patients in Zambia, a country with a population of 14 million, is 1:15,000. The University of Zambia School of Medicine, the only public medical school until 2011, has been training doctors for 45 years and has graduated more than 1,200 doctors. However, the high attrition rate of 40 percent and low annual graduation rate has been unable to keep pace with the population growth of about 1.8 percent.
Anderson said UAB faculty who initially went to Zambia to conduct HIV research realized there were not enough trained health-care workers, and they began visiting the University of Zambia School of Medicine to find out what its faculty needed.
“Dr. Wilson and the Sparkman Center for Global Health were instrumental in developing the relationship with the health professions educators,” Anderson said.
In 2010, the National Institutes of Health announced the Medical Educational Partnership Initiative (MEPI), which will allocate $130 million to medical schools in sub-Sarahan African countries during a five-year period. The goal is to increase the number of health-care workers by 140,000.
The University of Zambia School of Medicine received some of that money, and in 2011 Kasonde Bowa, Ph.D., a faculty member, left to become dean of the newly opened Copperbelt University School of Medicine, also located in Zambia. Anderson and Wilson, who know Bowa, made a trip to see how they could help the new school.
Virtual microscopyIn 2009, Anderson had received a grant through the University of Alabama Health Services Foundation General Endowment Fund to buy a microscope slide scanner and fund a work-study student. After hours of scanning and culling slides from friends across the country, Anderson had thousands of images in his arsenal to use for teaching histology and histopathology.
“Microscopes are expensive and they tend to break and need cleaning and/or repair and glass slides fade with time and/or break,” Anderson said. “So, virtual microscopy is a nice way to store and deliver histology slides for teaching using computers and hand-held digital devices.”
When Anderson and Wilson visited Zambia’s new School of Medicine, they learned the school did not have microscopes or slides for teaching histology or histopathology. Anderson gave Bowa a 500 GB portable hard drive with thousands of slides he had available because of his grant.
“Bowa was able to use our UAB virtual microscope slide collection to teach the medical students that first year,” Anderson said. “We stayed in contact, and when I visited him several more times I brought additional slide files and teaching materials to help with his courses.”
Anderson said courses in histology and histopathology focus on the structure of the human body and how normal structures are altered or damaged during disease.
“If you know the normal structure and function of tissues, you can more easily understand how disease causes problems and you can better understand and appreciate treatment options and methods,” Anderson said. “Just about every health professional student, no matter the discipline, takes classes in structure and function of the body to help them better understand their patient’s ailments.”
Through MEPI the school was able to receive 15 laptops and loaded the virtual microscopy program onto all of them.
“Virtual microscopy fills a huge resource gap,” Wilson said. “The ability to teach histology and pathology without the need for microscopes also means saving space and lots of maintenance issues.”
Anderson’s assistance to Copperbelt University School of Medicine has been reported in “Academic Medicine,” the journal for the Association of American Medical Colleges.
“During the past three years, 112 medical and dental students have used virtual microscopy as their sole means to study histology,” according to the report. “More than three-quarters of staff and students reported in a self-administered questionnaire that virtual microscopy was an effective and efficient easy way to study histology.”
Since word spread, other institutions across the continent have asked Anderson to visit and bring the materials. Anderson has worked with more than 15 schools in five countries.
“I think the main thing UAB gets out of this is the positive image we have all over the world,” Anderson said. “Medical schools all over Africa wanted me to come show them how to use virtual microscopy, so I would like to think we have spread a lot of goodwill.”