Debra Clisby has worked at UAB for nearly 30 years, and the dedicationclisby stream
she’s shown during her tenure in the UAB Substance Abuse Center for 13 of those has earned her the respect and admiration of her co-workers — plus the title of UAB’s Employee of the Month.

As business officer, Clisby is the primary human resources support for the largest unit of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology, which requires quite a bit of balancing. Clisby’s colleagues note that she remains in constant communication, whether or not she’s in the office, and her dedication to the program is unwavering.

That dedication is evident in the way Clisby works to make UAB a better
place for employees. Last year, she recognized equity issues in certain job
titles within her unit that were remnants of historical hiring practices. Clisby created a detailed report of program summaries, job descriptions and organizational charts so the issue could be better evaluated.

After the School of Medicine’s human resources leadership and compensation units and other parties reviewed the material Clisby collected, changes were implemented to ensure equity across the department.

“Based on Debra’s effort, we were able to make a case for these much-needed changes,” said Jill Pitts, personnel generalist in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology. “Although this process took longer than we anticipated, the changes were implemented and these salaries now reflect the employees’ commitment to the division and their years of experience.”

In March, the substance abuse unit implemented a leadership program specifically for its own employees, covering topics such as leadership foundations, positivity and business writing. The program was Clisby’s idea — which isn’t surprising, because she is dedicated to ensuring her colleagues have the resources to succeed, which most often is exemplified through her own direct reports.

“My primary responsibility to my staff is to give them the tools, like ongoing educational training, that they need to be successful and to make them feel valued,” she said. “I take pride in the fact that I listen to their input and ideas to better the organization — it’s team-building. It’s also about building relationships across campus and maintaining the inclusivity of all UAB employees.”

Another colleague, Briana Bass, financial officer in the unit, says Clisby is a great example of UAB Medicine’s core values: Own it, do right, always care and work together. She is passionate and committed, which provides good human resources guidance for the unit, Bass said.

She consistently goes above and beyond the call of duty in helping employees at any given moment while maintaining a positive attitude,” she added.

Clisby confirmed that she does keep those core values in mind while doing her daily work — she “makes very effort to subscribe to” them, she said. But while she’s inspiring colleagues such as Bass, Clisby said she also is inspired by others with whom she works.

“Our division counselors, administrators and case managers are patient, gentle and caring with our clients who have substance abuse and/or co-occurring disorders,” she said. “They inspire me to give the same dedication and quality care in my work serving as their advocate in human resources-related matters. Consequently, I approach every task with the heart and mindset of a servant.”

Paul Tierney, interim clinical director for UAB Substance Abuse Programs, said that as UAB’s substance abuse programs grow and develop to meet the demands of the national opioid epidemic, Clisby is integral to ensuring UAB is well-equipped to meet the growing need in the Birmingham community.

“We would not find ourselves in the position we’re in now — able to grow, adapt and take on the opioid epidemic and other critical challenges we face — without Debra’s leadership,” Tierney said.

By being an exemplary employee, Clisby is ensuring her unit can do its best work — something that makes her proud to work at UAB.

"UAB is on the cutting edge of so much extraordinary research, medicine and academics,” she said. “I have gained the drive to always work at my craft, and I consider myself to be a lifetime learner. UAB has inspired me to be innovative on the job and always consider ways to make daily operations more efficient and effective.”

One of the biggest assets UAB possesses is its  faculty, staff and student diversity, Clisby said, and that has inspired her since the moment she set foot on campus as an employee.

“When I first came to UAB in 1990, I worked in the Department of Microbiology,” she said. “One of my fondest memories is having potluck events to which my co-workers brought a dish. I got to sample different cuisines from all over the world, and I was able to experience a fragment of each culture.

"What I came to realize is that we share the same humanity and basic core values: love, laughter and solidarity.”


John A. Dantzler, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychiatry, has been appointed to the newly created position of Vice Chair for Addiction Programs in the Department of Psychiatry.  Dr. Dantzler currently serves as Executive Director of the department’s Substance Abuse and Criminal Justice Programs located on Beacon Parkway in Homewood.  Dr. Meador-Woodruff stated that, “Since his recruitment several years ago, John has done an exceptional job of managing our off campus programs under the Beacon umbrella, and of increasingly integrating these programs into the core of the department.”  According to Dr. Meador-Woodruff, the new Vice Chair has been charged with growing the department’s addiction-related academic missions, which he sees as critical in the current climate of a major national and local public health crisis of a rapidly expanding substance abusing and addicted population. Dr. Dantzler will focus on expanding Psychiatry’s addiction related academic portfolio and strategically growing clinical services. “John has distinguished himself in his exceptional leadership of our Beacon Parkway programs, and is uniquely positioned to work with our leadership team to bring all of our addiction services and programs under a single umbrella.”  He finished by saying, “John will be a major part of leading our Department-wide efforts to strengthen our addiction related activities.”


Smith NathanThe Department of Psychiatry has announced that Nathan Smith, MD was appointed to Professor Emeritus in the School of Medicine by the Board of Trustees during their February 2018 meeting. “This is an exceptional honor for Dr. Smith, and a level of recognition that only has been achieved by nine other faculty members in the entire history of the Department of Psychiatry”, said the Heman E. Drummond, Professor and Chair of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology, Dr. James Meador-Woodruff.

Dr. Smith was recruited to UAB in 1990 as an assistant professor. He was promoted to Professor in 2006 and retired from UAB in July 2016 after nearly 26 years of service. During his tenor, he served as Psychiatry’s Director of Departmental Clerkship for medical students, was the Director of the Psychiatry Residency Training Program, and served as Vice Chair of Psychiatry in multiple areas including Education, Administration, and Clinical Affairs. Additionally, Dr. Smith was the Assistant Dean for Admissions for the School of Medicine for 15 years.

Dr. Meador-Woodruff went on to say that “Dr. Smith distinguished himself as one of our Department’s best. Beyond his service as an outstanding administrator and leader, both for the Department and the School of Medicine, he is widely known as a compassionate, caring and outstanding clinician, and as a popular teacher and educator. We are truly fortunate to still have him in our department, continuing to see patients and working with residents in our adult ambulatory program.  I can think of no better tribute to his past dedication and future service than by this recognition.”

Falola picture The Department of Psychiatry has announced that Blessing Falola, M.D. and Michael Falola, M.D., M.P.H. will join the department as assistant professors in July 2018. Dr. Blessing Falola will work in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry where her clinical activity will be primarily at Children's of Alabama providing outpatient care. She will also develop an outpatientTransitional Age Clinic at UAB for patients ages 19 to 25 years. Dr. Michael Falola will join UAB Psychiatry spending half of his time in Adult clinical care and the other half of his time developing prediction models to identify risk for depression and suicide and response to treatment using high complexity data.

The Chair of Psychiatry, Dr. James Meador-Woodruff, commented that Dr. and Dr. Falola are industrious individuals who will add greatly to our efforts in clinical care, education, and research. They will be outstanding additions to our faculty and to UAB."

Originally from Nigeria, both doctors received their M.D. from the University of Ibadan. Dr. Blessing Falola came to UAB to enter the Clinical Training Academy in Palliative and Supportive Care. After completeing this program, she started her residency in Psychiatry in 2013 and, in 2016, entered the UAB Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship which she will complete in June 2018. Dr. Meador-Woodruff went on to say that "during her residency training, Blessing completed the UAB Medicine Mini-Quality Academy. She has used this training to further quality improvment projects in our Department. Blessing has also been instrumental in the  development of the UAB Psychiatry Resident Simulation Lab." 

Dr. Michael Falola finished his Masters of Public Health at UAB in 2010 with an emphasis on biostatistics. He entered the Psychiatry residency program in 2014, where according to Dr. Meador-Woodruff, he distinguished himself both as an outstanding clinician and an emerging scientist. Dr. Meador-Woodruff said that "he is conducting original research using large-scale datasets to test associations between clinical and genetic variables and both response to
antidepressant therapy and subtyping and psychiatric illness and suicidal behavior. Michael is approaching data in a unique way, using a machine learning paradigm to identify novel phenotypes within a suicidal population."

Additionally, the department recently received a generous gift designated to support psychiatrists starting their careers as clinician-investigators. Dr. Michael Falola will be the first recipient of funds from this gift and will be designated as Psychiatry's inaugural Engel Scholar in Psychiatry.
The Deplahtiartment of Psychiatry has announced that Adrienne Lahti, M.D. has been appointed as the Vice Chair for Research Training and Faculty Development. According to the Chair of Psychiatry, Dr. James Meador-Woodruff, Dr. Lahti, the Patrick H. Linton Endowed Professor of Psychiatry, is "an outstanding and passionate clinician and educator, a well-funded and talented investigator, a forceful advocate for the needs of those with schizophrenia". In addition to stepping into her new leadership position in the Department of Psychiatry, Dr. Lahti will continue as the Director of the Division of Behavioral Neurobiology.

Dr. Meador-Woodruff went on to explain that while the Department of Psychiatry has enjoyed the robust growth of their research enterprise over the past five years, the Department realized that they have significant opportunities to elevate the early career research and academic development of their faculty and trainees. Under Dr. Lahti's leadership, Psychiatry will continue to partner with their education leaders to further invigorate their residency research track by focusing particular emphasis on enhancing recruitment efforts, furthering curriculum development, and insuring the academic success of their graduates. Dr. Lahti will also lead the Department's efforts to obtain additional NIH funding for their research training programs, work to further expand their early faculty mentorship committees for all of their academically-oriented junior faculty members, and continue the oversight of their undergraduate research students. Dr. Meador-Woodruff finished by saying, "With Dr.  Lahti's added leadership, the Department of Psychiatry will continue our efforts to make UAB and our department an even better home for our talented scientists."

 UAB Psychiatry is delighted to welcome two new faculty members to our Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Dr. Jung Kim joined the faculty of the UAB Department of Psychiatry, Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry on July 1, 2017. Dr. Kim graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science with Highest Honor before attending the Kyungpook National University School of Medicine in Daegu, South Korea. He then completed his general residency at the Harvard South Shore Psychiatry Residency Training Program and his fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Harvard's program at Boston Children's Hospital. Upon graduation Dr. Kim joined the faculty at UAB, with primary clinical and teaching responsibilities with the inpatient service at Children's of Alabama. Dr. Kim's area of interest is Developmental Disorders with particular interest in Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Dr. Katherin Freeman joined the faculty of the UAB Department of Psychiatry, Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in September, 2017. Dr. Freeman graduated form Wellesley College with a Bachelor of Arts in English before attending the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. She subsequently completed her residency at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center Triple Board Program training in Pediatrics, Adult Psychiatry, and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Subsequently she joined the medical staff of the Primary Children's Medical Center in Salt Lake. Dr. freeman then relocated to nevada where she joined the clinical faculty of University of Nevada, Reno. She also was the medical supervisor of the HealTherapy Equine-Facilitated Mental Health Service and served as Pediatric Psychiatry Consultant to the State of Nevada Division of Child and Family Services. In recent years Dr. Freeman also maintained her own private practice in child and adolescent psychiatry in Reno. At UAB Dr. Freeman's clinical and teaching responsibilities will be on the UAB Adolescent Inpatient Unit. She will also be providing outpatient services at Children's of Alabama.


 The Division and the Department are excited by the recent recruitment of these two new members of our faculty, who represent an ongoing commitment to further expand psychiatric care for children statewide through a robust partnership between UAB and Children’s of Alabama.


Soumya SivaramanSoumya Sivaraman, M.D. was appointed as an Assistant Professor in the Division of Adult Psychiatry of the UAB Department of Psychiatry on July 1, 2017.  Dr. Sivaraman received her MBBS from the Coimbatore Medical College in India, and pursued Psychiatry training at the prestigious National Institute of Mental health and Neurosciences in Bangalore. She pursued a second US-based residency training program in Psychiatry at UAB as a member of our residency research track, and was successfully recruited to our faculty following completion of her training. Dr. Sivaraman is now a member of the UAB hospital-based Psychiatry Consultation-Liaison program, and also provides care in outpatient clinics at the Community Psychiatry Clinic (CPP) within the Department that serves those with severe mental illness such as schizophrenia.   Dr. Sivaraman has also joined our ECT program, and will significantly expand the Department’s capacity to provide this clinical service.  We are excited to welcome Dr. Sivaraman to the faculty of UAB Psychiatry, and are delighted that she has chosen to remain a part of the Department following her postgraduate training.

Justin ThomasJustin Thomas, Ph.D. joined the faculty of the UAB Department of Psychiatry as an Assistant Professor in July 2017. Dr. Thomas received BS degrees in both Biology and Psychology from UAB, and his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Alabama.  After his Ph.D. was awarded, he was a postdoctoral fellow at UAB in the Hypertension Research Center in the Department of Epidemiology.  His clinical and research interests focus on sleep and sleep disorders.  He will have an outpatient psychology practice in UAB Psychiatry primarily focused on sleep related issues, including using CBT for Insomnia (CBT-I) as a treatment modality. His research interests also are related to understanding sleep disorders.  He brings to UAB Psychiatry much needed expertise on sleep disorders, and is a welcome addition to the faculty of the department.
lahti nina UAB Psychiatry faculty members Adrienne Lahti,(left) M.D. and Nina Kraguljac, M.D. (right)received the 2017 Kempf Fund Award for Research Development in Psychobiological Psychiatry at the annual meeting  of the American Psychiatric Association in San Diego in May 2017. This prestigious prize honors research excellence in the physiological, psychological, and/or sociological causes and treatment for schizophrenia. This award recognizes a senior researcher who has made significant contributions to research on the causes and treatment of schizophrenia as both a researcher and a mentor, as well as an outstanding junior research psychiatrist working in a mentor-trainee relationship with the senior recipient of this award.  Dr. Lahti was singled out for her contributions and exceptional achievements in schizophrenia research and mentorship of early career psychiatrists. The award selection committee recognized Dr. Kraguljac’s excellence in schizophrenia research as an early career psychiatrist. This is an important award in schizophrenia research, and a well-deserved honor for these two outstanding members of the UAB Department of Psychiatry.
20141217100400 Karen Cropsey 520websiteThe University of Alabama System Board of Trustees at their most recent meeting approved the appointment of Dr. Karen Cropsey as the inaugural holder of the Vivian Conatser Turner Endowed Professorship in Psychiatry. Dr. Cropsey joined the faculty of UAB Psychiatry nearly ten years ago. She received her Psy.D. from Indiana State, and pursued postdoctoral training at Mississippi State and Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). She was recruited to UAB from a faculty position at VCU in 2007, and she has been with UAB since, primarily as a researcher but also with meaningful roles in Department of Psychiatry clinics and education activities. Karen's research focuses on addiction and substance abuse in vulnerable population, especially in the criminal justice system and those with HIV/AIDS, and in comorbid psychiatric conditions such as depression. She has studied multiple drugs of abuse, including alcohol, nicotine, and opiates. She has been exceptionally well-funded and extensively published over her career. After an extensive national search for a holder of this newly established Endowed Professorship in the Department of Psychiatry, she emerged as an ideal candidate given her extensive research credentials, passion for understanding and treating substance abuse in these most at risk populations, and her interest in the interface of addiction and depression.