UAB surgeon partners with principal to promote excellence at historic Alabama high school

Robert Cerfolio, M.D., chief of Thoracic Surgery, to launch program at Sidney Lanier to introduce students to the broad field of medicine Jan. 13.

cerfolio web“I believe there are opportunities in front of us every day, and most of us miss them. We sometimes fail to recognize these events, the very minute they happen, as a chance to grow, get better and improve ourselves. Career opportunities are available as well, and through hard work and the drive for personal excellence, they can be maximized. Life is full of opportunity, and true and diligent preparation done every day will enable these students to capitalize on their future opportunities.”University of Alabama at Birmingham Division of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery Professor Robert Cerfolio, M.D., has formed a partnership with Sidney Lanier High School in Montgomery, Alabama, to assist and support students interested in pursuing a career in medicine.

As part of this initiative, students at Sidney Lanier will participate in webinars with Cerfolio and other UAB faculty, staff and students to hear the latest research strategies and literature and gain access to mentors and other resources that introduce them to the broad field of medicine. UAB’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions also is partnering with the surgery division to provide follow-up services regarding the college-admission process, financial aid and strategies for success.

Cerfolio, chief of Thoracic Surgery and the James H. Estes Family Lung Center Research Endowed Chair in UAB’s School of Medicine, will speak at 8:15 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 13, at Sidney Lanier and will spend the day meeting teachers and students and touring the academic and athletic facilities.

“This is an exciting and unique opportunity for me personally to be involved with Sidney Lanier Principal Antonio Williams and his wonderful faculty, staff and, of course, students, which is what this is all about,” Cerfolio said. “I believe there are opportunities in front of us every day, and most of us miss them. We sometimes fail to recognize these events, the very minute they happen, as a chance to grow, get better and improve ourselves. Career opportunities are available as well, and through hard work and the drive for personal excellence, they can be maximized. Life is full of opportunity, and true and diligent preparation done every day will enable these students to capitalize on their future opportunities.”

The partnership will include the use of technology to provide supplemental materials for science courses at Sidney Lanier, and Cerfolio — along with other UAB faculty, staff and students — will consult and advise on efficiency and excellence in student performance.

Williams cast a vision to “Reclaim the Castle” — a longtime affectionate term for the school — when he was hired this past year as principal of his alma mater. Williams views this partnership with UAB as a crucial part of that mission.

“To have someone as successful as Dr. Cerfolio willing to take time out of his busy schedule to come into Lanier and help us change the culture is outstanding,” Williams said. “We are always happy anytime we can expose our students to new ideas and different world-views.”

Cerfolio, a world-renowned thoracic surgeon who has been voted by his peers as one of America’s Best Doctors, wrote about the importance of pursuing excellence and finding meaningful ways to give back and help others in his recent book, “Super Performing at Home and at Work: The Athleticism of Surgery and Life.” Cerfolio hopes his time at Lanier will assist Williams in his vision to “Reclaim the Castle” and “show the students that they are not defined by their circumstances, but rather their choices and work ethic,” he said.  

Founded in 1910, Sidney Lanier High School is one of the most historically significant schools in Alabama. Lanier was the only high school in the Montgomery County School System at one point in its history and population topped 3,000 students. Famous alumni include Bart Starr, Zelda Fitzgerald and Emory Folmer.

Today, a little more than 800 students walk the halls of the school. In 1911, the student population of Lanier was all white. In 2015, the student population is predominately African-American with a few white and Hispanic students. Sidney Lanier High School is one of five traditional high schools within the Montgomery County Public School System. The school serves grades 9-12.

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