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  1. UAB looks to build on many 2014 successes in the new year
    UAB looks to build on many 2014 successes in the new year
    Looking forward to a promising 2015, UAB News revisits some top stories of 2014.

    campusThe University of Alabama at Birmingham experienced many successes and milestones in 2014, including student accomplishments, faculty hires, records set, campus improvements, groundbreaking research and more.

    In 2014, UAB saw its sixth straight year of record overall enrollment, with 18,698 students. In its inaugural year, 45 students enrolled in Blazing Start, a program that encourages student success through intensive advising and ongoing academic support, and 361 students took advantage of the Joint Admissions program. The Honors College, which offers experiential learning opportunities and includes the signature University Honors Program, Science and Technology Honors Program, and Global and Community Leadership Honors Program, had its largest-ever incoming freshman class of 375 students, with an average grade-point average of 4.1.

    The growing student body is complemented by growth in facilities. In January 2014, the new Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts opened to the public and has hosted more than 5,000 visitors to date. The first major show by an artist of global renown at the AEIVA is the “Warhol: Fabricated” exhibition, coming Jan. 9-Feb. 28, 2015.

    The new UAB Student Health and Wellness Center opened in September 2014. It boasts 23,000 square feet of space dedicated to the health, counseling and wellness needs of UAB students. A new freshman residence hall will open in summer 2015 and will house more than 700 students. By the fall semester, students, faculty and staff will enjoy the new 159,000-square-foot UAB Student Center, which will be home to student services and activities, as well as Full Moon Bar-B-Que, Panera Bread, Mein Bowl and Starbucks.

    “Excitement for the construction of a new student center is growing,” said Carolyn Farley, director of Academic and Student Services. “This incredible building will create a much better student experience.”

    Thousands of middle and high school students in Alabama’s Black Belt will be on the path to higher education in 2015, as UAB recently secured the largest nonhealth-related grant in its history to lead the U.S. Department of Education’s Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) grant program in Alabama. The UAB School of Education has been awarded a seven-year, $49 million grant to increase the number of low-income students prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. UAB will serve as the hub of GEAR UP Alabama. This is the first time Alabama has been awarded funds from GEAR UP, which began in 1998.

    UAB is making significant investments in UAB Teach, which gives undergraduate students studying science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines the ability to enhance career opportunities while improving education across Alabama.

    UAB honors student Ameen Barghi was elected to the Rhodes Scholar Class of 2015. He is one of 32 outstanding students in the United States who will start their all-expenses-paid, graduate educations at Oxford University next fall. Barghi is the third UAB student since 2000 named as a Rhodes Scholar.

    Barghi, 22, was able to work on computational analyses of MRI neuroimaging, publishing five papers in peer-reviewed research journals as part of the lab of Edward Taub, Ph.D., a world-renowned behavioral neuroscientist in UAB’s psychology department in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences.

    “I had the opportunity to learn clinical neuroscience at its finest,” Barghi said. “I’m getting experiences at UAB that kids from the best institutions around the world can’t get.”

    Barghi was admitted to UAB’s Early Medical School Acceptance Program. The EMSAP gives highly qualified students an enriched undergraduate experience, with promised admission to the UAB School of Medicine after successful undergraduate work. Barghi is a double-major in the UAB Undergraduate Neuroscience Program, which is run jointly by the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Medicine, and is working toward an individually designed major in translational research. He is enrolled in the UAB Honors College in the Science and Technology Honors Program, as well as the Business Honors Program at the UAB Collat School of Business.

    Some of the transformational research produced yearly by UAB investigators is supported in part by funding from the National Institutes of Health. In 2014, UAB NIH funding increased by 20 percent to $225 million, which puts UAB 10th among public universities, and several of its schools highly ranked nationally.

    This funding success helped bring about a partnership between UAB and the Southern Research Institute, developer of seven FDA-approved cancer drugs, to develop new medical devices to improve health care in the U.S. and around the globe. This strategic partnership, which is called the Alliance for Innovative Medical Technology (AIMTech), combines the research and discovery expertise of Southern Research Institute scientists and engineers UAB biomedical engineers and clinicians from the UAB School of Engineering. They will take a patient-centric approach to medical technology development.

    In 2014, countless published articles from UAB-affiliated authors appeared on ScienceDirect, the world’s leading source for scientific, technical and medical research. Over the last four years, UAB articles published on ScienceDirect combined for an average of more than 1 million downloads a year.

    The New England Journal of Medicine, the most widely read general medical periodical in the world, published its Top Articles of 2013 in early 2014, with five Top 10 lists that represent the most popular content among NEJM physician-readers. Myths, Presumptions, and Facts about Obesity, published in NEJM on Jan. 30, 2013, by an international team of researchers led by David B. Allison, Ph.D., associate dean for science in the UAB School of Public Health, made three of the Top 10 lists.

    UAB’s cybercrime experts have global influence, and for the second year in a row, the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security took note by designating UAB as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance and Cyber Defense Research. UAB takes an interdisciplinary approach to its research in these fields, stemming from the innovation of the Center for Information Assurance and Joint Forensics Research. Faculty from schools and departments across campus, including the Department of Computer and Information Sciences, the Department of Justice Sciences, and the Collat School of Business, all play an integral role in furthering education and research in information assurance and joint forensics through the center’s efforts.

    As 2014 showed with the Ebola virus, viral infections with limited or no treatment options can pose a major global health threat. A new national research consortium centered at UAB and led by the UAB School of Medicine, the Antiviral Drug Discovery and Development Center, or AD3C, will focus on the discovery of new and better drug therapies as these viruses emerge. The center is funded by an up to $35 million, five-year grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

    AD3C principal investigator and program director Richard Whitley, M.D., Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics and director of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, says the creation of the Alabama Drug Discovery Alliance in 2008 by UAB and Southern Research Institute helped make this new center possible.

    “UAB and SRI have spent a lot of time, money and energy developing the ADDA over the last five years,” Whitley said. “This grant shows how that investment can pay off.”

    A UAB School of Optometry researcher is studying a leading cause of death among newborns worldwide. Group B Streptococcus is a bacterium carried by about 40 percent of healthy women, and as many as 25 percent pass it to their infants during birth, despite screening and preventive treatment. Narayana Sthanam, Ph.D., professor of structural biology in the School of Optometry, is working to discover how it escapes the mother’s natural defense systems in hopes that knowledge will lead to a therapeutic intervention. His research is funded by a $1 million R01 grant from the NIH/NIAID.

    The start of 2015 will see recruitment begin for a potentially groundbreaking human clinical trial to test a drug shown to completely reverse diabetes in human islets and mice. The three-year, $2.1 million trial funded by the JDRF, known as “the repurposing of verapamil as a beta cell survival therapy in type 1 diabetes,” has come to fruition after more than a decade of research efforts in UAB’s Comprehensive Diabetes Center. Too much of the protein TXNIP – which is increased within pancreatic beta cells in response to diabetes – leads to cell death and thwarts the body’s efforts to produce insulin, thereby contributing to the progression of diabetes.

    “We have previously shown that verapamil can prevent diabetes and even reverse the disease in mouse models and reduce TXNIP in human islet beta cells, suggesting that it may have beneficial effects in humans as well,” said Anath Shalev, M.D., principal investigator of the verapamil clinical trial and director of the Comprehensive Diabetes Center.

    The nation’s largest single-site kidney transplant chain will also continue into 2015 at UAB. The UAB kidney chain began Dec. 5, 2013, and was featured nationally on the ABC News program “Nightline” on July 3, 2014, and across multiple news outlets. The program featured several members of the current chain and showcased the work of UAB Medicine physicians, nurses and staff who helped make this lifesaving, complex chain a reality.

    “To me, these are miracles,” said Jayme Locke, M.D., surgical director of the Incompatible Kidney Transplant Program UAB’s School of Medicine and coordinator of the chain. “From our perspective, this is a significant achievement for the 100,000 people around the country on the waiting list for a transplant, including almost 4,000 people here in Alabama.”

    Cancer survivors will continue to have the opportunity to cope, heal and grow, thanks to Harvest for Health, a UAB study that pairs cancer survivors with master gardeners from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Harvest for Health began with a pilot study in Jefferson County, Alabama, in 2011.

    “We asked the question ‘If cancer survivors started a vegetable garden, would they eat more vegetables?’” said Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, Ph.D., R.D., associate director for Cancer Prevention and Control in the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center and a professor in the Department of Nutrition Sciences in the UAB School of Health Professions. “We found they not only ate more vegetables, they also got more exercise. And their physical functioning improved dramatically,” she said, noting that the study has since been expanded to many counties surrounding Birmingham, along with the Cullman, Montgomery, Mobile and Dothan areas, with support from the National Cancer Institute.

    Efforts of a new clinical research program to combat chronic pain and fatigue will be ongoing in 2015 and will be led by Jarred Younger, Ph.D., who came to UAB in 2014 from Stanford University’s School of Medicine. He has a primary appointment in the Department of Psychology and secondary appointments in the Department of Anesthesiology and the Division of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology.

    Younger’s work at Stanford yielded new treatments for pain and fatigue, and he is continuing that work at UAB. “We believe that, in many cases when someone is suffering from chronic pain or fatigue, they may be suffering from low-level inflammation in their brain,” Younger said. “We are investigating ways to return the brain to its normal state.”

    The UAB School of Nursing and Birmingham VA Medical Center are again expanding their 43-year-old partnership and the focus on veterans' mental health needs. Created with a five-year grant from the Veterans Health Administration to the Birmingham VAMC, the two are partnering on the VA Nursing Academic Partnerships in Graduate Education (VANAP-GE), the only one of its kind in the country, and will put 48 new psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners into the VA workforce over the next five years.

    The School of Nursing’s ongoing partnership with the Birmingham VAMC played a role in the site’s selection, says Cynthia Selleck, Ph.D., R.N., FNP, the School’s associate dean for Clinical and Global Partnerships. Since 2008, the two institutions have worked together on several key projects, including the VA Nursing Academy Partnership, which teams VA Medical Centers with accredited schools of nursing with the goal of providing compassionate, highly educated nurses to meet the health care needs of America’s heroes.

    The UAB School of Dentistry has secured several grants to improve oral health care and access in Alabama and is applying for more to continue widening its scope. With the help of community collaborations, the School of Dentistry has the ability to use its resources to improve the oral health of Alabamians and positively shape the education of the students within the school.

    “We like our students to be exposed to these types of activities and initiatives because it gives them a broader perspective,” said Allen Conan Davis, DMD, assistant dean for Community Collaborations and Public Health in the School of Dentistry. “Many of our students choose to do a year’s extension program with a general practice residency, and we want to provide opportunities in the state so they will stay here. By locating them in nearby areas, we hope they will choose to practice in these areas, too.”

    UAB will also continue using arts education to empower young people in the Woodlawn community through the ArtReach program, which has had over 1,500 participants since its inception. ArtReach is an endeavor of ArtPlay, the Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center’s home for arts education.

    ArtPlay will present two premieres for the upcoming 2015 season: “The Clever George Washington Carver” on Saturday, Feb. 21, and DanceE’s “A DanceE Wild Rumpus” on Sunday, April 26.

    The ASC’s new season of shows will feature legendary and rising artists including Branford Marsalis, The Jung Trio, Arlo Guthrie, Aaron Neville Duo, the Wailers, California and Montreal Guitar Trios, Diana Krall, Australia’s Sway Poles, Steve Winwood, and Dr. John and the Nite Trippers. Young Concert Artists and rising stars Andrew Tyson and Julia Bullock will bookend the season and perform as part of the intimate ArtPlay Parlor Music Series. For tickets, a copy of The Center Magazine or more information, call 205-975-2787 or visit

    The Campaign for UAB: Give Something, Change Everything, the institution’s largest-ever philanthropic campaign that will run through 2018, continues to support efforts of the institution that advance faculty excellence, support research innovation and economic development, enrich the student experience, develop programmatic support, and enhance UAB’s facilities. In 2014, UAB reached the halfway point to its ambitious $1 billion goal.

    To read more about UAB’s top stories of 2014, visit

  2. UAB to host commencement, doctoral hooding ceremonies Dec. 13
    UAB to host commencement, doctoral hooding ceremonies Dec. 13
    An estimated 1,100 students will walk in UAB’s two commencement ceremonies, and 73 will receive their doctoral hoods this fall.

    commencement 2014Doctoral hooding and two commencement ceremonies for students who have graduated this summer and fall will be held by the University of Alabama at Birmingham on Saturday, Dec. 13. At least 2,575 students will graduate.

    The UAB Graduate School hooding ceremony for students earning doctorates in philosophy, science, public health and education will be held at noon in UAB’s Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center, 1200 10th Ave. South. The university’s highest degrees will be conferred on 129 students, with about 73 attending the ceremony. The guest speaker will be Professor of Public Health Leslie McClure, Ph.D., who will also bear the academic mace.

    An estimated 1,100 students will walk in UAB’s commencement ceremonies, set for 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Dec. 13 in Bartow Arena, 617 13th St. South. The ceremony for graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences and School of Education will commence at 9:30 a.m. All other graduates will attend the 2 p.m. ceremony.

    A to-do list for graduates, as well as information for guests, is available on the commencement website. Tickets are not required; but seating is first come, first served. Arena doors will open at 8:30 a.m. for the morning ceremony and at 1 p.m. for the afternoon ceremony. Events will begin on time. University officials recommend guests leave nonessential bags at home or in the car. The ceremonies will be recorded and added online for viewing at about a week after the ceremonies.

    The bearer of the UAB academic mace for both commencement ceremonies will be Kirby Bland, M.D., chair of the Department of Surgery and surgeon-in-chief of the UAB Health System Hospitals and Clinics. Bland was named the 2014 Distinguished Faculty Lecturer, the highest honor bestowed by the UAB Academic Health Center. 

    There will be an undergraduate and graduate commencement speaker for both ceremonies:

    • Martez Files, the undergraduate speaker for the morning ceremony, is graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and a Bachelor of Arts degree in African American studies. Files has served as a teacher aide and mentor to students at the Hayes K-8 School in Birmingham, where he provides homework assistance, helps with literacy instruction, facilitates activities and assists with communication of learning objectives. He has been an active student leader in campus organizations, including as president of the African American Studies Organization, co-director of Conversation Think and a member of Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society, as well as a strong volunteer for outside organizations. After graduation, Files plans to pursue a Master of Arts degree in education.      
    • Ellen Gayeski Casale, the graduate speaker for the morning ceremony, is graduating with an educational specialist degree in autism spectrum disorders. She received her Master of Education degree in special education from Vanderbilt University in 2008 and her Bachelor of Science degree in special education from East Carolina University in 2006. Casale is a certified teacher in special education who works at Cedar Ridge Middle School in Decatur, Alabama. During her collegiate career, she taught special education in schools in Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. She plans to continue her academic career in pursuit of a doctorate in special education or serve as a district specialist in the area of autism. 
    • Shelby Barker, undergraduate speaker for the afternoon ceremony, is graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in health care management. Barker is a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Golden Key International Honor Society, Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, Chi Alpha Sigma National College Athlete Honor Society and Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society. She has been an active student leader in campus organizations, including as president of the Campus House Christian Student Center, publicity chair of the Undergraduate Student Government Association and recruitment committee member of the Black Student Awareness Committee, as well as an active community organizations volunteer. Barker is a member of the UAB Women’s Track and Field team and competes in the pentathlon and heptathlon, where she earned all-conference honors. After graduation, she will attend physical therapy school at UAB and desires to work in professional sports.
    • Chloe Ruth Bennion, graduate speaker for the afternoon ceremony, is graduating with a Master of Public Health degree. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in communication from the University of Colorado in fall 2012. Bennion is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Alpha Chapter. During her collegiate career, she worked in diversity programming for the Office of Student Multicultural and Diversity programs, directing the “Free Food For Thought” dialogue program, including creation, execution and evaluation of curricula and development of student leaders. She also was a program development intern at the 1917 Clinic, where she helped develop and administer a theory-based healthy relationship and sexual health curriculum for adolescents. She plans to pursue a career in positive youth development and health education. 
  3. UAB Community Eye Care giving back this holiday season, help them help others
    UAB Community Eye Care giving back this holiday season, help them help others
    The outreach program of UAB Eye Care is collecting donated blankets and other items ahead of winter to share with patients who come through its “Gift of Sight” event.

    SOO-bannerCommunity Eye Care, the outreach program of University of Alabama at Birmingham Eye Care, is offering not only the gift of sight this holiday season, but also the gift of warmth.

    Community Eye Care is collecting donations of new items such as blankets, scarves, hats and gloves from Dec. 1-5, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., at the UAB School of Optometry, 1716 University Blvd.

    Collected items will be given out as gifts to those in need at its “Gift of Sight” event, taking place throughout the community Dec. 2-6. Community Eye Care partnered with VSP and Allergan to offer free exams and glasses during this event to people in the Birmingham community who have limited or no access to vision care. 

    “We’ve reached out to the homeless shelters, outreach centers, re-entry programs, low income/no income, and women and children’s shelters and invited them to come receive the gift of sight,” said Scelelar Jefferson, clinical coordinator in the UAB School of Optometry. “Our goal is to reach those in the community who need our help. We would love to make this holiday season like none they’ve ever seen before.”

    If you have any questions about making a donation, call UAB Eye Care at 205-975-2020.

  4. Eye Care hosting annual fall trunk show
    Eye Care hosting annual fall trunk show
    Come view the latest eyeglass styles from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 24 at UAB Eye Care, 1716 University Blvd.

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    UAB Eye Care, the clinical operation of the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry, is holding its annual fall trunk show for eyewear Friday, Oct. 24, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. at its optical department in the Henry Peters Building, 1716 University Blvd.

    Representatives of various manufacturers will share the latest in eyeglass styles and materials. This free event is open to the public.

    Payroll deduction is available for UAB employees. For more information, call 205-975-2020 or visit UAB Eye Care on the Web at

  5. Campaign for UAB launches three new TV spots
    Campaign for UAB launches three new TV spots
    On the heels of reaching the halfway point of its ambitious $1 billion fundraising goal, UAB’s compelling “Give Something, Change Everything” TV spots highlight diverse initiatives.

    With three little words — “Let’s do this” — new television spots for The Campaign for UAB: Give Something, Change Everything encourage viewers to see themselves as part of a team that can forge opportunities, spark creativity, devise solutions, create cures and transform ideas into businesses.

    The :30-second spots, which will air through Thanksgiving in the Birmingham market, have a decidedly local origin. They were filmed on campus and produced by The Campaign for UAB co-chair Theresa Bruno using local talent, and the score for the spots was created by jazz guitarist and UAB artist-in-residence Eric Essix. UAB President Ray L. Watts, M.D., and School of Medicine Dean and Senior Vice President of Medicine Selwyn Vickers, M.D., each make an appearance.

    The new spots are complemented by an online advertising campaign illustrating ways gifts can: change lives through education and outreach, build a better world through innovation and entrepreneurship, advance knowledge through discovery and creativity, and accelerate breakthroughs through research and patient care.

    “There are many ways you can increase UAB’s extraordinary impact by supporting this campaign, and these spots show several important initiatives you can accelerate through support,” UAB President Ray L. Watts said. “When you give to UAB, you help us change our community and our world for the better, whether by finding the cure for a disease, enabling a bright young person to go to college or lighting the spark for a new innovation.”

    The timing of this advertising campaign coincides with the approaching one-year mark of the public phase of the $1 billion comprehensive campaign, which recently surpassed the halfway mark of $500 million. The campaign will run through 2018.

    That UAB affects more than 60,000 jobs statewide, has an annual economic impact exceeding $5 billion, and is responsible for educating students and making groundbreaking discoveries, as well as saving and improving lives, provides a unique opportunity for The Campaign for UAB.

    “There is truly something everyone can passionately support at UAB, and these spots give just a taste of some of those diverse opportunities,” said UAB Vice President Shirley Salloway Kahn, Ph.D. “A list of available funds can be searched on the campaign’s What do you want to change today? Web page, and we can work with donors to identify new opportunities that fit their interests.”

    To learn more about The Campaign for UAB: Give Something, Change Everything, follow its progress or give, visit