Upon appointment, a postdoctoral scholar is assigned to one of two distinct categories for payroll and taxation purposes:

Status Code 21: A Postdoctoral Employee is an individual who, while pursuing further training, provides services to UAB for compensation. These postdocs receive a salary, usually as part of an NIH-funded grant. Salaries and wages are fully taxable to the individual providing the services. Postdoctoral employees receive benefits as shown under the Benefits section.

Status Code 20: A Postdoctoral Trainee is an individual who is receiving a true fellowship, as defined by the IRS, and receives an amount to aid in the pursuit of research training. This amount cannot represent payment for the performance of any past, present, or future teaching, research, or other services. Postdoctoral trainees are provided health insurance with the opportunity to purchase dental options.

In accordance with IRS regulations, UAB does not withhold federal income taxes on status code 20 postdoc trainees, and the State of Alabama currently excludes fellowships from taxation in their entirety. Therefore, to the extent that a scholarship/fellowship is federally taxable to the individual, that individual will probably have to file federal quarterly estimated income tax returns and pay quarterly taxes in order to comply with individual income tax regulations. (For specific advice on an individual tax situation, a tax professional or the IRS should be contacted. Non-resident aliens should direct their tax questions to the International Scholar and Student Services (ISSS) at (205) 934-3328. Postdoctoral trainees receive benefits as shown under the Benefits section.

In accordance with regulations, federal and state income taxes are not withheld from stipend amount IF YOU ARE A CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES. You may be required to file federal quarterly estimated income tax returns and pay quarterly taxes to comply with individual income tax regulations.

It is important to consult an income tax professional or the IRS for advice on this matter.

The IRS booklet, Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education, can be viewed on-line at http://revenue.alabama.gov/. In the Search For field type: Publication 970 and in the Search Within field choose: IRS site. The booklet can be printed out or you may call (800) 829-3676 for a copy to be sent by mail. Additional publications at this site that may help you include:

Publication 421, Scholarships and Fellowship Grants 
Publication 355, Estimated Tax 
Publication 306, Penalty for Underpayment of Estimated Tax 
Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax

State of Alabama income tax website - http://www.revenue.alabama.gov/incometax 

Financial Affairs webpage on the UAB web site has a Scholarship & Fellowship section which is very helpful. See "Taxability to Individuals" at http://main.uab.edu/show.asp?durki=14627

Postdocs in UAB News

  • Floyd named president-elect of National Neurotrauma Society

    UAB’s Candace Floyd is set to take a top leadership post with the National Neurotrauma Society.

    Candace Floyd, Ph.D., associate professor in the University of Alabama at BirminghamDepartment of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, is the president-elect of the National Neurotrauma Society. The president-elect will assume the duties of president in June 2016 for a one-year term. Floyd previously served terms as vice president and secretary/treasurer.

    The National Neurotrauma Society seeks to accelerate research that will provide answers for clinicians and ultimately improve the treatments available to patients. It is open to scientists interested in neurotrauma research and promotes excellence in the field by providing opportunities for scientists, establishing standards in both basic and clinical research, encouraging and supporting research, and promoting liaisons with other organizations that influence the care and cure of neurotrauma victims.

    Floyd is the holder of the Women’s Committee of Spain Rehabilitation Center Endowed Chair in Rehabilitation Neuroscience Research and the director of Research for the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. The central focus of her research is to develop new treatments for spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury.

    She earned her doctorate from the Medical College of Virginia/Virginia Commonwealth University and did postdoctoral training in traumatic central nervous system injury research at the University of California, Davis. She joined UAB in 2006.

    She serves as grant reviewer for the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Her research is currently supported by the Department of Defense, the National Institutes of Health and private organizations including the National Football League.

  • A researcher in motion, chasing trials and trails
    Epidemiologist Olivia Affuso studies new ways to prevent obesity and chronic disease through physical activity. She also volunteers with two groups that use running to help women and girls achieve fitness and personal goals.

    As a member of UAB’s Nutrition Obesity Research Center and Center for Exercise Medicine, Olivia Affuso, Ph.D., has a clear goal: preventing obesity and chronic disease through physical activity. During many of her evenings and weekends, she helps women and girls put these ideas into practice.

    Affuso, an associate professor of epidemiology in the UAB School of Public Health, has developed a patent-pending, photography-based method that could change the way obesity interventions are measured. She is also a board member of the Birmingham Council of Girls on the Run, an international organization that uses running “to inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident,” Affuso said.

    Girls on the Run Birmingham has served more than 1,000 girls in third through fifth grades at schools around the Birmingham area since 2011. The program, which combines group runs and lessons on everything from bullying to teamwork, “is for every girl,” Affuso said. “We use running as a creative, fun activity to help the girls learn to establish goals and healthy habits.”

    Finding your own happy pace

    During each Girls on the Run season, in spring and fall, Affuso and the group’s other board members “adopt” the teams at participating schools. Each team is led by volunteer teachers and coaches from the school; in spring 2015, there were 17 teams at 14 sites. Affuso usually volunteers for the long-distance treks, bringing a small token of appreciation for the coaches and a healthy snack for the students. “For the past few seasons, I’ve worked with a team in Sylacauga, and with the Boys and Girls Club team in Montevallo,” she said. “I am willing to drive wherever I am needed to support the girls.” At the end of each season, the teams gather for a 5-kilometer race. This spring, nearly 260 girls from the program completed their goal at Veterans Park in Hoover, along with friends and others from their communities.

    Girls on the Run isn’t about competition, Affuso said: “Everyone is encouraged to go at her own happy pace.” When she runs on her own, Affuso pushes harder. Since taking up the sport as a master’s student at Georgia State University, she has steadily increased her mileage, completing her first marathon in 1999. In March 2014, she attempted her first 100-mile race, Alabama’s Lake Martin 100. Bad weather forced the vast majority of participants to drop out; Affuso made it 62 miles before stopping. However, she conquered the 100-mile challenge this past September at a race in Michigan, finishing in 29 hours and 17 minutes. Her goal is to complete a 50-kilometer trail race in all 50 states.

    Curves and computation

    In her lab, Affuso is tackling another daunting challenge. In this case, the hurdles are technical — is it possible to use simple photos to accurately estimate a person’s body composition? Studies examining obesity interventions generally use body mass index (BMI) to determine whether participants are successful at losing weight. To measure BMI, all you need is a participant’s height and weight and a calculator. But this simple formula is also imprecise. People with lots of muscles may appear overweight, for instance, and those who are tall can appear normal or even underweight, when they actually have too much body fat. A much more accurate way to measure body composition is the DXA (pronounced dex-a) scan, but these expensive machines are not portable and aren’t widely available for clinical or field research.

    Affuso had an idea for a better approach. Previous studies had shown that trained DXA technicians could accurately guess a person’s body composition before they were ever measured by the machine. Affuso wanted to see if she could mimic that judgment using digital photographs and some advanced computer algorithms. Her initial project was funded by Max Michael, M.D., dean of the School of Public Health, in the school’s annual Back of the Envelope Awards competition. After a successful pilot test with that funding, Affuso is now in the fourth year of a five-year, $2.5 million NIH study to test the idea at scale. The Photobody study is enrolling 2,000 men and women, ages 6–70. To help the computer detect body contours, men have to wear spandex shorts, and women wear shorts and a close-fitting top. Eventually, Affuso hopes to have the system work with minimal everyday clothes. (Learn more about the work in this UAB Magazine feature.)

    “We know the process works,” Affuso said. “Now we’re breaking it down to questions like, How well does it work with women in a certain age group, or with different racial/ethnic groups?”

    The power of nudges

    Affuso recently launched a new technology-based study exploring movement and motivation. She is recruiting both college-age women ages 19–30 and girls ages 8–11 in order to study their responses to new wearable activity trackers, like the popular Fitbit bands. (Her study is using the MovBand, primarily because of its objective measurement of physical activity and long battery life, she says.) Affuso wants to know whether participants will actually use the devices in their daily lives. Then she plans to see whether the immediate feedback the trackers give on activity can help the women and girls stay more active. “What we want to do is reduce the amount of time they’re being sedentary,” Affuso said. “Even if someone exercises 30 minutes per day, if they spend the rest of the time being sedentary, they’re likely to have negative health effects.”

    Affuso plans to create challenges that indirectly get participants to move regularly, “without saying explicitly, ‘You need to walk more’ or ‘You need to go for a run,’” she said. “It’s using the behavioral economics model of nudging.”

    Community in motion

    At the end of the workday, Affuso hits the trails — often in the company of runners from one of many groups in Birmingham. Since 2011, she has been involved with the national organization Black Girls Run, which encourages black women to run by building a safe, supportive community. She was one of the founding ambassadors of the group’s Birmingham affiliate, which was the first in Alabama. “We started with 10 people, and now we have more than 4,600 women on our Facebook page,” Affuso said. “We have at least seven opportunities to run during the week here in Birmingham,” she added, and there are also groups running in Anniston, Tuscaloosa, Huntsville and Montgomery. “The success of this group relies heavily on the tireless volunteers and dedicated runners,” Affuso said.

    The members of Black Girls Run also help to support the Girls on the Run participants by serving as running buddies during the annual 5K race, or becoming “SoleMates” — raising money by asking people to sponsor them for a race. “It can be any running event,” Affuso said. For her SoleMate challenge, she chose the Leadville Marathon in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, which involves climbing “to over 13,000 feet of lung-crushing elevation,” she said.

    Charting a course to Birmingham

    Affuso, who is originally from Orangeburg, South Carolina, earned a master’s degree in sports nutrition at Georgia State University and a Ph.D. in nutritional epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “I was very interested in the interaction between diet and physical activity in the prevention of chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes,” she said. “While at Georgia State University, I worked on projects with elite athletes as well as community-based interventions — both of which included a diet and exercise component.”

    In 1999, as she started her doctoral work in Chapel Hill, Affuso met UAB’s David Allison, Ph.D., at a conference, and the two researchers kept up with each others’ work. In 2006, after Affuso finished a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Miami, Allison invited her to give a seminar at the UAB Nutrition Obesity Research Center. “I had never visited Alabama and wasn’t thinking about moving here,” she said, “but once I came and saw the resources that UAB had available and the opportunity and the entrepreneurial spirit, it turned out this was a good place for me to be.”

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UAB Research News

  • Pollocks make list of top nephrology, dialysis professors
    UAB professors who developed a new area of translational cardio-renal research are among 15 professors identified as today’s leaders in the field.

    David and Jennifer PollockJennifer Pollock, Ph.D., and David Pollock, Ph.D., are among 15 professors identified as today’s leaders in advancing and teaching nephrology and dialysis technology by medicaltechnologyschools.com, which helps students identify the best professors in technology fields.

    Together, the Pollocks have developed a brand-new area of translational cardio-renal research through their work with endothelial cells in the kidney blood vessels.

    Jennifer Pollock teaches nephrology and kidney studies at UAB and is nationally recognized for both her student mentorship and research, as evidenced by her recent Distinguished Mentor and Scientist Award from the American Physiological Society.

    David Pollock also is a past president of the APS and was the recipient of the Louis K. Dahl Award for Hypertension Research from the American Heart Association in 2013. He recently visited Cuba with an APS delegation towith leaders of the Cuban Society of Physiological Sciences.

    The Pollocks joined UAB in 2014 to build the new cardio-renal program.

  • In cancer's aftermath, helping survivors confront "late effects"
    Smita Bhatia, M.D., M.P.H., director of UAB's new Institute for Cancer Outcomes and Survivorship, explains how cancer treatments can lead to chronic health conditions in later life — and how "survivorship clinics" will help.

    Written by Matt Windsor

    This article is adapted from a video interview with Dr. Bhatia on UAB’s MD Learning Channel.

    Even after cancer is defeated, it can cast a lifelong shadow. “Cancer survivorship represents a very critical phase,” said Smita Bhatia, M.D., M.P.H., a pediatric oncologist and director of the new Institute for Cancer Outcomes and Survivorship in the UAB School of Medicine and associate director for cancer outcomes research at theUAB Comprehensive Cancer Center. “We and others have shown in our research studies that our cancer survivors are a vulnerable population,” she said. “When you follow them long-term, you find that they have a very high burden of chronic health conditions.”

    Often, these health problems can be linked back to cancer treatments, including chemotherapy, radiation and even surgeries, Bhatia said. Because these complications can occur “many years after the completion of treatment,” they are called “late effects.” One example involves a particular class of chemotherapy drug known as anthracyclines. “We use these agents often because they are highly effective in a large variety of cancers,” Bhatia said. But research shows that patients who take these drugs have a high risk of developing congestive heart failure many years later.

    Girls who have “received radiation to the chest around puberty for lymphoma,” have “an increased risk of breast cancer,” Bhatia added. And this breast cancer “occurs at a much younger age than would be anticipated in the general population. So these girls are developing breast cancer at age 30 and 40, whereas in the general population you’d be anticipating breast cancer at age 60.”

    Results from a survey have shown that only a third of patients realize they are at risk for these late effects, and because the family practitioners and internists who are seeing these patients do not encounter cancer survivors very often, “it is not in the forefront in terms of their understanding, in terms of their knowledge base and in terms of their experience of what they should anticipate,” Bhatia said. Addressing this situation becomes even more urgent as the number of survivors grows, she adds. “The number of cancer survivors is growing at the rate of about 2 percent every year,” Bhatia said. “We will, by about 2022, have 18 million cancer survivors.”

    “In order to provide the most comprehensive long-term care to our survivors, we need care plans. These “are essentially a summary of all the treatment that the patients received for their particular cancer, along with recommendations for long-term follow-up in order to detect complications.”

    That is why UAB is establishing special survivorship clinics. “In order to provide the most comprehensive long-term care to our survivors, we need care plans,” Bhatia said. These “are essentially a summary of all the treatment that the patients received for their particular cancer, along with recommendations for long-term follow-up in order to detect complications.”

    The idea, Bhatia said, is to lay out “a roadmap for our cancer survivors for life. That’s what I would like to do for all our cancer survivors who are coming to UAB, no matter what diagnosis they have, no matter what their age is, from here on.”

    Survivorship clinics are staffed by physicians, nurse practitioners, social workers, psychologists, and dietitians, “who provide absolutely comprehensive but very tailored care to the survivors,” Bhatia said. “So we would, for example, do heart tests in order to detect heart failure at an earlier stage only amongst patients who’ve received treatments that are toxic to the heart. Mammograms would be recommended for patients who’ve received radiation to the chest at a young age, and who are at risk for breast cancer.”

    This “very tailored but anticipatory screening” is designed “to detect these complications at an earlier stage,” said Bhatia.

    The same survivorship model can now be extended to care for patients with many different chronic health conditions, Bhatia says. These include patients with sickle cell disease, HIV, congenital heart disease — “any chronic condition where the health care providers can really coordinate the care of the patient as a whole, the entirety of their health, and provide complete and comprehensive care long-term.”

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