david allison group 2017Top, from left: The UAB Strategically Focused Research Center team includes: Kirk Habegger, Ph.D.; Nefertiti Durant, M.D.; Tim Garvey, M.D.; David Allison, Ph.D.; Stella Aslibekyan, Ph.D.; Nengjun Yi, Ph.D.; Cora Elizabeth Lewis, M.D.; Paula Chandler-Laney, Ph.D.; Bertha Hidalgo, Ph.D.; Lorie Harper, M.D.The University of Alabama at Birmingham will launch the UAB Strategically Focused Obesity Research Center with a grant from the American Heart Association for $3.7 million over the next four years. The UAB SFOC is one of four sites in the AHA’s Strategically Focused Obesity Research Network that will work together to advance the field of obesity research.

The UAB SFOC will address two major categories of questions: What metabolic abnormalities imprinted in the womb contribute to excess weight gain in offspring that continue into adulthood, and what are the underlying molecular and genetic causes?

“Obesity perpetuates itself from one generation to the next,” said Timothy Garvey, M.D., principal investigator of the SFOC, director of the UAB Diabetes Research Center and chair of the UAB Department of Nutrition Sciences. “Mothers with obesity tend to give birth to children with obesity, which continues into adulthood, ready to begin the next generational cycle. While the causes of obesity are complex, events that occur in the womb are particularly powerful and program long-term regulation of body weight, as well as greater risk for diabetes and heart disease.” 

Morris VolkerMorris (2nd from left) also won the 2016 Volker AwardDavid Morris, PT, Ph.D., FAPTA, has been named a Catherine Worthingham Fellow of APTA (American Physical Therapy Association). The FAPTA honor is the association’s highest category of membership reserved for physical therapists who have “demonstrated unwavering efforts to advance the physical therapy profession.”

Morris, who serves as professor and chair of the UAB Department of Physical Therapy, joins David Brown, PT, Ph.D., FAPTA, program director, Ph.D. in Rehabilitation Sciences program, and Emeritus faculty member Dorothy (Dot) Pinkston, PT, Ph.D., FAPTA, as the only current FAPTA members in the UAB School of Health Professions.

The APTA also announced the Lucy Blair Service Award, which is given each year to PT members “whose contributions to APTA are of excellent quality.”

The UAB School of Health Professions handed out top honors to faculty and staff at their annual Faculty and Staff Awards Luncheon on Friday, March 10, 2017. The winners of the awards for 2016 are:

Morris VolkerDavid Morris – Joseph F. Volker Award David Morris, PT, Ph.D. – Joseph F. Volker Award 

Dr. Morris, professor and chair, Department of Physical Therapy, earned this award that is given to a regular, full-time faculty member who has demonstrated excellence in and dedication to teaching, distinctive research and other scholarly endeavors, and/or notable service to the School, University and community. 

Amanda Sherman, alumni engagement coordinator, School of Health Professions, former staff member of the Department of Physical Therapy, presented Morris:

“He gives his time, talent, and treasure to UAB, the Birmingham community, and his professional organization. He is always willing to go above and beyond even if this means adding more to his already full plate. One of our alums recently said, ‘He instilled in me to serve your clients and your community and challenged me to learn and keep learning.’ I couldn’t agree more. I am a much better person because I know this outstanding individual; he sets an incredible example for all of us.”

The University of Alabama at Birmingham — Alabama’s leading provider of genomic and personalized medicine — has launched the Alabama Genomic Health Initiative in partnership with HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology to better meet health needs across the state.

The project, funded by a $2 million appropriation from the Alabama legislature to UAB, supports one of the nation’s first statewide efforts to harness the power of genomic analysis to help identify those at high risk for a genetic disease, and provide a basis for continuing research into genetic contributors to health and disease.

aghi graphic smallClick to enlarge

Katie Henley 3MT RegionalKatie Henley wins 3MT Regional ConferenceKatie Henley, a student in the UAB School of Health ProfessionsPh.D. in Rehabilitation Sciences program, has won the Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) regional competition hosted by the Conference for Southern Graduate Schools in Annapolis, Maryland.

Henley, who won the inaugural UAB Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) competition in October 2016, beat out 45 students from across the Southeast to win the regional title. The competition is open to students in any field of research. Henley is a student in the lab of Candace Floyd, Ph.D., and a member of a research team developing new treatments for pain after central nervous system injuries.

whitley kelley uab genetic counselingWhitley Kelley
UAB Genetic Counseling
Class of 2015
Whitley Kelley doesn’t make designer babies. Or spend all day breaking bad news to families.

“Misconceptions abound about the role of a genetic counselor, and genetic testing in general,” says Kelley, a 2015 graduate of the UAB School of Health ProfessionsMaster of Science in Genetic Counseling program. She is one of three genetic counselors on staff at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville, which includes Meagan Cochran, a 2012 graduate of the UAB GC program who was featured in a 2013 UAB Magazine article “Speaking in Code: Preparing Students for a New Era in Genetic Counseling.”

Kelley’s job is to translate some of the most complex technical achievements of the 21st century into language that anyone can understand. She has a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology and was considering becoming a bench scientist before a friend suggested she look into genetic counseling. After some research, she contacted the director of UAB’s master’s program and arranged to shadow some counselors.

“You have to understand both the technical aspects of the science and the emotional challenges of the information you are providing,” Kelley says. “I’m a big nerd at heart, and I was very attracted to the idea of helping translate this cutting-edge science into layman’s terms.”


Cover UAB SHP 2016 Annual Report One School Many LivesClick image to read our Annual ReportWhen you see the word “School” what comes to mind?

An institution? A building? A classroom?

Or do you see your spouse having their life saved by a Physician Assistant? Or your child thriving thanks to an Occupational Therapist? Or your parent regaining independence with a Physical Therapist?

Well, those are all things that happen because of a School – our School. The UAB School of Health Professions is one School that impacts countless lives beyond the classroom. We are one School whose students deliver impactful work outside the classroom. We are one School that takes education further than the classroom.

You will see all that and more in our 2016 Annual Report: One School, Many Lives. We hope you enjoy reading as much as we enjoy sharing.

Quorum Prather MillerLucas Prather with Tom MillerLucas Prather, a first-year student in the UAB School of Health ProfessionsMaster of Science in Health Administration program (MSHA Class 52), is the recipient of the inaugural Quorum Scholar in Health Administration. The Quorum gift, spearheaded by Quorum Health CEO Thomas Miller, is the first-ever full ride scholarship in the MSHA program’s 51-year history.

“Taking a step to develop a scholarship for a student in the UAB MSHA program is a more direct way to make sure the program maintains its excellence in this field over the years,” said Miller, an alumnus of the MSHA program (Class 18). “A significant part of my success was related to the education, relations and network opportunities that were provided from UAB and this is a small gift for the many things the program has done for my family.”

The scholarship is a three year full-ride scholarship that covers tuition, fees and professional development experiences. It is the type of life-altering gift that is worthy of the MSHA program that is currently ranked #2 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report – a strong gift for a strong program ultimately attracts even stronger students.

Neeysa BiddleNeeysa Biddle
courtesy Ascension Health
Neeysa Biddle, who earned a B.S. in Allied Health (currently Health Care Management) and an M.S. in Health Administration (MSHA Class 26), announced she will retire as senior vice president, Ascension Health and Birmingham Ministry Market Executive. In that role since February 2015, Biddle has provided strategic and operational leadership for St. Vincent’s Health System.

Biddle’s retirement is effective at the end of this fiscal year on June 30, 2017.

“Neeysa’s commitment, dedication and vision have benefited STVHS; its associates, physicians and volunteers; and the individuals and communities they work together to serve,” said Patricia Maryland, DrPH, president, Healthcare Operations and Chief Operating Officer, Ascension Healthcare, in a statement to Ascension leaders.