UAB Magazine Online Archive
UAB Alumna and Genetics Pioneer Dies at 82
By Bob Shepard
UAB professor emerita Sara Will Crews Finley, M.D., passed away on February 20, 2013. Finley, along with her husband, Wayne H. Finley, M.D., Ph.D., co-founded the first medical genetics program in the southeastern United States at UAB. She was co-director of the Laboratory of Medical Genetics for 30 years.
Finley held the Wayne H. and Sara Crews Finley Chair in Medical Genetics at the time of her retirement from UAB in 1996. The Finleys founded the first chromosome laboratory in the Southeast and began what was to become one of the country’s largest university prenatal genetics laboratories.
“Sara Finley was a true pioneer in medicine,” says Bruce Korf, M.D., Ph.D., chair of UAB’s Department of Genetics and current holder of the Finley Chair in Medical Genetics. “She and her husband, Wayne, were among the first physicians to recognize the importance of the new field of medical genetics, and they were among the first to implement new technologies for culturing cells and analyzing chromosomes. These technologies helped untold numbers of families by providing new approaches to the diagnosis and classification of birth defects and genetic disorders, as well as enabling genetic counseling for families.”
Born February 26, 1930, Finley was the daughter of Jessie Mathews Crews and J.B. Crews of Lineville, Alabama. She graduated from Lineville High School, the University of Alabama, and the Medical College of Alabama. Her postgraduate training included an internship at Lloyd Noland Hospital, a three-year pediatric research fellowship at the Medical College of Alabama, and a traineeship at the Institute for Medical Genetics at the University of Uppsala, Sweden.
UAB Ambassadors Serve with Style
By Meghan C. Davis
They’re the Blazers in blazers. With their signature green jackets, it’s easy to spot the UAB Ambassadors around campus—greeting patrons at the Alys Stephens Center, sharing statistics with the press at basketball games, ushering visitors into the UAB Alumni House, and performing dozens of other intriguing assignments.
The UAB Ambassadors, founded in 1978, are one of the oldest and most prestigious student groups on campus. They serve as the university’s official hosts, working more than 5,000 hours of events each year, with assignments that range from leading campus tours for prospective faculty to toting Blazer statues through the crowd at the annual athletics scholarship luncheon.
“I learned about the UAB Ambassadors the first moment I walked onto campus,” says Jit Patel, the group’s current president. A senior business administration major and a member of the Business Honors Society and Global and Community Leadership Honors Program, Patel is in his second year as an ambassador. Even if he wasn’t a senior, this would be his last chance to be an ambassador. Students are only able to stay for a maximum of two years. But it wasn’t the exclusivity, or the unique networking opportunities, that first attracted Patel to the job; it was the jacket.
By Gail Allyn Short
This year, an estimated 785,000 people will experience their first heart attack, according to the American Heart Association. During that same period, some 470,000 people, who have already had one or more heart attacks, will have another. But an intervention program known as cardiac rehabilitation could help reduce both of those sobering figures.
Health professionals working with cardiac rehabilitation develop individualized plans for cardiology patients that target specific problems such as poor diet, stress, smoking, lack of exercise, and other lifestyle factors that affect heart health.
UAB cardiologist Vera Bittner, M.D., medical director of the Coronary Care Unit and the UAB Cardiac Rehabilitation Program, recently reported that, in an analysis of data taken from the Medicare database, cardiac rehabilitation lowered the death rate among participating patients by as much as 35 percent compared to non-participants with similar heart problems.
Alumnus Boosts Nation’s Drug Defenses
By Matt Windsor
If there is trouble somewhere in the world, Michael V. Callahan, M.D., DTM&H, M.S.P.H., probably isn’t far away. For three months every year, Callahan, a 1991 graduate of the UAB School of Public Health and 1995 graduate of the UAB School of Medicine, works in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital. The rest of his time is spent on the move.
Callahan has been on the scene at some of the world’s most famous—and dangerous—virus outbreaks, including H5N1 avian flu in Hong Kong in 1999 and 2001, SARS in Hong Kong in 2003, Marburg in Angola in 2004, and so on. He also has responded to recent Ebola virus outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lassa fever in Nigeria, and controversial laboratory accidents resulting in the infection of scientists at foreign biohazard laboratories.
But Callahan’s most enduring contribution to health care may come from the lab rather than the field. Since 2005, he has been a program manager for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the secretive R&D center of the American military. Callahan was recruited to DARPA “to work on fast-paced solutions to health threats,” he says. His biggest mission: Create a government-funded drug research and production capability focused strictly on national priorities, such as defense and pandemic preparedness, rather than profits. “The Department of Defense had no idea how to make drugs, and neither did I,” Callahan recalls. But they knew they needed to learn how.