UAB Magazine Online Features
Chasing Challenges with New School of Medicine Dean
By Charles Buchanan
Ray L. Watts, M.D., made the choice that would change his life when the phone rang one sunny Saturday in April. The college senior had earned a spot in one of the nation’s most prestigious graduate engineering programs. But he turned it down that day. He wanted to go to medical school to chase a bigger challenge.
Thirty-four years later, another decision has presented Watts with his greatest challenge yet: leading the UAB School of Medicine into a new era of American health care as dean and senior vice president for medicine.
Alumnus Draws Attention to Neuroscience
By Jo Lynn Orr
UAB alumnus Dwayne Godwin and an artist collaborator explore the inner workings of the brain in a regular comic series in Scientific American Mind. Click on the image above to see their award-winning strip on brain development.
Scientists find science exhilarating. Nonscientists, on the other hand, often fail to appreciate the beauty of new discoveries because they are hidden behind a thicket of jargon.
Dwayne W. Godwin, Ph.D., an Alabama native who earned his doctorate in behavioral neuroscience at UAB in 1992, wanted to change that. So he teamed with illustrator Jorge Cham, Ph.D., to create a brainy comic strip about neuroscience that is now a regular feature in the magazine Scientific American Mind.
The duo have examined everything from the effects of coffee on the brain to artificial intelligence and headaches. “I pick the topic, provide a script, and sometimes sketch out ideas for panels,” Godwin says, “but the finished artwork is done by Jorge.” The results are both entertaining and educational: A strip explaining brain development won an international competition sponsored by the National Science Foundation and Science magazine that challenged entrants to dream up more effective ways of communicating scientific principles to students and the public.
Exploring a New Way to Combat Genetic Disease
By Troy Goodman
David Bedwell, left, and Steven Rowe are part of a team of UAB researchers studying cutting-edge treatments for cystic fibrosis.
The period in this sentence is not in the. right place Chances are, that didn’t throw you off too much. Human beings are remarkably tolerant of textual trouble; our brains can wrestle meaning out of a sentence in the face of all manner of grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and dropped words. When it comes to reading life’s little instruction book, however, our bodies are as inflexible as a computer program. One little mistake can literally make the difference between life and death.
Errors in the body’s underlying genetic code are at the root of a host of diseases, including cystic fibrosis, hemophilia, muscular dystrophy, sickle cell disease, and many types of cancer. Even though scientists have become very good at tracking down the offending sections of code that cause these conditions, they have been far less successful at finding a way to repair the damage. That’s why an experimental drug being tested in the lab of UAB microbiologist David Bedwell, Ph.D., takes a different approach to tackle one devastating subset of genetic errors. It induces the body to skip over those errors—restoring enough function to make a big difference in patients’ lives.
Public Health Contest Seeks Powerful PSAs
By Caperton Gillett
Erin Wright's winning poster "Acid Rain" from KoronisFest 2010. Click on the image to see a larger version.
According to myth, Koronis was a Greek princess, consort to the god Apollo and mother of Asclepius, god of medicine, who begat Hygeia, goddess of hygiene. “It occurred to me—she is the grandmother of public health,” says UAB neurologist Steve Rudd, M.D., M.P.H. Rudd chose Koronis as the namesake for his own brainchild: a community competition focused on spreading the word about public health.
The inaugural KoronisFest, held in April 2010, offered awards for the best public service announcements (PSA) in three categories: live action, animation, and posters. The competition attracted submissions from UAB students and faculty, as well as filmmakers and artists in the larger Birmingham community. Entries covered topics from pollution to organ donation, with presentation ranging from the compelling to the entertaining to the bizarre. But they shared one common thread, says School of Public Health dean Max Michael, M.D.: “They’re funky.”
Inspiration for the competition came largely from a course called Narrative Public Health, team-taught by Rudd and Michael, which explores techniques to communicate public health messages to different audiences. The duo brought in Michele Forman, M.A., documentary filmmaker and ethnographic filmmaking instructor at UAB, to teach a session on the rudiments of film production for PSAs. Students responded enthusiastically, and many of their projects became entries in KoronisFest.