William W. Featheringill spent his career in Birmingham’s health-care industry and was a key player in the city’s rise as a health-care capital. Now, even after his passing in December 2012, his contributions to the community live on through the continued philanthropy of his wife, Carolyn.
Mr. and Mrs. Featheringill created the Featheringill Endowed Chair in Cardiac Arrhythmia Research. More recently, they pledged a significant gift to the new UAB Comprehensive Cardiovascular Center (CCVC) under the direction of Sumanth Prabhu, M.D. The couple’s particular interest in and support of UAB’s cardiovascular program has allowed for more collaborative, cutting-edge research in basic, clinical, demographics, and transformational cardiovascular science.
"Funds also support the William W. Featheringill Postdoctoral Fellowship, which is awarded to a trainee with high promise to develop into an independent investigator," Prabhu says.
Current Fellow Helen Elizabeth Collins says she is extremely grateful to be the recipient. “The fellowship has impacted me immensely since I was awarded it in October 2013. First of all, it gave me my first opportunity of crafting a fellowship and developing the communication skills needed to be successful within an academic setting.”
Collins, who was born in High Wycombe, England, and grew up in Milton Keynes, says her interest in science and health came at a young age. “I always knew that I wanted to pursue a career that would ultimately help people,” she says.
Collins pursued a degree in Biological Sciences (Physiology and Pharmacology) at the University of Leicester, England, graduating with honors in 2006. Her interest in cardiac research flourished during her undergraduate research project. Upon successful defense of her Ph.D., she came to UAB in February 2012 and is currently a postdoctoral scholar in the laboratory of John Chatham, Ph.D., in the Division of Molecular and Cellular Pathology in the Department of Pathology. “I was drawn to UAB due to its stellar international reputation as both a top research and health-care institute. I also took an extreme interest in the novelty and innovative nature of the project on which I am currently working and, of course, working alongside my mentor Dr. Chatham,” Collins says.
In February, Dr. Collins published some of her data gathered during her fellowship in a manuscript for the American Journal of Physiology—Heart and Circulatory Physiology. The research focuses on a protein called Stromal Interaction Molecule 1 (STIM1), identified as an important regulator of a calcium-handling pathway. Calcium plays an important role in regulating cell function, especially important to the heart where normal contraction and function is essential. Further studies into STIM1 may lead to the development of new treatments for heart disease.
Dr. Prabhu says the Featheringills’ generosity has had an immeasurable impact on UAB’s ability to create the CCVC and bring together a large group of cardiovascular scientists under one umbrella. Collins is particularly grateful for its impact on her own life and career.
“I believe philanthropy, like that of Mrs. Featheringill and her late husband, is extremely important to a university as it allows research to continue to grow and develop and groundbreaking advances to continue to be made,” Collins says. “I am excited about honing the skill sets that I require to be an independent principal investigator. I am most excited about developing new collaborations with many of the well-established and renowned researchers here at the CCVC.”
For more information about giving to the School of Medicine, visit www.uab.edu/medicine.