Vickers transition headshotOn June 20, UAB and UAB Medicine will observe the newest federal holiday: Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865—about two months after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Virginia, and two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation—Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, to deliver the news that the Civil War had ended and all previously enslaved people were now free. Legend has it that reactions to the announcement ranged from shock to instant celebration.

Today, the holiday is celebrated across the country in various ways, including with parades, picnics, and concerts. Supporting black-owned businesses is another great way to mark the day. One of my favorite Juneteenth traditions is eating barbecue and spending time with family. I also take the occasion to reflect on the challenges my ancestors overcame and feel gratitude for their strength and perseverance. If you’d like to learn more about Juneteenth, the National Museum of African American History and Culture offers an informative website.

June also marks Pride Month, and this year our school is celebrating the establishment of the Office for Diversity and Inclusion Faculty Association for LGBTQ+ faculty and allies. This is the school’s fourth faculty association, which provide networking, support, and advocacy for underrepresented and/or minority groups in medicine. In 2020, we launched faculty associations for Black/African American faculty and Hispanic and Latinx faculty, and in 2021 we launched a third association for Asian American and Pacific Islander faculty.

Creating a faculty association for LGBTQ+ faculty and allies isn’t just beneficial for our providers, it’s also important for the health outcomes of LGBTQ+ patients, who are historically marginalized and have higher rates of inequitable health care and worse outcomes. The more our LGBTQ+ faculty and staff feel welcomed and supported, the better care they can provide their patients, no matter their sexual orientation.

In other faculty news, I’m delighted to announce that 18 exceptional faculty members have received 2022 Dean’s Excellence Awards in the areas of teaching, research, service, mentorship, and diversity. Full-time faculty members can nominate a faculty colleague for the awards, and the Office of Faculty Affairs and Faculty Development in the Dean’s Office oversees a peer-review process to determine each year’s winners. The awards recognize our faculty’s outstanding work across key mission areas, and each recipient embodies the excellence that enriches our institution and our community.

I’d also like to direct your attention to the latest profiles of participants in Momentum in Medicine at UAB, a pilot program of the Momentum Executive Leadership program exclusively for female UAB Medicine senior leaders. Women were nominated by their peers, then chosen by a committee for selection into the first-year class. The final installment of the profiles series highlights Megann Bates Cain, Heersink School of Medicine chief development officer; Donna Bailer, executive administrator in the Department of Neurosurgery; and Cathy Fuller, Ph.D., professor and vice chair in the Department of Cell, Developmental, and Integrative Biology. Momentum’s Executive Leadership Program, a competitive nine-month program, teaches women serving in leadership roles about their unique strengths, provides them with tools and resources for their roles, and offers opportunities for networking with other senior women leaders. These women's contributions to UAB Medicine are integral to its success, and I am delighted that their talents have been recognized in this way.

The O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB will host a media briefing and celebration today, June 15, to mark its 50th anniversary. In 1972, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) recognized the Cancer Center as an NCI-Designated Cancer Center. A year later, we were named an NCI-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center—one of the first eight nationwide. Today, the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center is still Alabama’s only NCI-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The O’Neal Cancer Center is also celebrating being awarded a five-year Cancer Center Core Support Grant of $27,477,570 from the National Cancer Institute. This prestigious federal grant renewal—the 10th such renewal the O'Neal Cancer Center has earned—provides support for UAB’s cancer research program through 2026. I congratulate everyone at the O’Neal Cancer Center on these momentous milestones, and look forward to the next 50 years of cancer care and discovery.

Finally, Dean Assimos, M.D., will step down as chair of the Department of Urology, effective October 1. Since 2012, he has served as the inaugural chair of the Department of Urology, which was previously a division within the Department of Surgery. He has led the department to be one of the few nationally ranked urologic programs in the Southeast.

An internationally known researcher and clinician, Dr. Assimos came to UAB in August 2012 from Wake Forest University, where he served as vice chair of urology. His clinical practice is focused on the surgical management of patients with complex calculous disease and metabolic stone evaluation and treatment, and he has been actively involved in the establishment of practice guidelines in urology. His NIH-funded research has focused on endogenous oxalate synthesis and the role of dietary oxalate in kidney-stone formation. Dr. Assimos has been recognized for his contributions to urology by the American Urological Society, receiving the Hugh Hampton Young Award in 2013 and a Distinguished Service Award in 2021.

We wish Dr. Assimos the very best in all his future endeavors. The search for an interim chair will begin this month, and I look forward to sharing the results of that search with you soon.