Agarwal2 200x266August is always an exciting time for the UAB Heersink School of Medicine, because it is when we welcome our first-year medical students at the annual White Coat Ceremony. This past Sunday, after several years of holding the ceremony online or off-campus, the White Coat Ceremony returned to the Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center. Each member of the entering class was presented with the traditional white coat—generously provided each year by the Medical Alumni Association (MAA), who also hosted a welcome event for the students earlier in the week—while family, friends, faculty, and staff looked on. They were helped into their new white coats by the deans of our school’s regional medical campuses: Roger Smalligan, M.D., dean of our Huntsville Campus; Louis Lambiase, M.D., dean of our Montgomery Regional Campus; and Richard Friend, M.D., dean of our Tuscaloosa campus.

It was wonderful to be there to share my warm wishes with the class as they begin their medical school journey. They also heard from Associate Dean for Admissions and Enrollment Management Christina Grabowski, Ph.D., who shared some intriguing demographic statistics about the class, including that they represent 60 colleges and universities, speak more than 20 languages, and completed more than 136,000 community service hours, and MAA President V. Michael Bivins, M.D., FACS, who shared the many ways the MAA is there to support the students, from scholarships to emergency funds to lunch and learns and other programming.

Britney Corey, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Surgery, was selected by the student body in 2021 as the faculty recipient of the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award. Dr. Corey shared her hopes for the class that they will “expand our scientific knowledge, develop new procedures, grow the way that we understand the delivery of compassionate care, and fully develop the idea of personalized medicine."

It also was a pleasure to introduce this year’s recipient of the Sara Crews Finley, M.D., Endowed Leadership Scholarship, Hana Habchi. A second award presented at the ceremony, the Brewer-Heslin Award for Professionalism in Medicine, was awarded to Daniel Cox, M.D., from the Department of Surgery and Theresa Caridi, M.D., from the Department of Radiology. I am proud that Hana and Drs. Cox and Caridi can act as role models for our new medical students.

Watch video of the full White Coat Ceremony.

Since 2016, the Heersink School of Medicine has consistently ranked in the top 25 in National Institutes of Health research funding, and the top 10 among public schools. Part of our success has been due to identifying strategic research focus areas. As we enter a new era, and to ensure our continued growth, the Research Strategic Planning Steering Committee and the AMC21 Research Steering Committee—with input from research leadership and faculty—have identified four new research focus areas: You will hear more about these focus areas in the coming months, but I am excited to share what will become the foundation of our future scientific impact and growth.

Lastly, I am pleased to share that Mona Fouad, M.D., MPH, senior associate dean for Diversity and Inclusion in the Heersink School of Medicine, added to her current role to serve as associate vice president of UAB's central Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI). The expansion of Dr. Fouad’s service will strengthen the connection between the UAB campus and UAB Medicine regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion, especially around enhancing diversity recruitment, coordination between UAB and UAB Medicine, and increasing health equity efforts. I hope you’ll join me in wishing Dr. Fouad all the best in her expanded role in this important area.