VickersEarlier this month, we welcomed a group of faculty members from the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. The visit is part of an ongoing effort of our Global Health Initiative here at the School of Medicine. Our Global Health team with School of Medicine support is working to formalize and expand our existing global health efforts and forge new partnerships in research, training, and clinical care with universities and institutions across the globe.

Originally from South Africa, Rubin Pillay, M.D., Ph.D., assistant dean for global health innovation at the School of Medicine, was naturally drawn to explore opportunities for collaboration with UCT’s medical school. This visit was the latest of several exchanges we have shared with UCT in the past few years, including a trip I made to Cape Town in December of last year. I was honored to meet many fascinating and accomplished UCT medical school leaders, and experience some of the rich culture and breathtaking scenery South Africa has to offer.

Last month, UAB transplant surgeon Jayme Locke, M.D., traveled to UCT’s Groote Schuur Hospital as part of a James IV Traveling Fellowship. Transplant is one of several areas we have identified as ripe for collaboration between UAB and UCT. Dr. Locke’s interaction with UCT’s transplant program has already contributed to advances here at UAB, including the Deep South’s first HIV-positive kidney transplant from an HIV-positive deceased donor, a procedure pioneered by South African surgeon Dr. Elmi Muller. For her part, Dr. Locke has shared her expertise in transplanting highly sensitized and ABO-incompatible patients with Dr. Muller’s team, and is helping Groote Schuur set up a paired exchange program modeled after the UAB Kidney Chain, the world’s longest ongoing transplant chain.

The UCT faculty were led by Dr. Bongani Mayosi, a cardiologist and the dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences. The son of a physician father and nurse mother, Dr. Mayosi served as head of UCT’s Department of Medicine before becoming dean of the medical school in 2015. The visiting group also included faculty from anesthesia and perioperative medicine, pain management, radiation oncology, neurosurgery, diabetes and endocrinology, and health disparities and social determinants of health. It was a busy and fruitful week of meetings between UCT and UAB faculty, and I look forward to sharing more information with you as these early discussions evolve into collaborative projects.

Cape Town and Birmingham have much in common. Both continue to confront the legacies of a painful racial history, and both UCT and UAB are striving to overcome similar population health challenges rooted in social and racial inequity. But both places are also characterized by the strength of their people and a deep commitment to family and community. I’m certain there is much we can learn from UCT, and I look forward to sharing some of our many strengths with them, for the benefit of both cities and communities across the globe.

Selwyn M. Vickers, M.D., FACS
Senior Vice President for Medicine and Dean
James C. Lee Endowed Chair