Vickers bookcase cropped LRPrecision medicine—which takes into account individual differences in lifestyle, environment, and biology in order to prevent and treat disease in more personalized and effective ways—is rapidly changing the practice of medicine. But the key to unlocking the full promise of precision medicine is data, which is why I am so pleased that UAB has been chosen to partner with the National Institutes of Health on the All of Us Research Program. This is a historic effort to accelerate research and improve health by gathering data from 1 million or more adults living in the U.S. Collecting this volume of information on individual differences will help researchers uncover paths toward delivering precision medicine.

The goal is to enroll as diverse a group of people as possible in the program, which is in part what makes UAB an ideal partner in this endeavor. The diversity of the population we serve is one of our greatest advantages as an academic medical center, and influenced our selection as the lead institution for the Southern All of Us Network, which includes 12 universities and medical facilities in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. It’s important that groups who are underrepresented in biomedical research have an opportunity to contribute to and benefit from health studies. All of Us will reflect the diverse makeup of our country and reach out to those groups who have traditionally lacked representation in medical research.

At an All of Us launch event on May 6, we were joined by Griffin Rodgers, M.D., MACP, director of the NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, as well as UAB President Ray Watts, M.D., and Stephen Olufemi Sodeke, Ph.D., bioethicist and professor at Tuskegee University, one of the Southern All of Us Network partner institutions. Diversity being a touchstone of the All of Us effort, the event’s entertainment ranged from traditional Chinese music to Indian dance to the Miles College Choir. Click here to view an album of photos from the event.

It was an exciting start to a program that will greatly accelerate the transformational effects of precision medicine on disease prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. All of Us will produce better ways to measure the risk of getting—and thus prevent—specific diseases based on environmental factors or biological markers. It will lead to more personalized treatment approaches with drugs tailored specifically to patients’ genetic profiles. In turn, this will give us a deeper understanding of the causes of and help us find solutions to the problem of health disparities, which is especially profound here in Alabama.

In other news, the value of UAB’s biosciences research to the state’s economy is highlighted in a new analysis by researchers at the University of Alabama. The study found that Alabama’s biosciences industry—of which UAB is a lynchpin—generates $7.3 billion in economic activity annually while supporting 780 companies and nearly 48,000 direct and indirect jobs across the state. Other key findings include:

• The bioscience industry’s 47,980 direct and indirect jobs in Alabama support a total yearly payroll of $2.3 billion.

• The industry contributes $3.9 billion annually to Alabama’s gross domestic product, nearly 2 percent of the state’s total economic output.

• The industry’s earnings impact generates $161.4 million in tax revenue annually, including $74.7 million in state income taxes and $86.7 million in state and local sales taxes.

Along those lines, the Healthcare Innovators Professional Society, a first-of-its-kind national nonprofit professional society for chief health care innovation and chief strategy executives recently announced its first 15 councilors. We want to congratulate Rubin Pillay, M.D., Ph.D., chief innovation officer for UAB Medicine and assistant dean for global health innovation in the School of Medicine, for being among them.

I am very proud of UAB’s role as a driver of health care innovation in our region. That our innovative spirit is not only advancing medicine but also paving the way for the growth of new industries in our city and state is one of the many reasons why I am so optimistic about the future of our school.

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