Selwyn Vickers 4 LRUAB’s star is on the rise among U.S. biomedical research institutions. The School of Medicine has gained 10 spots in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding rankings since 2013—from No. 31 to No. 21 in 2018—and is on the cusp of achieving one of our central strategic goals of a top 20 ranking. Moreover, UAB is among an elite group of eight academic medical centers that has attained more than $100 million in net NIH funding growth over the past five years. In fact, we had 75 percentage of growth. (Learn more about our remarkable rise in our recently published five-year lookback.)

A key player in this remarkable accomplishment is the UAB Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS), which has been a catalyst for scientific innovation and excellence at UAB for more than a decade. I’m pleased to report that the CCTS has been renewed for another five years with grants from the National Center for Advancing Translational Science. The three linked grants, totaling nearly $50 million over five years, will support clinical and translational research, mentored career development, and pre-doctoral training.

True to its name, the CCTS fosters research that aims to translate observations in the laboratory and clinic into interventions and treatments that improve human health. UAB’s CCTS nurtures research locally, regionally, and nationally through a partner network of 11 academic and scientific research institutions in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Among its many notable achievements are:

• The CCTS has awarded 62 pilot projects, producing nearly 1,500 publications and a 49:1 ROI since its inception.

• The CCTS has secured more than $123 million in competitive federal funding, including 14 supplemental awards, and has leveraged multiple multi-institutional grants across its partner network.

• The first cystic fibrosis patient in the world to receive ivacaftor (a drug proven to be successful in CF treatment) was treated at the CCTS research unit in 2012 by Steve Rowe, M.D., co-director of the CCTS Child Health Research Unit and director of the Gregory Fleming James Cystic Fibrosis Research Center at UAB.

• The CCTS leads nine CTSA Hubs charged with developing a translational version of the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps program. The program prepares biomedical scientists to think like entrepreneurs, ensuring their projects meet real-world health needs by connecting them to the potential customers of their research.

I congratulate Robert Kimberly, M.D., CCTS director and the School of Medicine’s senior associate dean for clinical and translational research, and the entire CCTS staff on the successful renewal. It is massive endeavor—nearly 500 people contributed to the final submission, which was over 5,000 pages and included more than 100 letters of support. I am proud that our CCTS will remain at the forefront of biomedical research in academic medicine, and I expect even greater success in the coming years.

Finally, the entire School of Medicine family mourns the passing of Jay McDonald, M.D., professor emeritus and former chair of the Department of Pathology, on June 5. Dr. McDonald left a legacy of integrity and vision in the Department of Pathology, where he served as chair for nearly 20 years, and across the institution.

Dr. McDonald’s academic career spanned three decades and included directing the Division of Laboratory Medicine in the Departments of Pathology and Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis for 10 years. He came to UAB in 1990 as chair of the Department of Pathology, a role he held from 1990–2008. During his tenure, he led the department to national recognition in both diagnostic pathology and laboratory medicine as well as experimental molecular and cellular pathology. He recruited physicians and scientists who took the pathology department to the top 10 in NIH funding while serving patients with state-of-the-art clinical laboratories and educating and training hundreds of students and colleagues. Many of these students and colleagues today hold leadership positions in academia, government service, industry, and community practice—another testament to his enduring impact.

More recently, he took his role as professor emeritus to heart, visiting regularly with faculty and staff across campus with whom he forged lasting relationships throughout his career at UAB. Dr. McDonald and his wife Sarah also supported the department’s mission generously, establishing the Jay M. McDonald Endowed Professorship in Bone Pathobiology and the Jay M. McDonald Endowed Professorship in Laboratory Medicine, that latter of which they recently pledged additional gifts to elevate to an endowed chair.

I hope you will join me in extending sincere condolences to Dr. McDonald’s family. His passing is a profound loss for the department, for the university, and for the field of pathology.


Selwyn M. Vickers, M.D., FACS

Senior Vice President for Medicine

Dean, UAB School of Medicine

James C. Lee Jr. Endowed Chair

University of Alabama at Birmingham