Selwyn Vickers 4 LRThis month, the School of Medicine will once again welcome the incoming class of medical students with our annual White Coat Ceremony, taking place Sunday, August 18, at 2 p.m. at the Alabama Theatre. The ceremony follows a Welcome Event featuring barbecue and spectacular city views hosted by the Medical Alumni Association on Saturday, August 17, at Vulcan Park and Museum.

I’m always pleased to experience our new students’ excitement as they begin what is sure to be a pivotal epoch in their lives, and to share some of my own memories from medical school with them. The students will also hear from Associate Dean for Admissions and Enrollment Management Christina Grabowski, Ph.D.; Medical Alumni Association President John Wheat, M.D.; and Senior Associate Dean for Medical Education Craig Hoesley, M.D. Caroline Harada, M.D., our associate dean for community engaged scholarship and the 2018 faculty recipient of the Leonard Tow Award for Humanism in Medicine, will deliver the keynote address. I will also present several awards. Sydney Mohr, MS3, who received the 2019 Sara Crews Finley, M.D., Leadership Scholarship, will be officially recognized at the White Coat Ceremony. Sara Mazzoni, M.D., MPH, associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, will be recognized as the recipient of the 2019 Brewer-Heslin Endowed Award for Professionalism in Medicine. Leaders from our regional medical campuses in Huntsville, Tuscaloosa, and Montgomery will be on hand to assist with the cloaking of the students in their new white coats, generously provided by the Medical Alumni Association.

Part of our mission as Alabama’s premier medical school is to work to increase access to primary care in our state, especially in underserved areas. This month, I’m pleased to share several new developments in our primary care programs. First, UAB and Cahaba Medical Care have announced the creation of another rural residency program with participation from Medical West Hospital in Bessemer and J. Paul Jones Hospital in Camden. The program will be called the Frontier Track and is funded by a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Rural Residency Planning and Development program. The grant is part of a larger initiative by HRSA to expand the physician workforce in rural areas by developing new, sustainable residency programs in family medicine, internal medicine, and psychiatry.

In other news, Stuart Cohen, M.D., has been named the inaugural chief of primary care for the UAB Health System and UAB Medicine. The position of chief was created in recognition of the central strategic role of primary care medicine within the Health System. Dr. Cohen, who is a professor of medicine at UAB, had been medical director for UAB Primary Care. Both of these new developments testify to UAB Medicine’s commitment to growing the ranks of skilled primary care physicians in our state and expanding access to primary care.

I’d also like to direct your attention to two fascinating national stories featuring current and former School of Medicine faculty that were recently published.

Medical journalism outlet STAT has published a very compelling article about Matt Might, Ph.D., director of the Hugh Kaul Precision Medicine Institute at UAB. Specifically, the story explores how Dr. Might used an artificial intelligence tool called mediKanren—developed by Dr. Might and UAB researchers—to help determine the best treatment for his son’s recent near deadly encounter with septic shock. As well as an incredible story of a father’s dedication to his son, it’s a prime example of the ways AI and other advanced computing technologies are poised to transform medicine in the near future.

CNN Health features a story about a young man who was bedridden with a mystery illness for more than a decade before he found answers in discarded medical textbooks and convinced a researcher—the late H. Cecil Coghlan, M.D., a pioneering cardiologist at UAB—to become his ally in finding a treatment.

And finally, the latest issue of our School of Medicine alumni magazine, UAB Medicine, is now online. The cover story features UAB experts from across our school and health system offering predictions of how medicine and health care may evolve in the coming decades.

All of these stories highlight the spirit of collaboration and innovation that is woven into the DNA of our school. I hope they’ll make you proud of how far we’ve come and the immense promise our future holds.

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