Selwyn Vickers 4 LRI begin this month with news of leadership changes on the horizon at one of our school’s key clinical care partners. Mike Warren, president and chief executive officer of Children’s of Alabama, is retiring from Children’s of Alabama effective June 1, 2021. Mike has served as CEO at Children’s since January 2008. He will be succeeded by Tom Shufflebarger, who currently serves as chief operating officer and senior executive vice president.

Among the many advancements of Mike’s tenure is the opening of the Benjamin Russell Hospital for Children in 2012, a facility that helped make Children’s a truly comprehensive pediatric medical center. The relationship between the School of Medicine and Children’s has been a close one – Children’s serves as the teaching hospital for our pediatric medicine, surgery, psychiatry, research, and residency programs, and our Department of Pediatrics faculty serve on Children’s medical staff – and it has only strengthened under Mike’s leadership.

Mike leaves Children’s well-positioned for continued success and with an imminently capable successor poised to take the reins. I look forward to working with Tom as our two institutions collaborate to provide world-class pediatric care, research, and medical training programs.

In other leadership news, Louis Lambiase, M.D., has been named regional dean of our school’s Montgomery Regional Medical Campus. He will join UAB December 1 from the University of Tennessee College of Medicine Chattanooga, where he is a professor and chair of the Department of Medicine and a professor in the Department of Surgery.

A gastroenterologist, Lou earned his medical degree from the University of Miami School of Medicine in 1987, followed by an internal medicine residency at the University of Pittsburgh and a gastroenterology fellowship at the University of Florida. He also completed fellowships in pancreatic cancer research and biliary endoscopy, and in 2006 earned a master’s degree in health administration from the University of North Florida.

Established in 2012, the Montgomery Regional Medical Campus was created to address a shortage of physicians in rural and underserved areas of the state and increase the ranks of primary care physicians in Alabama. Today, 40 third- and fourth-year medical students complete their clinical training at the Montgomery Campus after preclinical training in Birmingham. It is also the home of our Montgomery Internal Medicine Residency and Selma Family Medicine Residency programs.

Lou is a phenomenal physician leader who is dedicated not only to caring for his patients, but to sharing his knowledge and skill with medical students and residents. I believe he will be a transformative presence for our program in Montgomery, building on the strong foundation and partnership with the Baptist Health System.

Last month, UAB was named America’s No. 4 Best Employer for Diversity by Forbes. This announcement comes on the heels of UAB being named America’s No. 1 Best Large Employer by Forbes in February. Here at the School of Medicine, we know that promoting diversity and inclusion isn’t just about equity; diversity is an operational advantage across all our mission areas. A more diverse physician workforce not only better reflects our state's population, but studies indicate it yields better health outcomes. Embracing different perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences also enriches the learning environment, and a diverse academic environment yields higher quality scientific research.

The School of Medicine’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) works to foster an environment where everyone, from every background, has opportunities to succeed. While our school has been committed to racial justice and eradicating health disparities for years, our leadership responded swiftly during the past year to urgent calls for justice from across the country and within our own enterprise in the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and other people of color.

In June 2020, the ODI hosted a Forum for Racial Justice, and from there, focus groups and a Racial Justice Working Group were formed. As a result of these efforts, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion has created five key priorities to cultivate an inclusive, accepting, and equitable school.

• Priority 1: Develop metrics for the department chairs to show advancement in diversity and inclusion

• Priority 2: Develop and implement a SOM accountability system to address microaggressions, harassment, bias, and discrimination

• Priority 3: Improve support of URiM faculty through associations, mentorships, and more

• Priority 4: Increase support and programming for professional advancement of staff belonging to groups traditionally underrepresented in medicine

• Priority 5: Improve the ODI website and enhance visibility

You can read the full details of each priority here.

In that same spirit of embracing diversity, this month we are celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month by telling the stories of several AAPI faculty. To begin, Herbert Chen, M.D., FACS, Fay Fletcher Kerner Endowed Chair of the Department of Surgery, shares his story of family, adolescence, and medical training in an honest and candid way. Read the full story here.

In April I became president of the American Surgical Association (ASA) for 2021. Founded in 1880, the ASA is the nation’s oldest and most prestigious surgical organization. To be honored by my colleagues in this way—and to become the third Black/African-American president in the association’s history—is as exciting as any accomplishment in my academic career to date. You can read more about it here.

Finally, I am pleased to announce that the School of Medicine will host an in-person Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 22 in Bartow Arena. Doors open at noon, and the ceremony begins at 1 p.m. To comply with capacity limits, only those guests on the lists submitted by students in advance will be allowed to enter the arena, and masks must be worn by everyone while in the arena, regardless of vaccination status. Commencement also will be streamed live online at go.uab.edu/SOMCommencement. This will be the first in-person student event our school has hosted since early last year, and I’m very glad the Class of 2021 will get to have a (nearly) traditional graduation ceremony.