Vickers transition headshotMonday, April 11 was the start of a bold new chapter for the Heersink School of Medicine and UAB, when city, county, and state leaders joined me, UAB President Ray Watts, M.D., and other university, UAB Medicine, and UA System leaders, as well as key donors, to break ground on the new Altec/Styslinger Genomic Medicine and Data Sciences Building and the Marnix E. Heersink Institute for Biomedical Innovation Conference Center.

Genomic and precision medicine are revolutionizing health care, and this 175,000-square-foot facility will secure UAB’s status as a leader in this revolution. It also represents increased national and global competitiveness and recognition for our school, UAB, the city of Birmingham, and the state of Alabama. The building will bring together researchers, equipment, and staff for UAB’s Hugh Kaul Precision Medicine Institute and Informatics Institute, as well as translational scientists from many different disciplines.

Getting to this exciting day truly was a team effort. In 2020, Gov. Kay Ivey, who attended the groundbreaking, committed $50 million from the state of Alabama via the Public School and College Authority—the largest-ever investment from the state in a university facility. Jefferson County leaders also committed $5 million to the project, and we have had strong support from Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin and the Birmingham City Council all along the way.

A very early supporter whose generosity made this milestone possible is Lee Styslinger III and the Styslinger family. A $10 million gift from the Altec/Styslinger Foundation was the catalyst that set us on the path to making this dream a reality, and a vital early vote of confidence in our vision.

As part of their transformational gift to name the Heersink School of Medicine, Dr. Marnix and Mary Heersink also committed funds to establish the Marnix E. Heersink Institute for Biomedical Innovation Conference Center within the Altec/Styslinger Genomic Building. It will be a hub for innovation and collaboration among experts from across UAB, the U.S., and the world.

There are many others whose contributions have helped make this project a shining example of a public/private partnership. That’s fitting, because the connections and collaborations this facility will foster will impact the health of all Alabamians, as well as people across the nation and world, for generations to come. I invite you to watch the video of the ceremony and hear from the supporters and leaders who joined us as we crossed this critical milestone in the growth of UAB and UAB Medicine.

This year’s Match Day, which took place March 18, was exceptional for a number of reasons. Not only did the Class of 2022 achieve an outstanding 100% match rate, but they did so while overcoming tremendous challenges brought on by the pandemic. Moreover, this year’s was the largest Match Day on record, with more than 47,000 applicants from U.S. medical schools, international medical schools, and osteopathic schools competing for 39,205 residency positions.

Our graduates will go on to residency training at 82 institutions in 30 states across the country. The largest number of students matched into family medicine and internal medicine residencies, with 23 students each, followed by 18 in pediatrics, 18 in neurology, 11 in obstetrics and gynecology, and 11 in orthopaedic surgery. Students also matched in anesthesiology (10); general surgery (8); emergency medicine (7); otolaryngology (7); ophthalmology and psychiatry (5 each); medicine-pediatrics and diagnostic radiology (4 each); dermatology and radiation oncology (3 each); child neurology, physical medicine and rehabilitation, thoracic surgery, vascular surgery, and urology (2 each); and interventional radiology and pathology (1 each). Sixty-one graduates will remain in Alabama for residency.

I am incredibly proud of our students and know that they will serve as excellent ambassadors for our school as they complete their training and launch their careers. Watch the video of the Match Day ceremony and see the full match results online at

As the current American Surgical Association (ASA) president, I was honored to present and moderate several sessions at the 142nd Annual Meeting April 7-9 in Chicago. Established in 1880, the ASA is the oldest and most prestigious surgical organization in the U.S. The title of my presidential address was “History Worth Remembering: Lessons for Today Learned from a Period and Ongoing Process in American History Called Reconstruction.” In it, I outlined my own ancestors’ climb toward educational and professional achievement despite immense roadblocks, and the often heartbreaking history of our country’s First, Second, and Third Reconstruction eras, as well as the ongoing repercussions of those events in the present day. For the forum discussion, I presented “Eliminating Health Disparities: Moving Toward Health Equity,” which examined the role of social determinants of health—including education, food, economic stability, neighborhood and physical environment, community and social context, and the health care system—in health outcomes, and how COVID-19 has spotlighted stark socioeconomic and racial health disparities in our country. This is a topic that is close to my heart—and one that the Heersink School of Medicine is a recognized leader in researching and combatting—and I was grateful to share my thoughts with the attendees. When the recording of my speech is available, I will share it with you and post it on our website.

Finally, a reminder that the Heersink School of Medicine will host our 2022 Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 14 at 1 p.m. at Bartow Arena. I invite you to join us in person or via livestream for this celebration of our graduating class.