Vickers transition headshotLast month, two years of effort by teams across our school culminated in a virtual site visit by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), the accrediting body for M.D.-granting medical schools in the U.S. and Canada. Completing the April 11-13 site visit was a tremendous milestone that took an incredible amount of dedication and focus from many individuals to reach.

Maintaining LCME accreditation is important for a host of reasons. It is one of the primary ways we hold ourselves to the highest standards for medical education. In addition, LCME accreditation establishes eligibility for certain federal grants and programs. Many state licensure boards require that medical schools be accredited by the LCME as a condition for licensure of their graduates. U.S. medical students’ eligibility to take the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) requires LCME accreditation of their school, and graduates of LCME-accredited schools are eligible for residency programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).

The LCME re-accreditation process has resulted in concrete changes to our school’s curriculum and campus over the years. These include the establishment of the Montgomery Regional Medical Campus, the formalization of the Primary Care Track and the Office of Service Learning, and the creation of the Office for Diversity and Inclusion. They also include the ongoing renovations to Volker Hall to transform the second floor into an active learning center, made possible by a generous lead gift from the Heersink Family Foundation. 

I’d like to highlight the work of our LCME Executive Committee, Self-Study Task Force, and Independent Student Analysis leaders. Faculty Accreditation co-leads Gustavo Heudebert, M.D., and Catherine Fuller, Ph.D., along with LCME site visit coordinator Elizabeth Rahn, Ph.D., worked tirelessly to oversee the process. Other members of the Executive Committee—Christina Grabowski, Ph.D.; Toni Leeth, MPH; Kevin Leon, M.D.; and Nick Van Wagoner, M.D., Ph.D.—provided invaluable perspective and leadership. Our Self-Study Task Force, co-chaired by Irfan Asif, M.D., and Lanita Carter, Ph.D., pored over hundreds of pages of data to identify our institutional strengths and challenges and put forth solutions to those challenges. And Independent Student Analysis co-chairs Maani Kamal and Colin Quinn did an outstanding job managing the ISA process, helping us achieve an impressive 95 percent participation rate on the student survey.

I anticipate we will be notified of our accreditation status in the weeks following the LCME’s October meeting, and I look forward to sharing the news with you.

I am also delighted to share that, for just the third time in the university’s history, a UAB faculty member has been elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences (NAS), whose members provide independent, objective counsel to the nation on matters related to science and technology.

Casey Weaver, M.D., professor in the UAB Department of Pathology, has achieved one of the highest honors offered to scientists in the United States. Dr. Weaver was among 120 new members and 30 international members invited to the NAS this year. For 30 years, Dr. Weaver has studied T cells, probing the mechanisms by which CD4+ T cells control adaptive and innate immunity. His laboratory led in the discovery of the TH17 pathway that resulted in extension of the original TH1–TH2 hypothesis and stimulated a new appreciation of the role of this pathway in host protection against infection and its contribution to immune pathogenesis.

Dr. Weaver’s election to this prestigious academy is well-deserved recognition for his decades of innovative research. It’s also an important acknowledgment of the world-class caliber of research being conducted here at UAB, and I couldn’t be more proud to call Dr. Weaver my friend and colleague

On Saturday, May 14, we welcomed 190 new physicians into our profession at our annual Commencement ceremony. The keynote speaker, Alison Whelan, M.D., is chief academic officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). Prior to joining the AAMC, she was a professor of medicine and pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Dr. Whelan shared insights and advice with our graduates, noting how much has changed had since the class started medical school four years ago, and the changes she sees on the horizon. “For you, the summer of 2022 is the start of the next exciting phase of your medical training. For the world, the summer of 2022 is the start of a new, important phase as well, a rebalancing as we move from pandemic to endemic and work to reflect, rebuild, and retool, from the lessons learned in the pandemic to adapt to a new world and be ready for the next pandemic or health crisis.”

We also heard from Marnix Heersink, M.D., whose transformative $95 million gift to name our school is already having a tremendous impact across all our mission areas. Dr. Heersink shared the impact that UAB has had on his family, and what making the naming gift has meant to them. “When the UAB family gave my family the opportunity to provide a significant investment in the School of Medicine, it was one of the greatest moments of our lives. We know that we can support the school with its mission and all of the wonderful things it’s doing, as well as the students … I really would like to thank each and every one of you for allowing my wife Mary and I and our entire family to become part of the UAB family.”

This year’s Commencement Ceremony included the announcement of Erin Yarbrough, associate vice president of Clinical Operations for UAB Medicine, as the recipient of the Dr. Will Ferniany Academic Medicine Leadership Award. The award was created in 2021 upon Dr. Ferniany’s retirement as UAB Health System CEO. It recognizes an administrative executive within UAB Medicine, the UAB/Ascension St. Vincent’s Alliance, or the UAB Health System who has provided significant support to the academic mission of UAB Medicine and whose commitment to that mission has inspired others.

You can read more about Erin's outstanding achievements. A reception to celebrate her will be held May 24 at 4 p.m. in the Wallace Tumor Institute lobby.

Erin and all of our student and faculty Commencement awardees have made invaluable contributions to our school’s excellence, and I was proud to honor them on this special day. Video of this year’s ceremony is available on our Commencement webpage.