Vickers transition headshotAs announced last month, I will be leaving UAB to become president and CEO of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in September. As bittersweet as this transition is, I can depart knowing the school is in imminently capable hands, as Heersink School of Medicine Executive Vice Dean Anupam Agarwal, M.D., will serve as interim senior vice president of Medicine and interim dean of the Heersink School of Medicine for a second time, as well as interim chair of the Health Services Foundation Board.

As such, this will be my last alumni newsletter. Starting in August you will hear from Dr. Agarwal each month. I want to thank you all for your support of our school throughout my tenure and I encourage you to stay engaged and involved as the school continues on its upward trajectory to new heights of excellence.

I’m pleased to share that Mona Fouad, M.D., MPH, a nationally recognized leader in health disparities research and senior associate dean for Diversity and Inclusion in the Heersink School of Medicine, has joined UAB’s Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) as associate vice president, while continuing in her senior associate dean role in our school.

A member of the National Academy of Medicine since 2017, Dr. Fouad will work with ODEI to broaden and strengthen the links between the university and UAB Medicine and advance the goals of Live HealthSmart Alabama, a comprehensive plan for advocating and implementing changes to policy, systems, and the built environment that promote health and wellness throughout Alabama. I couldn’t be more proud to call Dr. Fouad my friend and colleague, and know she will bring a wealth of leadership, expertise, and passion to her new role.

The American Heart Association recently announced that it is funding a new $20 million initiative focused on advancing understanding of the factors underlying the disproportionate impact of pregnancy complications and deaths among Black and Native American people and those living in rural areas.

The Health Equity Research Network (HERN) on Disparities in Maternal-Infant Health Outcomes is part of the American Heart Association’s multi-pronged approach to address social determinants of health, while working to improve health equity for all communities. Teams of scientists from six universities, including UAB, will lead the community-engaged research projects. The UAB Center for Women’s Reproductive Health will serve as the network’s coordinating center, leveraging expertise across network sites and nationally to help train the next generation of pregnancy health equity researchers, providing consultation and guidance, compiling data reports, and coordinating administration of the initiative.

Maternal mortality is an issue of particular concern for Alabama, which ranks third highest for maternal death rates in the U.S. Moreover, Black/African-American women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than White women, according to the CDC. I am proud that UAB’s experts in this area will play a pivotal role in this important new initiative.

Finally, as I prepare to leave UAB and Birmingham, it has been exhilarating to witness the excitement of The World Games 2022, which concluded July 17 after 10 days of sporting competition of the highest caliber. As a Foundation Partner, UAB hosted several sports, while the university’s residence halls were transformed into The World Games Athletes’ Village, housing athletes, coaches, and officials. As an Official Medical Provider of The World Games, UAB Medicine provided onsite medical services for athletes and spectators alike. As of Tuesday, July 12, the UAB Medicine team had treated more than 400 patients at The World Games, including 89 athletes on the field of play.

This transformative event showcased the best that Birmingham and UAB have to offer, introducing both to thousands of visitors from across the globe. I couldn’t have asked for a more exhilarating final chapter to my time at the Heersink School of Medicine. My goal and vision for our school and for UAB Medicine has always been to elevate our profile nationally and internationally, making the rest of the country and the world aware of what I have always known: that UAB is capable of true greatness. No matter where the future takes me, I will follow the fortunes of the Heersink School of Medicine and UAB Medicine, and will reflect on my time here, with pride and gratitude.