June 2, 2011


(Left to right) Dr. Sara Finley, Dr. Wayne Finley, senior vice president and dean Ray Watts, and Nancy Watts

Over the last six months, School of Medicine faculty and staff have engaged in AMC21, a comprehensive strategic planning effort that will guide the SOM’s research enterprise for the next five years. At the same time, faculty from our Birmingham, Montgomery, Tuscaloosa, and Selma educational programs, as well as leaders from the practice community and public policymakers, have convened to evaluate our programs in primary care and medical education. The UAB Health System has also conducted a parallel planning process for clinical care.

The goal for all of these efforts is to build on our strengths, agree on which areas need strengthening, and commit our collective resources to sustainable excellence in each area of our mission.

Successful plans are the result of partnership among people who may, at least initially, see things differently. Working through those differences toward consensus is critical to achieving a thoughtful plan that can be supported by all who have a role in our success.

I am very pleased with our progress, and I am energized by the collaborative spirit of our faculty, staff, and partners. And as the plan takes shape, I am even more excited about the SOM’s future. Through strategic investment of institutional resources—financial and intellectual—leveraged by transformational philanthropic investment, I am convinced that we can—and will—become the preferred academic medical center of the 21st century.

Great times are on the horizon for UAB’s research and clinical programs in cancer, diabetes, the neurosciences, infectious diseases and global health, cardiovascular biology and diseases, immunology, autoimmunity, and transplantation. Steering committees in those areas are working to quantify their ambitious plans for excellence through faculty recruitment and retention, drug discovery, and research acceleration. Primary care and medical education committees will present their recommendations at a daylong retreat this month. Once plans are set, we will begin making initial investments in key areas this summer.

We anticipate a public launch of the AMC 21 plan beginning in September. I look forward to sharing the plan with you then, and I hope you will share my excitement and commitment to making it a reality.

The Search Is On


Graduates from the class of 2011 celebrate with family and friends after Commencement. Click to see a photo slideshow from the Commencement reception.

Success in all areas of academic medicine is predicated on our ability to continue to attract and retain the best and brightest faculty and students. Searches are under way or will launch soon for chairs of the departments of Microbiology, Neurology, Ophthalmology, and Physiology. With Dr. Edward Abraham’s upcoming departure to become dean of the School of Medicine at Wake Forest University, we are preparing to undertake a national search to recruit an outstanding new chair of the Department of Medicine. We are also currently searching for a director of the Division of Cardiovascular Disease and other key positions in the SOM. I am happy to report that the field of candidates for each position is rich with talent.

With its collaborative environment, rich history of discovery and innovation, and its location in what people find to be a welcoming, interesting, and affordable city, the SOM and the UAB Health System remain attractive venues for outstanding physicians and scientists. So while the competition for the best is fierce, we expect success in these important recruitments.

Catching Up with Old Friends

Recruiting new talent to UAB reminds us of the many visionary leaders who have served our school and university over the years. Alumni often ask about former mentors and professors, and I would like to use this space to highlight some of those from time to time.

Let me begin with Drs. Wayne and Sara Finley (pictured above), who retired from the SOM faculty in June 1996 after initiating UAB’s medical genetics program, which they directed for 35 years. They served as co-directors of the Laboratory of Medical Genetics, which was active in service, teaching, and research.

Retirement has not diminished the Finleys’ involvement with the university community, and I am always pleased to see them at alumni and cultural events on campus as well as at lectures and other academic meetings.

Dr. Sara Finley tells me she is enjoying time with family and friends—especially their son, daughter-in-law, and grandson, who live in Nashville—while Dr. Wayne Finley is pleased to have time for gardening, golf, and various organizations. He continues to serve on committees, devotes time to documenting Alabama’s medical history, and maintains leadership of a monthly oral medical history project, now in its 15th year. He also chairs the Alabama Healthcare Hall of Fame. Not surprising to those who know them, they each continue to teach Sunday school at Dawson Memorial Baptist Church.

The Finleys say the most meaningful aspect of their faculty service is following the careers of former students and rejoicing in their accomplishments. It is fair to say that if they taught you, they remember you well and fondly.

If you would like an update on someone who had an influence on your medical education, please e-mail me at deanwatts@uab.edu.