July 2, 2012


Dean Ray Watts speaks at Commencement in May.

When I walk through Volker Hall, I think about the thousands of practicing physicians who have studied, worked, and conducted research there in the past 40 years. I also think about the challenge we face in providing our current and future students with the best educational opportunities and learning environment—a top priority of our AMC21 strategic plan. We must ensure that our facilities are equipped with cutting-edge technology for leading-edge teaching, and that they offer the resources our students need to realize their educational and career goals.

Making Room for Innovation

Today, Volker Hall is in the middle of a major upgrade. The multiphase project began a couple of years ago with the renovation of outstanding new research space. Recently, we remodeled classrooms and created more areas where students can gather to study—an amenity requested by the students. The building has been outfitted for wireless Internet access, and we have added new audiovisual equipment for lecture halls, numerous outlets for laptop computers, and wall space for displaying research posters. The newest phase of the project will give the outdoor Volker Hall plaza a new look. We’re adding greenery and comfortable seating to make the open concrete space more inviting for students, faculty, and staff.

We have plans to begin three additional renovation phases when funding allows. When the project is complete, our facilities will match our students’ capabilities. Volker Hall will be the flexible, innovative learning environment they need to become tomorrow’s leaders in medicine. I hope that you will stop by on your next campus visit to see our progress.


Dr. Seth Landefeld

Visionary Chair

I am excited to share the news that we have selected Dr. Seth Landefeld, associate chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, as the new chair of our Department of Medicine. This is a major success for us because Dr. Landefeld is not only a physician-scientist of the highest caliber, but also a pioneer in the transformation of care to meet the needs of an aging America. At UCSF, where he led the Division of Geriatrics, Dr. Landefeld and his team created the first Acute Care for Elders (ACE) Unit, a specialized method to improve the functional outcomes of hospitalized seniors. Since then, ACE Units have opened at medical centers across the country, including here at UAB. Dr. Landefeld’s innovative research, teaching, and patient care have won international recognition and earned generous philanthropic support. Most recently, he led UCSF’s Program for the Aging Century and the team that produced the “Care of the Aging Patient” series in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

As the nation’s population grows older, physicians in every specialty will need to address aging-related health issues. Diagnosis and treatment plans will become more personalized and comprehensive, with a focus on helping patients enjoy an active, independent quality of life. Dr. Landefeld will be an invaluable resource as we lead the way in facing the challenges of medicine in the coming decades. We feel fortunate to count him as our colleague, and we welcome him to our faculty with great expectations for the future.


Alumni and faculty form the Path of Honor to create a grand entrance for the Class of 2012. See more photos from Commencement.

Moment of Strength

I am optimistic about the future of medicine, not only because we are on the verge of making important discoveries and breakthroughs, but also because the newest generation of physicians is bright, ambitious, and eager to help improve patients’ lives. At our May 20 Commencement ceremony, 171 members of the Class of 2012 received their diplomas and celebrated their first moments as doctors. They have accomplished so much at our school, but their achievements in medicine have only just begun. I can’t wait to see what they do next.

One of the ceremony’s unforgettable moments was the Path of Honor, when nearly 80 alumni and faculty stood up to welcome and salute our newest graduates. This new tradition highlights the bond between our school and the physicians who have walked its halls. The strength of your support and affection for your school is gratifying, and I hope that it continues to grow year after year .

Best regards,


Senior Vice President for Medicine
Dean, School of Medicine
James C. Lee Jr. Endowed Chair