September 1, 2012


Senior vice president for medicine and dean Ray Watts presents the Dean's Award for Excellence in Research to Dr. Louise Chow (top photo) and Dr. Anupam Agarwal (bottom photo).

Leadership is one of the most important qualities that a physician possesses. It’s the reason our patients come to us for treatment, seeking guidance about their health. In addition, many of us are called upon to direct clinical practices, laboratories, and programs that touch the lives of thousands of people. As representatives of the medical profession, we also serve as a trusted source of information and direction for our communities when health concerns arise.

Cultivating and nurturing leadership in health care, science, academics, and service is one of our most important jobs in the School of Medicine. We work hard to provide our students, residents, and fellows with the knowledge, skills, and professionalism to set new standards in health care. We must also support our faculty, who already lead by example, with the resources and freedom they need to advance biomedical science, medicine, and medical and graduate/postgraduate education.

In Good Company

Good leadership deserves recognition. Last month, I proudly presented two of our faculty, Dr. Louise Chow and Dr. Anupam Agarwal, with the Dean’s Awards for Excellence in Research and Leadership to honor their many invaluable contributions to our school.

Dr. Chow, a professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics, was recently elected to the National Academy of Science. This is one of the highest honors for a scientist in the United States—and it’s one that Dr. Chow has long deserved. Her pioneering research on viruses, particularly human papillomaviruses, has contributed to the care of millions of people worldwide. She also was part of the team that discovered split genes and RNA splicing, which helped scientists begin to understand the human genome and the origins of many genetic diseases. As part of the National Academy, Dr. Chow joins the ranks of Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, and more than 200 Nobel Prize winners.

Dr. Agarwal is a leader three times over. He holds the Marie S. Ingalls Endowed Chair in Nephrology Leadership as director of the Division of Nephrology, and he serves as vice chair for research in the Department of Medicine. For the last year, however, he also has led the entire Department of Medicine as interim chair. His tenure there has been an active one, and I want to thank Dr. Agarwal for his work in moving the department toward its strategic goals. He has helped to build a solid foundation for our new permanent chair of medicine, Dr. Seth Landefeld, who joins us this month.

Presidential Presence

Many of our faculty—and our alumni—are viewed as leaders far beyond our campus, where they serve in key executive roles in major health-professional and health-specialty organizations. There they help craft the policies and guidelines that define how specialists approach the treatment of disease for patients.


Dr. Roslyn Mannon

In August, Dr. Roslyn Mannon, director of research in our Comprehensive Transplant Institute, was elected president of the American Society of Transplantation. She says that her goals include promoting public policy and health reform, new methods of funding research, and educational opportunities for transplant professionals. Dr. Mannon takes over the job from Dr. Robert Gaston, our medical director of kidney and pancreas transplantation. It’s extremely rare for two consecutive presidents to come from the same institution, and I think that says a lot about the high regard that health professionals have for our faculty.

Last year, Dr. Ed Partridge, director of the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center and holder of the Evalina B. Spencer Chair in Oncology, completed his term as president of the American Cancer Society National Board of Directors. Dr. Partridge had volunteered with the ACS for 30 years beforehand—since the day he finished his gynecology/oncology training at UAB—and as president, he helped to implement an ongoing plan to increase the number of lives saved from cancer to 1,000 each day. Today he continues to serve as a nationally trusted advocate for cancer prevention and treatment.

Locally, alumna Darlene Traffanstedt holds the post of president in the Jefferson County Medical Society, which has members working in every specialty and every hospital in the area. The organization is a longtime friend of the School of Medicine—in fact, it recently hosted a fund-raiser to support scholarships for our students—and we greatly appreciate their efforts in our community.

A New Chapter

I want to take a moment to salute another exemplary leader, Dr. Carol Garrison, who recently stepped down as UAB’s president after a decade of accomplishment. Dr. Garrison championed the School of Medicine and the entire university as engines of economic and community growth, and her impact will be felt for many years to come. Under her watch, we gained UAB Hospital’s North Pavilion, the Women and Infants Center, the Hazelrig-Salter Radiation Oncology Facility, the Shelby Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research Building, and a renovated Wallace Tumor Institute, along with several new research centers. We are now one of the nation’s largest academic medical centers and rank among the top 25 percent in the amount of research funding received from the National Institutes of Health. We applaud and thank Dr. Garrison for a job well done, and we wish her the best as she pursues new endeavors. The Board of Trustees has named Dr. Richard Marchase, UAB’s vice president for research and economic development, as interim president while the search for a permanent president begins.


The White Coat Ceremony welcomed 176 new students into the School of Medicine. See a photo slideshow from the event.

Legacy of Leadership

During our White Coat Ceremony on August 19, I thought about how lucky we are to have such leaders among our faculty, staff, and alumni. Day after day, they serve as role models for our newest students, inspiring them to set lofty goals and sharing the knowledge that’s necessary for success. Their example leaves a legacy—and a benchmark—for the leaders of tomorrow.

Best regards,


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