November 15, 2012


Senior vice president for medicine and dean Ray Watts cuts the ribbon to open the new Equal Access Birmingham clinic at the Church of the Reconciler. Photo by Arik Sokol.

There’s something really special about this season of the year, when families gather together and give thanks for each other and the many blessings they share. But we, in the extended School of Medicine family, have much to be thankful for as well.

Living Proof

First, we should appreciate who we are—an inventive, innovative academic medical center with one of the nation’s largest teaching hospitals and a world-renowned research enterprise. Our knowledge and resources put us in a unique position to change lives for the better throughout our state and far beyond its borders.

Every day, we have the opportunity to achieve great things for the people of Alabama, including some things no one else has ever done before. I’m certainly thankful for that, and I know that our faculty, staff, students, residents, and fellows feel the same way. I can see their gratitude in their hard work and record of accomplishment.

Our transplantation program offers just one example. In nearly 45 years, we have performed more than 10,000 organ transplants, including kidney, liver, heart, lung, and pancreas. In fact, we are one of the nation’s busiest transplant programs, and we attract patients from around the world. Survival rates are impressive as well—up to 95 percent for heart transplant patients, 97 percent for kidney patients, and even 100 percent for pancreas patients and our pediatric kidney and liver transplant program. Three-year survival rates meet or beat expected outcomes.


Students and faculty began seeing patients immediately after the opening of the new Equal Access Birmingham clinic. Photos by Arik Sokol.


Take a moment to ponder this: Think of what those 10,000 people have been able to see and do and become in the years since their transplants. Some have traveled the world. Others have gotten married—and seen their kids get married. More than a few have become grandparents. Many have built successful careers, and many have no doubt made significant contributions to their communities.

Our research and clinical care have helped to add years to the lives of countless other patients, including those with HIV, cancer, cystic fibrosis, and many other serious diseases. We are thankful that we get to play a role in giving people more time with their loved ones, and in helping them enjoy that time to the fullest.

Ultimate Trust

Second, we are grateful to our patients and students for trusting us with their lives and their careers. Both groups present us with opportunities to teach, to listen, and to serve that make us a better school and a better health system providing world-class care. We feel a great responsibility to them, not only because they prove that we are succeeding in our mission, but also because they are the future of Alabama and our nation. Who knows what they will do after they leave our care and our classrooms and head out into the world? Our work today can bring benefits for many years to come.

Helping Neighbors in Need

We also recognize and appreciate the great opportunity we have to serve our community. Our students offer a prime example of one way to accomplish that. This month, the student-run Equal Access Birmingham (EAB) is opening a free clinic, located just a few blocks from Volker Hall in downtown Birmingham. The new clinic, within the Church of the Reconciler, will provide basic primary care to medically underserved patients, and it is just the latest success story for EAB, which has offered acute care for patients in need at the M-Power Clinic in Avondale since 2005. Our faculty physicians volunteer their time and expertise to oversee the care provided by our student doctors in the EAB clinics. Both clinics will help meet a pressing and constant need in Birmingham, and I am proud of our students’ strong desire and determination to serve our community.


Dean Ray Watts recently visited with alumni and updated them on the progress of the school's AMC21 strategic plan. Click to see photos from receptions in Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, and Huntsville. Birmingham and Huntsville Photos by Mike Strawn; Tuscaloosa photos by Nik Layman.

Generous Thanks

There are so many other reasons to express our gratitude. We appreciate the great resources we have, from faculty, buildings, and equipment to scholarships and research funds. More important, we are thankful to you for your invaluable support in helping us to obtain those resources and pave the way for our success in teaching, research, patient care, and community outreach. With your generosity, you have already helped us to reach so many important goals, and we look forward to further partnerships and new milestones.

As the holiday season approaches, I encourage you to take a moment to appreciate all the blessings in your life and how you can use them to make a difference in the lives of others. I also hope that you and your family enjoy a warm and wonderful Thanksgiving celebration.

Best regards,


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