April 18, 2013


Interim senior vice president and dean Anupam Agarwal

As I have become familiar with the responsibilities and rhythms of the dean’s office, my respect for my predecessors has grown. Leading the School of Medicine is both a pleasure and a challenge. Progress toward our strategic goals in education, research, patient care, and community outreach never stops, after all, and we must work hard to stay at the forefront of medical discovery so that we can help meet the needs of our students, our patients, and our faculty. The accomplishments of the school’s previous permanent and acting deans—including legends such as Dr. Roy Kracke, Dr. Tinsley Harrison, and Dr. James Pittman—provide both inspiration and insight.


Will Deal (Photo courtesy of UAB Archives)

Dr. Will Deal, senior vice president of medicine and dean from 1997 to 2004, taught us the importance of a strong vision and a strong faculty. In the wake of his sudden passing on March 15, many of our faculty leaders—including President Ray Watts—have recalled how Dr. Deal recruited them to UAB with the promise of an exciting environment of growth and discovery. Dr. Deal delivered on that promise; during his tenure, UAB constructed five new research buildings, National Institutes of Health funding topped $200 million, and the school’s international reputation for excellence grew. Even when you look at what we have achieved since then, it is due in part to the faculty and resources that Dr. Deal put into place. We will always appreciate and remember his impact on the school, and we will miss him greatly.

A memorial service is planned on Monday, April 29, at 5:00 p.m. in the UAB Alumni House, with a reception to follow. Please join us if you can in celebrating Dr. Deal's life and legacy. A scholarship will be established in his memory; to make a contribution, please click here or call our Development Office at (205) 975-5659.

Pioneers of Medicine

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Sara Crews Finley (Photo courtesy of UAB Archives)

Sadly, Dr. Deal is not the only leader we have lost this year. Dr. Sara Crews Finley, who passed away on February 20, helped to pioneer a field that has revolutionized health care. In the early 1960s, she co-founded the first medical genetics program and the first chromosome laboratory in the southeastern United States at the Birmingham medical center with her husband and fellow alumnus, Dr. Wayne Finley. For more than 30 years, they helped to provide patients and families with much-needed answers and genetic counseling, led research, and trained a generation of specialists now working in genetics programs nationwide. Dr. Sara Finley, a 1955 graduate of our school, also was dedicated to the Medical Alumni Association, serving as its first female president.

In January, we mourned the passing of Dr. Basil Hirschowitz, a Nobel Prize nominee who helped to create modern medicine with the development of the first flexible fiber-optic endoscope—which he tested by swallowing it himself. He was the first to put the technology into regular practice when he came to the medical school in 1959. Through his research and clinical trials, he also helped to ignite a pharmaceutical revolution in gastrointestinal treatment. Dr. Hirschowitz founded our gastroenterology division and led it for 29 years, but his impact spans the breadth of internal medicine and will last forever.

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Basil Hirschowitz

Legacies for the Future

We miss Dr. Finley and Dr. Hirschowitz immensely, and all who worked with and learned from them can consider themselves most fortunate. They serve as prime examples of physicians who excelled in all aspects of our school’s mission. If we strive to meet their standards, then we are sure to be successful.

Many years before their passing, Dr. Finley and Dr. Hirschowitz received a great honor from alumni and friends of the School of Medicine who established endowed chairs in their names. These endowments effectively extend their legacies, supporting faculty leaders who continue to break new ground in genetics and gastroenterology, use that knowledge to provide the best care for our patients, and share their expertise with students and fellow physicians. I hope that you will consider a memorial gift to support the Basil I. Hirschowitz Endowed Chair in Gastroenterology or the Wayne H. and Sara Crews Finley Chair of Medical Genetics. By honoring their landmark accomplishments, you will help pave the way for future milestones.

The Search for the Next Dean

The search for the School of Medicine’s next senior vice president and dean has taken an important step forward with the selection of the search committee that will review candidates for the position. The 26 members, chosen by President Watts, include Dr. Norman McGowin III, the new president of the Medical Alumni Association, along with faculty and administrators from a variety of UAB departments and schools, a medical student, and a community representative.

Dr. Sergio Stagno, the Katharine Reynolds Ireland Chair of Pediatrics at UAB, and Dr. David Sweatt, chair of the UAB Department of Neurobiology and the Evelyn F. McKnight Endowed Chair for Learning and Memory in Aging, are the committee’s co-chairs.

This committee is well rounded, interdisciplinary, and reflective of the role that the next dean—and the school—will play as an academic medical leader in the 21st century. The group has already begun work, and Dr. Watts has asked them to complete the search in six to nine months. I expect that they will have a tough task in choosing among the talented candidates who will apply for the deanship. As the committee provides updates in the coming months, I will share them with you here. You can also follow their progress at www.uab.edu/medicine/deansearch.

Journeys of Learning

In the meantime, our students continue to excel and strengthen our clinical and research enterprise. We look forward to Commencement for the Class of 2013, scheduled for May 19 at Bartow Arena. Meanwhile, other students are finalizing their summer plans--most of which include scholarly research and overseas trips for medical volunteer work instead of long days at the beach. One of our third-year students, Clark Powell, is about to embark on a yearlong scientific journey; he recently received a prestigious Student Scholar Grant from the American Society of Nephrology Foundation for Kidney Research that enables him to take a year away from medical school to conduct full-time research on a new kidney injury staging system developed at UAB. Mr. Powell will work with Dr. Henry Wang, associate professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine, and Dr. David Warnock, professor in the Department of Nephrology, who developed the new staging system together.

We are proud of Mr. Powell's accomplishment and look forward to his contributions to the research, which has the potential to impact countless patients. We are excited that we are able to provide him--and all of our students--with the unique opportunity to work alongside renowned scientists who are shaping the future of health care. And we thank you for providing the support that makes such opportunities happen by helping us to attract innovative faculty and promising students.


Download the UAB Medicine magazine app in the App Store.

A New Way to Receive School News

For updates about other aspects of the School of Medicine, I encourage you to download UAB Medicine magazine’s new iPad app from Apple’s App Store. By installing the free app, you can see an electronic, interactive version of the magazine’s current issue. You also will automatically receive future issues as they are published, which means you won’t miss news about initiatives in research, education, and care; stories on students and our branch campuses; alumni profiles; features illustrating the power of your contributions; and more.

I hope that you will keep in touch with us in other ways as well, including visiting with us at upcoming alumni events and sending me your feedback by e-mail. We are excited to share information about our progress with you, and we want to hear about your careers and accomplishments. Our mutual connection will help us forge a path to a bright future.

With kind regards,


Anupam Agarwal, M.D.
Interim Senior Vice President and Dean