June 17, 2013


Interim senior vice president and dean Anupam Agarwal

As you are aware, there is a significant, critical primary care shortage in Alabama and around the nation. The gap is certain to widen in coming years as the needs of an aging American population lead more people to seekl care—at the same time that the Affordable Care Act brings in new patients. The situation is especially worrisome for rural and underserved areas of our state

Primary care is an extremely satisfying profession. Many physicians treasure the close relationships that they build with their patients and communities over many years. Yet many students don’t choose primary care because they don’t get to experience the rewards and challenges of the field early in their medical careers. Primary care sometimes becomes an afterthought rather than the foundation of all health care.

New Scholars Program

We are actively working to reverse this trend through new programs that emphasize primary care education and experience, including our new Montgomery regional campus and the statewide Area Health Education Center (AHEC) network, which will link health-professional schools with community medical providers throughout Alabama. We are especially excited about our new Dean’s Primary Care Scholars Program (DPCSP), which begins this fall. Inspired by the rural health pipeline programs at our Tuscaloosa and Huntsville campuses, the DPCSP will focus on primary care issues and leadership development, with plenty of opportunities for community care experiences and service learning. Six rising second-year students have been selected out of many qualified applicants to be the inaugural scholars. All will receive annual scholarships to support their education.

The inaugural class of Dean's Primary Care Scholars: (back row, left to right) Nick Darby, Amber Beg, Russ Guin, Director Earl Salser Jr.; (front row) Robyn Wilson, Jessica Willis, Lauren Smith

Each of these students shares a commitment to building close relationships with their future patients, and they are excited to begin working toward that goal under the direction of Dr. Earl Salser Jr. We believe that they will inspire other students to explore family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, and med-peds as a way to serve their communities and begin to fill gaps in care.

Successful Strategies

The DPCSP is just one example of how our AMC21 strategic plan is bearing fruit. On May 17, leaders from all areas of the School of Medicine came together to provide an update on their progress, and I am pleased to report that we are making great strides toward our goals.

For many of us in attendance, the most exciting aspect of the AMC21 strategies is how they cultivate collaboration. The success of the School of Medicine and, indeed, all of UAB was built upon partnerships. Today, AMC21 is building upon that heritage by inspiring—and rewarding—new collaborations. Everywhere you look, M.D.s and Ph.D.s are planning new projects that extend from the laboratory to the clinic, specialists from multiple departments are brainstorming innovative new ways to treat disease, and researchers are proving that a combination of knowledge and skills helps us move more quickly toward the answers we seek.

The examples are numerous. Scientists and clinicians in our Comprehensive Cardiovascular Center—itself an early product of our strategic plan—are pursuing a high-impact pilot grant funded through the generosity of the late William W. Featheringill and his wife, Carolyn, that could lead to breakthrough treatments. Just recently, we introduced a Digestive Health Center, which formalizes the existing collaboration between gastroenterologists and GI surgeons. It’s only natural that they should work together to help patients manage digestive diseases, and the new partnership will mean greater coordination among a range of subspecialties to provide comprehensive care. Other collaborations fostered and/or strengthened through AMC21 include the Comprehensive Transplant Institute, which is leveraging resources to mine decades of data on transplant outcomes, and the growing partnership among basic, translational, and clinical researchers through the Comprehensive Neuroscience Center and the Comprehensive Diabetes Center.

Such collaboration is a hallmark of UAB. Time and again, new faculty recruits praise UAB’s willingness to bring various disciplines and specialties together to answer the most vexing questions in health care. They often name it as a crucial factor in their decision to move here. Cultivating and expanding that collaboration through our strategic plan is powering the next phase of UAB’s growth.

Key Partnerships

Of course, our researchers, clinicians, and educators aren’t the only ones who are helping the school work toward achieving its ambitious goals. We could not move ahead without help from you, our alumni and friends throughout Alabama and the nation. Your support fuels our drive to discover and expands our ability to bring the best care to our families, neighbors, and communities. We are so grateful for the resources and opportunities you provide us.

As always, I hope that you will continue to share your ideas and feedback with us as we make progress. Together, we will shape the future of medicine—for primary care, specialty care, and Alabama’s care.

With kind regards,


Anupam Agarwal, M.D.
Interim Senior Vice President for Medicine
Dean, School of Medicine