This summer brings excitement and grateful reflection as we at the School of Medicine welcome new leaders, thank their predecessors, and mourn the passing of an influential teacher and mentor.

In last month’s newsletter, I shared the news that Matt Might, Ph.D., a national leader in precision medicine, has been appointed the inaugural director of UAB’s Hugh Kaul Personalized Medicine Institute. Now, after a competitive nationwide search, I am thrilled to announce that Michael J. Birrer, M.D., Ph.D., will become the new director of the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center and holder of the Evalina B. Spencer Chair in Oncology. He joins UAB August 1.\

Dr. Birrer is a leading medical oncologist and trailblazer in the early detection and treatment of gynecologic cancers. He is an outstanding physician-scientist who brings to us a unique vision of transformation and leadership. As the recent director of Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center’s Gillette Center for Gynecologic Oncology, he understands drivers for excellence in clinical care and has a vision for growing precision medicine in cancer care. He also recently served as the director for that cancer center’s Gynecologic Oncology Research Program, which attests to his commitment to fundamental scientific discovery.

As the recent leader of the Dana Farber/Harvard Cancer Center program in gynecologic cancers and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Birrer is dedicated to educating the next generation of physicians and researchers. His strategy in moving cancer research from bench to bedside is also a fundamental element of our Comprehensive Cancer Center’s mission to provide the highest-quality cancer care while advancing our understanding of cancer and translating that knowledge into better prevention, detection, and treatment.

Dr. Birrer succeeds Edward E. Partridge, M.D., who is retiring from UAB after a remarkable 48-year career that includes 10 years as director of the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Partridge has been a transformative figure in growing and enhancing the center through his leadership and faculty support. He is an outstanding physician, clinician-scientist, and educator who has devoted his life’s work to eliminating health disparities in cancer care.

As I look forward to Dr. Birrer taking the reins as director of one of the nation’s leading cancer research and treatment centers, I am thankful for Dr. Partridge’s work to help elevate the center’s standing as one of only 45 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the U.S. I know Dr. Birrer will build on Dr. Partridge’s legacy of achievement as he forges his own path to move the center forward.

In other exciting news, School of Medicine alumni have achieved a $30 million milestone in giving as part of the ambitious $1 billion Campaign for UAB. We are extremely grateful for all you have done to fund medical student scholarships, advance research through philanthropy, support endowed chairs and professorships, and expand and enhance our programs. With your generous gifts, you are truly transforming the School of Medicine and UAB for the better. There’s much more we want to do as we pursue our mission of training the next generation of leaders in medicine, providing world-class patient care, and conducting groundbreaking biomedical research. You can learn more about giving to the School of Medicine online or by contacting (205) 975-5659 or

Finally, it is with great sadness that I share news of the passing of Donald C. Overstreet, M.D., who helped found the UAB Selma Family Medicine Residency Program in 1978. Dr. Overstreet served as director of the program for 19 years, mentoring the many physicians who trained there during his tenure, and inspiring through his example the program directors who followed him. He was also deeply committed to serving the medical needs of the underserved Black Belt region of the state--so much so that, after a failed first attempt at retirement in the late-1990s, he opened a small, one-person practice in Valley Grande, Alabama, population 4,020. He finally retired in 2014 at the age of 85. My condolences go out to his family and all those whose lives were touched by Dr. Overstreet’s profound clinical expertise and deep sense of compassion and respect for his patients, trainees, and colleagues.

Selwyn M. Vickers, M.D., FACS
Senior Vice President for Medicine and Dean
James C. Lee Endowed Chair

June 2017