Arnold Gill Diethelm M.DArnold G. Diethelm, MD, is Professor Emeritus, Department of Surgery, UAB School of Medicine, where he performed the first renal transplant in Alabama and developed one of the world’s largest programs. He received the MD degree from Cornell Medical College, NYC. A native of Baltimore, he received the MD degree from Cornell Medical College in 1958, followed by a surgery residency at Cornell and a transplant fellowship at Harvard Medical School. 

DrJamesPittman PatchThe appointment of Dr. James A. Pittman, Jr., as the eighth dean of what is now the School of Medicine at UAB in the spring of 1973 occurred during a period of serious institutional instability and faculty turbulence.

These concerns were the result of Dr. Clifton K. Meador’s resignation as dean, faculty concerns about University Hospital, and clinic funds transfers to UAB. Dr. John W. Kirklin’s letter of resignation to Dr. S. Richardson Hill, then Vice President for Health Affairs in the absence of a dean, set the stage for the urgent appointment of the next dean, including resolution of the hospital’s financial situation. Dr. Kirklin withdrew his resignation, the Department of Surgery and medical school faculty became more stable, and University administration -- including then President Joseph Volker and Dr. Hill -- resolved faculty anxiety. The University of Alabama Board of Trustees approved Dr. Kirklin’s proposal of the University of Alabama Health Services Foundation as a new and different approach to develop a clinical group practice. All of these events occurred in the spring and summer of 1973.

Pittman with WatsonJim Pittman with Nobelist James WatsonDr. Pittman quietly assumed the position as dean and began a period of faculty stability and expansion that lasted for the next 19 years, appointing new chairs to the clinical and joint basic departments. Dr Pittman’s attention to the faculty emphasized research and soon evaluated the national research standing of the medical school. An active and thoughtful member of the UASHF Executive Committee Dr. Pittman attended all meetings during years Dr. Kirklin was president. In 1981, Dr. Kirklin wrote to Dr. Pittman that he wished to be relieved as department chair in July 1982, which initiated a year-long search for a new chair of surgery. I assumed that role after a discussion was pleasant and direct. The only detail mentioned was my salary for the first year. During the next seven years, my association with Dr. Pittman was always the same – pleasant, thoughtful, and direct.

Dr. Pittman, as Dr. Kirklin emphasized, “always kept his expertise out in front.” The expertise was directed to the medical school faculty and students in teaching and research. At the same time, he always provided support for the clinical faculty. One day he asked to observe a thyroid operation I was performing and remained in the operating room until the skin was sutured. This was the only time in 33 years that a dean of medicine visited my operating room.

On another occasion, Dr. Pittman arrived in my office unannounced, sat down, and in a few minutes mentioned he was scheduled for a coronary arteriogram the next day because of increasing chest pain on exertion. I called my colleague, Dr. Albert Pacifico, and mentioned Dr. Pittman’s medical situation. Dr. Pacifico reviewed the arteriogram the next day and immediately performed coronary artery bypass surgery. I was certain Dr. Pacifico would provide excellent care, as procrastination was not in his vocabulary.

During his years as dean, Dr. Pittman never forgot the importance of the medical students and had periodic meetings with them often in small groups at the Center for Advanced Medical Studies building, later named in his honor.

Jim Pittman was not only an experienced clinical endocrinologist with an excellent research background, but a warm and thoughtful friend. We lived only a few houses apart but rarely socialized together. In retrospect, I wish the two of us would have spent more time discussing subjects of common interest, perhaps history of medicine.

About Dr. Pittman

 A93 04 0599 Pittman

Born: April 12, 1927, Orlando, Fla.

B.S., Davidson College: 1948

M.D., Harvard Medical School: 1952

Internship, Massachusetts General Hospital: 1952-54

Clinical Associate, National Institutes of Health: 1954-56

Married Constance Shen, MD: February 19, 1955

Internal Medicine Resident, UAB, 1956; Chief Resident, 1957-58

Joined UAB faculty: 1959

Director, UAB Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism: 1962-71

Dean of Medicine: 1973-92

Died January 12, 2014, Birmingham, Ala.