July 01, 2022

Reflecting on my upcoming career change

Written by

It was recently announced that I am stepping down as CEO of the UAB Health System, CEO of the UAB/Ascension St. Vincent’s Alliance, senior vice president of Medicine and dean of the Heersink School of Medicine to accept the role of president and CEO of Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) Cancer Center in September 2022.

This decision did not come easily and required much prayer and consideration with my family and friends. I am extremely proud of UAB’s leadership, faculty, staff, and trainees, and all that we have accomplished during the past nine years.

The impact in science and compassionate care we provide is not only transforming our community and state but generates ripples of change across the country and globe. It has been a gift to be a part of the team that led UAB during a time of considerable challenge and change.

As a native of Alabama, leading these efforts at UAB has been even more special. UAB has been home to me and my family for many years. Aside from the seven years I served on faculty at the University of Minnesota, most of my career has been spent here.

My beginnings here, in 1994, were marked by being the first full-time Black/African American surgeon in the Department of Surgery and in the Heersink School of Medicine. I had the privilege of returning in 2013 to serve as dean of the Heersink School of Medicine and senior vice president for Medicine. And most recently, I was appointed CEO of the UAB Health System and CEO of the UAB/Ascension St. Vincent’s Alliance.

This incredible journey through UAB’s enterprise has connected me with many colleagues who are now friends. I am fortunate to have worked with some of the best and brightest physicians, scientists, trainees, and staff members in the world, and to be part of the legacy of leaders who have stewarded this organization. I am honored to have treated cancer patients in the Deep South for almost three decades. Their stories have impacted me greatly, connecting me to the primary reason I chose medicine—to change the outcome of those diagnosed with cancer.

On the way to the next stop in my career path, I certainly relate to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., spoken at an April 1968 speech in Memphis, Tennessee: “Use me, God. Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself.”

Through calling, I am a compassionate physician. Through training, I am a pancreatic cancer surgeon and scientist. Through experience, I have become a seasoned leader. The opportunity at MSK will allow me to bring this all together into one role. MSK is committed to cutting-edge cancer research, clinical trials, scientific discoveries, and treatments. Leading MSK as president and CEO creates a unique opportunity to have a national and global impact on clinical care and discovery on the disease, cancer, that has defined my clinical career in medicine. I want to always use my expertise in the most purposeful way. Now, this desire to be purposeful is leading me somewhere new.

As I leave, my hope is that the achievements we have accomplished together will continue to multiply. And with the leaders, faculty, staff, and trainees we have at UAB, I have no doubt that hope will be a reality.

UAB has grown and changed so much in the past nine years. I will always look back on my time here with abundant pride.

In the meantime, I hope we will all let purpose fuel us forward.