September 12, 2022

Honored to serve in this new chapter

Written by

As long summer days turn to fall, our medical school also begins a new season. This month, I step into the interim dean role and look forward to leading in this capacity.

UAB has been my home for nearly two decades.

Since I joined the faculty in 2003, I have served in various rewarding roles, such as the division director of Nephrology (2008-2021) and as the program director of the NIH-funded O’Brien Center for Acute Kidney Injury Research. I am fortunate to continue seeing patients at the Birmingham Veteran’s Affairs Health Care System. In addition to research and clinical care, I am very passionate about medical education and training the next generation.

Strategic direction in our Academic Medical Center is the glue that binds our mission areas of research, patient care, and medical education. Before Dr. Selwyn Vickers arrived in 2013, I served as interim dean while the national search for a permanent dean was in progress. Since 2014, I have served as executive vice dean and worked in step with Dr. Vickers and the Dean’s Leadership Team.

Those experiences prepared me for this day but also instilled purpose and confidence in me—and in all members of the dean’s leadership team—to pursue excellence at every turn. Together, we move forward to continue our important work in each mission area.

In this interim period, I am eager to support the progress on initiatives set forth earlier this year, such as our new strategic research focus areas, the recruitment of key leadership positions in the Heersink School of Medicine, stewardship of the Heersink’s banner naming gift, and so many more.

I look forward to the development of new centers—such as the Deep South Center to Reduce Disparities in Chronic Diseases, which was established last year. As a nephrologist who has studied reducing the burden of kidney disease for decades, this center is close to my heart. It will facilitate research on several chronic diseases, including obesity, diabetes, and kidney disease, while promoting health equity across the Deep South.

In the same way, we will continue our community and regional partnerships to bring health care to underserved areas and make it more accessible to historically excluded groups.

Additionally, I am also excited to support the Mary Heersink Institute for Global Health and the Marnix E. Heersink Institute for Biomedical Innovation, both of which were established late 2021 and have begun work in their areas quickly.

Powerful transformations are happening across the school on a regular basis. The Proton International therapy center just celebrated its 500th patient, Pathology recently established its Division of Women’s Health, and first-in-its-kind procedures are being performed right here at UAB. The Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, ranked No. 5 in the nation according to U.S. News and World Report 2022-23 Best Hospitals ranking, and several other departments ranked high as well. Our list of scientific and clinical accomplishments in just the past few months is incredibly long.

Our determination to save lives and promote equitable health is creating discoveries and milestones regularly.

Internally, it is important to me and the leadership team to support efforts of faculty, staff, and trainee well-being across the school. The UAB Medicine Office of Wellness recently wrapped up their annual pulse survey which had a stunning response of over 6,000 participants. I want to assure you that leadership is reading these responses—we hear you and your priorities are our priorities. We will continue to invest in areas that help our people thrive.

Being part of UAB is tremendous. Our opportunities are limitless. We continuously ensure the patient is at the centerpiece of all our actions—whether that pertains to medical education, research, or clinical care. Each effort is about advancing patient care and well-being.

I love what I do. We treat patients with multiple options that work for the individual. I love researching the ways we can bring hope to underserved groups and push scientific discoveries to the next level. I find great joy in serving our faculty, staff, residents, fellows, postdocs, and students with accessibility and understanding.

As we enter this new season, I thank you for trusting me to lead and for believing in our mission and vision.