July 18, 2023

The Gift of Partnership

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One thing most leaders acknowledge is that no one achieves their greatest successes alone. In medicine and biomedical research, collaboration is the cornerstone of innovation and advancement. In addition to naming our school and establishing the Marnix Heersink Institute for Biomedical Innovation and the Mary Heersink Institute for Global Health, the Heersink naming gift in 2021 connected our institution to an exciting collaborative partner, McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Dr. Heersink made philanthropic investments to establish biotech commercialization hubs and global health institutes at the two universities, as both Hamilton and Birmingham continue to transition from steel production and heavy industry to health care, higher education, and associated services and industries.

There are many parallels between our two institutions. Like UAB, McMaster is a leader in health professions training—including the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, the McMaster Faculty of Health Sciences houses a School of Nursing and a School of Rehabilitation Science. McMaster is similar in size to our school, with more than 1000 full-time faculty and over 6,000 trainees, and boasts excellent affiliated medical centers. Both UAB and McMaster are research-intensive public universities committed to empowering local and global communities. Just as UAB has pioneered numerous advances across our mission areas, McMaster has spearheaded innovations in education, research, and care, including originating problem-based learning in medical education and evidence-based medicine.

Another similarity: just as UAB and the Heersink School of Medicine are nationally recognized for our expertise and leadership in health equity and health disparities research and programming, thanks in large part to the diverse population of our city and state, McMaster serves a large Indigenous population that has traditionally been underserved in health care and underrepresented in research.

I was honored to be part of a UAB delegation that visited McMaster on June 29, along with Dr. Heersink. I was joined by UAB Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Pam Benoit; UAB School of Public Health Dean Dr. Paul Erwin; UAB School of Health Professions Dean Dr. Andrew Butler; Dr. Rubin Pillay, executive director of the UAB Marnix E. Heersink Institute for Biomedical Innovation, a professor in the Department of Medicine, the Heersink School of Medicine’s assistant dean for Global Health Innovation, and chief innovation officer for the UAB Health System; Dr. Alan Tita, UAB Mary Heersink Endowed Chair of Global Health, director of the Mary Heersink Institute of Global Health, and the Heersink School of Medicine’s associate dean for Global and Women’s Health; and Dr. Suzanne Lapi, professor and vice chair of Translational Research in the Department of Radiology and the UAB Cyclotron Facility director.

The McMaster delegation included McMaster University President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. David Farrar; Dr. Paul O’Byrne, dean and vice-president of the Faculty of Health Sciences; Dr. Sonia Anand, associate vice-president of Global Health in the Faculty of Health Sciences; Dr. Andrea Baumann, former associate vice-president of Global Health; Dr. Rohan D’Souza, associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact; Dr. John Valliant, professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology and Canada Research Chair in Medical Isotopes and Molecular Imaging Probes; Dr. Sam Sadeghi, associate professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology; and Dr. John Kelton, a Distinguished University Professor and executive director of the Michael G. DeGroote Initiative for Innovation in Healthcare at McMaster University.

The meeting was a chance for us to share overviews of our schools and universities and highlight some of the innovative programs at each institution in global health, women’s health, health care innovation and commercialization, and radiopharmaceuticals and medical imaging. In addition to the vast potential for research and clinical trial collaborations, we discussed opportunities for faculty and student exchanges and shared certificate and other educational programs and symposia.

I am confident that partnering with an exceptional institution like McMaster’s Faculty of Health Sciences will expand and accelerate our programs in exciting ways, with the potential to improve the health and well-being of people throughout the U.S., Canada, and the globe. I look forward to sharing more information as our collaborations grow and bear fruit.