October 20, 2023

Engagement survey insights

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Earlier this year, UAB distributed a Campus Engagement Survey facilitated by Modern Think to assess how well certain aspects of the university, its leadership, and its processes are working. As President Watts and Provost Benoit communicated recently, the results are still being reviewed and analyzed at a high level. Results specific to the Heersink School of Medicine have been shared with department chairs.

The Heersink School of Medicine has established a committee dedicated to working through survey results and operationalizing solutions in areas of concern.

Overall, 42% of those surveyed responded, and most were positive about working at UAB. Collaboration and collegiality were ranked as the highest valued assets, and at the Heersink School of Medicine, we are particularly proud of these traits.

Today, I want to update you on six key areas that Heersink School of Medicine faculty and staff responded as highly important to them in the survey facilitated by Modern Think.


The survey showed that our faculty and staff value UAB's substantial benefits, work-life balance, and professional development, but you also expressed the need for competitive salaries and transparent, fair compensation alignment.

UAB Human Resources and the Heersink School of Medicine Dean’s Office strive to provide competitive salaries for faculty and staff. One of President Watts’ focuses has been on any budget increases funding merit raises and taking care of our employees each fiscal year.
Human Resources and the Dean’s Office will continue to work together, and we regularly perform market reviews to remain competitive with our peers for faculty and staff compensation.

The University of Alabama Health Services Foundation (UAHSF) works with department leadership to provide faculty with a market-competitive and equitable compensation framework that enables UAB to attract and retain outstanding, productive, and highly desired faculty physicians. The framework is mobilized by a set of guiding principles, ensuring transparency while allowing each department to customize plans based on their own professional operations.

We also recently completed a multi-year, multi-partner process for the Faculty Gender Equity review, which showed no statistically significant outcomes when faculty are analyzed by rank or by organization and rank. The review indicated the outcome of the Heersink School of Medicine’s salary-setting process is consistent with a system that is neutral with respect to gender.


As an institution committed to health and wellness, parental leave and childcare availability are vital.

Leadership is committed to creating and maintaining a work culture that supports faculty and staff in maintaining work-life balance. UAB's Paid Parental Leave Policy supports these efforts by allowing parents additional flexibility and time to bond with their new child, adjust to a new family situation, and balance professional obligations. UAB Medicine has representation on the Benefits Committee, and we will continue our dialogue with leadership on this topic.

Furthermore, we recognize frustrations regarding the lack of easily accessible childcare options, an issue further complicated by unpredictable work schedules. To address these concerns, the Board of Trustees proposed funding and received approval to construct a new childcare center located at 10th Avenue South and 11th Street, just west of the Education and Engineering Complex, which will more than double the current capacity for childcare. It is scheduled to open in Spring 2024.

As for UAB’s health benefits, we work with UAB Human Resources annually to negotiate the best suite of benefit offerings and provide competitive packages.

Heersink facilities

We realize the concern for our aging buildings and up-to-date maintenance, and we are progressively managing improvements in existing facilities, including extensive remodeling of office space on some floors in the Shelby Research Building and Lyons-Harrison Faculty Office Tower.

Currently, there are ~50 ongoing projects for building maintenance and improvements—with two major renovations in McCallum and the former Lyons Harrison Research Building visible to the public; the latter will be the new Altec Styslinger Genomic Medicine and Data Sciences building and the adjacent Heersink School of Medicine Conference Center. Both are nearing completion, with the last phase of McCallum scheduled to finish in Fall 2024 and the new Genomics Building to open in Fall 2024. We have proposed and secured funding for a major new research building across the street from Volker Hall, which is now in the planning stage and will come online in Fall 2026. We have recently expanded the Emergency Department and Sparks Psychiatry Department renovations are underway.


We recognize that parking and transportation remains a concern across our campus and that it impacts our faculty, staff, and trainees every day. Heersink School of Medicine leaders are taking an active role in the future direction and planning of the institution’s strategic parking plan.

We have a new thought leader in this area, Brian Atkinson, who is the executive director of UAB Transportation. Atkinson is an advocate for innovation and improvements which could potentially include new models for payments considering our level of hybrid and remote employees.

To help ensure our schools’ participation in the planning, the Heersink School of Medicine will request proportional representation and membership in the upcoming UAB Transportation stakeholder engagement efforts.

Two major additions to the parking inventory are underway or complete. The Health System’s acquisition of the Daniel Building north of the campus will add approximately 1,000 spaces, and the campus is building a new deck across from Bartow Arena that will open in 2024 and hold 1,200 vehicles.


We are committed to adapting to evolving work patterns and our teams’ changing requirements. I take pride in 30% of our workforce embracing hybrid schedules as this speaks to our faculty and staff’s individual needs and enhances our collective well-being and school culture. My leadership team and I remain dedicated to sustaining a positive work-life balance as we move ahead.

In the same vein, UAB leadership is actively embracing this new workstyle and our investment in manager training to ensure consistent engagement and productivity across teams. It is inspiring to witness the innovative ways leaders and managers harness technology to foster teamwork, onboard new members, and foster a sense of belonging—essential elements of our culture.

Research processes

UAB leadership has established the Research Strategic Initiative – Growth with Purpose, to increase the positive impact on people’s lives and improve communities through research, which will be measured in part by a monetary target of $1 billion in total research expenditures.

I echo President Watts that this ambitious goal will be accomplished with careful planning and consideration, continued investment in our people and infrastructure, and the collaboration of our students, faculty and staff.

UAB has engaged with Huron Consulting Group and Urban Impact Advisors to assist with developing a research growth strategic plan. This is a comprehensive effort with many faculty and staff interviews covering every aspect of our research enterprise. Specifically, these partners have been tasked with reviewing and evaluating our existing portfolio, assessing the current landscape to identify growth areas, analyzing our capacity (people, space, and technology), and ultimately providing priority recommendations in a strategic plan.

We can expect a report and recommendations from our partners to be delivered over the next few months.

What to expect in the future

Some of the changes mentioned above will be short-term and others will take a longer time to implement. Regardless, your concerns are serious to me and my leadership team. By starting this process, more work will be done.

Our faculty, staff, and trainees' priorities drive our strategies.

In my first year as dean of the Heersink School of Medicine, it is important to me to lead with transparency and a people-first mindset. These areas are of vital importance to me because they are important to you. At the Heersink School of Medicine, we will always seek a path of excellence as we move forward.