January 07, 2014

Education is our first priority

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Welcome to the first Dean’s Message of 2014. I hope everyone enjoyed a peaceful and joyous holiday with friends and family. I would especially like to thank everyone who worked over Christmas and New Year’s, caring for our patients and ensuring the School of Medicine didn’t skip a beat.

We have a lot to tell you about this year because we’re going to be very busy. The most important thing we will do this year is renew our accreditation as a medical school. Accreditation is foundational to UAB Medicine’s being an academic medical center, the difference between being simply a large hospital and a busy clinic and an elite center of clinical care, medical training and basic and clinical research.

The Liaison Committee on Medical Education, or LCME, is the recognized accreditation body for medical education in the U.S. and Canada. Every eight years they dispatch teams to medical schools for three-day site visits to ensure quality standards are being met. We will have a mock site visit Feb 9-11, which will help us prepare for the official site visit by a five-person team on March 9-12. We will receive the final report by the end of June.

Dr. Bob Rich, our former dean and senior vice president, and Dr. Hughes Evans, senior associate dean for medical education and chair of the Department of Medical Education, have spent countless hours leading our reaccreditation efforts, which includes our regional campuses, and dozens of people have been involved in our preparations.

The March visit begins with a meeting of the LCME and myself the first night they arrive and concludes three days later in a meeting with me, President Ray Watts and Provost Linda Lucas. In between, the LCME will meet with department chairs, groups of students and groups of faculty, and they will tour facilities, including the hospital. The experience will be intense, like a three-day job interview. Every answer we provide, every room the team visits, every policy, procedure and resource they review, matters, and everyone – nurses, students, staff, faculty, administrators – is integral to the task.

We were not perfect in 2006 – schools rarely pass without a citation – and we have been working since then to improve facilities, procedures, financial aid assistance and other areas that were cited. Self-assessments, conducted in 2012, gave us even more feedback, which we have been addressing. One citation was for a lack of diversity among students and faculty. Efforts have increased diversity, but we still have a lot of work to do. The department chairs have approved a formal strategic plan for diversity, which includes the creation of a senior associate dean for Diversity and Inclusion position. The person in this position will be responsible for advancing our efforts to improve faculty diversity and coordinating our medical student and resident diversity enhancement efforts. You will hear more about these efforts in the coming weeks and months.

We will continue to communicate about the LCME process over the next few months. In the meantime, you can read more about the LCME itself and our preparations, on the LCME website.


Dr. Mike Saag, professor of Infectious Diseases and director of our Center for AIDS Research, has written a book, “Positive: One Doctor’s Personal Encounters with Death, Life and the U.S. Healthcare System.” Dr. Saag truly is a pioneer in HIV/AIDS care and research, and his book relates the challenges and triumphs of the epidemic while chronicling UAB’s pivotal role in the AIDS crisis locally, regionally, nationally and globally.

Every dollar from purchases of “Positive” will come back directly to UAB through the Mary Fisher CARE Fund, but you have to buy it before its official release in the spring.

You can purchase Positive directly from two web pages, one on CFAR and also on Positivethebook.com. The price online is $29, which includes a shipping fee. You can also buy the book for $25 ($20 for students and residents) by contacting his assistant Beverly at bonniez@uab.edu or 934-1614. Dr. Saag will sign every book ordered online or through his office.

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Finally, the CBS Evening News aired a story about VIPAAR technology developed at UAB by Dr. Bart Guthrie in Neurosurgery and being used by Dr. Brent Ponce in Orthopaedics. Watch the story online here. As the CBS correspondent says, the technology “turns surgery into a collaboration.” It also holds great promise for improving training and patient outcomes. The possibilities are almost endless, and it is another example of UAB pushing the envelope of quality innovation. Congratulations to Dr. Guthrie, Dr. Ponce and to the team at VIPAAR, led by Drew Deaton, for helping showcase the wonderful work being performed at UAB.
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