January 25, 2023

State of the School 2023: synopsis with key takeaways

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agarwal sotsAnupam Agarwal, M.D., interim senior vice president for Medicine and dean of the Heersink School of Medicine, presenting the annual State of the School address at Margaret Cameron Spain Auditorium

On Wednesday, Jan. 25, Anupam Agarwal, M.D., interim senior vice president for Medicine and dean of the Heersink School of Medicine, presented the annual State of the School address in person at Margaret Cameron Spain Auditorium and via live stream.

Introduced by MS2 president James Stallworth, Agarwal opened the presentation by remembering leadership and faculty members lost during the previous year. He thanked UAB leadership, including President Ray Watts, M.D., and former dean of the Heersink School of Medicine, Selwyn Vickers, M.D., FACS, as well as the Board of Visitors, for their dedication to the school’s success.

Agarwal also thanked the UAB community, nurses, advanced practice providers, physicians, staff, faculty, students, and trainees, who have pushed through the various difficulties of the past year.

“All of you have continued your dedication, your commitment, to build our programs in clinical education and research,” said Agarwal. “That has enabled us to continue to grow.”

Agarwal celebrated the election of Casey Weaver, M.D., to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences as well as the invitations to join the National Academy of Medicine that were extended to three members of the Heersink School of Medicine faculty. He also announced this year’s faculty members named Pittman Scholars. Scholar recipients were nominated by their department chairs based on their research achievements and their potential for continued discovery in the basic or clinical sciences.


In November 2022, the Heersink School of Medicine achieved the highest level of accreditation available to a medical school in the United States by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) after a rigorous self-study process that culminated in a virtual visit from the LCME survey team during the spring. Agarwal acknowledged the dedication shown by the LCME Executive Committee to achieve this milestone.

Agarwal thanked the Medical Alumni Association (MAA) Board for their efforts in advancing diversity, including the formation of the Diversity/Underrepresented in Medicine Task Force to help develop a culturally competent, inclusive, and diverse health care community and eliminate health disparities throughout the state of Alabama.

Regional campus news was shared, including the new Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Crisis Program in Huntsville, the first cohort of Primary Care Track students graduating in Tuscaloosa, and the opening of a clinic for underinsured patients in Montgomery.


Multiple Featured Discovery recipients were highlighted for the substantial impacts of their research at UAB. Agarwal also reviewed the school’s new strategic research focus areas: Health Equity, I-4WARD (Infection, Inflammation, Immunity, and Immuno-therapy), Brain Health, and D-TECH (Disease Across the Lifespan, and Disruptive Technology Empowering Precision Health).

The UAB/Tuskegee Faculty Institutional Recruitment for Sustainable Transformation (FIRST) Partnership has established the Benjamin-Carver FIRST Scientists, an initiative to build a community of scientists that are committed to inclusive excellence.  

Agarwal also covered programs that have come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as UAB RECOVER, COVID-19 Bridge funding, and CARES at UAB.

The O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB was awarded a five-year Cancer Center Core Support Grant of $27,477,570 from the National Cancer Institute after receiving the highest impact score in its history.

Last spring, state, county, and city leaders and donors joined in breaking ground on the new Altec/Styslinger Genomic Medicine and Data Sciences Building and the Marnix E. Heersink Institute for Biomedical Innovation Conference Center. UAB will recruit upward of 75 additional investigators and some 350 new support staff over the next five-plus years to work alongside the talented and renowned team of researchers already in place.

Clinical Care

UAB has continued to expand accessibility to its services to those in need across Alabama, including the expansion of clinics in Pelham, Tuscaloosa, and Gardendale. Agarwal shared the stories of patients whose lives have been impacted by the care they received at UAB.

The first peer-reviewed publication on xenotransplantation was published on Jan. 20, 2022, by Jayme Locke, M.D., MPH, and her research and surgical teams.

A new inpatient rehabilitation facility, Cooper Green, will replace the existing Spain Rehabilitation Center after breaking ground earlier this month.

UAB continues to focus on its community through initiatives such as Forge AHEAD (Achieving Health Equity Across the Deep South), which strives to achieve health equity by eliminating disparities and improving outcomes in diabetes, obesity, and hypertension throughout the South.

Impact of the Heersink Naming Gift

September 2022 marked a year since the announcement of a transformational $95 million gift from longtime UAB supporter Marnix E. Heersink, M.D., which was enhanced with a contribution of $5 million from Triton Health Systems. Agarwal shared new endowed chair and professorship positions made possible by the gift. Additionally, both the Marnix E. Heersink Institute for Biomedical Innovation and the Mary Heersink Institute for Global Health have made progress in making UAB a center for innovative and equitable health care on a global scale.


UAB continues to increase capacity and improve access to care through expansion of telemedicine and rural health care facilities. The school is recovering from recent flooding in various research spaces on campus, assessing damages, replacing equipment, and working to support faculty, trainees, and staff impacted by the flood.

The school is analyzing responses to its recent wellness and wellbeing survey, and the Office of Wellness has shared results with departments to address pain points.

On the Horizon

Agarwal reiterated UAB’s commitment to invest in the retention and recruitment of faculty, staff, and students and addressed processes to enhance infrastructure and technology. The Heersink School of Medicine aims to build upon collaboration with key partners and further implement its strategic plan for research.

If you missed the live address or would like more information on the State of the School, click here.