February 21, 2024

Office of Research reviews a year of progress at the 2024 Annual Research Retreat

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The Heersink School of Medicine Office of Research held its Annual Research Retreat on Tuesday, Feb. 6, at the UAB Alumni House. Research leadership from across Heersink, UAB Central Administration, other UAB schools, and Southern Research attended the retreat. The agenda included presentations from the directors of four Heersink Institutes and Centers as well as Southern Research, each discussing activities of their units. The retreat’s goals included discussing short-, mid-, and long-term direction for the Heersink research enterprise.Research retreat 1

Tika Benveniste, Ph.D., senior vice dean in the UAB Heersink School of Medicine, provided updates on the overall Strategic Research Focus Areas, where she covered the initial implementation process, mentioning that each theme was allocated $1 million to start working on “low hanging fruit” and work across themes to implement common needs. She also covered accountability of the task forces before moving into a look at several ongoing and planned strategic recruitment initiatives spearheaded by the Heersink School of Medicine.

Following Benveniste’s opening, directors of several institutes and centers presented. Fran Lund, Ph.D., Endowed Chair in Immunology and director of the Immunology Institute, provided a deeper look into the Immunology Institute and covered several of the key efforts they have established to better study the immune system. Matt Might, Ph.D., director of the Hugh Kaul Precision Medicine Institute, walked attendees through some of the ways the institute is utilizing proprietary AI. Smita Bhatia, M.D., Gay and Bew White Endowed Chair in Pediatric Oncology and director of the Institute for Cancer Outcomes and Survivorship, joined the discussion virtually to talk about the developments and successes from the institute and how the work they do cross links with the four strategic research areas. Alan Tita, M.D., Ph.D., senior associate dean for Global and Women’s Health, covered the goals and work being done in the Center for Women’s Reproductive Health.

Southern Research Chief Business Officer Abi Kulshreshtha, Ph.D., spoke to attendees about the priorities and new programs they are focusing on. He covered the construction of facilities, including the new 120,000 square foot biotech Southern Research building that will house Southern Research, UAB investigators, and industry sponsored investigators. Kulshreshtha also shared their new Station 41 program, Birmingham’s new biotech commercialization hub.

Breakout sessions were held to discuss theme-specific updates and needs. The four Strategic Research Themes are Disruptive Technology Empowering Precision Health (D-TECH); Health Equity; Infection, Inflammation, Immunity, and Immuno-therapy (I-4ward); and Brain Health and Disease Across the Lifespan. Learn more about these updates.Research retreat 2 2

Following the breakouts, Benveniste recapped pieces from the day, stating, “The presentations and breakout discussions all highlighted the collaborative environment of UAB.”

Senior Vice President for Medicine and Heersink Dean Anupam Agarwal, M.D., followed Benveniste with closing remarks, “The progress made across our four areas is most impressive,” he stated. “We need all of you as leaders, as chairs, and others to help with the recruitment and retention of faculty.”

He closed out the day referencing UAB President Ray Watts’s plan for the pathway to $1 billion, stating, “It really is growth with a purpose, and we will play a big part in that pathway.” Currently, the Heersink School of Medicine is 78.8% of the UAB’s total funding portfolio.

Learn more about the Heersink School of Medicine’s research focus areas and read more about the accomplishments and goals of the four Strategic Focus Areas