May 15, 2015

Longtime medical student affairs director for Huntsville campus passes away

Written by
Don McCalisterDonald V. McCalister, Sr., Ph.D., retired director of medical student affairs at the UAB School of Medicine Huntsville Regional Medical Campus, passed away on May 7, 2015 after a long illness. He was 80.

McCalister was an integral part of establishing the Huntsville regional campus, serving first as its coordinator of program development and assistant to the dean for curriculum development before being named director of the Office of Medical Student Affairs, a position he held from 1975 until his retirement in 1994.

“Don was a great man to work with,” said Roland Ficken, Ph.D., former dean of the Tuscaloosa Regional Campus. “We got to know each other in our years working together, and you couldn’t find a better student advocate than Don. He dedicated 20 years to guiding medical students through their time in Huntsville and beyond.”

A California native, McCalister earned his doctorate in sociology from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. His academic career took him to North Carolina State, Tulane and Case Western Reserve University before he joined the University of Alabama Huntsville and its School of Primary Medical Care.

“Dr. McCalister impacted and inspired a generation of medical students at the Huntsville campus. He was always available, always had a kind word and even though we were just third and fourth-year medical students, he made us feel important,” said G. Wright Bates, M.D., director of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UAB. “He stressed not only being the best we could be in our academics but also in our lives outside the hospital and medicine.”

Both Bates and Holly E. Richter, Ph.D., M.D., director of the Division of Urogynecology and Pelvic Reconstructive Surgery at UAB, completed their clinical years of medical school on the Huntsville campus with guidance from McCalister. 

“Dr. McCalister was the kind of mentor that took an active interest in you as a person, not just as a medical student. He could provide good perspective and kept things 'real.' He thought personal accountability was very important, but he was also a truly kind-hearted man,” Richter said.

McCalister is survived by his wife Noel Roberts McCalister, sons Don Jr., Kirby and Ian; brother Raymond McCalister; seven grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, two nephews and one niece. A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday, May 16, 2015 at Lakewood Methodist Church in Huntsville, Ala.