by Christina Crowe

The Department of Pathology is honored to announce the promotion and tenure of four of our esteemed faculty colleagues for 2023, effective October 1, 2023:

Ginger Duncan, M.D.,
 Anatomic Pathology – Promotion to Associate Professor
Dr. Duncan is Section Head of Perinatal Pathology, Associate Scientist in the Center for Women’s Reproductive Health (CWRH), and Associate scientist in the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center. A former chief resident at UAB, she completed her fellowship in Pediatric and Perinatal Pathology at Seattle Children’s through the University of Washington before returning to a faculty position at UAB. Her research interests focus on the clinicopathologic aspects of entities spanning the perinatal period from fetus to neonate.

Lin Diana
Diana Lin, M.D., 
Anatomic Pathology – Promotion to Associate Professor 
Dr. Lin completed her residency in anatomic and clinical pathology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and a fellowship in cytopathology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She joined the UAB Heersink School of Medicine Department of Pathology as a faculty member in 2018 and holds various roles in the education of graduate and medical students, as well as residents and fellows. In 2023, Lin received the
2023 Heersink School of Medicine Dean’s Excellence Award in Teaching.

by Christina Crowe

The Association of Pathology Chairs elected 20 of the most accomplished educators in the specialty of pathology and laboratory medicine as founders of the newly established Academy of Distinguished Pathology Educators at its annual conference held late this summer.  Peter Anderson, DVM, Ph.D., Professor, Molecular and Cellular Pathology, was selected as part of the inaugural class of Distinguished Pathology Educators. 
Peter Anderson

Members of the Academy will work closely and collaboratively with the education committees of the Association of Pathology Chairs and with the Residency Program Directors Section and Undergraduate Medical Educators Section to:

by Christina Crowe

Rakesh Patel, Ph.D., Division Director, Molecular and Cellular Pathology, has been named the Victor Darley-Usmar, Ph.D., Endowed Professor in Pathology, effective August 31, 2023. The endowment was originally established as the Endowed Professorship in Mitochondrial Medicine and Pathology in 2011 and awarded to Darley-Usmar that year. In 2023 the Board approved a renaming of the endowment to the Victor Darley-Usmar, Ph.D., Endowed Professorship in Pathology to be awarded to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to education, research and administration at UAB.
 RS22372 Rakesh Patel 4

Patel started with UAB Pathology as a post-doctoral fellow in 1997 in the lab of Victor Darley-Usmar, Ph.D., Senior Associate Dean for Research Compliance and Administration, Heersink School of Medicine. He transitioned to research assistant professor before becoming an assistant professor in 2002. Patel was promoted to associate professor in 2005, and professor in 2010. He is the director of the Center for Free Radical Biology, and has secondary appointments in the departments of Anesthesiology, Environmental Health Sciences, and Surgery. In 2017 he was named Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Pathology, a role he ceded upon taking over as Division Director in 2023.

RS13593 Darley Usmar 4 scr

RS50056_Girish_Melkani-2.jpgby Hannah Buckelew

Girish Melkani, M.S., Ph.D., an associate professor in the UAB Department of Pathology’s Division of Molecular and Cellular Pathology, received funding to support his project, “Promoting circadian rhythms to optimize gut-to-brain signaling for Alzheimer’s disease.” The five-year $3.2 million R01 is funded by the National Institutes on Aging. 

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the leading cause of neurodegeneration worldwide and one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Alterations in gut microbiota are associated with neurodegenerative diseases, however the link between AD and gut microbiome is poorly studied. Melkani’s study will investigate the effects of microbiome disruption on AD progression.

by Christina Crowe

Alexander “Craig” Mackinnon, M.D., Ph.D., Division Director, Genomic Diagnostics and Bioinformatics, has been named the Robert B. Adams Endowed Professor in Pathology. He is the second individual to hold this endowment, established in 2014, effective August 31. The first holder was X. Long Zheng, M.D., Ph.D., former director, Division of Laboratory Medicine.
Mackinnon Alexander

A board-certified anatomical and molecular genetic pathologist, Mackinnon joined UAB in 2019 after serving as associate professor in the Department of Pathology at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Mackinnon directed the Clinical and Translational Research Laboratory (CTRL) at MCW, where he provided interpretation related to the pathology of tumor samples. The lab developed multiple Next Generation Sequencing-based panels targeting variants in both DNA and RNA. He has experience designing and validating targeted, custom DNA and RNA sequencing assays. Mackinnon’s lab interpreted a range of tests, from sequencing data to digital quantitative imaging for immunohistochemical analysis.

“Dr. Mackinnon has been a pioneer of the validation of custom assays and an innovative leader in the field of genomic diagnostics,” says Gene P. Siegal, M.D., Ph.D., Interim Chair, UAB Pathology. “This endowment, generously supported by the Adams family, bolsters his work and the work of our team of experts in genomics diagnostics, allowing us to further expand the services and tests we offer.”

Mackinnon is a member of the College of American Pathologists and the American Society of Clinical Pathology, where he served on the Molecular Pathology Section, Pathologist Recertification Individualized Self-Assessment Examination Committee. His research interests include the molecular pathology of solid tumors and quantitative immunohistochemistry.

by Christina Crowe

Three UAB Pathology faculty members have been assigned emeritus status in the department, effective August 31.

Marisa Marques, M.D., Professor, Laboratory Medicine and Director, Blood Bank, Stem Cell Facility, Callahan Eye Hospital Lab, retired July 31, 2023, after more than 30 years of service to UAB.
Marques Marisa

Joanne Murphy-Ullrich, Ph.D., Professor, Molecular & Cellular Pathology, retired July 1, 2023, after 37 years at UAB.
Murphy Ullrich

Ralph Sanderson, Ph.D., Professor and former division director, Molecular & Cellular Pathology, retired August 31, 2023, after 17 years of working at UAB.

All three were approved as professors emeritus by the University of Alabama Board of Trustees vote held September 1. Congratulations to these outstanding faculty who dedicated their careers to UAB Pathology.

by Christina Crowe

Two UAB Pathology faculty members have been awarded pre-R01 awards by the O’Neal Invests program of the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center.:

Selvaranagan Ponnazhagan, Ph.D., Endowed Professor in Experimental Cancer Therapeutics, received a pre-R01 funded at $160,000 each year for two years to study, “Elucidating the functional significance of full-length androgen receptor in castration-resistant prostate cancer.”

Ponnazhagan MSF social graphic 082823

Steve Lim, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Molecular & Cellular Pathology, received a pre-R01 for the same amount for his work, “Nuclear FAK-mediated Epigenetic Reprogramming of Triple Negative Breast Cancer,” from the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama (BCRFA).

Lim BCRFA social graphic 082923

Congratulations to both researchers on their continued success.

Sanderson headshotby Hannah Buckelew

Ralph Sanderson, Ph.D., Professor, Molecular and Cellular Pathology, will retire August 31, 2023, after 17 years of service at UAB and 34 years in the field of pathology.

Sanderson earned his Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Alabama in 1975 and his Ph.D. in Cell Biology from UAB in 1986. He became a postdoctoral scholar at the Stanford University School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics before joining the faculty as assistant professor of pathology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) in 1989. Sanderson became an associate professor in 1995 and the Director of the Division of Experimental Pathology in 1998. In 1999, he became both a senior scientist at the UAMS Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy and the Director of Basic Research in the Arkansas Cancer Research Center. Sanderson was promoted to professor of pathology, neurobiology and developmental sciences in 2000 before being named the Drs. Mae and Anderson Nettleship Endowed Chair in Oncologic Pathology in 2002.

by Christina Crowe

Kenneth “Ken” Fallon, M.D., Associate Professor, will retire from his position in the Division of Neuropathology at the same institution where he did his fellowship in this unique specialty, effective August 31, 2023.

Fallon’s career was highlighted by his love of teaching trainees, he says.
Fallon Kenneth

“Overall, it has been the opportunity to participate in resident/fellow education that I have found to be the most rewarding experience throughout my time here at UAB,” Fallon says. “I am fortunate to have had the chance to provide teaching sessions to, to exchange ideas with, and most importantly, to listen to all of our residents and fellows throughout the years. Their unfailing collegiality has meant a lot to me, and I am hopeful that all of the teaching has provided some benefit to them.”

by Christina Crowe

The UAB Department of Pathology is pleased to announce the appointment of Selvarangan Ponnazhagan, Ph.D., Professor of Pathology and Endowed Professor in Experimental Cancer Therapeutics, as interim Vice Chair for Research for the Department of Pathology, effective September 1, 2023. Ponnazhagan (Pons) takes over the role from Rakesh Patel, Ph.D., who moved into the role of Division Director, Molecular & Cellular Pathology, effective July 1.

Selvarangan Ponnazhagan

Ponnazhagan has been a faculty member in Pathology since 1999. His research, focused on breast and prostate cancers, has been supported by industry, the UAB O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center and the NIH, including a recent R01 award entitled, “Mechanisms and Therapeutic Targeting of Osteoimmune Functions of RANKL in Breast Cancer.”
At UAB Ponnazhagan is a senior scientist with the Cystic Fibrosis Research Center, the Center for Biophysical Sciences and Engineering, the Comprehensive Diabetes Center, the Nephrology Research and Training Center, the Comprehensive Arthritis, Musculoskeletal, Bone and Autoimmunity Center, the Global Center for Craniofacial, Oral and Dental Disorders, and the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center. He is co-director of the Pathobiology, Pharmacology, and Physiology (P3), one of eight graduate program themes within the UAB Graduate Biomedical Sciences Doctoral Training Program.

by Christina Crowe

Yabing Chen, Ph.D., the Jay M. McDonald Endowed Chair in Laboratory Medicine and Vice Chair of Faculty Development and Education, has received two R01 awards amounting to more than $5 million to bolster her research program on vascular aging and dementia.

With an overarching goal to understand vascular health in depth, Chen and her team delve into exploring the role of smooth muscle cell  phenotypic modulation and reprogramming, and their links to vascular diseases and aging. The first R01, a $2.2 million award from the National Institute on Aging, funds their research on the “Novel Regulation of Vascular Dementia”. The second R01, a $2.86 million award from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, funds their cardiovascular research on “Protein Arginine Methylation in Vascular Smooth Cell Phenotypic Modulation and Calcification.” Both grants will run through 2027.

Yabing Chen

Together, these grants support Chen’s ambitious goal of better understanding vascular health to potentially identify a target for diagnosis and drug discovery—research she has dedicated her career to.

“We’re trying to understand how the vascular cells function and change during the aging process,” Chen says. “Our research program investigates what controls the regulation of the vascular cell function and how this impacts the development of cardiovascular disease and vascular dementia.”

by Christina Crowe

Dario Vitturi, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Molecular and Cellular Pathology, has received grant funding to support his project “Kynurenine-dependent redox signaling at the interface between innate and adaptive immunity.” The five year, $2.82 million R01 is funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

 Dario 1

Upon recognizing the presence of bacterial or viral components, our cells activate potent inflammatory responses with the objective of removing the pathogenic threat. However, our immune system must precisely orchestrate these actions in order to minimize collateral tissue injury and develop a targeted response that will enable faster threat clearance upon pathogen re-exposure. Immune and non-immune cells use a variety of mechanisms to attain this delicate balance, with the upregulation of tryptophan metabolism via the kynurenine pathway recently coming into focus as an important immunosuppressive strategy.

by Hannah Buckelew

On August 31, 2023, the Department of Pathology welcomes two new faculty members to the Division of Anatomic Pathology.

Mustafa_Goksel.jpgMustafa Goksel, M.D., joins the department as assistant professor, Anatomic Pathology. Dr. Goksel was previously a GU fellow at the Indiana University Health Pathology Laboratory in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Comba_Andrea.jpgby Christina Crowe

On July 26, 2023, the UAB Department of Pathology welcomed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s Crisis + Emergency Risk Communications team to host a day-long training session on crisis communications. The event was organized by the UAB Pathology communications team, Christina Crowe, Director, and Hannah Buckelew, Specialist, and included communications and administrative leaders from across campus, including the Heersink School of Medicine, the University Relations team, UAB Medicine communications teams, and Employee Assistance Counseling Center, among others.

Comba_Andrea.jpgby Hannah Buckelew

On August 1, 2023, the Department of Pathology welcomes a new faculty member to the Division of Neuropathology.

Andrea Comba, Ph.D., joins the department as assistant professor, Neuropathology. Dr. Comba was previously a research investigator at the University of Michigan School of Medicine’s Department of Neurosurgery in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Zhang_Hui.jpgby Hannah Buckelew

On July 31, 2023, the Department of Pathology welcomes a new faculty member to the Division of Women’s Health.

Hui Zhang, M.D., joins the department as assistant professor, Women’s Health. Zhang was previously a gynecologic/surgical pathology fellow and clinical instructor at Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois.

Osme_Abdullah.jpgby Hannah Buckelew

On August 1, 2023, the Department of Pathology welcomes a new faculty member to the Division of Anatomic Pathology.

Abdullah Osme, M.D., joins the department as assistant professor, Anatomic Pathology. Osme previously served as a gastrointestinal and hepatic pathology fellow at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

Marques_112.jpgby Hannah Buckelew

Marisa Marques, M.D., Professor, Laboratory Medicine, Director, Stem Cell Facility, Callahan Eye Hospital Lab, will retire July 31, 2023, after 30 years of service at UAB.

A native of Brazil, Marques received her medical degree from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 1983 and completed a residency in Internal Medicine at the same institution in 1985. She moved to the United States with her husband in 1986 to become a visiting fellow at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Fogarty International’s Laboratory of Clinical Investigation in Bethesda, Maryland, until 1988 when she joined Beth Israel Hospital’s Division of Infectious Disease at Harvard Medical School in Boston as a research fellow. In 1992, she completed an additional research fellowship in the Channing Laboratory at Harvard Medical School’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

F082pRkWIAEw402by Christina Crowe

The UAB Department of Pathology gathered for a reception to honor outgoing chair Dr. George Netto, Robert and Ruth Anderson Endowed Chair. Netto, M.D., will join the University of Pennsylvania as chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, effective July 31, 2023. The UAB Heersink School of Medicine hosted the event in his honor on Thursday, July 13. Department faculty, staff, trainees and colleagues and friends from around UAB joined to recognize Netto's contributions during his seven years as chair. 

 DSC7030 compressedby Christina Crowe

UAB Pathology and the Division of Genomic Diagnostics and Bioinformatics are pleased to announce a new next-generation sequencing (NGS) comprehensive genomic profiling (CGP) Solid500 test which identifies and delivers genomic signatures for tumor mutation. The test also supports guideline-based therapy decisions and identifies genetic markers to help organize and differentiate clinical trial enrollment for various tumor treatments.

This FDA-cleared test for solid tumor has been performed in the Clinical Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory, effective March 2, 2023. It targets 505 genes important in driving cancer—genes that would have mutations that would be significant in the growth and spread of cancer. It typically has a turnaround time of seven days from receipt of the sample results, and eliminates the need for tests to be sent out to reference labs.

“By having a big, comprehensive panel like this we span a spectrum of diseases that are all a form of solid tumors, so we can run one assay for many different diseases,” says Alexander “Craig” Mackinnon, M.D., Ph.D., GDB Division Director. This test represents about a tenfold increase in the number of genes we have the ability to test for, he says.