The UAB Department of Pathology is pleased to announce that Liyun Cao, Ph.D., has been promoted to Assistant Professor in the Division of Laboratory Medicine, effective October 1, 2021. Dr. Cao has been an Instructor in our department since 2018 when she joined former Division Director Dr. X. Long Zheng’s research laboratory.

Liyun Cao

Prior to coming to UAB, Dr. Cao received her Ph.D. at Indiana University School of Medicine where she also completed a post-doctoral fellowship.  From there, she was trained in Clinical Chemistry at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and achieved board certification by the American Board of Clinical Chemistry. 

The UAB Department of Pathology is pleased to announce the appointment of Shuko Harada, M.D., Professor, Genomic Diagnostics and Bioinformatics and Head of the Molecular Diagnostics Section, as the inaugural Vice Chair for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for the Department of Pathology, effective October 1, 2021.

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This is a role the department has been eager to create and fill, and Dr. Harada is a wonderful fit for its responsibilities. In it, she is committed to working with our existing DEI Task Force, made up of faculty, staff and trainees who have met for the past 18 months to enhance awareness and opportunities in the diversity space. She will serve as a liaison with that team, which will transform into a formal committee, as well as with the UAB Heersink School of Medicine’s Office of Diversity & Inclusion. Dr. Silvio Litovsky, co-director of the task force with Dr. Marisa Marques, has agreed to serve as director of that committee. We thank them and the team members for their time and dedication to this important effort.

Dr. Harada joined the department in 2011, following a Molecular Genetic Pathology fellowship at Johns Hopkins University Hospital and surgical pathology fellowship at Hospital of University of Pennsylvania. She studied medicine and completed residency in Internal Medicine at the University of Tokyo Faculty of Medicine. Dr. Harada conducted research in signal transduction and gene regulation at University of Pennsylvania, and then completed Pathology residency at Drexel University College of Medicine. She is a scientist with the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center, researching clinical implementation of next generation sequencing of cancer and correlation with clinical status, as well as molecular profiling and discovery of molecular markers in malignant neoplasms.

Dr. Harada is our department’s only Japanese faculty member, and has been generous in sharing her country’s traditions at the annual School of Medicine Diversity Fair. She is equally generous with her time and her open-minded contributions to our department, serving as a trusted advisor to trainees and fellow faculty.

We are excited to establish this new role for our Department during a time when it has become so evident that continued dialogue and understanding is needed. Please join us in congratulating Dr. Shuko Harada, Vice Chair, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Our chair, George J. Netto, M.D., Robert and Ruth Anderson Endowed Chair, recently had the opportunity to visit the Medical University in Pleven and the Center of Competence Leonardo da Vinci in Bulgaria. The university is one of five medical campuses in Bulgaria and the newly established Center focuses on personalized medicine, 3D and telemedicine, robotic and minimally invasive surgery. In 2020 UAB, through leadership by the department, established a memorandum of understanding for a partnership with the university.

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In this Women in Medicine and Science month, we would like to salute our residency program.

In more than 30 years, Dr. Brandi McCleskey is the first woman program director, assisted by Drs. Andrea Kahn and Nirupama Singh as Associate Program Directors in Anatomic Pathology (AP) and Laboratory Medicine (LM), respectively, an all-female team leading our residents. The recruitment season for the 2022 class of residents has just begun and we are excited to see how they plan to showcase UAB once more to national and international candidates. 
Untitled design 8Dr. Brandi McCleskey, Dr. Andrea Kahn, Dr. Nirupama Singh

Of the current 25 residents, 13 are women. They come from a large variety of backgrounds, states and other countries, and are led by the AP chief resident, Raima Memon, M.D., who is originally from Pakistan. In the senior class, she and Qing Wei, M.D., Ph.D., are the only woman, while in the third-year class there are five women residents: Drs. Sarah Anderson, Alison Burkett, Cori Clark, Sarah dePew, and Natalie Larsen.  Kesley Green, M.D., is the only woman in the second-year class, while five other young women physicians have recently started their training at UAB: Drs. Falone Amoa, Brooke Bartow, Mishi Bhushan, Lisa Bianco and Caroline Stanek. Together with their male colleagues, these women are learning to be awesome pathologists and already providing outstanding care to countless patients at UAB. 

We celebrate all our outstanding women faculty, trainees, and staff. 

The American Medical Women's Association (AMWA) hosted a campaign in celebration of the Women in Medicine and Science in September. To learn more and support their campaign, visit their website.

The UAB Department of Pathology is sad to announce the passing of John Smith, M.D., Ph.D., MMMD, DSc (Hon), Professor, Laboratory Medicine and Clinical Chemistry Section Head, UAB Pathology, on September 19, 2021, at the age of 74.

RS30083 RS30083 John Smith 1 smaller

Dr. Smith was a lauded member of the UAB Pathology family, having led the Division of Laboratory Medicine for 20 years as its director. In his tenure with the department he also served as Assistant Chief of Staff, UAB Hospital; Chair of the Promotions and Tenure Committee, UAB School of Medicine; Chair, UAB Faculty Senate; and UAB Faculty Representative to the University of Alabama Board of Trustees.

“John Smith’s impact on the Department of Pathology and in the fields of pathology and chemistry cannot be overstated,” says George Netto, M.D., Robert and Ruth Anderson Endowed Chair, UAB Pathology. “He was a lifelong learner, passionate about his field and about sharing his career knowledge with others. Dr. Smith was always finding ways to continue give back, and was a key contributor to the department and hospital labs in his role as section head for Clinical Chemistry.”

Yabing Chen, Ph.D., is the first researcher at the Birmingham VA to receive this highest honor for a non-physician scientist.Yabing Chen, Ph.D., is the first researcher at the Birmingham VA to receive this highest honor for a non-physician scientist.
(Photography: Nik Layman)

In 2016, Yabing Chen, Ph.D., a University of Alabama at Birmingham professor of pathology and research scientist at the Birmingham VA Medical Center, received a prestigious VA Research Career Scientist Award that provided five years of salary. 

Now she has taken an even larger step — a Senior Research Career Scientist Award from the Department of Veterans Affairs that will give her seven more years of salary support. 

The Department of Pathology is honored to announce the promotion and tenure of three of our esteemed faculty colleagues for 2021, effective October 1, 2021:

201765823320.Harada Shuko smallSameer Al Diffalha, M.D., Anatomic Pathology -- Promotion to Associate Professor 
Dr. Al Diffalha is promoted from assistant to associate professor in the Division of Anatomic Pathology. He is co-director of the UAB Tissue Biorepository and associate scientist with the O'Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Silvio Litovsky, M.D.

National Hispanic Heritage Month kicks off September 15, 2021, and we're proud to share the stories of our two Diversity Task Force founding faculty members' personal stories. First, Silvio Litovsky, M.D., Professor, Anatomic Pathology, Senior Scientist, Comprehensive Cardiovascular Center and Associate Scientist, Minorith Health & Research Center and the General Clinical Research Center at UAB. He won the 2020 SOM Dean's Excellence Award in Teaching and also won an Argus Teaching Award in 2020 as best MS1 organ module director, cardiovascular. Dr. Litovsky was born and raised in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina.

Geoffrey Herndon, DO

Geoffrey Herndon, D.O., is a current PGY3 resident, and a member of the Department of Pathology's Diversity Task Force. This group meets regularly and includes representatives from around the department, including faculty, staff, and trainees. Here, Dr. Herndon answers some questions about his experiences with diversity.

Erin White, CRA, Director Financial Research on UAB Pathology's administrative leadership team, has been selected for the "Future of the Field" award by the Society of Research Administrators International.

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The selection recognizes noteworthy professional growth and contributions to the research administration profession. White will attend SRAI's 2021 Annual Meeting in New Orleans, October 25-27, where she will be formally recognized as an honoree.

Erin Eun-Young Ahn, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Division of Molecular & Cellular Pathology, has been working with the SON protein and gene since her early days of her career as a researcher at the University of California in San Diego. At the time, she had no idea her work would lead to the possibility of a possible medical treatment for a very rare disease.

Erin AhnErin Eun-Young Ahn. Ph.D., Associate Professor

Zhu-Tokita-Takenouchi-Kim Syndrome, or ZTTK, is a rare disease caused by a genetic mutation of the SON gene, characterized by moderate to severe intellectual disability and developmental delays affecting systems throughout the body, including the cardiovascular, genitourinary, musculoskeletal, nervous, and digestive systems, among others.

Ahn recently celebrated the establishment of the ZTTK SON-Shine Foundation, an organization designed to recognize the syndrome and increase awareness of it. She serves as the group’s primary researcher.

hanfei dingOn September 1, 2021, the Department of Pathology welcomes a new faculty member to the Division of Molecular and Cellular Pathology, directed by Ralph Sanderson, Ph.D.

Han-Fei Ding, Ph.D., joins the Department as Professor, Molecular and Cellular Pathology. Dr. Ding was previously a Professor in the departments of Pathology and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the Medical College of Georgia and a Professor in the Graduate School at Augusta University. He served as an active member of the Georgia Cancer Center.

Yulong FuOn September 1, 2021, the Department welcomes a new faculty member to the Division of Genomic Diagnostics and Bioinformatics, directed by Alexander “Craig” Mackinnon, Jr., M.D., Ph.D.

Yulong Fu, Ph.D., joins the UAB Department of Pathology as Assistant Professor, Genomic Diagnostics and Bioinformatics. This is his first faculty position.

Lea Novak, M.D., Associate Professor, Anatomic Pathology, will retire at the end of August after 18 years in the Department of Pathology.

Novak, a native of the Czech Republic, attended Medical school at Charles University in Prague, and graduated with honors. She did a residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology in Prague before moving to the United States. In the mid-1990s, Dr. Novak completed residencies in both Anatomic and Clinical pathology at UAB, followed by a Surgical/Renal fellowship in 2000. Her first academic appointment was a Research Assistant Professor in the UAB Department of Surgery’s Division of Transplantation, before accepting an Assistant Professorship in Pathology in 2003. In 2010, Dr. Novak was promoted to Associate Professor, and obtained tenure in 2012.
Lea Novak

Written by Hannah Weems

1500x500Every so often, an idea sparks that has the potential to make a big change. Michael Williams, M.D., M.Sc., Neuropathology Fellow in the UAB Department of Pathology, had one such idea earlier this year when he felt inspired to develop a podcast to highlight diversity in the field of pathology.

Macrophage, computer illustration.By Jeff Hansen

A form of cell communication called hedgehog signaling is vital for embryonic development in mammals. But aberrantly activated hedgehog signaling in multiple cancer types — including breast cancer — promotes tumor invasion, its spread to other organs and multi-drug resistance.

X-ray of lung with heart attackUnderstanding how reductive stress is controlled may help personalize treatment of heart failure patients, leading to better outcomes.


Last year, University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers reported that reductive stress — an imbalance in the normal oxidation/reduction homeostasis — caused pathological changes associated with heart failure in a mouse model. This was a follow-up to their 2018 clinical study that about one in six heart failure patients shows reductive stress.

csm SLeal x850 6bbd31f089The past year has been one of the most challenging years medical professionals have ever navigated. This is especially true for pathologists and laboratory medicine professionals who answered the need for better, faster, and more prevalent testing amidst a sea of uncertainties. The Pathologist's 2021 Power List is an annual celebration of the great and inspirational minds that underpin the medical laboratory and honors select individuals in six different categories. 

UAB Pathology's Sixto Leal, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Laboratory Medicine, has been recognized 'Front(line) and Center' for his exceptional efforts in breakthrough COVID-19 testing.

Capture 2Alison Burkett, M.D., and Kesley Green, M.D. teaching high school students at BioBridgeWritten by Hannah Weems

Residents in the Department of Pathology are giving back to UAB by using their knowledge to teach medical, graduate, and high school students new disciplines.

Alison Burkett, M.D., PGY3, has been teaching second-year medical students since January 2020.

“Pathology is invited to participate in teaching the reproductive modules in the UAB School of Medicine curriculum,” Burkett says. In this module, she lectures alone or alongside other clinicians on topics ranging from pregnancy and infertility to pelvic masses and twinning. Dr. Burkett uses this course to teach other areas of pathology, such as blood banking, transfusion medicine, and surgical pathology.

The Department of Pathology congratulates Ona Marie Faye-Petersen, M.D., on her retirement after nearly three decades of diagnostic service, clinically-based research, and teaching in the UAB Department of Pathology.

RS8679 ona faye petersen 1Ona Faye-Petersen, M.D., Professor Emeritus

Dr. Faye-Petersen’s career at UAB began in January 1, 1992 when she joined the Department of Pathology as an assistant professor specializing in Perinatal-Pediatric Pathology. Over the next 30 years, she became a world-renowned expert in perinatal-pediatric pathology.