by Christina Crowe

After five and a half years serving as Director of the Division of Molecular & Cellular Pathology, Ralph Sanderson, Ph.D., is stepping down in his role. Sanderson plans to retire from UAB on July 31, 2023.

Rakesh Patel, Ph.D., Vice Chair for Research and Professor in the Division of Molecular & Cellular Pathology, will move into the role of Division Director, effective July 1, 2023. The Department will name an interim Vice Chair for Research to take over that role from Patel by the fall, 2023.
Sanderson Patel

Sanderson will retain his office in the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center and work on a part-time basis, to continue mentoring trainees and faculty and serving as a co-investigator on several NIH grants. He first came to UAB in 1982, completing his Doctor of Philosophy degree in Anatomy and Cell Biology in 1986. He returned to UAB in 2006 as a professor in the Department of Pathology. Sanderson served as the founding director of the Pathobiology and Molecular Medicine Theme (later becoming the P3 Theme) of the Graduate Biomedical Sciences Program from 2008 to 2011; as co-leader of the Cancer Cell Biology Program of the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center from 2010 to 2018, and as Director of the Division of Molecular and Cellular Pathology from February 2018 until present.

Patel started with UAB Pathology as a post-doctoral student in 1997 in the lab of Victor Darley-Usmar, Ph.D., Endowed Professor of Mitochondrial Medicine and Pathology and 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.

“We remain grateful to Dr. Ralph Sanderson for his many years of exemplary leadership at the helm of the Division of Molecular and Cellular Pathology,” says George Netto, M.D., Robert and Ruth Anderson Endowed Chair, UAB Pathology. “He has successfully helped in recruiting and retaining a robust team of faculty and staff that have our research portfolio on the rise. Sanderson is a respected leader, mentor and friend to many, and an outstanding researcher in his own rite, having uninterrupted NIH funding as a PI for the past 30 years.”

“Likewise, Dr. Rakesh Patel has served UAB Pathology as a leader in research, service and teaching, and we are fortunate to have him as our new division director,” Netto says. “As someone who has been an integral team member of the department throughout his career and worked closely with Ralph over the years, we anticipate a smooth transition for Rakesh into his new position and in guiding the division going forward.”

Sanderson has played a major role in recruiting new faculty to the Division of Molecular and Cellular Pathology, including chairing two successful search committees prior to becoming division director, and after becoming division director, and in partnership with Patel, leading the recruitment of 10 new tenured or tenure-track faculty into the division, all of whom came to UAB with substantial research funding. In 2021 and 2022 alone the division welcomed six new faculty.

Molecular and Cellular Pathology Division faculty have been consistent recipients of research funding and awards recognizing their teaching and research, including multiple mentoring awards, Pittman Scholar Awards, Dean’s Excellence Awards, and Featured Discoveries in the Heersink School of Medicine. Beyond UAB, division faculty have played important leadership roles in scientific and education societies as well as extensive service on grant review panels and editorial boards of leading scientific journals.