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Wellness is key to being able to perform successfully in work and in life. To that end, faculty and trainees in the UAB Department of Pathology have been contributing to a new wellness initiative started by Resident and Wellness Committee representative Natalie Larsen, M.D., PGY-2.

A bulletin board outside the Anatomic Pathology resident room has been transformed to feature compliments and a monthly nomination-based resident spotlight. Compliments are submitted into the box and are hand delivered to recipients by the "compliment fairy."

Larsen says, "When a compliment comes in... I pass it out. I also type a copy to put on the board so others can see nice things people are saying." She thanks those who've submitted compiments thus far, "and helped make someone's day!" 

New additions are posted every week or two weeks depending on the number received. This simple concept may be old-school, but it encourages those passing by to review the posted comments and photos, and learn something new about their colleagues. One example: "Natalie: You are cooler than we deserve. Thanks for this board and all your work for our wellness."

The O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center recently awarded eight projects for a total of $1.2 million in research grants through its new program, O’Neal Invests. Three of those grants went to UAB Pathology faculty: C. Ryan Miller, M.D., Ph.D., Division Director, Neuropathology; Casey Weaver, M.D., Professor, Anatomic Pathology; and Lalita Shevde-Samant, Ph.D., Professor, Molecular & Cellular Pathology.

The O’Neal Invests program funds UAB investigators initiating new cancer-related projects to do key, preliminary work in order to enable competitive R01 applications.

Volume 3 Issue 1

We are delighted to announce the publication of our latest annual volume of Pathology in Focus. Its content continues to cover recent clinical, educational and research activities and successes of the UAB Department of Pathology along with the new addition of the department's COVID-19 response. Each year, the magazine allows for a chance to highlight our accolades and those successes undoubtedly reached new heights in 2020. 

Marisa Marques, M.D., Professor and Interim Division Director, Laboratory Medicine has been named one of the two recipients for the 2021 Inaugural UAB School of Medicine Office for Diversity and Inclusion Professional Excellence Award.  The second recipient for this award is Chrystal Rutledge, M.D., Associate Professor, Pediatrics. 

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The UAB Department of Pathology is excited to announce our chief residents for the 2021-22 academic year.

This year we have added a third Chief position. As a Residency Program we are undergoing a transition of leadership. Many changes are forthcoming over the next year in response to not only this leadership transition, but also virtual recruitment, curriculum shifts, and a focus on outreach both at the UAB Medical School and via social media. With this in mind, a Chief Resident of Education and Outreach was established to help with oversight in the aforementioned areas. Effective February 1, 2021, the chief residents are:

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Raima Memon, M.D. –Chief Resident of Anatomic Pathology

The UAB Department of Pathology is excited to welcome Carrie Smith Knight, M.D., to the department as Assistant Professor of Anatomic Pathology. She will cover the Community Pathology Practice Program in Montgomery, effective Monday, February 1.

Carrie Smith Knight  

Dr. Knight joins UAB from Troy University Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences where she has taught since 2015. Knight also practiced pathology at Pathology Associates, PC, in Huntsville, Alabama. She is board certified in Anatomic and Clinical Pathology and holds a subspecialty certification in Cytopathology. After graduating from the University of Alabama School of Medicine in 2001, she completed her pathology residency and fellowships in both GI and hepatic pathology, and cyptopathology, here at UAB. 

Please join us in welcoming Dr. Knight back to UAB Pathology as a faculty member. 

Each year the School of Medicine recognizes faculty members in their class of James A. Pittman Jr., M.D., Scholars. This year Blake "Eason" Hildreth, Assistant Professor, Molecular & Cellular Pathology, has been named of one of 10 faculty in the 2021 cohort.

Eason Hildreth UAB Original

The Pittman Scholars program recognizes the impacts of junior faculty and supports the recruitment and retention of highly competitive scientists and physician-scientists. The program is named for the late James A. Pittman, Jr., M.D., longtime dean of the School of Medicine from 1973 to 1992. Pittman is considered a principal architect of the School for his ability to recruit top scientists and physicians to UAB.

"I am extremely honored to not only receive the nomination and support to become a Pittman Scholar by Drs. George Netto, Ralph Sanderson, Yabing Chen, and Rakesh Patel, but to then be chosen to be a Pittman Scholar," Hildreth says. "I am extremely familiar with the prestige of this award and excellence of those before me that have received this award."

Two of our faculty, Lalita Shevde-Samant, Ph.D., and Rajeev Samant, Ph.D., Ph.D., both professors in the Division of Molecular & Cellular Pathology and senior scientists, cancer cell biology with the O'Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center, have collaborated on research on hypoxia that was recently publised in Cell iScience.

"Essentially, tumor growth leads to a central cellular mass where cells get less oxygen (hypoxia)," Rajeev Samant explains. "These cells either die or learn to survive by recruiting new blood vessels to feed them. Our study reveals a very novel mechanism of how these tumor cells learn to survive. From a fundamental science perspective, our report is one of the first to introduce the concept that the machinery (ribosomes) that makes proteins in a cell is not the same in every cell. These ribosomes do change in tumors based on factors such as hypoxi,a and become very specific for executing their tasks to help the tumor cells."

The article, titled, "Hypoxia re-programs 2'-O-Me modifications on ribosomal RNA," was published online on December 29, 2020 and in print in the January issue of Cell iScience.

fx1Image from the article in Cell iScience

 

Intravenous blood infusionThe 72-year-old patient was unable to mount her own immune defense against the SARS-CoV-2 virus because of chronic lymphocytic leukemia, which compromises normal immunity and immunoglobulin producA 72-year-old woman was hospitalized with severe COVID-19 disease, 33 days after the onset of symptoms. She was suffering a prolonged deteriorating illness, with severe pneumonia and a high risk of death, and she was unable to mount her own immune defense against the SARS-CoV-2 virus because of chronic lymphocytic leukemia, which compromises normal immunoglobulin production. 

But when physicians at the University of Alabama at Birmingham recommended a single intravenous infusion of convalescent blood plasma from her son-in-law — who had recovered from COVID-19 disease — a remarkable, beneficial change followed. Her physician, Randall Davis, M.D., professor in the UAB Department of Medicine, says she showed prompt and profound improvement within 48 hours. 

Victor M. Darley-Usmar, Ph.D.,  Endowed Professor of Mitochondrial Medicine and Pathology, who has served UAB for over 25 years, has been named Senior Associate Dean for Research Compliance and Administration, effective January 1.
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Dr. Darley-Usmar received his Ph.D. at the University of Essex in England followed by a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Oregon to pursue his interests in the structure and function of mitochondrial proteins in human disease. After a period as a lecturer in Japan and ten years as a research-scientist at the Burroughs Wellcome Fund in London, he joined UAB in 1995 to establish his own research group in the Department of Pathology. 

Selvarangan Ponnazhagan, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Pathology, and Senior Scientist in Experimental Cancer Therapeutics, O'Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center, has secured two grants at the year's end for his cancer research.

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The first is a two-year, $250,000 2020 METAvivor Breast Cancer Metastatic Society Translational Research Award grant. The title of the grant is, "Co-targeting immunosuppression and skeletal pathology for metastatic breast cancer therapy." METAvivor is a Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness, Research and Support organization. 

The second is a grant from the Mike Slive Foundation for Prostate Cancer Research, for his grant proposal, "Targeting the androgen receptor axis affects macrophage polarization in castration-resistant prostate cancer." The grant is a $50,000 award funded for the 2020-2021 grant cycle. 

 

system of neurons with glowing connectionsFurther understanding is needed of the redox change called reductive stress and its impact on the onset and progression of neurodegeneratCells require a balance among oxidation-reduction reactions, or redox homeostasis. Loss of that balance to create oxidative stress is often associated with neurodegeneration. Less is known about how loss of that balance at the other end of the spectrum — reductive stress, or RS — may affect neurons.

Now Rajasekaran Namakkal-Soorappan, Ph.D., associate professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of PathologyDivision of Molecular and Cellular Pathology, and colleagues in the United States and India have shown for the first time that reductive stress promotes protein aggregation in neuroblastoma cells and impairs neurogenesis.  

Editor’s note: This year was untraditional in many ways including the way we celebrate people who leave the department in retirement. While we didn’t have a traditional party, we continue to celebrate one of our longtime employees, Kathy Coleman. The following was written by Yabing Chen, Ph.D., Jay M. McDonald Endowed Professor in Laboratory Medicine and Vice Chair, Faculty Development and Education.

Kathy Coleman received her bachelors’ degree in Business Management from University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa.  She joined UAB Department of Pathology in 2003 as an Office Associate I in the Division of Molecular & Cellular Pathology.  She has since worked in different areas of the Department, including the Chair’s office, and moved up in the ranks to Office Associate II and Administrative Associate.  During her 17-year tenure at UAB, Kathy has provided excellent administrative support to many faculty members in the department.

I have been very fortunate to work closely with Kathy since starting my role as Vice Chair for Faculty Development and Education in January 2017.  Kathy’s wealth of knowledge about departmental administration and different UAB and HSF financial and administrative systems facilitates my role in assisting our faculty and trainees with their professional development and education needs. With her help, we updated the Department of Pathology promotion and tenure guidelines, generated manuals to standardize departmental faculty mentoring, evaluation, and promotion process.  Kathy is very organized and takes the initiative to follow up with faculty and trainees on their requests. She always takes pride in getting her job done at its best.  

Kathy’s dedication has made the transition of the MCP pathology seminar to the centralized departmental Grand Rounds smooth.  For all departmental Grand Rounds and Named Lectures, Kathy became the face of UAB Department of Pathology to contact and provide administrative support to the invited speakers from all over the country and international institutes.  I have heard so many compliments about her professionalism and warm hospitality. 

Kathy is a very kind person.  Her nice demeanor is infectious and affects everyone she has worked with. I enjoyed working with Kathy, as her kind personality spills over reflecting in her positive attitude towards the job.  She understands the importance of her role to facilitate the process and improve work efficiency.  We have encountered many difficulties over the years, but Kathy would always work with me to find a solution.  Her kindness, commitment and professionalism are also witnessed by many faculty in our department (see below).   I am extremely grateful toKathy for all her help, and congratulate her for her well-deserved retirement.

The Department of Pathology is excited to announce the award of department-funded Pilot/Feasibility Clinical Research grants to five of our faculty, including one looking at the SARS COV-2 virus. They are:

2020 Clinical Research Pilot Grant Awardees and grant titles:

Xiao Huang, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Anatomic Pathology - Comparison of PD-L1 Expression between Primary Triple Negative Breast Cancer and Matched Distant Metastases Correlating with p53 Status

This year many of our UAB Pathology colleagues will be honored for their years of service at UAB. The UAB Service Awards proudly honor those employees who have made a significant career commitment to the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The program is designed to recognize and express gratitude for employees at each five-year milestone who have served for five of more years at UAB.

While the depatment usually holds an event to honor these employees, this year due to COVID-19 the certificates of recognition will be mailed. 

Robert Hardy, Ph.D., Professor, Laboratory Medicine, has achieved the rank of Professor Emeritus at UAB. Dr. Hardy retired effective July 1, 2020, after 30 years in the UAB Department of Pathology. He worked the entirety of his pathology career at UAB—first joining as a postdoctoral fellow with his mentor and former department chair Jay M. McDonald, when he moved to Birmingham. He served as section head of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Director, Core Chemistry for UAB Hospital since 2004. He also worked for a year and a half as interim director of the UAB Hospital Immunology Lab.

Head shot of Dr. Robert Hardy, PhD (Professor, Laboratory Medicine), 2019.

Dr. Hardy is Senior Associate Editor for the journal Laboratory Investigation since 2008, and has served as ad hoc reviewer for dozens of journals on pathology and other medical disciplines throughout his career.

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Huma Fatima, M.D., is Associate Professor of Anatomic Pathology and a member of of the Department of Pathology's Diversity Task Force. This group meets monthly and includes representatives from around the department, including faculty, staff, and trainees. Here, Dr. Fatima shares her personal story of diversity. 

An article in November's issue of local paper Birmingham Medical News dives deeper into the process that led to a pooled testing approach for COVID19 for college students throughout the state.

Reporter Ann DeBellis spoke with Sixto Leal, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor and Director, Fungal Reference Lab that designed the pooled approach, for the piece.

From the story: "Before Alabama college students could return to campuses this fall, officials decided that the 200,000 students in the state would need to be tested within weeks of the start of the school year. The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Department of Pathology and several other agencies partnered and found a way to accomplish this daunting task.


Sixto Leal, Jr., MD, PhD

With the leadership of the UAB Department of Pathology - Chairman George Netto, MD, and Assistant Professor Sixto Leal, Jr., MD, PhD - and the help of the Alabama Department of Public Health, the University of Alabama System, and UAB Medicine, the team launched the GuideSafe™ initiative, which was funded through the CARES Act."

Read the full story here.

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An appointment to an endowed chair or professorship is among the highest academic honors a faculty member can receive. The School of Medicine holds a remarkable 193 endowed chairs and 103 endowed professorship positions. These honors contribute to recruitment and retention of premier teachers, clinicians, and researchers.

Endowed chairs and professorships give donors the chance to link their names to an area of special interest within the university. Some donors choose to direct their gifts to endowing a chair or professorship in the academic discipline that inspired them, while others may direct their gifts to create scholarships or fellowships for deserving students, or to support medical research of particular importance to them.

Dr._Ponns.pngGene Siegal, M.D., Ph.D., Robert. W. Mowry Endowed Professor, Anatomic Pathology, and Interim Chair, UAB Department of Genetics, was recently sworn in as a member of the inaugural class of fellows, Sigma Xi, "for distguished contributions as a physician scientist and for exemplary scholarship as a teacher, mentor, author, reviewer and editor, and as a leader in academic medicine."

"With the challenges facing science in general and Sigma Xi, in particular, it became clear to me that it is once again time to come forward to support this eminent society which was so important to my own success and sense of self worth and assure its stabilization and growth into this next century," Siegal says.