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.

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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.

Lima 2Jose Lima, M.D., Assistant Professor, Laboratory Medicine, will serve as permanent Section Head of Clinical Chemistry, effective immediately. Dr. Lima joined UAB Pathology in January 2020 from the American Red Cross Blood Services, where he worked as Medical Director since 2010. He received his medical degree from Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil, in 1985 and later trained at UAB for a number of years as a research associate, resident, and then fellow in Transfusion Medicine.

On July 1, 2021, the Department welcomes a new faculty member to the Division of Neuropathology, directed by C. Ryan Miller, M.D., Ph.D.

Alex Feldman 1 1Alex Feldman, M.D., joins the UAB Department of Pathology as Assistant Professor, Neuropathology. This is his first faculty position. 

Dr. Feldman completed his medical school education at the UAB School of Medicine in 2012. He then completed one year as a general surgery intern at the University of Illinois at Chicago before moving back to UAB for an anatomic/clinical pathology residency in the Department of Pathology. Feldman served as AP Chief Resident in his final year at UAB before completing a Pediatric Fellowship at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. He returned to Chicago to complete a Neuropathology Fellowship at Northwestern University in June 2021.

Written by: Christina Crowe
Media contact: Anna Jones

B cell and antibodies, computer illustration.Elizabeth Brown, Ph.D., has received a $3.1 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to study epigenetic contribution to the excess risk of a precursor of multiple myeloma in African Americans.The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Elizabeth Brown, Ph.D., has received a $3.1 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to support her investigation of the epigenetic contribution to the risk of a condition called monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance, known as MGUS, in African Americans. MGUS is a condition in which an abnormal protein formed within the bone marrow is found in the blood. MGUS is a precursor to multiple myeloma, the most common blood cancer affecting African Americans. Multiple myeloma is characterized by the prolonged accumulation and survival of antibody-producing tumor cells. The disease has a median survival rate of about five years.

James “Rob” Hackney, M.D., Associate Professor, Neuropathology and director of the UAB Pathology Residency Training Program from 2016-2020, has announced his retirement effective June 30, 2021. Hackney leaves a legacy of leadership in training residents and as a faculty member who builds up colleagues and trainees in the interest of strengthening the department as a whole.

                               James "Rob" Hackney, M.D., Associate Professor, Neuropathology

“Dr. Hackney has been a selfless leader and mentor to many in our department during his time on our faculty,” says George Netto, M.D., Robert and Ruth Anderson Endowed Chair, UAB Pathology. “He leaves a legacy of mentorship to our trainees as well as fellow faculty, relationships he continues to foster and I imagine will endure throughout his retirement. He will be missed, but we wish him great happiness in this next phase of his life.”