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The sheer scale of the GuideSafe Entry Testing initiative is staggering. Part of the multi-tool GuideSafe platform — a partnership between UAB and the Alabama Department of Public Health that has received more than $30 million in CARES Act funding from Gov. Kay Ivey — Alabama’s GuideSafe Entry Testing is the largest higher-education testing initiative in the nation.

UAB Pathology Celebrates its First Female Division Director, Cristina Magi-Galluzzi, M.D., Ph.D.

September is Women in Medicine month—the perfect time to recognize the first female division director of the Department of Pathology, Cristina Magi-Galluzzi, M.D., Ph.D.

RS23286 Cristina Magi Galluzzi 15 scr

The Department of Pathology is excited to welcome four new faculty as assistant professors on September 1. Please welcome to UAB Pathology:

Dr. Rati Chkheidze, M.D., Assistant Professor, Neuropathology
Chkheidze photo
Dr. Chkheidze comes to UAB from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, where he completed a Neuropathology Fellowship after having completed anatomic and clinical pathology residency there. Dr. Chkheidze is originally from the country of Georgia. He graduated from Tbilisi State Medical University, Tbilisi, Georgia in 2007. He worked as a senior visiting scientist in the Department of Neurology and Neurotherapeutics at UTSW from 2013-14, and as a visiting scientist in the laboratory of Dr. James Lee, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Texas Medical Branch (2011-13). In 2017 Dr. Chkheidze received the Arthur G. Weinberg, M.D. Resident Research Award from the Department of Pathology at UTSW, Bruce D. Fallis, M.D. Resident Teaching Award from the department in 2018, and Janet Caldwell Memorial Award for Research in Pathology Fellowship in 2020. He has multiple publications including a book chapter in Tumors of the Central Nervous System (Springer 2011)Dr. Chkheidze's research interests focus on image analysis and machine learning applications in neurodegenerative and tumor neuropathology.   

Congratulations to Ona Faye-Petersen, M.D., on earning emeritus status as professor, Anatomic Pathology. 

Faye-Petersen began as a full-time practicing pediatric pathologist in 1987 and has been an asset to UAB's Department of Pathology since then. She retired from teaching in the spring of 2019, but continues to keep clinical hours, at UAB Hospital. 

Congratulations to William Grizzle, M.D., Ph.D.on earning emeritus status as professor, Anatomic Pathology. 

Dr. Grizzle was named professor emeritus of pathology in the School of Medicine. Grizzle joined the UAB faculty in 1981 and retired in January 2020 as professor of pathology and surgery. He directed the Tissue Collection and Banking Facility from 1983 to 2019, including the Southern Division of the Cooperative Human Tissue Network from 1987 to 2019, and led the UAB-VA Autopsy Service from 1990-2000, among other leadership positions. His research focused on understanding the molecular features of epithelial cancers such as prostate, pancreas, mammary, colorectal and ovarian adenocarcinomas and oral, esophageal, lung, cervical and skin squamous cell lesions to identify biomarkers associated either with early pre-invasive neoplastic lesions or with advanced stage malignant lesions. 

Grizzle CCC Preferred 2018

The Department of Pathology’s Selvarangan Ponnazhagan, Ph.D., Professor, Molecular and Cellular Pathology, has been named Co-Director of P3, a graduate program theme known as Pathobiology, Pharmacology, and Physiology. This is one of the eight themes of the UAB Graduate Biomedical Sciences (GBS) Doctoral Training Program. Ponnazhagan will serve alongside Robert C. van Waardenburg, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology. 

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John C. Chatham, Ph.D., Professor, and Adam R. Wende, Ph.D., Associate Professor, in the Division of Molecular and Cellular Pathology, have been awarded a two-year, R21 grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) to study the role of protein O-linked N-Acetylglucosamine in regulating cardiac physiology. 

All proteins are modified in different ways and alter cell function. The most common modification is phosphorylation. The modification the team studies, O-linked N-Acetylglucosamine – O-GlcNAc for short – is a little different in that it is based on the metabolism of glucose. It was identified in the mid-1980s but research on it has been slow to evolve.

The team responded to a program announcement from NHLBI that focused on studying the normal or healthy functioning of human cells and organs critical to the heart and lung, and studies that may reveal the basis of resilience. “The opportunity was high-risk and high-reward,” Chatham says.

Head shot of Dr. John Chatham, PhD (Professor/Director, Molecular and Cellular Pathology), 2018.Dr. John Chatham, Professor, Molecular and Cellular Pathology


The UAB Department of Pathology is excited to announce the addition of John Choi, M.D., Ph.D., as professor, Division of Laboratory Medicine, led by interim director Marisa Marques, M.D. Choi comes to UAB from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Pathology Department in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was an associate member and director, Hematopathology, Hematology, Immunopathology and Special Hematopathology.

Photo JKChoi

Dr. Choi completed his residency in Anatomic Pathology and a fellowship in hematopathology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Upon completion, he joined the Department of Pathology at the Hospital of University of Pennsylvania as a hematopathologist.  After three years, he was recruited and moved 100 yards to establish a pediatric hematopathology program at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. After 10 years and successfully building a highly regarded pediatric hematopathology service, Dr. Choi was recruited and moved to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, where he maintained a top pediatric hematopathology service and established clinical flow-based minimal residual disease (MRD) assays for national acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML) protocols.  After 9 years, he was recruited to UAB.

Dr. Choi has published over 100 peer reviewed articles and 12 book chapters with two main research focuses. One is clinically based and applies new approaches to diagnose difficult pathologic entities.  The other is more bench science based and focuses on increasing our understanding of the transcription factor TCF3 and its relationship to normal and leukemic B cell development. He has two patents and has been involved in several clinical trials on oncology related drug research throughout his career. His teaching and lecturing resume is extensive.

Several of our trainees and faculty have had poster or presentation abstracts accepted for presentation at the upcoming College of American Pathologists (CAP) annual meeting, scheduled virtually for October 10-14, and featuring Dr. Anthony Fauci, M.D. as keynote speaker.

Rana Aldrees, M.D., PGY-3 Resident

Breast Implant-Associated Squamous Cell Carcinoma Presenting with a Breast Abscess
Metastatic Lesions to the Pancreas on Cytology: A 10-Year Review from a Tertiary Medical Center

Maria Del Carmen Rodriguez Pena, Postdoctoral Student

-Myopericytic-Like Features in a Juxta Glomerular Cell Tumor: A Potential Pitfall

Faculty and trainees in the division of Anatomic Pathology published the following articles June-July, 2020:

T3 versus T4a staging challenges in deeply invasive colonic adenocarcinomas and correlation with clinical outcomes.

Pantaleon Vasquez R, Arslan ME, Lee H, King TS, Dhall D, Karamchandani DM.Mod Pathol. 2020 Jul 15. doi: 10.1038/s41379-020-0622-0. Online ahead of print.PMID: 32669613

Zdenek Hel, Ph.D., Professor, Molecular and Cellular Pathology, has been awarded with a School of Medicine COVID-19 research grant. The $40,000, one-year award will allow Dr. Hel to study the development of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a predictor of high mortality, in COVID-19 patients.

Hel's project aims to investigate the accumulation of neutrophils in the lungs which he hypothesizes leads to the development of ARDS, and serves "as drivers of pathogenesis and mortality" in those patients.

RS16925 Zdenek Hel rt scr

Selvarangan Ponnazhagan, Ph.D., Professor, Molecular and Cellular Pathology, recently published an article in the journal Cancer Research on the need for a of combination therapies when using immunotherapy to treat prostate cancer. The article, "Revisiting Immunotherapy: A Focus on Prostate Cancer," was featured in Renal & Urology News.

"Immunotherapy is reemerging as a powerful alternat therapy for many cancers," said Ponnazhagan in the Renal & Urology News interview. "However, the potential of immunotherapy as a standalone approach may not yield long-term benefits. Hence, based on patient-specific molecular signatures, immunotherapy needs to be combined with other therapies."

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Stacey Harbour, Ph.D., Scientist I, Anatomic Pathology, in the lab of Casey Weaver, M.D., Professor, Anatomic Pathology, published an article on T cell differentiation in the July issue of Science Immunology, titled, "TH17 cells require ongoing classic IL-6 receptor signaling to retain transcriptional and functional identity."

Research conducted by the group showed that the molecule IL-6, a common target of various disease therapies, was indispensable for maintaining the inflammatory effects of T helper 17 cells that are implicated in diseases like IBD and psoriasis.

The article is published with co-authors Robin Hatton, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Anatomic Pathology; Daniel DiToro, Ph.D., Graduate Student, Anatomic Pathology; Steven Witte, Ph.D., Consultant, Anatomic Pathology; Carlene Zindl, Scientist I, Anatomic Pathology; Min Gao, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Medicine; Trenton Schoeb, Ph.D., Professor, Genetics.

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UAB News article, July 8, 2020

Expansion stress can have an alarming impact on breast cancer cells by creating conditions that could lead to dangerous acceleration of the disease, an interdisciplinary team of University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers has found.

As breast tumors grow, biomechanical forces in the tumor microenvironment, or TME, cause elevated compression at the tumor interior, tension at the periphery and altered interstitial fluid flow — promoting aggressive growth, invasion and metastasis. Biomechanical forces also may modulate the immune response through cancer cell-immune cell crosstalk.

Migrating breast cancer cell, 3d illustration.

This spring we learned of the passing of David Remember Baker, J.D., son of Dr. Roger Denio Baker, inaugural Chair of the UAB Department of Pathology. The Baker family has long supported the department and we are saddened to learn of Mr. Baker's passing.

The Baker family established the Roger Denio Baker Prize in memory of Dr. Roger Denio Baker, who was the first full-time faculty member of the new four-year medical school, the University of Alabama School of Medicine, having been hired by the new Dean, Dr. Roy R. Kracke, also a pathologist.

Roger BakerRoger Denio Baker, M.D., inaugural Chair, UAB Department of Pathology

Dr. Eason Hildreth, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Molecular and Cellular Biology, has been nominated to serve on the Advocacy and Science Policy Committee of The American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR) by two colleagues within the ASBMR and was recommended and appointed by the Nominations Committee and Council. His appointment will take place September 2020, and his term runs through September 2023.

Eason Hildreth UAB Original

C. Bruce Alexander, M.D., Professor Emeritus, Anatomic Pathology, has been elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha National Honor Society Emeritus Board of Directors.

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Dr. George Netto, Robert and Ruth Anderson Endowed Chair, UAB Pathology, spent some time speaking with Michael Schubert, editor-in-chief, The Pathologist, for a profile article featured on their website and in print this month. In the article, "George J. Netto - A Leading Light," Netto discusses some of the challenges of leading an academic medical department, as well as some of the successes he has had in his time at the Department's helm.

RS20401 George Netto 9 2George J. Netto, M.D., Chair, UAB Pathology

In the piece, part of the magazine's "Outside the Lab" series, Dr. Netto outlines his vision for the next five to ten years, including plans for expansion of the molecular diagnostic program, already underway.

Netto, M.D., became editor-in-chief of Modern Pathology, a premier journal in the field of pathology, in January 2020. The article discusses the direction in which Netto hopes to take the journal, focusing first on the "impact of machine learning and articifical intelligence on digital pathology, applied informatics, genomics and precision diagnostics."

"When you surround yourself with talent, it positions you and your organization for sucess," he says.  

Read the full article here.

The UAB Fungal Reference Lab, directed by Sixto Leal, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Laboratory Medicine is leading the testing component of the Testing for Alabama initiative recently announced by Governor Ivey to test all undergraduate students at UAB and other universities in the state for SARS-CoV-2 enabling a safe return to campus. We are seeking the recruitment of molecularly trained scientists (advanced undergraduate, graduate, research scientist) interested and available to help with sample processing, RNA extraction, and RT-PCR.  This “moonlighting” opportunity will last for 6 weeks at $25 per hour. More information is linked here. The job posting is available here.
Leal SixtoSixto Leal, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Laboratory Medicine

Dr. Leal was recently awarded a grant from the School of Medicine to support research into COVID19 testing. Leal has been working since the outset of the pandemic to convert his labs into a COVID19 testing location. Read more.

We are excited to welcome the incoming class of fellows to UAB Pathology, effective July 1, 2020:

Bo Chen, M.D., Ph.D. – Surgical Pathology
Shoujun Chen, M.D., Ph.D. – Breast/GYN Pathology 
Danielle Fasciano, D.O. - Dermatopathology
Richard Godby, M.D.
— Transfusion Medicine 
Mehenaz Hanbazazh, M.D.
- Molecular Genetic Pathology
Jeffery Jones, M.D.
- Hematopathology
Niraja Korremla, M.D.– Cytopathology
Haider Mejbel, M.D. – Surgical Pathology
Aysha Mubeen, M.D. - GYN/GU Pathology
Laura Oscar, M.D. – Surgical Pathology
Morad Qarmali, M.D. - Cytopathology
Benjamin Saylor, M.D.
- Hematopathology
Sophia Sher, M.D.
– GI Pathology

Incoming Fellows