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.


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.

lsamantLalita Samant, Ph.D., Professor, Molecular & Cellular Pathology and Senior Scientist, O'Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center, has been elected as a Board member for the Cancer Biology Training Consortium (CABTRAC).

CABTRAC is a national organization that that serves as a forum for faculty leaders in cancer education and training at their respective Institution. It provides a platform to institute mechanisms and guidelines in cancer training – at all levels.  

Dr._Ponns.pngSelvarangan Ponnazhagan, Ph.D., Professor, Molecular and Cellular Pathology, received a $80,000 research grant from UAB's O'Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center using funds provided by the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama (BCRFA) to fund his research proposal titled, "Combinatorial genetic immunotherapy and RANKL antagonism for breast cancer." 

Students from the UAB School of Medicine honored their outstanding mentors, professors, courses and course directors at the Argus Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, Oct. 27 during a live ceremony on Zoom. Among this year's winners were four Department of Pathology faculty members, and one former faculty member.

argus awards

The Argus Awards, created in 1996, allow medical students to nominate faculty members by course evaluations and vote to select award winners for each category.

Department winners of the 2020 Argus Awards are:

Fauci 1Kevin Harrod, Ph.D.Jeanne Marrazzo, M.D., director of Infectious Diseases, got a text at the end of Wednesday’s four-hour School of Medicine COVID-19 Research Symposium that highlighted the broad and breakneck work done at the University of Alabama at Birmingham since March 2020.

“It seems like we’ve done 10 years of work in seven months!” she told participants. 

Presentations by eight leading UAB researchers buoyed that sentiment. Among the work:

Faculty, staff, student and community innovators were recognized for their 2020 contributions to COVID-19 research, innovation and entrepreneurship during the fifth annual UAB Innovation Awards presented by the Bill L. Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (HIIE) Oct. 29.

Wei.jpgShi Wei, M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Associate Director, Anatomic Pathology, was recently elected, on October 26, as a 2020-2022 Uncontested Executive Committee Member-at-Large for the International Skeletal Society (ISS).


COVID lab2Anthony Fauci, M.D., one of the lead members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, and Kathleen Neuzil, M.D., one of the world’s most influential research scientists and advocates in vaccine development and policy, delivered keynote addresses to more than 2,000 trainees, faculty, staff and invited guests today as part of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s virtual COVID-19 Research Symposium.  

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, gave the symposium’s kickoff keynote address where he was welcomed and introduced by “my good friend, Mike Saag” [UAB professor and infectious diseases researcher Michael Saag, M.D.], whom he thanked for the invitation to speak to the university. Fauci spoke for almost 20 minutes on the public health and scientific challenges of the historic COVID-19 pandemic and what’s next — which he hopes is a vaccine candidate in the very near future.

The UAB Department of Pathology is pleased to announce a Request for Applications for Pilot/Feasibility Clinical Research grants to facilitate and enhance Clinical Research programs and scholarly activity across the Department.

Projects that will advance the department's academic, scholarly and research missions are especially welcome. Examples of anticipated use of funds include collection of data to be used in conference presentations (e.g. USCAP, ASC, CAP, ASIP and ASCP), peer-reviewed publications and internal pilot or extramural grant applications.

Photo GMThe Department is excited to welcome Dr. Girish Melkani as associate professor in the Division of Molecular & Cellular Pathology, effective October 1. 

Dr. Melkani comes to UAB from San Diego State University, where he did his postdoctoral studies, followed by his faculty tenure. His research focuses on disruptions of circadian rhythms associated with cardiometabolic, muscular, and sleep disorders that are hallmarks of many genetic, metabolic, and aging diseases. His lab has been at the forefront of developing and using clinically-relevant genetic models of human systemic metabolic abnormalities, cardiometabolic disease, myopathies, neuropathies, and aging using pathophysiological, cell-molecular, genetics, and nutritional approaches. His lab research findings have been published in high-impact research journals, including Science, Nature Communications, Aging Cell, eLife, Human Molecular Genetics, and PLoS Genetics.

JValcinGraduate students in the labs of two faculty members in the Division of Molecular & Cellular Pathology recently celebrated dissertation defenses, publications, and grant awards.

Jennifer Valcin, PhD, successfully defended her doctoral dissertation titled, “Circadian Clock and Lipid Metabolism Disruption in Fatty Liver Disease” on July 17, 2020, and graduated August 2020. Dr. Valcin was a student in the UAB GBS Genetics, Genomics, and Bioinformatics Theme mentored by Dr. Shannon Bailey, Professor, in the Division of Molecular and Cellular Pathology.

The Division of Genomic Diagnostics and Bioinformatics has selected GenomOncology's Pathology Workbench and GenomAnalytics to help scale their molecular pathology lab's test volume and analysis, according to a press release on Thursday, September 29, 2020.


The division, led by director Alexander "Craig" Mackinnon, Jr., MD, PhD, intends to expand testing within the lab, as well as reduce the turnaround time from NGS sample to report by over 80%. Dr. Mackinnon's strategy is to impact patient care by dramatically improving the analytical capabilities of the lab.

GenomOncology's Pathology Workbench will help UAB scale their test volume due to the simplified workflow for variant analysis and comprehensive support for panels. In addition, the streamlined workflow will allow pathologists to return final reports to oncologists with reduced turnaround time. UAB is also using GenomAnalytics' cohort analysis capabilities to combine genomic and molecular data into one, comprehensive view. UAB will leverage the data visualization capabilities of GenomAnalytics for treatment and outcome analysis. 

"The collaboration with the GenomOncology team and the overall flexibility of GenomOncology's solutions enables integration with the workflows of the UAB lab. This integration streamlines the variant review and analysis process, improving the turnaround time from NGS sample to report," said Craig Mackinnon, MD, PhD, Director of Genomics Diagnostics and Bioinformatics at UAB.

Read the full release here.

mmarquesMarisa Marques, MD, is Professor and Interim Division Director of Laboratory Medicine and co-chair 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. Marques shares her personal story of diversity. 

Are you a graduate of an international medical school (IMG)? Are you a parent? A significant other? A resident? Embarking on an academic career? Many years ago, I also identified with those labels (and some of them, still do). I still remember vividly how it felt to be at those milestones, and I would love to share with you some heartfelt advice.