Dr. Marisa Marques, M.D., Interim Division Director, Laboratory Medicine, has been nominated to join the FDA's Blood Products Advisory Commitee (BPAC), which reviews and evaluates data concerning the safety, effectiveness, and appropriate use of blood, products derived from blood and serum or biotechnology which are intended for use in the diagnosis, prevention, or treatment of human diseases, and, as required, any other product for which the Food and Drug Administration has regulatory responsibility, and advises the Commissioner of Food and Drugs of its findings.

The Committee consists of a core of 17 voting members including the Chair. The core of the voting members may include one technically qualified member who is identified with consumer interest. In addition to the voting members, the Committee may include one nonvoting member who is identified with industry interest. Dr. Marques will serve a three-four year term.  

The Department of Pathology is pleased to announce some exciting changes to the leadership team for our Department’s Residency programs, directed by Dr. James “Rob” Hackney, Associate Professor, Neuropathology, since 2015.


Dr. Brandi McCleskey, assistant professor, Forensics, will join Dr. Hackney as co-director of the proram, effective October 1, 2020.

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rep hel nets 1000pxNeutrophils releasing neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs). NETs are stained to visualize neutrophil myeloperoxidase (red) and DNA (blue). Image courtesy Zdenek Hel, Ph.D.It is the stuff of nightmares. Patients suffering from acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) during COVID-19 say it felt like “I was gasping my last breath“ and “as if somebody had taken a scuba diving tank while I'm underwater and turned it off completely.”

Lin2Chen Lin, M.D., assistant professor in the UAB Department of NeurologyStroke patients who also have COVID-19 showed increased systemic inflammation, a more serious stroke severity and a much higher rate of death, compared to stroke patients who did not have COVID-19, according to University of Alabama at Birmingham research led by Chen Lin, M.D., an assistant professor in the UAB Department of Neurology.

Erin Eun-Young Ahn, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Molecular and Cellular Pathology, was recently awarded an R01 from the National Cancer Institute based on her project submission, titled, "SON-mediated RNA splicing in glioblastoma." The award began July 1, 2020 and will run through May 30, 2021. The project is expected to run through May 30, 2025. 

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The Department of Pathology is honored to announce the promotion and tenure of five of our esteemed faculty colleagues for 2020, effective October 1, 2020:

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Shuko Harada, M.D., Genomic Diagnostics & Bioinformatics -- Promotion to Professor with Award of Tenure
Dr. Harada is the Section head of the Molecular Diagnostics Section and former Interim Director of the Division of Genomic Diagnostics & Bioinformatics. She has particular interests in precision medicine in oncology and pharmacogenomics, and is a member of the Precision Medicine Institute and the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center.

rep banner abbott test 600x225UAB is using the Architect antibody test from Abbott. Image courtesy Abbott.Have I had COVID-19?

That is one of the biggest questions in the world right now, and many people are looking to COVID-19 antibody tests for the answer. These blood tests search for the presence of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The tests expose a person’s blood to (inactive) pieces of SARS-CoV-2. Antibodies are highly specific; if a person’s blood contains antibodies that bind to SARS-CoV-2, that person has probably been infected sometime in the past two weeks to several months.

COVID-19 has affected virtually every facet of life in Alabama, and since the crisis began, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) has been leveraging its expertise to fill a critical leadership role in response to the pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has showcased the vital importance of UAB to Alabama and the world,” says UAB President Ray Watts, M.D. “We continue to leverage research and innovation, community service, patient care, and education to make a big difference.”

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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.

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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
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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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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