On Thursday, January 20, 2022, the University of Alabama at Birmingham Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine announced the first peer-reviewed research outlining the successful transplant of genetically modified, clinical-grade pig kidneys into a brain-dead human individual, replacing the recipient’s native kidneys. The study is a promising step toward prospective clinical trials of kidney transplant from pigs to living humans, to address the worldwide organ shortage crisis.

The team at UAB Pathology was excited to play a crucial role in this groundbreaking study by providing details of pathological findings on diagnostic biopsies throughout the procedure.

rep sixto leal 550pxBy Matt Windsor

Sixto M. Leal Jr., M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Pathology and director of Clinical Microbiology at UAB Hospitals and the UAB Fungal Reference Laboratory, has been appointed as the inaugural scientific director for UAB’s Southeastern Biosafety Laboratory Alabama Birmingham, or SEBLAB. Leal’s appointment will begin April 1, 2022, and he will retain his other roles at UAB.

On March 1, 2022, the UAB Department of Pathology welcomed Kavita Varma, M.D., DNB, as assistant professor in the newly established Division of Women’s Health.

Kavita Varma

Varma joins the department after having worked as a staff pathologist at Laboratory Corporation of America (LabCorp) in Birmingham for the past four years. Prior to that position, she was a clinical instructor of breast and gynecologic pathology in Magee Women’s Hospital, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

She completed a residency in anatomic and clinical pathology at the Department of Pathology and Lab medicine, Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, MI. Prior to that, she worked as a research assistant and clinical observer at the Washington University School of St. Louis’s Department Pathology. Before coming to the U.S., Dr. Varma worked as a research assistant and resident in India, where she completed her medical training.

Varma’s research interests include ovarian and endometrial cancers, their pathogenesis and progression at histological and molecular level. She has several dozen peer-reviewed publications and abstracts, in addition to many poster presentations at pathology conferences in the US and India. Varma is a member of the United States and Canadian Academy of Pathologists, American Society for Clinical Pathology, College of American Pathologists, and the Indian Association of Pathologists and Microbiologists.

Please join us in welcoming Dr. Varma to our faculty and pathology team.

Falone 1This month, February 2022, in honor of Valentine's Day and in the spirit of celebrating love, we asked teammates in our department for stories of love in their lives. A few responded and were willing to share their personal tales. Following is a Q&A with PGY1 Falone Amoa, M.D., M.S., Resident Leader in Engagement, a native of Washington, D.C.

By Christina Crowe

For more than 45 years, Thurman Richardson has worked with the recently departed, serving as a liaison between the doctors and nurses who cared for them in their last moments of life, and their families.

Richardson, Technical Director for the UAB Autopsy Service and the Office of Decedent Affairs, is one of UAB Medicine’s longest serving employees, and some might say has one of the most unique jobs in the health system. He refers to what he does as, “practicing compassionate care.”

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A pathology assistant by training, Richardson has served in an administrative role since 1989, and has worked at UAB Pathology with the autopsy service since his days as a student at UAB.

Richardson was an undergrad at Lawson College who needed money to pay for tuition. Some friends who worked in the department as morgue attendants got him a job doing the same. Rather than being deterred by death, Richardson found it fascinating, he says, using an analogy of batteries powering toys.

“Toys run out of batteries,” he says. “I used to look at human beings living 70 or 90 years without a battery and think, ‘how does that work?’ I wanted to know how a human being could keep functioning for so long.”

myeloma streamJoin UAB’s O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center to learn about the rare blood cancer multiple myeloma.By Yvonne Taunton

March is Multiple Myeloma Awareness Month. Elizabeth E. Brown, Ph.D., professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine’s Division of Molecular and Cellular Pathology and co-leader for Cancer Control and Population Sciences at the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center, will dive into the topic of “What is Multiple Myeloma” in a virtual presentation Tuesday, March 1, at 5:30 p.m.

Written by: Christina Crowe
Media contact: Anna Jones


Brain StreamThe grant will fund research surrounding next-generation human models that could potentially aid in the development of treatment for glioblastoma.A researcher from the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Pathology recently received a $3.09 million R01 grant to research next-generation human models to improve the development of drugs targeting glioblastoma. Glioblastoma is a complex, deadly and treatment-resistant cancer that is estimated to take approximately 10,000 lives in the United States per year, according to the National Brain Tumor Society.

In February, the Division of Laboratory Medicine, directed by Vishnu Reddy, M.D., Professor, announced the naming of two faculty in the Division of Laboratory Medicine as associate division directors:

José Lima, M.D., Assistant Professor; Director, Clinical Immunology and Therapeutic Apheresis

Headshot of Jose Lima (Assistant Professor, Laboratory Medicine) in white medical coat, 2020.

Sixto Leal, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor; Director, Clinical Microbiology and Fungal Reference Lab

Head shot of Dr. Sixto Leal, MD (Assistant Professor, Laboratory Medicine), 2019.

In addition, Liyun Cao, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, has been named Chemistry Section Head,

Linyun Cao

and Forest Huls, M.D., Assistant Professor, has been named Director, Protein Electrophoresis & Related Services.

Liyun Cao

Please join us in congratulating these leaders in their new roles in the Division of Laboratory Medicine.

Written by Jeff Hansen

University of Alabama at BirminghamBlack heart disease stream researchers are calling for a wider study of racial differences in high blood pressure after finding two clinical measures that are significantly greater in Blacks with resistant hypertension, as compared to whites with resistant hypertension.

IL2 StreamIn response to a viral infection, intrinsic IL-2 production by effector CD8 T cells affects IL-2 signaling, leading to different fates for two subsets of those cells — the one producing IL-2 and the one not producing IL-2.by By By Jeff Hansen

The immune system is a complex network of cells and proteins with a simple job. Defend the body against infection. To do that, the cells must recognize and destroy infecting viruses or bacteria. In addition, the system also has to keep a record of each pathogen it has defeated, so it can quickly remobilize if infected again.

This month, February 2022, in honor of Valentine's Day and in the spirit of celebrating love, we asked teammates in our department for stories of love in their lives. A few responded and were willing to share their personal tales.

Greg and Sue Davis met when Greg, Division Director, Forensic Pathology, was a fourth-year medical student and Sue was a graduate student pursuing a Ph.D. in chemical engineering at Vanderbilt University. They had friends in common and kept running into one another for about a year on campus before actually dating.

“We started off as friends who liked the same sorts of movies, so we started seeing those together,” Greg recalls. They dated for about two years before they got married, on November 4, 1989. Guests of their wedding remember one omission from the ceremony: the minister forgot to tell Greg he could “kiss the bride.”

“He just announced us as a married couple,” Greg says. “They started playing the recessional, and you could hear everyone saying, ‘he didn’t let them kiss!’ I had to turn around and ask him, and he said go ahead but make it quick.”

Ever since, the pair have taken every chance they can to kiss and make up for it (as evidenced by the photos below, taken at the 2021 UAB Pathology Holiday Party).

UABPathologyHoliday2021 185 UABPathologyHoliday2021 187 UABPathologyHoliday2021 186 1

The couple moved to Birmingham following a month-long camping trip, punctuated by nervous check-ins from Dr. Davis’s future boss who, “thought we were never coming.” They went tent camping from San Diego up to Vancouver, British Columbia, across the Canadian Rockies, then down through the Rocky Mountains, before driving home from Denver.

Shu Chen, Ph.D., Professor, Neuropathology, was awarded a strategic initiative grant from the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Association, for his project, "Development of Skin Biomarker for Early Diagnosis of ALS."

Shu Chen

Chen joined the Department of Pathology in December 2021, the latest addition to our Neuropathology Division, led by C. Ryan Miller, M.D., Ph.D.

ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease. This one year, $60,000 award will help advance Chen's research in diagnosing ALS.

In January 2022, METAvivor Research and Support, a non-profit organization dedicated to funding research for stage IV metastatic breast cancer, announced 26 grant awards totaling $4,050,000. Lalita Shevde-Samant, Ph.D., Professor, Molecular and Cellular Pathology, received a Translational Research Grant award, in memory of Heather Holmes, for her work, "Altering the metastatic immune niche to eradicate established breast cancer metastases."

Lalita Samant

Shevde-Samant is a senior scientist with the O'Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The Division of Laboratory Medicine is pleased to announce the addition of Elizabeth Staley, M.D., Ph.D., to our faculty, effective January 27, 2022. Dr. Staley re-joins the department as an assistant professor, returning to UAB where she received both her doctorate of immunology and her doctor of medicine degrees.

Staley returns from the west coast where she was an assistant professor in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at the University of Washington Medical Center.

As a medical student, in 2014 she received the William Boyd Medal in Pathology, given on behalf of the Alabama Association of Pathologists and the faculty of the UAB Department of Pathology to the graduating medical student whose performance in Pathology throughout their medical school career, “has been most outstanding.”

Staley was a resident in clinical pathology at UAB Pathology, as well as a fellow in Hemostasis. During her fellowship she also worked as an Instructor, for the Transfusion Medicine service. She completed a second fellowship in Transfusion Medicine, at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

She is board certified in clinical pathology and blood banking/transfusion medicine, and is a member of the American Society for Clinical Pathology, AABB, and the Academy of Laboratory Physicians and Scientists. In addition, she serves as a peer reviewer for several pathology journals.

Staley has lectured for multiple courses throughout her career, on topics ranging from hematology to apheresis and transfusion. She is a well published author, and having published primary research as well as numerous reviews and book chapters.

.Videography: Jeff Myers and Steve Wood
Produced by: Andrea Reiber and Tyler Greer
Many medical science advances underlie a unique surgery done at the University of Alabama at Birmingham last fall and just published in the American Journal of Transplantation — the first clinical-grade pig-to-human kidney transplant using the human decedent model. While crucial advances like the genetically modified pig were done elsewhere, UAB made a major contribution through use of a human decedent recipient to generate data about safety and feasibility.

The UAB Department of Pathology is excited to announce our Chief Residents for the 2022-23 year, and thank our 2021-22 Chiefs.

We would like to acknowledge the superb example that our 2021-22 Chiefs Drs. Raima Memon, Oraine Snaith and Denis Noubouossie Fondjie have set over the past year. They excelled in their leadership positions and we thank them all for a job well done.

Our 2023 Chief Residents, effective Tuesday, February 1, 2022, are:

 Anderson Sarah

Sarah Anderson, D.O. –Chief Resident of Anatomic Pathology

Dr. Anderson is currently completing her PGY3 AP/CP residency year, and is a graduate of the Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine. 

She will stay on at UAB Pathology as a surgical pathology fellow in 2023-24.

"It is an honor to humbly serve as AP Chief Resident. I will strive to positively impact the wellness and education of my colleagues, with the utmost care for every patient, every day."

 DePew Sarah 1

Sarah DePew, D.O. – Chief Resident of Clinical Pathology

Dr. DePew is currently completing her PGY3 AP/CP residency year, and is a graduate of Lincoln Memorial University Debusk College of Osteopathic Medicine in Tennessee. She will stay on at UAB Pathology as a hematopathology fellow in 2023-24.

"I'm thrilled and honored to have been selected as chief. I could not ask for a better group of residents to represent. Assuming this responsibility means using my voice and skills to uphold our department's dedication to collegiality, high educational standards and excellent patient care."

Herndon Geoffrey

Geoffrey Herndon, D.O. – Chief Resident, Education and Outreach

Dr. Herndon is currently completing his PGY3 AP/CP residency year, and is a graduate of A.T. Still University Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Missouri. He will complete a hematopathology fellowship at UAB Pathology with co-chief Sarah DePew. Following residency, Hernson plans to return to his hometown to join a private pathology group as general surgical pathologist/hematopathologist.

"I took this role as a way to expand myself as a professional and leader, and for the opportunity to assist my co-residents in becoming the best pathologists they can."


We are excited to present the 2022-23 chief residents to you, and grateful to our outgoing chief residents. As usual, February will serve as a transition month between outgoing and incoming Chief Residents. Thank you all for your hard work and dedication to our program—we look forward to a fantastic year.

In addition, we would like to announce our new Resident Leadership Group, made up of the following:

Resident Leader in Engagement: Falone Amoa, M.D., PGY1. Dr. Amoa will be responsible for social and wellness efforts for trainees.

Amoa Falone 1

Resident Leader in Advocacy: Brooke Bartow, M.D., PGY1. Dr. Bartow will be responsible for medical student relations and outreach efforts.

Bartow Brooke

Resident Leader in Communications: Caroline Stanek, M.D., PGY1. Dr. Stanek will be responsible for amplification of our program via social media and working with the Pathology Communications Team.

Stanek Caroline

We are excited to begin the new year with this team in place, building upon the work of those before them. Congratulations to our resident leaders, we look forward to good things to come this year.

Screen Shot 2022 01 06 at 4.13.48 PMErin Eun-Young Ahn, Ph.D., associate professor in the division of Molecular and Cellular Pathology and scientist in the O'Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center, is the latest winner of the UAB Heersink School of Medicine's Featured Discovery for the study, "SON drives oncogenic RNA splicing in glioblastoma by regulating PTBP1/PTBP2 switching and RBFOX2 activity." This Heersink initiative celebrates important research from faculty members. 

At the end of 2021, UAB Pathology will send off Sandy Cummings, Administrative Supervisor, Division of Anatomic Pathology, as she celebrates her retirement. Sandy has worked in the department since 2008, but her history with UAB starts as far back as her birth.

Sandy was born at UAB Hospital. She started her professional career at UAB as an Office Support Specialist in the Division of Gastroenterology/Hepatology in 1995. In 2002 she transitioned to an Administrative Support Specialist role in the Department of Medicine Chair's office, where she worked until taking on an Office Administrator position in the Division of Anatomic Pathology, in 2008. She was promoted to Administrative Associate, then Administrative Supervisor for the division. In her 13 years in the department she has given tirelessly to the job and always been a friendly face to greet at the office.

She has worked very closely with several senior faculty in the division, including Gene Siegal, M.D., Ph.D., Robert M. Mowry Endowed Professor and Executive Vice Chair, who shared the following sentiments on her retirement:

"If you separated from your 'significant other' after decades together, do you really think you could summarize your journey together in a sentence or two? Of course not! I’ve enjoyed great academic success but its not ‘me' but ‘us’ - who do you think typed those hundreds of manuscripts and book chapters, who helped edit those abstracts down to the 150-word maximum, who sat with me for hours upon hours putting together lectures starting with Kodachromes and ending with Powerpoint and Zoom? Who fed me? Who bolstered my ego when I received another rejection? Who made the plane and hotel reservations and on and on--exactly!! Sandy did and she did it with kindness and dare I say love. She calls herself 'my wife at work' and indeed she was, in the best sense of the word. I mourn her loss and she’s not yet quite left - this is not something one [I] will not get over in a few days or weeks - yet at the end she earned a glorious retirement and is young enough to truly enjoy it - so on that note I wish her the very best always."
IMG 7928Sandy (fourth from right) surrounded by her supportive coworkers

By Christina Crowe

On December 15, 2021, the Department welcomes a new faculty member to the Division of Neuropathology directed by C. Ryan Miller, M.D., Ph.D.

Shu G. Chen, Ph.D., joins the UAB Department of Pathology as Professor, Neuropathology, from Case Western Reserve University’s Department of Pathology, where he served as professor.

Chen earned his Ph.D. in Biochemical Pharmacology from the State University of New York at Buffalo (SUNY Buffalo) in 1993. Chen went on to become a Senior Research Associate at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, for his post-graduate training in 1992 before accepting a position as an instructor and later as assistant professor in Case Western’s Department of Pathology, in 1996.
Chen Potrait 2 002

Dr. Chen is a well-established neurobiologist in the field of neurodegenerative diseases. Among his achievements, he is among the first to elucidate the structural differences in prion protein that causes distinct human prion diseases, the basis for today’s prion strain typing as a diagnostic tool in the prion field. He is also an expert on the pathogenesis of Parkinson’s disease associated with LRRK2 mutations. Chen’s current research focuses on biomarkers for Parkinson’s disease, Lewy body dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease, supported by two R01s and a U01 award on the topics, from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). He is also supported by the NIA for an R01 on computational prediction, network analysis and genetic screening in C. elegans to uncover neurodegenerative causes in Alzheimer’s disease. Chen has published more than 80 peer-reviewed papers in high-quality scientific journals, with a citation h-index of 52 by Google Scholar.

By Christina Crowe

After nearly 20 years in the UAB Department of Pathology, Shi Wei, M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Anatomic Pathology and section head, breast pathology, will take on a new role as the Barbara F. Atkinson Endowed Professor and Director of Translational Research in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Kansas School of Medicine. His last day at UAB Pathology is December 10, when he will assume an adjunct faculty role in the department.

wei group picFaculty, trainees and staff gathered to celebrate colleague Dr. Shi WeiWei started his tenure at UAB as a resident in Pathology in 2004, mentored by Gene Siegal, M.D., Ph.D., Executive Vice Chair and Robert M. Mowry Endowed Professor, UAB Pathology. He stayed on at UAB as a fellow, then as an instructor in 2009. He was promoted from assistant to associate professor in 2013, and then again in 2016 to full professor. In 2015, Wei was named section head for Surgical Pathology, and until recently has served as associate division director, Anatomic Pathology.

“It is with mixed feelings that I am leaving UAB Pathology,” Wei says. “I’ve enjoyed being here at UAB, which is a very collegial working place; that’s why I stayed here for more than 12 years on faculty. It’s not an easy decision to make to leave UAB.”