bukelis irenaThe UAB Department of Psychiatry is pleased to announce that Irena Bukelis M.D., Assistant Professor in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, has been appointed as the new Associate Program Director of the General Psychiatry Residency Program. Since joining the Department in 2015, Dr. Bukelis’ clinical and teaching responsibilities have been primarily at Children's of Alabama.

Dr. Bukelis received her M.D. from Kaunas University of Medicine in Lithuania. She subsequently relocated to Baltimore, Maryland where she served as Center and Research Coordinator at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, an internationally recognized Johns Hopkins Medicine affiliated facility. In 2010 she joined UAB where she completed her residency in General Psychiatry followed by a fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, during which she served as Chief Resident in her last year.

Since joining UAB, Dr. Bukelis has distinguished herself academically through her efforts to advance child and adolescent psychiatry by creating a scholastic culture around quality improvement. In addition to her academic commitment, “she has passion for treating patients with autism and looks forward to bringing her expertise to bolster the training that our general psychiatry residents receive in treating patients with autism,” said Dr. Meador-Woodruff, Heman E. Drummond Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry.

Researchers4The UAB Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology is excited to welcome three new research-focused faculty members to add to the existing departmental research programs in depression, addiction, and schizophrenia.

Scott Pruett, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Scott Pruett joined the faculty of the Department of Psychiatry as an Assistant Professor.   Dr. Pruett graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Louisiana Scholars’ College at Northwestern State University before receiving his M.D. and Ph.D. in Pharmacology and Neuroscience from Louisiana State University.  In 2018, he completed a residency in General Adult Psychiatry at Brown University.  Dr. Pruett’s research publications have focused on brainstem mechanisms of movement disorders, but have recently shifted to Christian syndrome.  His plan at UAB is to further his research in molecular psychiatry to focus on schizophrenia, and will lead efforts to develop a translational research program focused on this illness. In addition, Dr. Pruett serves as part of our inpatient attending team in the UAB Center for Psychiatric Medicine.

Minae Niwa, Ph.D.

Dr. Minae Niwa joined the UAB Department of Psychiatry as an Assistant Professor. She received her Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Science from the Tokyo University and her Ph.D. in Neuropsychopharmacology from Nagoya University, Japan. Dr. Niwa pursued a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Psychiatry at Nagoya University, followed by a fellowship in Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University where she eventually joined faculty. Dr. Niwa has published nearly 40 peer reviewed papers, and is a recipient of a prestigious NARSAD Young Investigator Award. Her primary research interests focus on early life stress, and mechanisms by which stress leads to addiction as well as mood and cognitive disorders.

Shin-ichi Kano, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Kano joined the UAB Department of Psychiatry as an Associate Professor. He received his M.D. and Ph.D. from the University of Tokyo followed by a brief postdoctoral fellowship in Immunology. Dr. Kano left the University of Tokyo to pursue additional training as a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University, where he eventually transitioned to a faculty position in Psychiatry.  His research interests focus on neuroinflammation, particularly in relation to mood disorders and social behaviors. He also has an interest in longitudinal studies on first episode psychosis patients.  Dr. Kano is credited with having published 25 peer reviewed papers to date and has been successful in securing NIH funding, recently receiving a major grant to study inflammation and behavior. 

All three of these new faculty members join the Department's Division of Behavioral Neurobiology, which is the primary research unit of the department housing a group of 17 neuroscientists and clinicians who are all focused on studying the neurobiology of major psychiatric disorders, with a goal  mental disorders to translate their research findings into improved diagnosis, treatment, and management of these mental illnesses.

Preston TaylorTaylor Preston M.D., Associate Professor of Psychiatry, was recently appointed residency program director of the Department of Psychiatry. Dr. Preston, a 2013 graduate of the UAB Psychiatry residency program, also serves as the Department’s Director of Ambulatory Psychiatry. 

As a key member of the departmental medical education leadership team, Dr. Preston will oversee all planning, development and operational aspects of the residency training program to ensure the provision of quality didactic and clinical education and excellence in patient care. In collaboration with departmental leaders, Dr. Preston will continue to advance the Psychiatry residency program to ensure the delivery of an academically challenging and diverse training experience within an effective academic learning environment to promote the personal, academic, and career success of all psychiatry interns and residents. 

Dr. Taylor received his M.D. from Heersink School of Medicine in 2009. He went on to complete his residency in General Psychiatry at UAB in 2013 before joining the Department. “As Dr. Preston transitions into his new role, he leaves his post as Department’s Medical Student Clerkship Director, a position that he has held with distinction for the past 6 years. Under his leadership our clerkship has moved to be one of the top rated clinical training experiences for medical students across the entire Heersink School of Medicine including all of the regional campuses,” said Dr. Meador-Woodruff, Heman E. Drummond Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry.

With the support of his colleagues and the department, Dr. Preston will serve as an exceptional leader to promote the continued success and growth of the UAB Psychiatry Residency Program.

FreemanThe Department of Psychiatry is pleased to announce that Katherin Freeman, M.D., Assistant Professor in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, has been selected to serve as the new Medical Student Clerkship Director. In this role, Dr. Freeman will be responsible for overseeing and ensuring the operational quality of all aspects of the program including orientation of students and the coordination of clinical and didactic learning experiences.  In addition, Dr. Freeman will provide support and guidance to medical students as needed, coordinate with clerkship directors on the regional campuses and represent the clerkship in the School of Medicine.

“This is a key education leadership position for the Department, as it is the first contact that most medical students have with our Department and Psychiatry as a specialty,” said Dr. Meador-Woodruff, Heman E. Drummond Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry.  Over the last few years interest in Psychiatry as a specialty has been on the rise. A critical element under Dr. Freeman’s leadership will be to continue cultivating overall interest in the field by providing medical students with positive experiences which in turn will serve as an impetus for UAB students taking a greater interest in selecting Psychiatry for their residency training.

Dr. Freeman received her M.D. from Vanderbilt, and completed her residency training at the University of Utah Triple Board Program in Pediatrics, Adult Psychiatry, and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Following her training, she served on the Medical Staff of the Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City. After relocating to Nevada, she joined the clinical faculty of the University of Nevada where she also maintained a private practice in child and adolescent psychiatry. In 2017, Dr. Freeman joined the faculty of UAB Psychiatry as Assistant Professor in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, with clinical and teaching responsibilities on the UAB Adolescent Inpatient Unit in addition to providing outpatient services at Children's of Alabama.



shelton april2017 2On September 21, 2018 the University Of Alabama Board Of Trustees approved the establishment of the new UAB Depression and Suicide Center in recognition of the program’s substantial growth over the past five years. The establishment of this new Center within the School of Medicine will support ongoing efforts to recruit new clinical and research faculty focused investigating the neurobiology and treatment of mood disorders.

The Center, led by Dr. Richard Shelton, serves as a collaborative, multi-disciplinary research hub dedicated to advancing knowledge in the prediction, treatment and prevention of depression and suicide. The Center supports a wide range of laboratory, clinical, and translational neuroscience projects to examine the neurobiology of mood disorders and develop treatments that not only provide immediate relief to patients suffering from depression and thoughts of suicide, but also effective options for treatment-resistant patients.

For more information about the UAB Depression and Suicide Center, visit www.uab.edu/medicine/psychiatry/research/programs/depression-suicide

Adrienne LahtiThe University Of Alabama System Board Of Trustees has appointed Dr. Adrienne Lahti to the F. Cleveland Kinney Endowed Chair in the Department of Psychiatry. An internationally recognized cognitive neuroscientist and practicing psychiatrist, Dr. Lahti joined UAB Psychiatry in 2006, and is currently a tenured professor and Vice Chair for Research Training and Faculty Development in Psychiatry. She leads the Neuroimaging and Translational Research Laboratory, an imaging lab dedicated to the study of schizophrenia using multimodal brain imaging techniques. In addition to her research, Dr. Lahti is recognized for establishing the first clinic in Alabama to focus on first episode psychosis for patients from their late teens to early adulthood. Additionally, Dr. Lahti provides clinical care to patients with late life schizophrenia at the UAB Community Psychiatry Program.

Dr. Lahti earned her M.D. from the Université de Liège, Belgium, where she also completed a residency in Neuropsychiatry. She went on to complete a residency in Psychiatry at the University of Michigan, and a fellowship in schizophrenia research at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center (MPRC).  Dr. Lahti joined the faculty at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center where she spent 14 years building an impressive track record as a clinician-investigator focused on understanding mechanisms underlying the pathophysiology of schizophrenia.  She has dedicated the last decade of her career to developing imaging modalities for the study of cognition and related issues of schizophrenia. Dr. Lahti’s achievements and qualities, as well as her international reputation as a distinguished researcher and clinician, make her an exceptional appointee to the Kinney Chair in the Department of Psychiatry.

The F. Cleveland Kinney Endowed Chair was established in honor of Dr. Kinney, an accomplished geriatric psychiatrist and emeritus member of the Department of Psychiatry. Endowment funds support continuing efforts to research problems associated with an aging population, including dementia, mood disorders, and schizophrenia. 

The Deplahtiartment of Psychiatry has announced that Adrienne Lahti, M.D. has been appointed as the Vice Chair for Research Training and Faculty Development. According to the Chair of Psychiatry, Dr. James Meador-Woodruff, Dr. Lahti, the Patrick H. Linton Endowed Professor of Psychiatry, is "an outstanding and passionate clinician and educator, a well-funded and talented investigator, a forceful advocate for the needs of those with schizophrenia". In addition to stepping into her new leadership position in the Department of Psychiatry, Dr. Lahti will continue as the Director of the Division of Behavioral Neurobiology.

Dr. Meador-Woodruff went on to explain that while the Department of Psychiatry has enjoyed the robust growth of their research enterprise over the past five years, the Department realized that they have significant opportunities to elevate the early career research and academic development of their faculty and trainees. Under Dr. Lahti's leadership, Psychiatry will continue to partner with their education leaders to further invigorate their residency research track by focusing particular emphasis on enhancing recruitment efforts, furthering curriculum development, and insuring the academic success of their graduates. Dr. Lahti will also lead the Department's efforts to obtain additional NIH funding for their research training programs, work to further expand their early faculty mentorship committees for all of their academically-oriented junior faculty members, and continue the oversight of their undergraduate research students. Dr. Meador-Woodruff finished by saying, "With Dr.  Lahti's added leadership, the Department of Psychiatry will continue our efforts to make UAB and our department an even better home for our talented scientists."


John A. Dantzler, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychiatry, has been appointed to the newly created position of Vice Chair for Addiction Programs in the Department of Psychiatry.  Dr. Dantzler currently serves as Executive Director of the department’s Substance Abuse and Criminal Justice Programs located on Beacon Parkway in Homewood. 

Dr. Meador-Woodruff stated that, “Since his recruitment several years ago, John has done an exceptional job of managing our off campus programs under the Beacon umbrella, and of increasingly integrating these programs into the core of the department.”  According to Dr. Meador-Woodruff, the new Vice Chair has been charged with growing the department’s addiction-related academic missions, which he sees as critical in the current climate of a major national and local public health crisis of a rapidly expanding substance abusing and addicted population.

Dr. Dantzler will focus on expanding Psychiatry’s addiction related academic portfolio and strategically growing clinical services. “John has distinguished himself in his exceptional leadership of our Beacon Parkway programs, and is uniquely positioned to work with our leadership team to bring all of our addiction services and programs under a single umbrella.”  He finished by saying, “John will be a major part of leading our Department-wide efforts to strengthen our addiction related activities.”


Smith NathanThe Department of Psychiatry has announced that Nathan Smith, MD was appointed to Professor Emeritus in the School of Medicine by the Board of Trustees during their February 2018 meeting. “This is an exceptional honor for Dr. Smith, and a level of recognition that only has been achieved by nine other faculty members in the entire history of the Department of Psychiatry”, said the Heman E. Drummond, Professor and Chair of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology, Dr. James Meador-Woodruff.

Dr. Smith was recruited to UAB in 1990 as an assistant professor. He was promoted to Professor in 2006 and retired from UAB in July 2016 after nearly 26 years of service. During his tenor, he served as Psychiatry’s Director of Departmental Clerkship for medical students, was the Director of the Psychiatry Residency Training Program, and served as Vice Chair of Psychiatry in multiple areas including Education, Administration, and Clinical Affairs. Additionally, Dr. Smith was the Assistant Dean for Admissions for the School of Medicine for 15 years.

Dr. Meador-Woodruff went on to say that “Dr. Smith distinguished himself as one of our Department’s best. Beyond his service as an outstanding administrator and leader, both for the Department and the School of Medicine, he is widely known as a compassionate, caring and outstanding clinician, and as a popular teacher and educator. We are truly fortunate to still have him in our department, continuing to see patients and working with residents in our adult ambulatory program.  I can think of no better tribute to his past dedication and future service than by this recognition.”

Falola picture The Department of Psychiatry has announced that Blessing Falola, M.D. and Michael Falola, M.D., M.P.H. will join the department as assistant professors in July 2018. Dr. Blessing Falola will work in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry where her clinical activity will be primarily at Children's of Alabama providing outpatient care. She will also develop an outpatientTransitional Age Clinic at UAB for patients ages 19 to 25 years. Dr. Michael Falola will join UAB Psychiatry spending half of his time in Adult clinical care and the other half of his time developing prediction models to identify risk for depression and suicide and response to treatment using high complexity data.

The Chair of Psychiatry, Dr. James Meador-Woodruff, commented that Dr. and Dr. Falola are industrious individuals who will add greatly to our efforts in clinical care, education, and research. They will be outstanding additions to our faculty and to UAB."

Originally from Nigeria, both doctors received their M.D. from the University of Ibadan. Dr. Blessing Falola came to UAB to enter the Clinical Training Academy in Palliative and Supportive Care. After completeing this program, she started her residency in Psychiatry in 2013 and, in 2016, entered the UAB Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship which she will complete in June 2018. Dr. Meador-Woodruff went on to say that "during her residency training, Blessing completed the UAB Medicine Mini-Quality Academy. She has used this training to further quality improvment projects in our Department. Blessing has also been instrumental in the  development of the UAB Psychiatry Resident Simulation Lab." 

Dr. Michael Falola finished his Masters of Public Health at UAB in 2010 with an emphasis on biostatistics. He entered the Psychiatry residency program in 2014, where according to Dr. Meador-Woodruff, he distinguished himself both as an outstanding clinician and an emerging scientist. Dr. Meador-Woodruff said that "he is conducting original research using large-scale datasets to test associations between clinical and genetic variables and both response to
antidepressant therapy and subtyping and psychiatric illness and suicidal behavior. Michael is approaching data in a unique way, using a machine learning paradigm to identify novel phenotypes within a suicidal population."

Additionally, the department recently received a generous gift designated to support psychiatrists starting their careers as clinician-investigators. Dr. Michael Falola will be the first recipient of funds from this gift and will be designated as Psychiatry's inaugural Engel Scholar in Psychiatry.