Buford named director of the UAB Center for Exercise Medicine

Thomas Buford to head the UAB Center for Exercise Medicine as the new director starting Aug. 1, 2020.
Written by: Purnima Kasthuri Janarthanan
Media contact: Bob Shepard

Head shot of Dr. Thomas Buford, PhD (Associate Professor, Gerontology/Geriatrics/Palliative Care), 2017.Thomas Buford, Ph.D.Thomas Buford, Ph.D., has been appointed director of the UAB Center for Exercise Medicine, one of the University-Wide Interdisciplinary Research Centers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Buford, associate professor in the Division of Gerontology, Geriatrics and Palliative Care in the Department of Medicine, will assume the role of UCEM director Aug. 1, 2020.

Since his arrival at UAB in 2017 as associate director, Buford has worked closely with Marcas Bamman, Ph.D., the center’s founding director.

Buford has published more than 120 peer-reviewed manuscripts and currently holds two National Institutes of Health Research Project Grants from the National Institute on Aging, incorporating both human and animal models of exercise. He also recently received a prestigious NIH K02 Independent Scientist award. 

“Dr. Buford has been a prominent member of the UCEM leadership team since joining UAB,” Bamman said. “He is an innovative and collaborative scientist, a skilled and caring mentor, and an outstanding leader. I am thrilled with his selection, and I look forward to advances under his leadership as he fosters the UCEM to achieve further growth and impactful new directions.”

Bamman established the center in 2011 with the goal of understanding the biological mechanisms underlying exercise-induced adaptations and their clinical utility in disease prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. He has had a major role in the recognition and growth of exercise medicine nationally, having served on strategic planning committees for the NIH and other federal agencies.

“UCEM was one of the key reasons I came to UAB,” Buford said. “To my knowledge, it is the only institution with funded support to a center dedicated to exercise medicine. I am humbled and honored to help build upon the tremendous foundation built by Dr. Bamman.”

Buford is also the co-primary investigator of the NIH-funded Nathan Shock Center of Excellence in the Basic Biology of Aging at UAB. He has served on multiple NIH peer review panels and is an investigator on two of the largest exercise clinical trials — The Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders (LIFE) Study and Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity Consortium.

“I hope to continue to expand the reach of UCEM across UAB and throughout the country with particular emphasis on expanding the breadth of exercise research from basic exercise biology to community health and sustainability,” Buford said.  

Buford4Marcas Bamman, Ph.D.Since the center’s inception, UCEM members have received multiple extramural awards, including multi-site clinical trials from the NIH, Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs and private foundations in a number of disease focus areas (e.g., multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, hypertension, osteoarthritis, sarcopenia and spinal cord injury, among others). Further, the UCEM has established numerous exercise clinical trial resource initiatives to fulfill the center’s core mission.

The UCEM was awarded an NIH Institutional Training Grant in 2012 and has trained more than 70 pre- and postdoctoral trainees. Bamman founded the National Exercise Clinical Trials Network that same year with UAB as the hub. The network now has 77 member institutions across the nation. The UCEM continued to secure significant funding including the NIH National Rehabilitation Research Resource to Enhance Clinical Trials, and the Coordinating Center for the NIH Medical Rehabilitation Research Resource Network.  

In addition, the center was selected as one of the six adult clinical centers in the trans-NIH Common Fund program: Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity Consortium — a $250 million investment in exercise research, the largest single investment by NIH or any other entity to better understand molecular transducers of exercise-induced health benefits. The UCEM is also among the clinical centers in the first multi-national Phase III clinical trial focused on exercise dosing to maximize the slowing of symptom progression in Parkinson’s disease — the NIH SPARX3 Trial.

Buford says he aims for UCEM to remain a central training ground for emerging scholars interested in developing their research skills and interests related to exercise medicine.

“The UCEM is indeed poised for an exceptionally bright future,” Bamman said.