National Academy of Medicine adds three UAB faculty to its distinguished ranks

UAB’s newest members of the prestigious National Academy of Medicine were selected for their outstanding professional achievements and exceptional commitment to service.

newsletter squareThree faculty members of the Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham have been invited to join the National Academy of Medicine, one of the highest honors that can be bestowed on a physician or scientist in the United States.

Marie-Carmelle Elie, M.D., chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine, James Markert, M.D., chair of the Department of Neurosurgery, and Alan Tita, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and associate dean for Global and Women’s Health, join 13 current or former UAB faculty members who have been honored during their careers with selection to NAM. Membership in NAM is widely viewed as one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine, and is limited to individuals who have demonstrated both exceptional professional achievements and outstanding commitment to service.

“We congratulate and thank these outstanding faculty whose pioneering research, patient care and service have earned them this prestigious honor,” said UAB President Ray L. Watts. “UAB is very proud to now have seven faculty in this elite academy (and a total of 16 academy members in our history), which speaks to our leadership role — nationally and globally — in forging the future of medicine.”

The academy has more than 2,400 members elected in recognition of professional achievement and commitment to volunteer services within the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. NAM elects no more than 90 U.S. members and 10 international members annually. New members are elected by current members through a process that recognizes individuals who have made major contributions to the advancement of the medical sciences, health care and public health.

“It is tremendous to have three more faculty elected to the National Academy of Medicine. This honor is rare and notable; it speaks to the outstanding quality of people who come here to practice medicine, as well as the fantastic support within the UAB Heersink School of Medicine’s leadership,” said Anupam Agarwal, M.D., interim senior vice president for Medicine and dean. “Drs. Elie, Markert and Tita are excellent representations of our mission, and I am thrilled to see them join an academy that shapes medicine across the country through innovation, policy and equity.”

Established originally as the Institute of Medicine in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine addresses critical issues in health, science, medicine and related policy and inspires positive actions across sectors. NAM works alongside the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering to provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation and to conduct other activities to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine also encourage education and research, recognize outstanding contributions to knowledge, and increase public understanding of STEMM. With their election, NAM members make a commitment to volunteer their service in the activities of the national academies.

1 2Marie-Carmelle Elie, M.D.

Elie joined the faculty of UAB as endowed professor and chair of Emergency Medicine in January 2021. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Columbia University and her medical degree from the State University of New York-Downstate with a distinction in research.

Following emergency medicine residency at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, she completed the prestigious Critical Care/Trauma Fellowship at the R. Adam Cowley Shock Trauma Center at the University of Maryland. She is triple board-certified in emergency medicine and critical care, as well as hospice and palliative care medicine. 

The academy lauded Elie for being the first African American woman to chair an academic emergency department in the nation and for representing the first scholar at the crossroads of the emergency medicine, critical care and palliative care disciplines to achieve such recognition in North America.

While at first the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Rutgers and then the University of Florida College of Medicine, Elie was one of the few physicians to launch and lead initiatives that combined emergency, critical care and palliative medicine. She spearheaded hospitalwide sepsis protocols at both institutions by integrating critical care medicine into the emergency department.

Elie has developed institutional and regional efforts in the cross-sectional areas of emergency medicine and critical care, including educational and clinical programs in sepsis, improving the outcomes and the mortality rates in those communities. She has also served as the chief medical officer of the largest hospice organization in the North Central Florida area, spearheading a home-based program for the care of patients during the height of the COVID pandemic, as well as establishing a home-based palliative care program for patients with advanced illness.

She is a clinical researcher who has had a long-standing track record in the successful launching of trials in emergency, critical care and palliative medicine in collaborative efforts funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute.  

Environmental headshot of Dr. James Markert, MD (Professor and Chair, Neurosurgery) in his office, 2020.James Markert, M.D.

Markert is the James Garber Galbraith Endowed Chair of Neurosurgery. After graduation from Harvard University, he obtained his medical degree from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, along with a master’s degree in public health. He completed residency training at the University of Michigan before joining the neurosurgery faculty at UAB in 1995.  

In 2006, he was appointed director of the Division of Neurosurgery, and when the division was granted departmental status in 2013, Markert became the inaugural chair.

Markert was cited by NAM for being a world expert on oncolytic viruses, author on a first-ever paper of genetically engineered oncolytic viruses, primary author on the first-in-human trial of an oncolytic virus, senior author on first use of an IL12-expressing virus for human glioma, and currently conducting adult and pediatric brain tumor trials.

Markert’s research interests center around novel therapies for the treatment of malignant glioma and on translating findings from the laboratory into the clinical arena. His major interest remains the use of herpes simplex virus and other viruses as oncolytic and gene therapy vectors for the treatment of malignant brain tumors and other cancers, including malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors.

His clinical interests include neurosurgical care of benign and malignant brain and spinal tumors, including open surgery and radiosurgery, as well as other aspects of general neurosurgery. He also maintains an active portfolio of clinical trials aimed at developing new approaches for the care of neurosurgical disease.

He has been extremely active in organized neurosurgery as well, holding positions in the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, Congress of Neurological Surgeons, American Academy of Neurological Surgery and the Society of Neurological Surgeons. He has served as president of the Southern Neurosurgical Society.

Alan Tita photo preferredAlan Tita, M.D., Ph.D.

Tita earned his medical degree from the University of Yaoundé 1, Cameroon, followed by residency training at Baylor College of Medicine and a fellowship at UAB. He earned a master’s degree in public health from the University of Leeds, U.K., and a Ph.D. in public health epidemiology from the University of Texas Health Sciences Center. 

Tita holds the Mary Heersink Endowed Chair of Global Health and is the director of the Mary Heersink Institute of Global Health. As professor of obstetrics/gynecology and senior vice chair for Research and Innovation, he also leads the Center for Women’s Reproductive Health. His background is in maternal-fetal medicine, perinatal epidemiology and international health.

The academy noted Tita for his work as an innovative and impactful perinatal epidemiologist and clinical researcher who leads large, collaborative, multicenter national and international trials and observational studies that have shifted practice and policy and improved the quality of national and global obstetric care. 

Tita also co-leads the Cameroon Health Initiative at UAB, a multidisciplinary venture to improve health care in collaboration with Cameroon partners. He serves or has served as consultant editor for the Green Journal and consultant for the World Health Organization, NIH, and the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Tita led the national, multisite Chronic Hypertension and Pregnancy trial, the first comprehensive study to publish results showing treating mild chronic hypertension in pregnancy can lead to positive maternal and fetal outcomes. In 2022, he was also selected to lead the P3 EQUATE Network as part of the American Heart Association’s $20 million Health Equity Research Network on Disparities in Maternal-Infant Health Outcomes initiative.

Along with the three new inductees, current UAB faculty who are members of the National Academy of Medicine are James Cimino, M.D., Mona Fouad, M.D., James Hill, Ph.D., and Suzanne Oparil, M.D. The UAB faculty and other members of their election class will be formally welcomed to the NAM during the 2023 annual meeting.