Dear UAB Community and Friends,

Yesterday afternoon we marked an exciting milestone for UAB and the state of Alabama: the official launch of the UAB Grand Challenge, “Live HealthSmart Alabama.” This bold initiative will elevate our state out of the bottom 10 in key health metrics (heart disease, diabetes, obesity and others) by the year 2030.

The success of this effort — as with all aspects of our strategic plan, Forging the Future — is driven by strong partnerships that extend across our community and state, and beyond. Grand Challenge Principal Investigator Mona Fouad, M.D., director of the UAB Minority Health & Health Disparities Research Center and nationally recognized pioneer in health disparities research, and her team have assembled an impressive statewide coalition, including more than 90 corporate and community partners, to develop and implement the multi-pronged plan. We are deeply grateful for the support of the UA System Board of Trustees, the City of Birmingham and the Jefferson County Commission, our congressional delegation in Washington, D.C., and elected state officials and agencies. Working together we will have a transformative impact on health and quality of life throughout Birmingham and Alabama — and provide a model for the nation.

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It is fitting that we embark on this historic effort during our 50th anniversary year, as we celebrate the spirit of innovation and collaboration that has propelled UAB for five decades. Those same strengths, in their fullest measure, will enable us to achieve our Grand Challenge over the coming decade. We begin with tremendous momentum from the record-breaking strides being made in all pillars of our mission, as recently highlighted in our 2019 State of the University address.

Just this past Monday, we announced another record: UAB has broken $600 million in research awards with $602 million, an increase of $75 million (14.2 percent) over last year’s record $527 million. This marks the most successful five-year epoch of research funding in our history with an increase of $154 million (34 percent) from FY2015-2019. This success, like that of our Grand Challenge, is reliant on effective partnerships and advocacy. I want to thank particularly Senator Richard Shelby, a longtime and unwavering champion of federal investment in research, for his stalwart support and leadership in Congress that has helped make this dramatic growth possible. And of course, my thanks to our talented faculty, staff and students, who continue setting and exceeding ambitious goals and making our research enterprise among the most competitive in the nation and the world.

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We have much to be proud of as we near the conclusion of our 50th anniversary year and this very productive fall semester. And we’re not done yet! Please join me at Legion Field to cheer on Blazers football against Louisiana Tech this Saturday, Nov. 23, at 2:30 p.m. This game has major implications for the C-USA West Division championship, and a win would keep us undefeated at home through three seasons and extend the nation’s fourth longest home winning streak.

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I look forward to congratulating our graduates on their accomplishments, present and future, at our commencement ceremonies on Dec. 13 and 14. Good luck to our students as we approach finals in a few weeks and warmest wishes to all for the upcoming holidays.