Jiri Mestecky, M.D., Ph.D., came to Birmingham from the Czech Republic in 1967, leaving their Academy of Sciences to come to UAB for one year of studies in microbiology.
“Then my stay was extended to two years,” Mestecky says. “And then the Russians came and occupied the country. And then I met my wife. So, I decided to stay.”
Mestecky has spent the past 45 years at UAB investigating the structure, biosynthesis and function of human and animal immunoglobuilin A (IgA) and immune responses. He also was among the first scientists to develop reliable assays for the measurement of mucosal HIV immune responses, to investigate correlates of HIV transmission and to participate in the effort to develop vaccines to prevent the infection. Add to that his efforts in mucosal immunology, and it’s been a robustly productive four-and-a-half decades.
Now Mestecky is among more than 250 employees who will be honored at this year’s Service Awards Program. The luncheon, which recognizes employees with 20 or more years of service, will take place at noon Friday, Feb. 15 in The DoubleTree Hotel. All employees with five or more years of service are invited to a drop-in reception in their honor from 3 to 4:30 p.m. the same day.
Mestecky, whose first day at UAB was March 7, 1967, is this year’s longest tenured employee at 45 years. As a world-renowned researcher with more than 500 papers published, Mestecky has had several opportunities to leave over the years, but he always elected to stay.
“It just wasn’t advantageous to go,” he says. “When I compared laboratories, the people I was working with, retirement programs — the whole package — it didn’t make sense to leave.”
Mestecky officially retired Jan. 1, but he continues to work part time, and so far hasn’t had time to slow down. His research into IgA nephropathy, a kidney disorder also known as Berger’s disease, will continue, as will his long-term research on HIV. He also is a few months away from completing the fourth edition of Mucosal Immunology, the official publication of the Society of Mucosal Immunology. The book, which comes in two volumes and will span some 2,000 pages, focuses on immunity and inflammation involving mucosal tissues.
“When we started with mucosal immunology it was considered to be a somewhat strange area of research,” Mestecky says. “It is now fully recognized that most of the cells involved with any kind of immune response are associated with mucosal issues. The gut is by far the largest organ in the body. In everyday life, this is where the stimulation of the immune system comes from.
“The major stimulus for the entire immune system is what we eat and what we breathe and the bugs that live in our gut. What keeps the immune system going is what’s around us,” he says.
As for retirement, Mestecky says there isn’t anything special he wants to do that he hasn’t already done. He does know that he and his wife Peggy Jane will go back to the Czech Republic where they have an apartment and a summer house he inherited from his father.
“It’s been in my family since 1946,” he says. “It’s in the woods, very quiet and just gorgeous. It’s a wonderful place to relax. Last year, I spent four days in the summerhouse. Hopefully I’ll be able to spend four weeks there this year.”
The following are being honored for their years of service:
Alesia Adams (HRM Resource Center); Ronald Kenneth Adams (OB/GYN); Jeffery A. Alexander (Hospital Maintenance); Suzanne K. Allen (Psychiatry); Lawrence P. Anderson (Hospital Maintenance); Paul R. Atchison, M.D. (Neurology); Thomas P. Atkinson, M.D. (Pediatrics-Allergy); Katharine Baier (Computer & Information Sciences); Cathy J. Beadlecomb (Lister Hill Library of Health Sciences); John R. Bennett (Benefits); Alexander Blokh, Ph.D. (Mathematics); Eric V. Bodner (Center for Aging); Vickie D. Brown (Post Office); Derrick W. Brown (Hospital Maintenance); Teresa Y. Brown (Cardiovascular Disease); Patricia N. Brown (OB/GYN); Kathryn L. Burgio, Ph.D. (Gerontology/Geriatrics/Palliative Care); Lisa H. Busby (Surgery); Susan K. Cash (Grounds); Jacqueline D. Causey (Preventive Medicine); Patricia C. Colston (Print Plant); Michael G. Conner, M.D. (Anatomic Pathology); Shirley S. Cosby (Neonatology); Mark A. Crane (Elevator Maintenance); Richard A. Crow (Campus Maintenance); Timothy H. Crutchfield (Animal Resources Prgm); Rachel Culbreth (Cardiovascular Disease); Loretta S. Dutton (Payroll Services); Errica Y. Evans (Lister Hill Library of Health Sciences); Josie L. Falany (Pharmacology/Toxicology); Ona M. Faye-Petersen M.D. (Anatomic Pathology); Subrena J. Felder (Preventive Medicine); Larry D. Ferguson (Animal Resources Prgm); Pamela B. Files (OB/GYN); Karen B. Fowler, DrPH (Pediatrics-Infectious Disease); Daniel H. Gardner (Hematology & Oncology); Johnny C. Garrison (Central Utilities); Michael S. Getman (Men's Soccer); Michael G. Goodwin (Hospital Maintenance); Janatha S. Grant (OB/GYN); Randal E. Gray (Emergency Medicine); Joretta C. Griffith (Office of Asst VP Occupational Health & Safety); Josefina M. Grove (Counseling Wellness Ctr); Cristy C. Gunter (Office of Assoc VP Facilities); Barton L. Guthrie, M.D. (Neurosurgery); Cheryl R. Hall (Neurology); Joan E. Hargrove (Preventive Medicine); Edward P. Harris (Infrastructure Services); Janice H. Hartsell (Huntsville Clinic-Pediatrics); Susan H. Heath (Infectious Diseases); Edward W. Hook, M.D. (Infectious Diseases); Yolanda Horton (Medicine); Alice A. Howell (OB/GYN); Samra M. Hubbard (Cardiovascular/Thoracic Surgery); Annia Johnson (Family & Community Medicine); Valerie L. Johnson (Montgomery Internal Medicine); Susan E. Kelley (Office of Assoc VP Development & Alumni); Andrew D. Kennedy (Gen Surg Trauma Section); Peter H. King, M.D. (Neurology); Sally B. Lagan (Rad Oncology-Radiobiology); Debra E. Laken (Respiratory Therapy Program); Jane B. Lane (Civitan International Research Center); Gwendolyn M. Lewis (School of Engineering); Yao Li (Pulmonary/Allergy/Critical Care); Ran Li, M.D. (Hematology & Oncology); Dr. Perng-Ru Liu (Restorative Sciences); Julie L. Locher, Ph.D. (Gerontology/Geriatrics/Palliative Care); Daniel H. Long (Center for Biophysical Sciences/Engineering); Sheri S. Long, Ph.D. (Foreign Languages); Marcy L. Ludorf (Office of Vice Provost Student & Faculty Success); Carolyn L. Maddox (Surgery); Janice P. Maiden (Infectious Diseases); Richard A. Mailhot (Media & Info Tech Services); Willie Martin (Telecommunications); Robert S. Matthews (Epidemiology); Melissa M. McCarthy (Cell, Developmntl, & Integrative Biology); Robert A. McNeal (Campus Maintenance); Donalyn S. McNeal (Hospital Human Resources); Lori M. Miles (CAS Undergrad Prgms (Org Ret)); James E. Mitchell (Hospital Maintenance); Belinda M. Mitchell (University Purchasing); John F. Moore (Clinical Genetics); Charles E. Morgan, M.D. (Surgery-Otolaryngology); Margaret E. Morris (Psych-Public Sector); Stephen A. Moser, Ph.D. (Laboratory Medicine); Cherry L. Neely (OB/GYN); Walter J. Oakes, M.D. (Neurosurgery); Ilona E. Overman (Huntsville Med-Pediatrics Pgm); Manuel A. Pallero (Molecular & Cellular Pathology); Randall Parks (Immunology/Rheumatology); Dee S. Parsons (Ctr Neurodegeneration & Exp Ther (CNET)); Ada M. Peralta-Carcelen, M.D. (General Pediatrics); Alan K. Percy, M.D. (Pediatric Neurology); Cynthia J. Petri, Ph.D. (Human Studies); Vivien A. Phillips (Neonatology); David A. Plier (Infectious Diseases); Tracey R. Ponder (Comprehensive Cancer Center); Vicky L. Poss (Pediatric Hematology/Oncology); Valencia M. Pruitt (OB/GYN); Merrie H. Ramp, DMD (General Dentistry); Beth C. Raybon (Office of Assoc VP Financial Affairs); Vishnu V. Reddy (Laboratory Medicine); Lashan Y. Robinson (Payroll Services); Loring W. Rue, M.D. (General Surgery Trauma Section); Patricia A. Santoro (University Police); Mary B. Schaaf (Cardiovascular Disease); Thella M. Simpson (Ctr for Clinical & Translational Sciences); Juanita P. Sizemore (Core Curriculum Enhancement (Org Ret)); Phillip D. Smith, M.D. (Gastroenterology); Georgia M. Smith (Building Services); Willie J. Smith (Building Alteration Svcs (Org Ret)); Debra J. Snider (Controller's Office); Anne G. Stafford, M.D. (General Pediatrics); Amy F. Stanford (Health System Quality and Safety); Ralph L. Steele (Hospital Maintenance); Sedric L. Steele (Building Alteration Svcs (Org Ret)); Tanji P. Stephens (Neurology); Dr. Stuart X. Stephenson (Surgery-Orthopaedic); Catherine Stewart (Student Life); Gwendolyn S. Stewart (Student Accounting); Jonathan J. Stewart (Pathology); Mary A. Sullivan (Hospital Maintenance); Marsha K. Sutton (Minority Enhancement); Kathy L. Tamburello (Hospital Maintenance); Li P. Tang (Pulmonary/Allergy/Critical Care); Michele Thornton (Alys Stephens Center); Carolyn H. Van Laare (HRM Resource Center); Gayla L. Vickers (Mervyn H. Sterne Library); Yogesh K. Vohra, Ph.D. (Physics); David H. Walton (Cardiovascular Disease); Casey T. Weaver, M.D. (Anatomic Pathology); E. Linn Wheelock (Comprehensive Cancer Center); Velria B. Willis (OB/GYN); Janet D. Wilson (Surgery-Urology (Org Ret)); Mary E. Wilson (Lister Hill Library of Health Sciences); Jennifer B. Wilson (Infectious Diseases); John R. Winters, DMD (General Dentistry); Shana W. Witte (Office of Assoc VP Public Rel & Marketing); Erik S. Young (Anatomic Pathology); Jinju Zhang (Genetics Research Div); Dr. Yingxin Zhuang (Immunology/Rheumatology); Mary E. Zvanut, Ph.D. (Physics)
Honored 25 - Year
Vera A. Bittner, M.D. (Cardiovascular Disease); John R. Blake (Hospital Maintenance); Darryl G. Brown (Controller's Office); Clementine W. Brown (Call Center); Ralph Patterson Bucy, M.D. (Laboratory Medicine); Richard M. Burns, Ph.D. (Accounting and Finance); Deborah A. Carroll (Accounts Payable); Noel Childers, DMD (Pediatric Dentistry); Suzanne P. Cliver, M.D. (OB/GYN); David E. Crutcher (Alys Stephens Center); William E. Davis (Office of Asst VP Occupational Health & Safety); Gary W. Dawson (Campus Maintenance); Allyson M. Dudley (Neurology); Kevin F. Dybvig, Ph.D. (Genetics Research Div); Charles O. Elson, M.D. (Gastroenterology); Kathleen N. Fix, M.D. (Gerontology/Geriatrics/Palliative Care); Leslie H. Franklin (Surgery Chair Office); Sandra M. Gay (Comprehensive Cancer Center); Michael W. Gibson (Post Office); George Yancey Gillespie, Ph.D. (Neurosurgery); Kelli L. Gilpin (Psych-Public Sector); Mark A. Goska (Exec Dir Quality & Compliance); Victor B. Griffin (University Police); Diane Harrell (OB/GYN); Bernard Harris (SHP Dean's Office); Yolanda E. Hartman (Surgery-Otolaryngology); Beverly A. Haskew (Dental Faculty Practice (Est 06)); Patricia H. Hicks (Rad Onc-Preclinical Research); Marcus L. Hickson, Ph.D. (Communication Studies); Michael R. Higgins (Campus Maintenance); Henry B. Hitt (Elevator Maintenance); Yolanda J. Hogeland (Surgery-Transplantation); David L. Holt (Hospital Maintenance); Carl A. Houck, M.D. (Psych-Consultation & Liaison); Cassandra B. Hudson (Neonatology); Carolyn J. Johnson (Preventive Medicine); Rickey W. Johnson (Building Services); Janice D. King (Microbiology); Elizabeth A. Leinheiser (Psych-Child & Adolescent); George O. Liber, Ph.D. (History); Ming Luo, Ph.D. (Microbiology); Eddie Luster (Mervyn H. Sterne Library); Elizabeth H. Maples, Ph.D. (Environmental Health Sciences); Sadis Matalon, Ph.D. (Anesthesiology); James B. McClintock, Ph.D. (Biology); Douglas McLean (Telecommunications); Ruby F. Meredith, M.D. (Radiation Oncology); Jerry D. Morgan (Psych-Behavioral Neurobiology); Vickie J. Morgan (Gastroenterology); John D. Mountz, M.D. (Immunology/Rheumatology); Victoria L. Orr (University Police); Henry Panion, Ph.D. (Music); Charmian T. Pate (Pulmonary/Allergy/Critical Care); Mary F. Phillips (Accounts Payable); Olen L. Pruitt (Office of Assoc VP Facilities); Steven E. Rich (Campus Maintenance); Norman Richardson (Building Alteration Svcs (Org Ret)); Michael S. Saag, M.D. (Infectious Diseases); Patricia C. Sanders, M.D. (Radiology); Mary Jo Sewell (Biostatistics); Veronica R. Smoke (OB/GYN); Elaine B. St John, M.D. (Neonatology); Yvonne K. Swanson (Student Housing Residential Life); Martha P. Veazey (Cardiovascular Disease); Frederic H. Wagner (Infectious Diseases); Joe Walker, Ph.D. (Accounting and Finance); Stephen A. Watts, Ph.D. (Biology); Richard A. Weems, DMD (General Dentistry); Debora Welch (Mervyn H. Sterne Library); Roderick W. Wilkins (University Police); Robin R. Willingham (OB/GYN); Angela M. Woods (University Police)Honored 30-Year
G. M. Anantharamaiah, Ph.D. (Gerontology/Geriatrics/Palliative Care); Fred J. Biasini, Ph.D. (Psychology); Theodore Bos, Ph.D. (Mgmt, Info Sys, Quant Method); William J. Britt, M.D. (Pediatric Infectious Disease); Glenna G. Brown, Ph.D. (Planning & Analysis (Org Ret)); Erroll C. Cammack (Radiation Safety); Lawrence J. Delucas, O.D. (Optometry); Jeffrey A. Engler, Ph.D. (Graduate School Dean's Office), Richard M. Gargiulo, Ph.D. (Curriculum Instruction); Kelly T. Goldsmith (Epidemiology); Nancy L. Grady (Pediatric Infectious Disease); Carolyn H. Guyton (Psychiatry); Jessie M. Horne (Parking & Transportation Services); Carol L. Lyons (Parking & Transportation Services); Ada Mailhot (School of Public Health); Landis B. Manderson (Telecommunications); Merinda J. McCalpine (Health Info & Business Systems); Heather McPherson, Ph.D. (Art and Art History); Audrey E. Minter (Civitan International Research Center); Ouida Moore-Cain (Preventive Medicine); Donald Muccio, Ph.D. (Chemistry); Hrudaya Nath, M.D. (Radiology); Denise K. Oelschlager (Anatomic Pathology); Cynthia Owsley, M.D. (Ophthalmology); Marjorie J. Ray (Center for Biophysical Sciences/Engineering); Jena L. Reeves (Immunology/Rheumatology); Joel Robertson (Surgery - Shock Res Section); Linda C. Shelley (Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery); Cathy D. Shelton-Kimbrel (Enrollment Operations); Michael E. Sloane, Ph.D. (Psychology); Juanita Turner (Human Studies); Anne L. Turner-Henson, DSN (Nursing Com Health, Outcomes, Sys); Deborah S. Tyson (Call Center)
Stephen Barnes, Ph.D. (Pharmacology/Toxicology); Charlotte S. Bragg (Preventive Medicine); Betty E. Darnell (Ctr for Clinical & Translational Sci); Patsy E. Greenup, Ph.D. (Clinical Laboratory Sciences); Doris E. Henderson (Building Services); Peggy B. Jolly, Ph.D. (English); Shirley Sallaway Kahn, Ph.D. (Office Of VP Development, Alumni & Ext Relations); Patrice Murphy, M.D. (Physical Therapy); Suzanne Oparil, M.D. (Cardiovascular Disease); Marjorie S. Price, Ph.D. (Philosophy); Alan M. Stamm, M.D. (General Internal Medicine); Gary L. Sunderland (Biochemistry & Molecular Genetics); Camellia Thomas (Comprehensive Cancer Center); Willie M. Whatley (Neurology); Thomas F. Wilkinson (Telecommunications)
Mary F. Braswell, Ph.D. (English); S. Robert Hernandez, DrPH (M.S. in Health Administration Program); Donald J. Lynch (Campus Maintenance)
Jiri Mestecky, Ph.D. (Microbiology)