Robert Kimberly, M.D., spent most of his working life in the northeastern United States before coming to UAB 12 years ago.

Robert Kimberly is the 2008 Distinguished Faculty Lecturer award winner. He will present a lecture during a banquet held in his honor at The Harbert Center on Thursday, Nov. 6.
Since his arrival, Kimberly, a professor and senior associate dean for research in the School of Medicine and director of the UAB Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Center, has significantly strengthened the research and clinical components of the programs in which he is involved.

Kimberly is an internationally recognized research scientist, an esteemed and nationally recognized clinician, an admired and successful educator, an accomplished administrator and a visionary leader. His also is the 2008 recipient of the Distinguished Faculty Lecturer Award, the UAB Academic Health Center’s most prestigious faculty award.

The award acknowledges Kimberly’s many achievements and the high regard in which he is held by his peers. It also is a reflection of his contributions to the university and the community.

“I think that one of the most satisfying recognitions in our jobs is to be acknowledged by your peers as having contributed broadly to the enterprise,” Kimberly says. “This recognition is something that certainly is very meaningful.”

The DFL award winner receives a $5,000 cash award and presents a lecture during a banquet held in their honor. This year’s dinner will be held in The Harbert Center on Thursday, Nov. 6. Tickets are $35 per person. Call 975-0756 for reservations or send an e-mail to Cocktails begin at 6 p.m., followed by dinner at 6:45.

Strong leader, researcher
Colleagues who nominated Kimberly praise his ability to provide balanced and unbiased leadership to large, collaborative efforts. They point to his appointment as co-chair of the School of Medicine Strategic Planning Committee in 2005 as a prime example.

In this position, Kimberly has been responsible for generating the planning document that is the blueprint for the UAB School of Medicine’s strategic development in research.

Kimberly has a distinguished research career in the area of immunology and genetics of rheumatological diseases. He has more than 150 peer-reviewed manuscripts published or in press to date.

Kimberly’s research focus is in the understanding of Fc receptors (a protein found on the surface of certain cells), their signaling properties and the association of genetic polymorphisms with rheumatological diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus.

In fact, Kimberly recently received two competitive renewal grants from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease (NIAMS). One was a $7.5 million, five-year award on the Program Project of Genetics of Systemic Lupus. The other was a five-year, $6 million grant for the Multidisciplinary Clinical Research Center (MCRC). The Program Project is the only one on the genetics of systemic lupus that is supported by the NIAMS. The MCRC is part of a program with eight institutions involved nationwide. UAB is the only program in the country with both of those kinds of awards.

Kimberly is quick to point out that those are just two examples of a broad portfolio in Rheumatology and the Arthritis Center, and he lauds the cooperation between departments in aiding these research efforts.

“Grants like these speak to a very important principal, and the principal is that science increasingly needs to embrace teams of investigators and interdisciplinary research,” Kimberly says. “That doesn’t in any way diminish the importance of the individual investigator. The fundamental building block of research is the creativity and commitment of the individual investigator. But the effective way to ask the large questions that we’re after is by building these teams and drawing investigators from across campus.

“Within the work we do there are persons that come from multiple departments within the School of Medicine, and there are multiple schools — School of Public Health, Health Professions, Social and Behavioral Sciences. We have investigators in Nursing, Dentistry and Engineering. When you look at it from the center’s perspective, every life-science school on campus is involved and that’s very much a theme we’ve worked for — to identify those cross cutting opportunities that enable us to draw investigators from across the campus.”

The lecture
Kimberly is a student of past Distinguished Faculty lecturers, and he plans to touch on some of their history in his upcoming lecture.

The title of his lecture, “And Gladly Reach,” is derived from a quote in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and is an extension of Howard Holley’s Distinguished Faculty Lecture titled “And Gladly Teach” from 1969.

Holley founded the Division of Rheumatology and his work made an impression on Kimberly, who read Holley’s lecture when he first came to UAB. “Howard Holley was an amazing physician and scholar,” Kimberly says.

“He had very severe rheumatoid arthritis and was wheelchair bound for many years. That’s something that just shouldn’t happen anymore. He had an abiding faith in the power of molecularly and mechanistically oriented research to understand mechanisms of disease and to hold out hope for the future. We have realized the potential that has come to fruition for better treatment. The progress has been remarkable.”

Kimberly hopes Holley’s spirit is living on in the work of the researchers, clinicians and teachers in the Arthritis Center, Rheumatology and beyond. “Howard believed in UAB as an institution and in the potential for advancement in life-science research,” Kimberly says. “That spirit and perspective I hope has been continued throughout my time with the Arthritis Center and the Division of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology.”