Dear Colleagues: As UAB celebrates its 40th birthday, I am struck by how the events and challenges of our early days precipitated a culture that serves us well as we face new challenges that have a very familiar ring to them.
In 1969, Birmingham’s steel industry had slumped and many had lost their jobs. UAB was not far from its roots of five blocks centered around a white clapboard house on a Southside corner. But our founding leaders and early faculty refused to let their economic circumstances and conventional ideas about how universities were funded and organized get in the way of their goals and dreams. Thus, UAB’s early character was shaped by innovation, resourcefulness, and interdisciplinary collaboration. That character is evident today, as we work to shape our university for the future enterprisewide — in health care, research, academics, and administrative support — with the overall goal of doing our very best for our students, faculty, staff and patients, while continuing to serve as the state’s economic engine.
Many of you — particularly those more closely associated with the UAB Health System — have heard about the “Bridge to the Future” program led by CEO Will Ferniany. The plan’s focus is to achieve specific goals over 2009-13 through initiatives under way in five key areas: alignment and culture, organization, quality, operating margin and outreach. More information on the “Bridge” program can be found at www.uabhealth.org/bridge.
UAB’s research enterprise, a cornerstone of our interdisciplinary culture of innovation, has been consistently successful on the national level. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (federal economic stimulus initiative) provides us with a unique opportunity to leverage that strength and compete for newly available research funding. Dick Marchase, vice president for Research and Economic Development, and Harold Jones, dean of Health Professions, are coordinating efforts to assure that UAB uncovers and effectively responds to all stimulus opportunities for which we qualify. They have organized 12 working groups, each focused on specific priorities to optimize stimulus package resources for research, education, and service efforts at UAB. For more information, please see www.uab.edu/stimulus, logging in with your BlazerID and associated password.
In the academic units, Provost Eli Capilouto is working with deans and faculty to develop the “Creating our Future” program, being announced now. The focus is on how to conceive of and invest in our future so that we are best able to meet the educational needs of the 21st century student. As part of that exercise, a commission has been formed to begin universitywide discussions on whether we should consider realigning the six schools on the west side of our campus. The commission, a panel of national and community leaders, will guide those discussions during the next two months, with many opportunities for input from the UAB community. To learn more about the commission’s charge, membership, and how to participate, please see www.uab.edu/future. The commission activity will be followed by a review of libraries and the provost administrative organization to best support the academic mission. Concurrently, the provost has asked our health-related schools to propose new synergies in their operations and plans.
Finally, the university’s central administrative activities must be aligned so as best to support the strategic priorities for our health care, research and academic areas. Richard Margison, vice president for finance and administration, is working closely with our other vice presidents and administrative units to ensure that our administrative and support functions are most efficiently organized to facilitate the achievement of our vision, mission and goals.
I could not be more proud of the energy and focus with which all of these initiatives are proceeding. In our brief, 40-year history, UAB has repeatedly turned challenge into a competitive edge. I am quite sure that, with the same innovation, resourcefulness and collaboration that brought us this far, we can create a future that will live up to the vision of our founding president, Dr. Joseph Volker, who reminded us many years ago that “we would do Birmingham a great disservice if we dream too little dreams.”
Thank you for all that you do for UAB.
Carol Z. Garrison, President
The University of Alabama at Birmingham