• Profile: Selwyn Vickers, M.D., FACS

    It’s common knowledge to those serving under his leadership in the UAB School of Medicine that Selwyn Vickers, MD, Senior Vice President and Dean of the School of Medicine, is renowned around the globe for his ground-breaking work as a surgeon, and as a researcher in the fields of pancreatic cancer research and health disparities.

    Less well known is the circuitous journey that took an African American child from Demopolis, Alabama, in the heart of the Deep South, to one of the most elite medical schools in the country, where he would be trained as a world-class surgeon.

    RS7561 Selwyn Vickers 2013 18 scrWhen John and Clara Vickers were raising their only child, Selwyn, in a state grappling with racial animus, their own educational aspirations would inform the way in which they framed their son’s life. Both John and Clara had earned their college degrees; both would return to school during Vickers’ early life in order to continue their education in graduate school.

    “I saw sacrifice from them,” Vickers remembers, “as they drove to Huntsville at 4:00 am on Saturday mornings, every other weekend, to get their Master’s degrees.” The crucial nature of education had been ingrained into his parents as well: his maternal grandmother was a college graduate who worked as a school principal for four decades, and his great-grandfather had studied under Booker T. Washington.

    After completing his master’s degree, John Vickers took a job as a school principal in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and the Vickers placed their son, Selwyn, in Holy Spirit Catholic School. This parochial school was selected by many University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, employees for their children’s education; the quality of the academics offered there was high. “This gave me the choice to grow academically during those critical development years,” Selwyn Vickers says.

    The aspirational spirit that would drive Selwyn Vickers to pursue later dreams of medical school was evident in his father’s next ambition: to obtain a Ph.D. from the University of Alabama. The elder Vickers’ advisor encouraged his protégé not only to embrace his academic pursuits, but also to expand his exposure to a world of thought. John Vickers was one of the first 15 African American students to get a doctoral degree from the University of Alabama in 1974.

  • Profile: Raegan Durant, M.D., MPH

    Raegan Durant, M.D., M.P.H, knew early in his life that the only sort of career he was likely to find satisfying was one the posed a challenge. “I was looking for something at which I couldn’t become complacent,” he says. “Something which would be difficult, at which I was unlikely to become bored.”

    He has more than achieved this goal: as an Associate Professor in the UAB Division of Preventive Medicine, Durant studies multi-level barriers in recruitment of minorities into clinical trials in order to design interventions to increase R Durant cropdiversity in research study populations, and serves as the Medical Director at Cooper Green Mercy Health Services.

    Dr. Durant was also named as one of two recipients of the School of Medicine Dean’s Excellence Awards for Diversity Enhancement for 2017, a prestigious honor which recognizes outstanding contributions made by School of Medicine Faculty.

    Growing up in Montgomery, Alabama, as the only child of two attorneys who pursued their field with intensity and zeal, excellence was an expectation for Durant from the beginning. College was not an aspiration, but a requirement.  

    “I knew some doctors locally,” Durant says, “and I was in awe of what they did.” He remembers being drawn to the field of medicine early on, thinking that it would provide the best path for career fulfillment.

  • Profile: Carlton Young, M.D.

    Dr. Carlton Young is in between appointments; he sits down to chat just an hour prior to performing transplant surgery on an 8-year-old patient. It’s another day at the office for Dr. Young, but, like every day, he approaches it with intentionality. “Everybody matters,” he says. “Being a physician is the ultimate exercise in being a servant.”

    Carlton Young pictureCarlton Young, M.D., is not only a professor in the UAB School of Medicine; he also serves as the Director for Pancreas Transplantation at UAB hospital and as the Assistant Dean for Medical Student Diversity and Inclusion. As the Director for Pediatric Renal Transplantation at Children’s of Alabama, he oversees a program which is consistently ranked as one of the top 10 centers for volume of transplants performed on children in the United States.

    Young remembers wanting to become a doctor from early childhood. After he announced his intended career path at the age of 8, he recalls his mother taking him to visit her own doctor, Dr. Clifford. The gynecologist invited his young guest to sit on the exam table and looked into his face.

    “So, you want to be a doctor, is that right, young man?” Dr. Clifford asked.

    “Yes, sir.”

    The doctor was encouraging, but cautionary. “You know it’s going to take a lot of work,” he said, by way of warning.

    But Young relished the prospect of a challenge. Growing up in Philadelphia to two schoolteacher parents, he was raised to believe that hard work and sacrifice were normal, as was advocating for yourself. When he was in 6th grade at a private school his parents and grandparents had sacrificed to enable him to attend, a teacher informed Young’s mother that her son would never learn math.

  • Profile: Laura Montgomery-Barefield, M.D.

    “You don’t have the privilege of mediocrity,” Laura Montgomery-Barefield, M.D., recalls her parents telling her. “There are no shortcuts.” Reflecting on her professional journey, she traces the route of an impressive career back to her mother, a nurse, and her father, who was one of the first African American detectives for the Houston police department.

    “I come from a family of trailblazers,” she says. Her great-great-grandfather was born a slave. After the Civil War, he went to medical school at Meharry and became a general practitioner.Montgomery Barefield Laura

    Now, as the Program Director for General Psychiatry Residency, and a Professor of Psychiatry in the UAB School of Medicine, Montgomery-Barefield is in a position to influence those who follow in her footsteps. Her desire to pursue a profession in health care started early in life – ever since she can remember, she says, she wanted to be a doctor. To this end, she attended Houston’s DeBakey High School for Health Professions, an elite and highly selective institution with a diverse student body.

    During this time, Montgomery-Barefield remembers experiencing very little racism. “I grew up insulated,” she says. “I had a great childhood.” Because the schools she attended were always racially and ethnically diverse, she never felt that she was part of a minority group singled out for discrimination, or that race was an obstacle.

  • Profile: Nefertiti Durant, MD, MPH

    Nefertiti_DurantRivers meander. With purpose, for sure (get to the sea!), but they change with the soil and substrate, shifting, bending, carving out sediment and depositing it downstream, forever adding to the complexity of a landscape. Over time they flow straighter, carve deeper into the bedrock, but there's always that defining bend that forged a new course.

    So it is with many people, and with their careers, including Nefertiti Durant's. She began her career focused on HIV in minority populations. Then, a shift. Now, as an associate professor of Pediatrics and a member of the UAB Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center, she is pioneering web- and social media-based methods for encouraging young black women to lose weight by increasing physical activity. In January 2014 the Center for Disease Control and Prevention published a podcast and a study that sums up findings of her first focus group of young black women.

  • Profile: Lauren Walter, M.D.

    Lauren Walter 2“I don’t have any great romantic story to tell you why I wanted to be a doctor,” Dr. Lauren Walter smiles. Her calm, cadenced speech offers no clue to the reality that not only is Walter a physician in the Emergency Department, she simultaneously heads two independent nonprofit advocacy groups and acts as amentor to residents. “Ever since childhood, when you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I wanted to be a doctor.”

  • Profile: Monica Baskin, Ph.D.

    Monica BaskinMonica Baskin, PhD, boasts of lists of remarkable achievements in the course of her career: a doctoral degree in psychology from Georgia State University; receipt of numerous research grants, including leadership of a nationally recognized NIH-funded research program to reduce and/or eliminate health disparities through community-based research; serving as Chair of the Jefferson County Collaborative for Health Equity as well as the Health Action Partnership, Advancing Health Equity Priority Group. Most recently, she was named the inaugural Vice Chair for Culture and Diversity for the Department of Medicine in the UAB School of Medicine.