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Office of the Dean, Heersink School of Medicine, 2021-
Office of the Dean, School of Medicine, 1969-2021
Office of the Dean, Medical College of Alabama, 1945-1969

Immediate Predecessor:


Immediate Successor:


Reporting Hierarchy:

1945-1955: Medical College of Alabama, President of UA
1955-1958: Medical College of Alabama, Vice President for Health Affairs, President of UA
1958-1962: Medical College of Alabama, Vice President for Health Affairs, Executive Director of University Affairs for the Medical Center, President of UA
1962-1966: Medical College of Alabama, Vice President for Health Affairs, President of UA
1966-1968: Medical College of Alabama, Vice President for Birmingham Affairs, President of UA
1968-1969: Medical College of Alabama, Vice President for Health Affairs, Executive Vice President, President of UA
1969-1995: School of Medicine, Vice President for Health Affairs, President of UAB
1995- : School of Medicine, Provost, President


Roy R. Kracke, 1944-1950
(Acting) Tinsley R. Harrison, 1950-1951
James J. Durrett, 1951-1955
Robert C. Berson, 1955-1962
S. Richardson Hill, Jr., 1962-1968
Clifton K. Meador, 1968-1973
James A. Pittman, Jr., 1973-1992
(Interim) Charlie W. Scott, 1992-1993
Harold J. Fallon, 1993-1997
(Interim) William B. Deal, 1997
William B. Deal, 1997-2004
Robert R. Rich, 2004-2010
Ray L. Watts, 2010-2013
(Interim) Anupam Agarwal, 2013
Selwyn M. Vickers, 2013-2022
(Interim) Anupam Agarwal, 2022-2023
Anupam Agarwal, 2023-


From 1920 to 1943, the state of Alabama had no four-year medical school. Medical students completed a two-year program in the basic sciences at The University of Alabama, but to complete their medical training, they had to transfer to an out-of-state institution. With the support of Governor Chauncey Sparks, the four-year Medical College of Alabama was established with the enactment of the Jones Bill in 1943. The new program was placed under the jurisdiction of The University of Alabama Board of Trustees, and the bill created a nine-member commission of prominent Alabama residents headed by the governor to select a location for the new program. Mobile, Montgomery, Birmingham, and Tuscaloosa, the site of the two-year program, each vied for the four-year medical school. Birmingham was chosen in 1944 primarily because of the Jefferson and Hillman Hospitals and the large number of indigent patients in the area.

Originally, the Medical College of Alabama had control for teaching purposes of only the Hillman Hospital and Hillman Outpatient Clinic Building. The medical college also had authority over staff appointments and policy matters at these facilities. However, it was soon realized that Jefferson Hospital, located adjacent to the Hillman Hospital, offered more possibilities as a teaching hospital. After negotiations, Jefferson County transferred both hospitals to The University of Alabama along with the outpatient building, a nursing student dormitory, and a tuberculosis clinic. Jefferson and Hillman Hospitals were also merged to form the Jefferson-Hillman Hospital, but chiefly known later as University Hospital.

With many private patients, outpatients, and indigent patients, the hospital provided the new medical school with a sufficient volume of clinical material. Most patients were housed in the Jefferson Hospital, and the Hillman Hospital served mainly as office space for the medical school. Plans were instituted immediately for the construction of a new medical school building, and several floors of Jefferson Hospital were remodeled to house the preclinical divisions upon their removal from Tuscaloosa to Birmingham. In addition to medical school divisions, the Hillman Hospital also housed the Spies Nutrition Clinic and the city, county, and state health departments. The outpatient building contained the offices of the Jefferson County Medical Society. Other Birmingham hospitals, including the Crippled Children's Clinic and the Children's Hospital, also served as teaching sites for the medical college.

In the summer of 1944, Dr. Roy R. Kracke was named dean of the new Medical College of Alabama. The Alabama native, who had received a B.S. from The University of Alabama in 1924, assumed his duties on 1 August 1944. One of Dean Kracke's first actions was to assemble the teaching staff of the new college. He relied heavily on Birmingham's medical community to fill positions on a part-time basis. On the first of December, Dr. Roger Denio Baker became the medical school's first full-time faculty member and first departmental chair (pathology) appointed by Kracke.

The lack of adequate space for programs became one of the new dean's most serious problems. A new building for the medical college was supposed to alleviate this problem and plans for the structure occupied much of Dr. Kracke's time. However, this building was never built. Eventually, funds were pooled with the new dental school and obtained through the Hill-Burton Act, and a Medical and Dental Basic Science Building and Dental Clinic was constructed in the early 1950s.

More problematic than space, however, was the problem of indigent patient care. Dean Kracke was forced to balance the financial and staff needs of growing programs with the increasing demands created by the large number of indigent patients. An ever-increasing portion of the medical college budget had to be diverted to the operation of the Jefferson-Hillman Hospital. In addition, the location of the Spies Nutrition Clinic in the Hillman Hospital was also a source of aggravation for Kracke, but with the support of powerful Birmingham business interests, Dr. Spies remained in the Hillman building although his clinic was officially unaffiliated with the medical college.

With limited resources and constant demands for better facilities and funding, Dean Kracke managed to provide fair and thoughtful administration of the medical college. University of Alabama presidents Raymond Paty and John Gallalee supported Kracke's decisions and deferred to his knowledge concerning medical affairs although they maintained centralized control over Medical Center expenditures.

The financial burdens of caring for indigent patients nearly overwhelmed the new medical college. The University of Alabama was paid for indigent patient care on a per diem basis. The per diem payments, however, did not keep pace with the cost of health care. This remained a severe problem for the medical college until the 1960s. In addition, the medical college functioned with often-severe staff and faculty shortages.

Dr. Kracke and state officials worked from the beginning to create a Medical Center around the medical college. With approval from The University of Alabama, three and one-half blocks of medical college property were resold so that the Veterans Administration Hospital, Crippled Children's Hospital, and Public Health Department could be built adjacent to the medical college. The remainder of the property served as the site for the Medical and Dental Basic Science Building and Dental Clinic.

After Dean Kracke's sudden death in June of 1950, University president John Gallalee persuaded Dr. Tinsley R. Harrison to become acting dean of the Medical College of Alabama. Dr. Harrison, an Alabama native, was the son of a physician and had received his education in the Birmingham, Alabama, public schools, Marion Military Institute, and the University of Michigan. He earned his medical degree from Johns Hopkins. Dr. Harrison had organized two other medical schools before accepting the position in Birmingham. In 1941 he went to North Carolina to help organize the new four-year Bowman Gray School of Medicine. Later, he moved to Dallas, Texas, and helped organize the Southwestern Medical School.

Dr. Harrison assumed the duties of acting dean of the Medical College of Alabama and chair of the Department of Medicine on August 1, 1950, less than two months after the death of Dean Kracke. Harrison had been reluctant to accept the deanship, even in an acting capacity, for he believed his true talents were in teaching and patient care, not in administration. However, he agreed to serve as acting dean upon the request of Dr. John Gallalee until a permanent dean could be found. His first responsibility, in fact, was to find a suitable successor to Dean Kracke. Dr. Harrison also assumed the duties of chairman of the Department of Medicine upon the retirement of Dr. James S. McLester.

Drawing on his wide acquaintance within the medical community across the nation, Dr. Harrison sought throughout the autumn and winter of 1950 and 1951 and into the spring of 1951 to fill the deanship, but he had no success. Harrison's friends and colleagues suggested a number of names, including Dr. Robert C. Berson who would later serve as dean, and many of the nominees were contacted and interviewed either in person, in writing, or by telephone. Dr. Harrison and President Gallalee even offered the position to several qualified individuals. The acting dean and the president, however, were met with refusals from every direction.

In addition to locating a new dean, Dr. Harrison also had to deal with continuing financial problems at the Medical College of Alabama. The college and the Jefferson-Hillman Hospital were short-staffed and under funded. Faculty members, many of whom were also seeing private patients or fulfilling duties at the hospital, had to balance heavy teaching loads with their patient care responsibilities. Dr. Harrison's mother was also ill, and she died in early March 1951. Exhausted by his mother's illness and by the administrative concerns of the medical school, Dr. Harrison resigned the acting deanship on 1 March 1951. In his place, Dr. James O. Foley was named acting associate dean, and he took over the responsibilities of the deanship.

In March, while Dr. Harrison was in Florida for a much-needed vacation, President Gallalee announced that Dr. James J. Durrett of the Federal Trade Commission had accepted the deanship of the Medical College of Alabama. Harrison remained chairman of the Department of Medicine until 1957 and a faculty member until his retirement in 1970. At that time of his retirement, he accepted a position with the Veterans Administration Hospital and remained active until his death in 1978.

Dr. James J. Durrett, selected as the new dean of the Medical College of Alabama in March 1951, was another native of Alabama. Dr. Durrett was born in Tuscaloosa and received his degree from The University of Alabama. He returned to Alabama in 1951 following a lengthy association with the Federal Trade Commission. Durrett's tenure at the Medical College of Alabama, however, was troubled. Although he was an able administrator, Dr. Durrett had difficulty addressing the problems of the under-financed and understaffed medical college. In an attempt to solve the administrative problems at the Medical Center, University President Oliver C. Carmichael organized a study commission headed by Dr. T. Duckett Jones to recommend improvements in the operations of the Medical Center. The Jones Committee occupied much of Dr. Durrett's time in 1954. Shortly after the release of the "Duckett Jones Report" in the summer of 1954, Dr. Durrett announced his resignation as dean of the Medical College. Dr. Robert C. Berson, who also served as the first vice president for Health Affairs, succeeded him in January 1955. Until his retirement, Dr. Durrett served as an assistant to the president of The University of Alabama.

Dr. Robert C. Berson served as dean of the Medical College of Alabama and vice president for Health Affairs of the Medical Center from 1955 to 1962. Born in Tennessee, Dr. Berson was the first dean of the medical college not to have been a native of Alabama. As dean, Berson oversaw a ten and one-half block expansion of the campus through urban renewal. In addition, he contended with the continuing financial problem of caring for indigent patients. During his tenure, Berson witnessed the construction of a psychiatric clinic made possible by funds donated by Mr. and Mrs. Joseph S. Smolian. He also directed intensive planning efforts at the Medical Center. The amount of research monies steadily increased throughout his tenure, and the medical college was reaccredited in 1960-1961 by the American Medical Association and the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Dr. Berson grew increasingly frustrated with the administration at the Medical Center after 1958. In that year, University of Alabama officials appointed Dr. Richard T. Eastwood as executive director of University Affairs for Birmingham. This appointment added an administrative level between Berson and the president of the University. In 1962, Berson resigned as dean and vice president to accept a position with the University of Texas.

Dr. S. Richardson Hill, Jr., became dean of the Medical College of Alabama after Berson's resignation. He was born in North Carolina and received his M.D. degree in December 1946 from the Bowman Gray School of Medicine of Wake Forest University. At Bowman Gray, Hill first met Dr. Tinsley R. Harrison, the distinguished physician and researcher who later served as acting dean of the Medical College and chair of the Department of Medicine.

Dr. Hill came to Birmingham in 1954 to head the endocrinology and metabolism section of the Medical College of Alabama and the Veterans Administration Hospital. Hill established a research laboratory and established fellowship program in endocrinology section. Eventually, Hill created a clinical research center and received training grants from the National Institutes of Health. He served as director of the metabolic and endocrine division until his appointment as dean in 1962.

Dean Hill spent a considerable amount of time recruiting faculty members and department heads. Through Hill's efforts, Dr. John W. Kirklin was recruited to Alabama from the Mayo Clinic to become chair of the Department of Surgery. Hill also witnessed the rapid growth of the Medical Center and other Birmingham programs of The University of Alabama. He oversaw an increase of medical college programs, the addition of new departments, and an increase in the amount of research grants awarded to faculty researchers. He also helped desegregate Medical Center facilities in the 1960s. In November 1968, Dr. Joseph F. Volker named Dean Hill the new vice president for Health Affairs.

Dr. Clifton K. Meador succeeded Dr. Hill as dean of the medical college in 1968. A native of Selma, Alabama, Meador received his medical degree from Vanderbilt University in 1955 and joined the faculty of the Medical College of Alabama in 1962. He served as director of the General Clinical Research Center from 1962 until his appointment as dean of the medical school. Dean Meador presided over many changes at the Medical Center including a plan for the expansion of medical education within the University.

On June 16, 1969 Alabama Governor Albert P. Brewer announced the formation of the independent University of Alabama in Birmingham (UAB), composed of the Medical Center programs and the College of General Studies. UAB became one of three autonomous institutions within the new University of Alabama System. Later, in September 1969 the Medical College of Alabama was officially renamed The University of Alabama School of Medicine.

Dean Meador presided over other changes in the School of Medicine and the system of medical education in the State of Alabama. As a result of the McCall Report, in 1972 The University of Alabama Board of Trustees formalized The University of Alabama System Medical Education Program (UASMEP). UASMEP was comprised of the three medical programs in the System, the programs in Birmingham, Tuscaloosa and Huntsville.

Dr. Meador served until 1973 when Dr. James A. Pittman, Jr., was appointed dean of the medical school. Dr. Pittman, a native of Florida, had graduated cum laude from the Harvard Medical School in 1952. He completed an internship and residency at the Massachusetts General Hospital and spent a brief period of time at the National Cancer Institute before accepting a second residency at the Medical College of Alabama in 1956. Dr. Pittman became the chief resident the following year. He remained in Birmingham and became a professor in the medical school. From 1962 until 1971 Dr. Pittman served as the second director of the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, succeeding Dr. S. Richardson Hill, Jr., when the later was appointed dean of the medical school.

Dean Pittman oversaw an expansion of medical education in The University of Alabama System. In 1979 he was named executive dean of all medical education programs in the system and the designation UASMEP was eliminated. From 1979, the medical programs in Huntsville and Tuscaloosa were more formally affiliated with the well-established medical school at UAB.

Other changes during Dean Pittman's tenure included a return to a three-year curriculum and an increase in the number of medical departments. Changes also occurred at the Medical Center and in the University itself. In November 1984 The University of Alabama Board of Trustees officially changed the name of the University to the University of Alabama at Birmingham. After serving longer than any preceding medical dean, Dr. Pittman retired in 1992. He was succeeded by Dr. Charlie W. Scott, who served as interim dean through the end of 1992. Dr. Harold J. Fallon of the Medical College of Virginia was named new dean in November of 1992 and assumed the position in January 1993.

Dr. Fallon, a New York native, received his medical degree from Yale University in 1957. During his academic career, he held positions at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Yale University, Duke University and the Medical College of Virginia. Before accepting the deanship in Birmingham, Fallon had served as the chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at Virginia for over 19 years.

The beginning of Dr. Fallon's tenure as dean coincided with a period of great change in the Academic Health Center and in the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The University's third president, Dr. Charles A. McCallum, Jr., resigned his position and was succeeded in October 1993 by Dr. J. Claude Bennett, then-chair of the Department of Medicine. President Bennett soon began a reorganization plan for the upper level administration of the University, and the Office of Vice President for Health Affairs, to whom the deans of the medical school had reported since 1968, was abolished in the summer of 1995 along with the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs. In their place, President Bennett established the Office of the Provost who was given responsibility for all academic programs campus-wide. Dean Fallon began reporting to the new provost, Dr. Kenneth J. Roozen, along with the 11 other academic schools at UAB.

The School of Medicine and Dean Fallon experienced another major change in 1995. President Bennett established the Office of UAB Health Systems and recruited Dr. Michael A. Geheb as first director. Geheb was given responsibility for UAB's health-care organization, health-care delivery system, and the programs supporting the University's education and research components, the clinical activities of the medical faculty. UAB Health Systems combined the functions of the former vice presidency for Health Affairs with those of University Hospital, the Kirklin Clinic, the Health Services Foundation, and UAB's newly created health-maintenance organization. Later, in October of 1996, the Health System was reorganized when The University of Alabama Board of Trustees and the Health Services Foundation approved a joint operating agreement. The agreement established a new governing structure for a non-profit entity, the UAB Health System Managing Board, comprised of the System chancellor, board of trustee members, president of UAB, dean of the medical school, chairs of the surgery and medical departments, president of the Health Services Foundation, and several community leaders.

On October 1, 1995, Dean Fallon assumed direct responsibility for the School of Primary Medical Care and the University Medical Clinics of the University of Alabama in Huntsville, a 20-year old program which had previously reported directly to the UAH president although it had been affiliated with the School of Medicine in Birmingham. The medical school and dean also assumed direct responsibility for all medical buildings and property in Huntsville.

Dr. Harold J. Fallon served as dean of the School of Medicine until 1997 when he retired and returned to the medical faculty. He was succeeded by Dr. William B. Deal, who became interim dean effective April 8, 1997, and dean in November 1997. Deal, an associate dean and member of the UAB faculty since 1991, received his medical degree from the University of North Carolina. He previously had served at the University of Florida, Maine Medical Center, and Northwestern University. Like Dean Fallon before him, Deal became dean during another year of change for UAB. In 1997 a new UAB president was named, Dr. W. Ann Reynolds, to succeed President J. Claude Bennett, who had resigned at the end of 1996, and a new chancellor was named for The University of Alabama System.

The following year more changes effected the School of Medicine and Dean Deal when Dr. Michael A. Geheb, director of the UAB Health System and CEO of the Health System Managing Board, announced his resignation from his offices. Deal became interim director and CEO effective December 1998 while a national search was held for Geheb's replacement. Deal served in that capacity until September 1999 when David J. Fine became the Health System’s second CEO. By 1998, The University of Alabama School of Medicine ranked 15th in the nation in receipt of National Institute of Health funding, and was ranked among the top 25 research-oriented medical schools in the country by U.S. News & World Report. Dean Deal presided over the largest academic school at UAB and the school with the highest-amount of extramural grants and research funding on the university campus.

In November 2000 the University of Alabama Board of Trustees named Dean Deal to the new position of Vice President for Medicine; the title was later amended to Senior Vice President for Medicine. When the UAB Capital Campaign ended in December 2003, the School of Medicine had raised more than $260 million to fund scholarships, programs, research, professorships, lectureships and the school’s physical plant. In 2004 Dr. Deal announced plans to step down as dean and return to the medical school faculty once a successor was chosen. After a national search, Dr. Robert R. Rich, Executive Associate Dean for Research at Emory University, was selected in September 2004. Rich became Dean of the School of Medicine and Senior Vice President for Medicine on October 1, 2004. 

Dr. Ray L. Watts, who previously had served as chair of the UAB Department of Neurology and as president of the University of Alabama Health Services Foundation, was named to succeed Dr. Rich in July 2010 and assumed the position as Senior Vice President for Medicine and Dean of the School of Medicine on October 1, 2010.   On February 8, 2013, Dean Watts was selected by the Board of Trustees to be the seventh president of UAB, the first undergraduate alumnus to hold the office of president.  At the same time, Dr. Anupam Agarwal, director of the Division of Nephrology, was selected as the interim dean of the School of Medicine.  He served until the appointment of Dr. Selwyn M. Vickers, an Alabama native who returned to UAB from the University of Minnesota to become Senior Vice President and Dean of the School of Medicine on October 15, 2013.  A former member of the UAB surgery faculty, Dr. Vickers became the first African American named as dean of the medical school.

During the tenure of Dean Vickers, the school underwent dramatic changes, from the creation of additional departments to major increases in extramural grant funding, reaching $270 million in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding in 2020.  Also, in 2020, the school was comprised by a total of 27 departments, with 20 clinical and seven basic science departments, had an enrollment of 799 students and 1,076 residents and fellows, and had a full-time faculty of 1,695.  The school's senior leadership was constituted by 29 individuals and three associate deans on the school's regional campuses in Huntsville, Montgomery, and Tuscaloosa.  In 2021 the school received a transformative donation, $95 million from Dr. and Mrs. Marnix E. Heersink, the largest single gift in the history of UAB.  As a result, on September 28, 2021, the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees renamed the medical school as the UAB Heersink School of Medicine, the second academic school at UAB to be named in honor of major donors.  Dr. Vickers stepped down as dean and vice president in the fall of 2022 and Dr. Anupam Agarwal returned to serve a second time as the medical school's interim dean and UAB's vice president for Medicine.  On February 3, 2023, Dr. Agarwal was named Senior Vice President for Medicine and dean of the Heersink School of Medicine.

This page created 1996 and last updated by Tim L. Pennycuff on 8 February 2022.

Copyright: The University of Alabama Board of Trustees.

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