New School of Medicine dean says College can be a model for primary care

November 27, 2013

Selwyn Vickers, MD, new senior vice president and dean of the University of Alabama School of Medicine, headquartered in Birmingham, visited the College of Community Health Sciences Nov. 8 for a luncheon and meet-and-greet conversation. 

elwyn Vickers, MD, new senior vice president and dean of the University of Alabama School of Medicine, headquartered in Birmingham, visited the College of Community Health Sciences Nov. 8 for a luncheon and meet-and-greet conversation.
Selwyn Vickers, MD, new senior vice president and dean of the University of Alabama School of Medicine visited the College Nov. 8.

Vickers, a native of rural West Alabama who grew up in the Tuscaloosa area, assumed his new position in October. He is a renowned surgeon, pancreatic cancer researcher and pioneer in health disparities research.

“I can’t tell you how pleased I have been to hear all the work your dean and your faculty and your staff are doing not only to prepare to train students, but to prepare to take care of people in this part of Alabama and to prepare to be part of a more global force to deal with primary care,” Vickers said at the luncheon about the College, which also functions as the Tuscaloosa Regional Campus of the School of Medicine, training a cohort of third- and fourth-year medical students.

Vickers started by speaking about his love for his home state of Alabama.

“For me, the opportunity to do something significant in my home state that could not only affect the state, but affect the Southeast and the country, was something I just couldn’t pass up,” he said about his decision to return to Alabama after serving, since 2006, as the Jay Phillips Professor and Chair of the Department of Surgery and Associate Director of Translational Research at the Masonic Cancer Center, both at the University of Minnesota.

“It’s with that background that I come in as dean having the passion for education, for research and also for clinical care.”

Previously, Vickers directed the section of Gastrointestinal Surgery and was co-director of the Minority Health Research Center and the Pancreaticobillary Center at the University of Alabama School of Medicine. He joined the School of Medicine after earning baccalaureate and medical degrees from the John Hopkins University, which is where he completed his surgical training, including a chief residency.

Vickers addressed a variety of issues at the luncheon, including the Affordable Care Act and what it means to physicians and health care providers, as well as the global issue of health care and the role the College, the School of Medicine and the state play in it.

He also discussed Alabama’s current state of health and what physicians can do to improve it.

“If you can improve the lives of individuals who are really suffering for multiple reasons, you can change the lives of many people in the entire state,” he said. “The challenge of primary care is the willingness to engage a population to own its health, to be preventive, to be thoughtful and design delivery mechanisms that can truly touch the population of our state that needs it the most.

“We want to show the rest of the country that what we can do can be modeled elsewhere, because we want the best for all of our people—not just those who can afford it or who have access to health care.”