For years, the public school system and the University of Alabama system duked it out for the title of largest employer in the state. That is not exactly true anymore (Walmart is the largest single employer as of 2018), but there is a lot to love about one of its largest employers: The industrial-medical complex, particularly the role that Auburn, UAB, and the city of Birmingham have played and continue to play.
With the decline of the steel industry in the latter half of the 20th century, Birmingham’s raison d’etre has been its focus on world-class medicine. And, that industry is literally world-class.
Birmingham and UAB have become an international hub for teaching, health care, world renowned children’s hospital, cutting edge science, programmatic interventions and public health efforts, and surgical expertise.
At UAB, so many foreign-born medical professionals come to the Magic City to learn their chops, that there is an entire mentorship program. But, UAB is not just focused on developing those professionals to in turn dot the globe; it also has a joint training program with in-state HBCUs to serve Alabama’s black belt and other minority populations.
The city’s experiential learning is unsurpassed, and its applied experimental approach has changed life for millions: Ground-breaking AIDS research? National model for tobacco intervention and cessation? Check. One of the world’s best (and best-funded) cancer centers? Experimental therapy to treat emphysema? New surgical techniques? Even reversing wrinkles? Yup. All here.
(And, in case you missed it: that 2013 emphysema experiment? It totally worked.)
We would also be remiss if we didn’t talk about the role that Dr. Andrews has played in both being the world’s foremost orthopedic surgeon, and in also putting Birmingham’s medical reputation on the map so many years ago.
And this one too!
Though Birmingham is its epicenter, the industry is not situated in that city alone. There are numerous other outstanding medical centers in the state. There are the many regional nursing programs, serving both urban and underserved communities — especially the outstanding ones at Alabama and UAB. There is a coastal medical school with tropical disease care. There is Hudson Alpha, a genomic non-profit in Huntsville that has had a $26 billion impact on the state with groundbreaking biotech.
Nor is the world-class care limited to humans.
If you’ve ever had a pet in Alabama, Fluffy was most likely treated by an Auburn-trained vet and given lab results performed at the AU vet school. If something dire happens to Man’s Best Friend, the Auburn Veterinary Hospital is most likely where they would go — it is the very best one in the United States. In fact, the Auburn Veterinary School as a whole is consistently rates as one of the best in the country. Even here, six hours away from the ‘Barn, I still look for and use Auburn vets for my pooch.
All this dedication to creating a better, healthier world for ourselves, our loved ones, and our fur babies matters in so many ways beyond good jobs and good reputation and keeping a city alive. These professionals’ training and skills have a lasting impact on our lives.
When I was a kid, I had an Auburn vet to thank for treating my dog’s cancer. I owed my mom’s continued life to a UAB oncologist and to the Auburn labs. I owe my daughter’s survival to a UA pediatrician. I have a joint UA/UAB program to thank for one of my graduate degrees (spoiler: it involves health.) My dog’s ortho surgeon here in Memphis is an AU grad. Hey — even one of hottest and most insane women I ever dated was an Alabama RN! So thanks for that experience too!
Though these are personal stories, I’ll bet I’m not alone. Not by a long shot.
The state’s health care industry and its professionals are integral to the fabric of Alabama life beyond the mere economic and reputation impact. So, take a bow, those tens of thousands of you in Alabama’s health care industry. You have a lot to be proud of.
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