center profile

Dr. James bonner recruited to chair the Department of radiation oncology. Novel gene therapy trial for ovarian can- cer launched.

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Cancer Center research support exceeds $65 million.

Voncile Johnson Nelson Shealy estate names Cancer Center beneficiary of $7.5 million. New outpatient clinic opens at Acton

uglio steps down as director.

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Cancer Center receives $9-million SPore grant in ovarian cancer.

Cancer Center receives $11.8-million SP in brain tumor research.

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oncology rotation changed Dr. Nabell’s

mind in an unexpected way.

“She was very condescending,” Nabell

says. “She was the one calling the shots.

When I watched her interact with patients,

I kept thinking, ‘I could do so much better

than that.’ That experience seriously galva-

nized me.”

The resident’s example “propelled me

into internal medicine,” Dr. Nabell says.

And “the marriage of research and cutting-

edge changes,” she says, led her to hematol-

ogy and oncology. She spent much of her

fellowship at UAB in the lab of the late

Jeffrey Kudlow, M.D., before the famous

“three A’s” of the practicing physician led to

more time at the patient bedside, she says:

“I was able, available, and affable.” A new

mother and a busy clinician, Dr. Nabell

“had to reinvent myself,” she says.

UNEXpECtED INtEREst Dr. Nabell’s interest in head and neck

cancer also was unexpected—she was

“thrust into it,” she says, “because the

doctor who was doing it previously left.”

she says, “I have a sneaky love affair with

administration. I like to make things better,

see them be better and know I had a hand in

it. It’s my dirty secret.”

Dr. Nabell’s other secret is that her fel-

lows aren’t the only ones learning from their

time in the hospital. “Part of being the fel-

lowship director and being so intimately

involved is that you’re constantly challenged

by the fellows and the residency team,” she

says. “Invariably, I come away knowing a lit-

tle bit more because I had to go look some-

thing up so I could explain it better, or I get

challenged and have to look it up to explain

my position. I always come away a little bet-

ter educated than when I started.”


however, “it’s really been a nice niche,” she

says. “There are a lot of collaborative efforts

ongoing between surgery and radiation

oncology, which I like.

“It’s a really interesting field, and not

just from a standpoint of pathogenesis,”

Dr. Nabell adds. “The patient population

runs the gamut” from lifetime smokers with

throat cancer to nonsmokers and nondrink-

ers whose cancer is seemingly inexplicable.

“Pain management is a prominent need in

this area, as is outcomes analysis, looking at

late effects of surgery, radiation or chemo-

therapy,” she says. “I wouldn’t have thought

that originally.”

Dr. Nabell is intrigued by the complex-

ity of the head and neck, she says—“speech,

it, and “the kids whine a lot,” she says, “but

when they get back and look at it, they’re

neat trips.

“I’m eternally grateful for having chil-

dren,” she says. “They really rounded me

out.” She learned to play the violin along

with her children and continues to take

lessons, although “my children have easily

surpassed me,” she says. “It’s one of those

things you’re not looking for that kind of

improves the quality of conversation at the

dinner table.”

That dinner table is usually packed. A

self-confessed “foodie,” Dr. Nabell enjoys

cooking and grows a veritable forest of basil

to support her pesto habit. “My idea of a

good meal is probably a roast pork loin with

a risotto or a pesto and pan-seared veg-

etables.” And, she says, red wine—another

field she stumbled into unintentionally. She

recalls leading recruiting dinners as interim

director of the division. “When it came

time to order wine, the waiter would sort of

halfway turn to me, and neither of us was

sure what to do.” She became “much more

aggressive,” she says, about moving beyond

taste, articulation, vocalization, swallow-

ing—it’s all going on in that area.” And, she

says, it’s been a “fruitful area for investiga-

tion,” working with the surgical group in

developing new trials.

Dr. Nabell’s other main roles at UAB

take her away from the hospital. As fel-

lowship director for hematology/oncology

and The Kirklin Clinic’s medical director

for hematology/oncology clinical activities,

Dr. Nabell spends more time behind a desk

than at the patient’s bedside. Maintaining

program accreditation, seeing to reimburse-

ment issues, scheduling chemotherapy and

her other duties are as much an exercise in

time and resource management as anything

else, she says. But “to be perfectly honest,”

her casual enjoyment of wine to develop a

“working vocabulary.

“It’s not a love affair, mind you, but I

expanded my horizons,” she says. “I was sort

of forced into it.”

Cancer Center receives $13.8-million SPore in breast cancer and funding from NCI to establish the Deep South Network for Cancer Control. Dr. Kirby bland recruited as chair of surgery and depu- ty director of center.

Center is awarded a $4.5-million pancreatic cancer SP P20 grant. Award is one of only three nationally.

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ONCOLOgy, whICh I LIkE.” – Lisle Nabell

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