Mountain Brook AIDS Researcher Earns National Award

A noted AIDS researcher and Mountain Brook resident was one of only three doctors from the U.S. to receive the Clinical Excellence Award at the National Physician of the Year Awards ceremony in New York City March 31.

Dr. Michael Saag of Mountain Brook. (Photo special to the Journal)

Michael Saag, professor of medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and director of the Center for AIDS Research, received the award at a ceremony at The Pierre Hotel. The awards are given each year by Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. to recognize doctors and researchers who demonstrate excellence in clinical medical practice.

“It’s clearly a huge honor to receive this award from such a well-recognized and well-respected group, and it’s one that I feel compelled to share first with all of the providers at the 1917 Clinic,” Saag said. “It’s not a single person who provides care that gets recognized; it’s an entire system and team. From my perspective, this honor is for them as well.”

Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. annually solicits special nominations from thousands of physicians and the leadership of more than 1,000 hospitals to identify physicians who have made significant strides in their areas of medicine.

“I think this honor also is representative of all the people who provide HIV care around the country,” Saag said. “To my knowledge, this is the first time this organization has honored an HIV care provider, and my sense is that they could have picked any one of more than 100 equally qualified people within the HIV community of providers. I feel honored they chose me.”

Saag and his team at UAB are credited with leading efforts to help transform a virus that in the early 1980s was the most deadly in human history to what is now a manageable chronic disease.

Saag, who came to UAB in 1981, made important discoveries in the genetic evolution of HIV. He directed the first inpatient studies of seven of the first 25 antiretroviral drugs for HIV. He also helped start the 1917 Clinic, an HIV outpatient clinic that combines patient care with clinical trials and other research.

Saag’s first book, “Positive,” was published this month and tells about his life of studying HIV and treating patients with AIDS.

But the book is more than a memoir, Saag said.

He said the book also shines a light on what he describes as the dysfunctional U.S. healthcare system. In the book, Saag proposes optimistic yet realistic remedies drawing from his own career experience.

Saag had a book signing for “Positive” in March at Alabama Booksmith. The book is published by Greenleaf Book Group.

For more information on Saag’s book, visit www.positivethebook.com.

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