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A legacy of gratitude: Sen. Luther Strange shares his UAB Surgery story

From childhood, Sen. Luther J. Strange knew he was in good hands with the care he received from UAB’s surgeons.

Emergency Surgery at Children’s Hospital

While biking with friends during his seventh-grade year in Homewood, Alabama, Strange was thrown from his bike after being hit by a traveling sedan. After the collision, Strange remembers collapsing near the intersection and his mother waiting beside him for an ambulance to take them to Children’s Hospital moments later.

“I will never forget a young resident holding my hand to put me at ease while they did their examination. I was very fortunate that the renowned pediatric surgeon Dr. Marshall Pitts happened to be on call that day,” Strange remembers.

Hospital PhotoLuther Strange with his mother in Children’s Hospital. And truly fortunate, Strange was to have arrived when he did. Upon intake, his care team determined that he had severely damaged his left hip upon impact with the sedan’s hood, sustained a deep cut on his right knee, and displayed signs of internal bleeding from bruising in the incident.

“After a full examination and evaluation of my injuries, Dr. Pitts said I’d require surgery and I was wheeled into the operating room that night. I remained in Children’s Hospital for a week or so to let all the stitches and internal bruises mend,” says Strange.

In total, Strange received 70 stitches from his injuries – requiring extreme care and multiple follow-up appointments in the healing process.

Thanks to the excellent care he received, Strange was soon back in tip-top shape and could go back to biking with his friends after school and playing basketball – a sport that would eventually lead to his college scholarship at Tulane University where his career in public policy and law would begin.

Another Lifesaving Operation with UAB Cardiovascular Institute

Many years later, Strange found himself back at UAB’s Department of Surgery for a different procedure altogether. Scheduled for a repair of his mitral heart valve, Strange got ready for surgery and completed all of his pre-operation screenings. Upon further inspection, Dr. James Davies and his care team noticed that Strange also had an aortic aneurysm, which is characterized by a weakness in the artery wall of the heart. They decided the best course of action would be to repair both findings at the same time.

With UAB’s Cardiovascular Institute (CVI), Strange knew he would be receiving treatment from surgeons who have performed many cases like his, and he was exactly right. In 2022, physicians with the CVI performed over 536 complex aortic cases and 1,755 open-heart cases – that adds up to about five heart surgeries a day!

“The care I received here at UAB absolutely put my mind at ease. I knew Dr. Davies had seen many cases like mine and could navigate my surgery to give me the best quality of life possible,” adds Strange. “Had his exceptional care team not noticed my aneurysm, I may not be here today to share the story.”

After surgery, Strange felt better than ever and ready to resume his full life as a husband, father, grandfather, attorney, and adjunct professor at the University of Alabama School of Law.

“Whenever I get the chance, I tell my friends and neighbors about the impact UAB has directly had on my life, several times over,” says Strange. “We have world-class care right in our neighborhood from dedicated, expert medical providers. We couldn’t be more fortunate.”

A Full-Circle Moment in Medicine

Inspired by the care his father received in childhood and the significant impact that pediatric physicians have on our most vulnerable and impressionable population, Strange’s son, Keehn Strange, ultimately decided to pursue a career in medicine.

A current resident in UAB’s pediatric residency program, Keehn was selected for the 2023 Joe LaRussa Intern of the Year award.

“I couldn’t be more proud of Keehn or for his interests in medicine. I know he’ll change lives and impact children across the Southeast through the compassionate care he’s learning right here at UAB – just like the resident who comforted me many years ago,” he adds.

A Legacy of Gratitude

The profound impact that UAB has had on the Strange family has inspired them to give back to the faculty of the UAB Department of Surgery for their many contributions to the community.

With their support, the Strange Family Endowed Professor in Surgical Sciences Research at UAB was recently established as an expression of their gratitude and desire to contribute to the continued excellence of the institution, with the inaugural awardee being UAB Division of Gastrointestinal Surgery Associate Professor Karin Hardiman, M.D., Ph.D.

As a principal investigator in her NIH-funded laboratory at UAB, Hardiman conducts basic and translational research related to colon cancer. She also studies multidisciplinary cancer care, survivorship care, and the role of intra-tumor genetic heterogeneity in colorectal cancer metastasis and response to therapy.

Courtesy of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Heersink School of Medicine Department of Surgery.

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