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Stancil Starnes describes UA System’s foresight in service of state’s healthcare needs

Member of the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees, Stancil “Stan” Starnes, has held a front row seat to changes that have vitally transformed American public life. In business, in law, in healthcare, in higher education — Starnes sees today a robust Alabama that is yet to hit its peak.

Despite his trademark humility, Starnes is no spectator. 

A 1969 graduate of the University of Alabama at age 20, Starnes ascended the heights of the business as CEO of ProAssurance from 2007 until 2019, now serving as its executive chairman. A graduate of the Cumberland School of Law, Starnes has remained one of the top legal minds in the state on the subject of medical and insurance liability in both private practice and two decades on the Alabama Supreme Court Advisory Committee. A proud product of the Capstone, Starnes says he picks no favorites when it comes to the four mighty components of the University of Alabama System. 

“Many people don’t realize that the University of Alabama system is one institution with four component parts: the University of Alabama, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and the University of Alabama Health Care System. Each of those campuses has a President. The University of Alabama Health Care System has a CEO,” Starnes told Yellowhammer News. 

“UAB Health System is the largest employer in the state. The University of Alabama system is the largest economic enterprise in the state. That system itself has over 42,000 employees and 70,000 students. Our health system treats patients from all over the state, and indeed all over the world. It’s the largest health care system in Alabama by a multiple of many times. There is nothing to compare it to in the state, and there is very little to compare it to elsewhere in the country. If you look at the statistics on the UAB Health System, you will see that very, very few hospitals and academic institutions in the United States are larger than UAB or have a better reputation. UAB’s success is a product not only of the internal affairs of the University but also of the willingness of the Legislature to fund UAB, recognizing that its activities and operations are a fundamental necessity to the welfare of this state and our people.”

“So, the future health of Alabama, in a very real sense, depends on UAB,” Starnes added. 

RELATED: UAB to acquire Ascension St. Vincent’s

It was announced recently that the UA System Board of Trustees approved an agreement for the UAB Health System Authority to take ownership of Ascension St. Vincent’s Health System. Ascension, a nonprofit operating healthcare entities and hospitals nationwide, “has provided outstanding health care for 125 years,” Starnes said. The ongoing acquisition, as well as the longstanding partnership between UAB and Ascension St. Vincent’s, is unanimously positive, he says. 

“Health care in this country today is very challenging for a whole host of reasons that are beyond our discussion today. But St. Vincent’s in Birmingham has provided outstanding health care for 125 years. It became very important for Ascension to provide a means and mechanism which would ensure the ongoing provision of health care for the people in Birmingham and enable St. Vincent’s to sustain its operations in the city. That’s what led to the transaction with UAB,” Starnes said.

“It is a transaction of ultimate importance because it means that the St. Vincent’s health care facility and all of its health care operations will continue. They will not have to be dismantled, sold, or moved but will remain in place under the operation of UAB. There are very few things that could enhance the provision of health care by St. Vincent’s more than this transaction with UAB. It will ensure that their healthcare services are sustained far into the future and continue to be provided by UAB.”

In terms of the value added to UAB and its mission, Starnes says the acquisition will enable a great deal of new activity.

“First, UAB today is very crowded. The demand for health care at UAB exceeds the available space. Every day, there is a demand for beds at UAB that we can’t meet because the hospital is full. St. Vincent’s will provide us with additional space, additional beds, and additional emergency room space to meet the overflowing demand for health care that comes to UAB every single day. So in that sense, it expands and will, in the future, expand the healthcare UAB is able to deliver,” Starnes said. 

RELATED: UAB sets new record with $774.5M in research funding for 2023

Making prudent decisions to advance the mission of treating as many patients, and educating as many students as possible, is in the muscle memory of the 15-member UA System Board of Trustees. 

“The University of Alabama system today is a product of a lot of great decisions made over the years by the Board of Trustees,” Starnes said. “Probably the single greatest movement of the university in the last 25 years was the decision to purchase Bryce Hospital and its adjoining acreage, which gave the university over 300 additional acres in Tuscaloosa so we have room for expansion to meet whatever the future demands are.”

“When I was a student at the University in the 60s, the entire student body was 12,000 people. Today, it’s three times that, making it the largest single campus in our state. So that real estate the Board of Trustees acquired several years ago was pivotal in enabling the university to grow as it has. The current three presidents of our campuses are doing just a terrific job in a very tough educational environment in this country.”

“There is a lot that’s broken about higher education in the United States, but our three presidents are doing a splendid job in performing the tasks set before them: To enhance the ability of this state to compete in the world economy.”

Grayson Everett is the state and political editor for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @Grayson270

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