“I can't say… From first grade on, I wanted to be a woman doctor. And there were no doctors in my family, nor had I ever seen a female physician…”
“GROUNDBREAKING MEDICAL GENETICS RESEARCHER”
“We were in the right place at the right time,” says Sara Crews Finley about the beginning of her life in genetics. “My husband and I were at a career crossroads—he's a doctor, too—and had an opportunity to go to Sweden to study medical genetics. Trouble was we were given only 24 hours to decide. We had a two–year old and a four–year old, but we said, "Yes" and off we went to the University of Uppsala!”
That was in 1961 when, as Finley pointed out, “the U.S. didn't have much in the way of medical genetics.” Thanks to the Finleys, who "patched together" the first such program in the southeast, the rest is history. “We helped it start to walk and now it's a long–distance runner,” she recalls of the University of Alabama's program, which today boasts a state–of–the–art research building, an endowed chair in medical genetics —named after the Finleys— and the Finley–Compass Bank Genetics Conference Center. Until their joint retirement as Professors of Pediatrics in 1996, when they also were awarded Professor Emeriti status, the Finleys served their entire careers in the University of Alabama system, guiding the development of the regional research, training and service program for 35 years.
Nominating Finley as a Local Legend, Representative Spencer Bachus [R–AL–6] said, "Dr. Finley deserves to be recognized for her remarkable contribution to medicine and to the Birmingham community." A native of Lineville, she earned her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Alabama, her M.D. degree from the Medical College of Alabama and did her internship at Lloyd Noland Hospital, in Fairfield, followed by a three–year residency in the Department of Pediatrics at the Medical College.
Among her distinguished achievements, Finley received a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services grant continuously for 30 years to support faculty, students and residents in the genetics program. She has served on the DHHS Ad Hoc Genetics Review Panel for Genetic Disease/Sickle Cell Testing and Counseling Programs, National Cancer Institute's Cancer Research Manpower Review Committee, NIH Sickle Cell Disease Advisory Committee and others. She was the first woman president of the Jefferson County Medical Society, been a Counselor of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama, and was on the Admissions Committee for the School of Medicine for twenty years.
A founding member of the American College of Medical Genetics, she also belongs to the American Society of Human Genetics, the American Federation of Clinical Research, the New York Academy of Sciences, the Southern Society for Pediatric Research and others. Her honors and awards include Phi Beta Kappa, White House Conference on Health —1965, Who's Who in American Men and Women of Science, American Medical Association Recognition Award, Distinguished Faculty Lecturer of the University of Alabama Medical Center, Birmingham Business Journal's Who's Who in Health Care and many more.
Finley is author or co–author of 140 abstracts and articles in medical journals and she has helped to write and edit 14 books, book chapters or journal articles.
With her husband, Wayne, Sara Crews Finley, MD, founds first medical genetics program in the southeastern United States at the University of Alabama Medical Center, Birmingham
Becomes first occupant of The Wayne H. and Sara Crews Finley Chair in Medical Genetics at the University of Alabama
Medical College of Alabama