BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Growing up in the small town of Demopolis, Alabama, young Selwyn Maurice Vickers never dreamed of becoming the dean of UAB’s medical school or obtaining the title of CEO.

But with educators as parents, Vickers was taught that his life didn’t have limits.

“Education was a great equalizer that any opportunity could be mine and any door possibly mine as long as I didn’t see myself having any parts that would make me inferior,” he said. “But all is I had to have was the willingness to actually work as hard, sometimes twice as hard as others, and prove that I was as good.”

Dr. Vickers finds himself walking in the footsteps of trailblazers like Dr. James McCune Smith, the first African American to graduate from medical school in the 1830s; Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, an African American who performed the first heart surgery, and Dr. Charles Drew, The Black surgeon and researcher who developed the process for blood transfusions.

Vickers’ colleagues at UAB see him as continuing that legacy.

“He brings extreme knowledge but he also brings more than that he brings what we want to see in a leader at any level, and that’s excellence, that’s respectful leadership,” according to Dr. Kay Morgan, UAB’s head of African American Studies.

It is respect Dr. Vickers earned as a Johns Hopkins University graduate and head of surgery at the University of Minnesota, where he was the only Black faculty member, distinguishing himself as one of America’s top surgeons and serving as UAB’s Dean of the Medical School before being elevated to C.E.O. of the health system. “What I push for in our system, our institutions, particularly the medical side, diversity is about excellence,” Vickers said.

He has an attention to inclusiveness that carries over to his focus on healthcare disparities. Dr. Vickers takes great pride in pushing for equity. “Making sure that everybody has a chance to gain access and to actually have an opportunity to improve their lives and save the lives of loved ones,” he said.

He’s described as an astute teacher. The humble man who leads by example is proud of his many achievements and his work in the community, but Vickers doesn’t see any of that as his greatest accomplishment.

“My greatest accomplishment — and this sounds trite — relates to the decision who I chose as my partner and that person choosing me and my kids,” he said.

As the first Black full-time faculty member in UAB’s department of surgery, Dr. Vickers remembers the barriers he faced.

“Some of my early patients had challenged in own their own hearts and spirit about having confidence of who I was because of what I was,” Vickers recalled.

It was also what he was that broke down stereotypes: “The performance of my job serving them changed the perception that it didn’t matter what color I was, it was only if I was good.”

As for what’s next, Vicker said it’s up to a higher power.

“Well, if I am consistent with what I said I need to do this job well, that’s the first step, is to do this job well and trust if I do it well, I have to trust by faith that God will have other opportunities to continually serve.”