Sara Will Crews Finley, M.D.
Dr. Sara Crews Finley passed away peacefully at home on February 20, 2013. Born on February 26, 1930, Sara was the daughter of Jessie Mathews Crews and J.B. Crews of Lineville, Alabama. She graduated from Lineville High School, the University of Alabama and the Medical College of Alabama. Her postgraduate training included an internship at Lloyd Noland Hospital, a three-year pediatric research fellowship at the Medical College of Alabama and a traineeship at the Institute for Medical Genetics at the University of Uppsala, Sweden.
In 1960, Sara joined the faculty of the Medical College of Alabama, now the UAB School of Medicine. Two years later, she and her husband, Wayne H. Finley, Ph.D., M.D., co-founded the first medical genetics program in the southeastern United States. She served as Co-Director of the Laboratory of Medical Genetics at UAB for 30 years and occupied the Wayne H. and Sara Crews Finley Chair in Medical Genetics at the time of her retirement as Professor Emerita in 1996. Together Sara and Wayne guided the medical genetics research, training and service program at UAB for 35 years, providing genetics services and developing specialized diagnostic laboratories for detectable genetic disorders. In 2001, UAB honored Sara and Wayne by establishing the Finley-Compass Bank Genetics Conference Center located on the UAB campus. Sara was devoted to patients and their families who were referred for genetic evaluation and counseling, and she enjoyed her rich professional environment of physicians, staff, students and trainees throughout her career as a faculty physician, teacher and counselor.
Sara served for 20 years on the Admissions Committee of the UAB School of Medicine and authored or co-authored more than 150 papers, abstracts and book chapters in major professional publications. She was a member of numerous professional organizations, including the American Society of Human Genetics, American College of Medical Genetics (Founding Fellow), American Medical Association, and the Medical Association of the State of Alabama. Sara was the first woman to serve as President of the University of Alabama Medical Alumni Association and the Jefferson County Medical Society. She was also a member of the University of Alabama President’s Cabinet for more than 10 years.
Sara received many awards and honors for her scholarship, contributions to medicine and community service. Included among many others were: UAB Distinguished Faculty Lecturer; XXXI’s 31 Most Outstanding University of Alabama Alumnae Award; the Distinguished Alumna Award of the University of Alabama National Alumni Association; Martha Myers Role Model Award from the University of Alabama Medical Alumni Association; Samuel Buford Word Award of the Medical Association of Alabama; Gardner Award of the Alabama Academy of Science; American Medical Women’s Association/National Library of Medicine Legends Award; Alabama Healthcare Hall of Fame; Phi Beta Kappa; National Outstanding Alumna Award of Zeta Tau Alpha women’s fraternity; Birmingham Business Journal Lifetime Achievement Award; 1989 Top 10 Women in Birmingham; Brother Bryan Humanitarian Award of the Women’s Committee of 100 for Birmingham; Will Gaines Holmes Award from the Children’s Aid Society; and the Southern Women’s Committee of 50.
She was the first woman member of The Rotary Club of Birmingham and a member of its Board of Directors. She served on the Birmingham Board of Directors of Compass Bank, and her community work included service on the Boards of Directors of the United Way of Central Alabama and Girl’s Inc. She was a longtime member of Dawson Memorial Baptist Church, where she taught Sunday School for more than 30 years.
Sara was a medical genetics pioneer who transcended gender barriers throughout her career. She assumed many successful roles in a gracious way, but none were more important than those of wife, mother, sister, grandmother, aunt, cousin, friend and counselor. While aware of her many professional and civic activities, those closest to Sara will remember her most for her loyalty, warmth, sense of humor, and devotion to family, church and a wide circle of friends.
She is survived by her devoted husband of more than 60 years, Dr. Wayne H. Finley; a son, Dr. Randall W. Finley, his wife, Amy, and their son, Christopher, of Birmingham; a daughter, Sara J. Finley of Nashville; a sister, Janice Crews Proctor, and her husband, Lister, of Sylacauga; a nephew, John Bradley Proctor, his wife, Anna, their daughter, Frances, and their son, Crews, of Sylacauga; a niece, Sara Elizabeth Proctor Isbell, her husband, Ben, and their daughters, Emma and Sally, of Birmingham; a brother-in-law, Robert Finley, and his wife, Myra, of Montgomery; and many nieces, nephews and cousins.
A memorial service will be held at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 23, 2013 at Dawson Memorial Baptist Church in Birmingham, followed by a reception in the fellowship hall at the church. The family requests no flowers and suggests instead that memorial contributions be made in Sara’s honor to the Finley Chair in Medical Genetics, UAB, 1720 2nd Avenue South, Room 230, Birmingham, AL 35294; the Laura Crandall Brown Ovarian Cancer Foundation, P.O. Box 26791, Birmingham, AL 35260; or the Dawson Memorial Baptist Church Scholarship Fund, 1114 Oxmoor Road, Birmingham, AL 35209.