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Adaora Adimora, MD, PhD, professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases and professor of epidemiology in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, has been honored by her peers with the 2020 Thomas Jefferson Award.

By Carleigh Gabryel

The annual Thomas Jefferson Award recognizes a UNC faculty member who, through personal influence and performance of duty in teaching, writing and scholarship, has best exemplified the ideals and objectives of Thomas Jefferson. UNC faculty members nominate candidates for the honor, which carries a cash prize; a faculty committee chooses the recipient. Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz, PhD, presented the award to Adaora Adimora, MD, PhD, during a virtual meeting of the Faculty Council last week.

“Dr. Adimora is a tireless champion for people afflicted with HIV in North Carolina, the South, across the U.S. and globally,” Guskiewicz said during the presentation.

Professor Adimora joined the UNC Infectious Disease faculty in 1993. She is a Sarah Graham Kenan Distinguished Professor in the UNC Department of Medicine and professor of epidemiology at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. Adimora’s research focuses on the epidemiology of STDs and HIV in women and under-served populations in order to reduce transmission rates using community-based approaches. In 2019, she was elected to the National Academy of Medicine, which is regarded as one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine.

Gail Henderson, PhD, professor of social medicine, was one of Adimora’s nominators for the award and introduced her during the presentation.

“Dr. Adimora’s work is highly collaborative and has touched so many people in so many disciplines,” Henderson said. “She’s been a mentor to dozens of graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, junior faculty and international scholars. Her path-breaking work has helped shift the HIV prevention field form its previous exclusive focus on individual behaviors, to one that now recognizes the importance of structural social determinants in HIV transmission.”

“I thank my colleagues in the Infectious Diseases Division, the entire Institute of Global Health and the Center for AIDS Research for their unending support of me,” Adimora said. “UNC really is one of the most collegial places imaginable. I’m privileged to have a career that allows me and encourages me to think about what I think is important.”

Adimora also thanked Victor Schoenbach, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology (retired) at Gillings..

“I owe him enormous gratitude for so many things – for staying up all night with me helping me write my first grant, when I had absolutely no idea how to write a grant. For helping me manage my first research project when I had no idea how to do that either. For sitting with me in my office for hours and discussing what seemed like lofty ideas and working with me to turn the ideas into research, talks and papers. Thank you, Vic, for being the best mentor, collaborator and friend I could have imagined,” Adimora said.

The Thomas Jefferson Award was established in 1961 by the Robert Earll McConnell Foundation. See a list of past recipients here.