UNC School of Medicine honors Distinguished Alumni and Faculty

As part of the UNC School of Medicine's Spring Alumni Weekend, the annual Distinguished Medical Alumni and Faculty Awards were presented. This year's Distinguished Medical Alumni honorees were Leon Herndon, MD, Kate Queen, MD, and Lane Ormand, MD. This year's Distinguished Medical Faculty honoree was Thomas Griggs, MD. Read more about all of the winners.

UNC School of Medicine honors Distinguished Alumni and Faculty click to enlarge (L to R): Drs. Thomas Griggs, Kate Queen, Leon Herndon, and Lane Ormand

Distinguished Medical Alumni Award Winners:

Leon Herndon (Class of 1991):

Leon Herndon, MD, has earned international acclaim as an educator, a physician, and a leader in the fields of clinical ophthalmology and glaucoma research. He can now add a UNC School of Medicine Distinguished Medical Alumni award to his already outstanding list of accomplishments.

Herndon (’91) serves as associate professor of ophthalmology at Duke University Medical Center. The Raleigh native has been on the faculty at Duke since 1996 after completing his medical school and residency training at UNC.

Herndon and Cedric Bright, MD, associate dean of admissions, UNC School of Medicine, first met in 1986 when they were both participating in UNC’s Medical Education Development (MED) program. They then entered the School of Medicine one year apart. When asked what he remembers about their time together at UNC, Bright is quick to bring up the pair’s prowess on the intramural basketball courts at Woolen Gym.

Since their time at UNC, Bright said he has enjoyed seeing Herndon’s successes, first during their time as colleagues at Duke and more recently as leaders within the National Medical Association.

“Dr. Herndon is someone UNC can be proud of,” Bright said. “He is a compassionate physician, a renowned scholar, and a man committed to excellence in all that he does.”

Over the course of his career, Herndon has earned numerous accolades, both as a teacher and as a glaucoma researcher. He has received the Golden Globe Award from the Duke Eye Center, which recognizes outstanding teaching faculty.

Herndon’s research activities center on the development of innovative surgical and non-surgical options for the treatment of glaucoma and cataracts. His goal is the development of less invasive surgeries, which can lead to improved recovery for patients. His work has taken him across the globe as a speaker.

He is also a leader in his medical field and in civic life, serving on the International Education Subcommittee for the American Glaucoma Society, the Program Committee of the World Glaucoma Association, the Chandler-Grant Glaucoma Society, and the International Congress of Glaucoma Surgeons.

His commitment to community service has been recognized with honors as diverse as the Dedicated Humanitarian Service Award from the President of the Dominican Republic to the Service to Mankind Award from the Hillsborough Sertoma Club.

He often travels to West Africa to provide care for people suffering with glaucoma who would not otherwise have access to the high level of care available to his patients here in the Triangle.

“I think what makes Leon stand out is the fact that as a black physician, he’s chosen to specialize in a disease – glaucoma – which disproportionately affects black people, and he’s established himself as both a leader in the academic field and someone who does incredible philanthropic work across the world,” Bright said.

Kate Queen (Class of 1981):

During her time as a student at the UNC School of Medicine, Kate T. Queen, MD, was twice honored by her classmates for her outstanding character, skill and patience. During her residency at UNC, fellow residents honored her for her exemplary clinical judgement. Since beginning her practice in Clyde, NC, Queen (’81) has continued earning the respect of her colleagues, helping to build a coalition to improve care for older adults, including the diagnosis and prevention of osteoporosis, and the prevention of falls and fractures.

That work has once again garnered a high honor for Queen, this time the UNC School of Medicine’s Distinguished Medical Alumni Award.

Shannon Hunter, MD, of Park Ridge Health in Hendersonville, said Queen has helped to improve the level of care available to older adults in Western North Carolina.

“Dr. Queen is widely respected across our community for the fierce way she advocates for all of the patients she serves,” Hunter said.

Queen has dedicated her career to addressing the unmet needs of her patients.

In 1990, Queen developed the first regional Osteoporosis Center in Western North Carolina with grant support from The Duke Endowment. More than 25 years later, the center is still flourishing under Queen’s direction.  

After founding the center, Queen identified the need for more readily available bone density testing. Queen developed a mobile testing program, which she then rolled out across Western North Carolina’s most underserved counties.

Her work as an innovator has garnered national attention. In 2009, she was one of ten physicians named Practice Change Fellows by the John A. Hartford Foundation and the Atlantic Philanthropies.

She has also partnered with many researchers at UNC’s Thurston Arthritis Research Center to study the causes and effects of osteoporosis and – more widely – with other researchers to design strategies to help older adults prevent falls. She has collaborated with UNC to bring an Arthritis Foundation sponsored program, Walk With Ease, to Western North Carolina. The program promotes physical activity among people with arthritis.

One of her longtime collaborators, Joanne Jordan, MD, Joseph P. Archie Jr. Eminent Professor of Medicine and director of Thurston Arthritis Research Center, said Queen epitomizes all of the qualities the Distinguished Alumni Awards are meant to celebrate.

“Over her 30-year career, Kate has worked to develop innovative programs to improve the health of her community and educate health care providers. Plus, she’s a truly wonderful human being, and I feel grateful to have been able to call her a colleague and friend all these years.”

Lane Ormand (Class of 1958)

Over the course of his more than 50 years in practice, Lane Ormand (’58) has delivered a sizable percentage of the babies born in Union County.

Ormand established his solo OB/GYN practice in Monroe in 1962. Since then, he has been a fixture of the community, displaying an unwavering commitment to improving the health of generations of patients.

That half-century commitment has earned Ormand this year’s Distinguished Medical Alumni Award.

Early in his career, Ormand also served his country, working for two years as an OB/GYN at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia.

Back home in Monroe, Ormand was Union County’s first board certified OB/GYN specialist. He has dedicated his career to expanding the women’s health services available in the community. He was instrumental in the creation of the Union County Health Department’s High Risk Maternity Clinic. Over the course of his career in private practice, Ormand covered the Family Planning and Maternity Clinics – including the High Risk Clinic – at the Union County Health Department two days a week.

“Dr. Ormand is worthy of this award not only because of his service to our community, but how he served,” said Michael Lutes, president, Carolinas Health System Union. “He is a patient advocate, a community leader, a gifted physician, and a teacher who believes every person deserves the best care possible.”

Phil Jones, MD, an OB/GYN with Carolinas Medical Center, recalls an early piece of advice he received from Ormand: “Practice good medicine, make yourself available, and treat people nicely. Everything else will take care of itself.”

Upon Ormand’s retirement, the Monroe Women’s Clinic was renamed in his honor and now serves patients as the Ormand Center for Women.

After retiring, he continued working one day a week at the Health Department when he saw that there was a need for additional physicians.

Randall Williams, MD, deputy secretary for health services at the NC Department of Health and Human Services, said Ormand is a role model for physicians serving in rural and underserved areas.

“One of my primary missions is to recruit and advocate for physicians serving in rural areas,” Williams said. “I often tell members of the legislature and other leaders across the state that if we could somehow clone Lane Ormand, the world would be a much better place.”

Distinguished Medical Faculty Award:

Thomas Griggs (Class of 1969):

Thomas Griggs, MD, (’69) is a problem solver. Never content to sit and wait for others, if he sees a need, he jumps in to meet it. If he has the training, all the better; if not, he’ll make sure he gets it.

This was the attitude that led him to start the South Orange Rescue Squad in 1971 after he witnessed a gap of emergency medical services available in the community. One of the early members of the rescue squad was Jane Brice, MD, who joined the group during her undergraduate days at UNC.

Now chair of the UNC Department of Emergency Medicine, Brice said she often shares a piece of Griggs’ advice with students and trainees.

“People would always ask Dr. Griggs, ‘when do you know you’ve done enough for a patient?’” Brice said. “He’d always say, ‘You have to do everything you can until your conscience is cleared and you can go to sleep at night. That’s when you’ve done enough.’”

Another one of Griggs’ lessons could be considered his mission statement.

“He’s told me that if you’re just taking care of a single patient and not thinking about the community as a whole, then you aren’t doing enough,” Brice said.

Griggs’ accomplishments could easily be split between those of his academic career and the accolades he earned during his incredible career as a public servant.

A native North Carolinian, Griggs earned his medical degree from UNC in 1969. After residency at Johns Hopkins and fellowships back at UNC, Griggs joined the School of Medicine faculty in 1975. In 1991 he was named chief of the division of cardiology, serving in that capacity for three years. A dedicated researcher, Griggs served as director of the Francis Owen Blood Research Laboratory at UNC for more than 25 years.

As the consummate public servant, Griggs has helped to meet the needs of his community and his state.

In addition to his years as medical director of the South Orange Rescue Squad, Griggs became a member of the Orange Grove Fire Department and remains an active member, still responding to emergencies. In 1980, the North Carolina Fireman’s Association honored him with their North Carolina Fireman of the Year award.

Griggs is a sworn law enforcement officer, joining the Chapel Hill Police Department as a volunteer officer. He also serves other public servants. In 1996, he created the medical office of the State Highway Patrol and served as director until his retirement in 2013. In this role, he provided medical oversight for the Highway Patrol’s training programs and medical advice for officers who had been injured in the line of duty.

In nominating Griggs for this award, Wake County EMS’ Deputy Medical Director, Jefferson Williams, MD, MPH, called Griggs “the public servants’ doctor.”

Though officially retired, Griggs can’t sit on the sidelines. He currently serves as an adjunct professor in the department of Emergency Medicine, providing his expertise to the next generation of EMS physicians.

“He’s the role model we should all try and live up to,” Brice said.