It’s been a very full few days, but I’ve had a few moments to think about other things than the cascading to-do list. Friday night, my husband and I attended a dinner in honor of three recipients of the General Alumni Association (GAA) Faculty Service Awards. I’m excited and proud that two recipients have appointments in our School. Jo Anne Earp, ScD, professor and chair emeritus of health behavior, is legendary for her purple pen and prodigious editing of everything that crosses her desk. She makes everything her pen touches better, and I can say that from firsthand experience! Dr. Earp was lauded for her mentoring of faculty and students; from the perspective of sheer numbers and impact, she has had a remarkable career. The award also recognized her research impact in reducing black/white differentials in mammography use and breast cancer mortality. Jo Anne has lived her values and infused them into her research. In that respect, the proximity of her receiving this honor, Martin Luther King’s birthday and Angela Davis’s speaking couldn’t have been more perfect!
Mike Cohen, MD, Yeargan-Bate Eminent Distinguished Professor of medicine, microbiology and immunology, was recognized for a breathtaking career and his lead of the study that proved AIDS treatment is prevention—a lifesaving and game-changing discovery that caused Science magazine to name it the 2011 breakthrough of the year. Mike is brilliant, charismatic and visionary, and we’re so grateful that he is professor of epidemiology, along with his other faculty appointments.
The third GAA Faculty Service Award recipient was Bland Simpson, PhD. Dr. Simpson isn’t a faculty member in our School – he’s professor of English – but he could be in the School, with his track record of compelling writing and teaching about North Carolina environmental issues. I wish I’d had an English professor like Bland.
Hearing about and interacting with these inspirational faculty members was stimulating, joyful and energizing. As a bonus, we heard Angela Davis last night, a voice and legend from my past. She gave the 34th annual MLK Lecture to an energized and engaged audience in Memorial Hall. I was struck by the comments she read from King’s writings about how activists should not see local as distinct from international, because the two concepts are interconnected. That’s really our message about global health. She also said that we shouldn’t avoid thinking about individuals in the wake of Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y., but if we are to change anything, it has to be through focusing on systems and institutions, and she encouraged young people to keep doing just that. I was impressed by Davis’s charisma and ability to keep advocating for her dreams, values and aspirations – and glad that there was such a full house to hear her and cheer her. We have lots of work to do on many fronts.