Greenberg and Barr awards presented at Foard Lecture

May 02, 2007
The School of Public Health has announced the winners of its two highly prized annual awards. 

Photograph of Dr. Susan T. Ennett

Photograph of Dr. Susan T. Ennett
Photograph of Dr. Aaron E. Blair

Photograph of Dr. Aaron E. Blair

Dr. Susan T. Ennett is the 2007 recipient of the Greenberg Alumni Endowment Award for excellence in teaching, research and service, and Dr. Aaron E. Blair has been selected for the Barr Distinguished Alumni Award, for achievements and contributions to the field of public health.

The winners were honored at the School’s Foard Lecture, held this year on Friday, April 20, at the Paul J. Rizzo Conference Center at Meadowmont.

Dr. Ennett, associate professor of health behavior and health education at the School of Public Health, has served since 2004 as director of the doctoral program in the department. Her work addresses the significant public health problems facing young people, including HIV risk behaviors; the use of tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, and injection drugs; and aggression and violence. Her research interests include adolescent health risk prevention, with a particular emphasis on the role that cliques and social networks play in explaining adolescent risk behaviors. Her observations about peer social networks have altered the way others in the field perceive the role of peers in adolescent health-risk behaviors.

In a letter of nomination, Dr. JoAnne Earp, professor and former chair of the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, expressed her longstanding admiration for her former student and current colleague. In praising Ennett’s groundbreaking research, leadership and service, Earp commented upon Ennett’s “profound commitment to the good of the whole,” noting that “her wise counsel…functions like the keel of a boat, helping to reconcile opposing positions so that we can move forward on a clear, beneficial course.”

Nominator Dr. Vangie Foshee praised Ennett’s belief that students should receive rigorous training in state-of-the-art methods and skills required for work in public health and likewise commended her efforts to revise the doctoral program curriculum accordingly. Ennett’s “exceptional teaching and mentoring clearly demonstrate her devotion and commitment to the training mission of the School,” Foshee said.

Ennett received her bachelor’s degree from Mount Holyoke College and her master’s of science in public health and doctoral degrees (in health behavior and health education) from the UNC School of Public Health.

The Greenberg Award was established by the School’s Alumni Association to honor Dr. Bernard G. Greenberg, founder and chair of the Department of Biostatistics from 1949 to 1972 and dean of the School from 1972 to 1982. The award is given annually to an outstanding full-time faculty member for excellence in the areas of teaching, research and service. Special consideration is given to candidates who have seamlessly integrated these areas of focus. A major criterion is continuous demonstrated excellence over a number of years in service to the broader public health community. The award carries a cash prize of $12,000 a year for three years.

Dr. Blair has served as chief of the Occupational and Environmental Branch at the National Cancer Institute for over 25 years. Under his leadership, the branch expanded from four investigators to more than thirty.

Blair was one of the first in his field to incorporate quantitative exposure assessments and molecular epidemiology components to studies. Much of his work has been with underserved populations, including agricultural workers, who are particularly vulnerable to environmental pollutants. Blair has worked with collaborators to design a series of agricultural studies which have had lasting implications for researchers worldwide.

Blair received his bachelor’s degree from Kansas Wesleyan University, his master’s of science degree (botany) and doctoral degree (genetics) from North Carolina State University, and his master’s of public health (epidemiology) from the UNC School of Public Health.

Dr. Harvey Checkoway, professor of environmental health and epidemiology at University of Washington at Seattle and a colleague for more than 30 years, noted that Blair “has clearly established a well-deserved international reputation as a leader in occupational cancer epidemiology.” When his colleague asked Blair in the 1980s why he wanted to study agricultural risk factors for cancer, including pesticides (an unusual area of research at that time), Blair replied that his personal experiences growing up in the rural Midwest encouraged him “to study threats to health that his family and friends, and millions of others worldwide, may have encountered.” His motivation, Checkoway said, “bespeaks [Blair’s] genuine concern with public health at a broad population level.”

Another nominator, Dr. Andrew Olshan, professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the UNC School of Public Health, worked with Blair at the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Olshan says that in his leadership role at NCI, Blair was able to “create one of the best cancer epidemiology research units in the world and maintain its edge in the face of changing methods, priorities and budgets.”

Established in 1975, the Barr Award recognizes the achievements of alumni and their contributions to public health. For many years, the award has carried the name of its 1980 recipient – Harriet Hylton Barr – to honor her contributions to the field, which continue to this day. The Barr Award recognizes leadership, experimentation, collaboration and innovation within the profession; impact within the practice arena; and outstanding service beyond the requirements of the recipient’s employment.

# # #

UNC School of Public Health contact: Ramona DuBose, (919) 966-7467 or