Rimer awarded American Cancer Society's Medal of Honor for benchmark cancer research

May 23, 2013
Barbara K. Rimer, DrPH, MPH, dean of The University of North Carolina’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, was presented with the American Cancer Society’s Medal of Honor on May 22 at the Society’s 100th Birthday Summit in Atlanta.

Dr. Barbara Rimer, center, accepted the ACS Medal of Honor on May 22. Dr. Vince DeVita (left), ACS president, and Gary Reedy (right), chair of the ACS board of directors, made the award presentation.

Dr. Barbara Rimer, center, accepted the ACS Medal of Honor on May 22. Dr. Vince DeVita (left), ACS president, and Gary Reedy (right), chair of the ACS board of directors, made the award presentation.

Past recipients of the award include former U.S. president George H.W. Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush; the late Honorable Edward M. Kennedy, senator from Massachusetts; George N. Papanicolau, MD, inventor of the Pap test; Robert C. Gallo, MD, recognized for achievements in pioneering the field of human retrovirology; the late Judah Folkman, MD, a leading researcher in the field of antiangiogenesis; and the late C. Everett Koop, MD, former U.S. Surgeon General.

Rimer received the Medal of Honor for Cancer Control for her seminal cancer research efforts, particularly her work in breast cancer screening, which has guided national research, practice and policy for more than 20 years. Her work has evolved with the field – from raising awareness of screening and increasing screening initiation to promoting screening maintenance. She has informed national policy and has been a leader in addressing health disparities based on race, ethnicity and economics.

“There is no one more deserving of the ACS Medal of Honor than Barbara Rimer,” said H. Shelton Earp III, MD, professor of medicine and pharmacology at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and director of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“Her passion for research and action in the field of cancer prevention is legendary and is backed up by hundreds of publications, thousands of hours spent mentoring, and the trust of the nation, as exemplified by her being named to the country’s most important positions,” Earp said. “Her leadership of the President’s Cancer panel is the culmination of the respect in which she is held. The honor is particularly touching as Barbara grew up in the American Cancer Society family, the daughter of Irving Rimer, one of the architects of the growth of the ACS.”
A UNC faculty member since 2003 and dean since 2005, Rimer holds the Alumni Distinguished Professorship in health behavior at the Gillings School and is a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. She chairs the national President’s Cancer Panel, is vice chair of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Task Force on Community Preventive Services and is an elected member of the prestigious Institute of Medicine.She has served in a number of leadership positions in cancer research. She was founding director of the National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences and chair of the Institute’s National Cancer Advisory Board. She served as deputy director for population sciences at UNC Lineberger, associate director for cancer control at the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center and director of behavioral research at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. She also has published extensively on a wide range of topics including cancer screening, tobacco control, and genetic and genomics-based testing.

Also receiving this year’s Medal of Honor were Isaiah J. Fidler, DVM, PhD, for basic research, and Kathleen M. Foley, MD, for clinical research. Fidler, director of the Metastasis Research Laboratory at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, was honored for his contributions to the study of the biology and therapy of cancer metastasis. Foley, attending neurologist in the Pain and Palliative Care Service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City and professor in Cornell University’s Weill Medical College, was honored for her national and international efforts in the treatment of patients with cancer pain.

About the American Cancer Society
The American Cancer Society is a global grassroots force of more than three million volunteers saving lives and fighting for every birthday threatened by every cancer in every community. As the largest voluntary health organization, the Society’s efforts have contributed to a 20-percent decline in cancer death rates in the U.S. since 1991, and a 50 percent drop in smoking rates.

Thanks in part to the Society’s progress, nearly 14 million Americans who have had cancer – and countless more who have avoided it – will celebrate more birthdays this year.
As ACS marks its 100th birthday in 2013, the organization is determined to finish the fight against cancer. It aims to find cures as the nation’s largest private, not-for-profit investor in cancer research, ensuring people facing cancer have the help they need and continuing the fight for access to quality health care, lifesaving screenings, clean air and more. For more information, to seek help, or to join the fight, call 800-227-2345 or visit www.cancer.org.


Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or dpesci@unc.edu.