4 Gillings faculty members honored with 2023 awards for mentorship, teaching, research and service
April 20, 2023
Leaders at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health have announced the winners of four of the School’s most prestigious awards – the John E. Larsh Jr. Award for Mentorship; the Edward G. McGavran Award for Excellence in Teaching; the Bernard G. Greenberg Alumni Endowment Award for teaching, research and service; and the Harriet Hylton Barr Distinguished Alumni Award, which honors an alumnus or alumna for outstanding achievements and contributions to public health.
The 2023 winners are Michael Hudgens, PhD, professor and associate chair of biostatistics (for the Larsh Award); Lindsey Smith Taillie, PhD, associate professor and associate chair of academics in the Department of Nutrition (for the McGavran Award); Jason West, PhD, professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering (for the Greenberg Award); and Leah McCall Devlin, DDS, MPH, professor of the practice in health policy and management and 1984 Master of Public Health alumna (for the Barr Award).
Michael Hudgens, PhD, is the winner of the 2023 Larsh Award.
Hudgens is a professor and associate chair of the Department of Biostatistics and serves as the director of the Biostatistics Core of the UNC Center for AIDS Research (CFAR). He has experience in collaborative research and statistical methodology development related to studies of infectious diseases.
Professor Hudgens has co-authored more than 300 peer-reviewed papers in statistical journals such as Biometrics, Biometrika, JASA and JRSS-B as well as biomedical journals such as the Lancet, Nature and New England Journal of Medicine. He currently serves as an associate editor for Biometrics. He is an elected fellow of the American Statistical Association and has taught graduate level biostatistics courses at UNC for over 15 years.
“His advising style is fine-tuned and key to his students’ successes and positive outcomes,” wrote one nominator. “He sets high, yet reasonable standards for his students and then gives them the tools to succeed. He is an expert at structuring academic arguments and a scrupulous editor; he passes those skills on to his students through extremely close partnerships on writing manuscripts, helping every student paper reach its maximum potential.”
“Dr. Hudgens is one of the most patient, thoughtful, and respectful professors in the department. He always goes out of his way to help students who need help,” another nominator recalled. “[When] I struggled with a research project, he patiently answered all of my questions, encouraged me throughout the whole process and served as a great role model in terms of work ethic. He made me realize that my work is appreciated and help is always available. Working with Dr. Hudgens has provided me a great opportunity to grow both intellectually and personally.”
Established in 1997, the John E. Larsh Jr. Award for Mentorship recognizes a current member of the Gillings School faculty who best exemplifies the qualities of mentoring and commitment to students that Dr. Larsh embodied and valued so highly. Larsh was a health behavior faculty member from 1942 to 1981. The $4,500 prize may be used in any way that enhances the faculty member’s ability to mentor and support students.
Lindsey Smith Taillie, PhD, is the winner of the 2023 McGavran Award.
Taillie is a nutrition epidemiologist who received her doctoral degree in nutrition from the Gillings School in 2014. She is a current associate professor in the nutrition department and the department’s associate chair for academics. She also co-leads the UNC Global Food Research Program.
Taillie has published over 130 peer-reviewed publications focused in the area of global food policy to promote healthy, sustainable diets and prevent non-communicable diseases. Her work uses a combination of randomized controlled trials and natural experimental studies using large datasets on food purchases and intake to evaluate and inform food policy. Taillie has worked on policies such as sugary beverage taxes, front-of-package warning labels, and marketing restrictions in the US, Latin America, Asia and Africa, with a lens towards how these policies promote health equity.
Along with colleagues in health behavior, Taillie developed the UNC Mini Mart, located at the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, which is designed to look like a real food store where people can buy and take-home food and drinks for their families. With regards to teaching, Taillie has designed and taught a number of classes, including one of Gillings first “Triple I” classes (Food: People, Politics and Policy), a global food policy seminar (Soda, Snacks and Sustainability), and also helped develop the food studies introductory course, along with other courses.
“Her teaching methods have been very collaborative,” a nominator commented, “so when I learn, I am interacting with countless leaders in the field that she has connected me to. My research project has involved talking to leading researchers in places as far as Brazil and New Orleans. She has welcomed me to monthly group meetings of the Global Food Research Program, where I learn about diverse topics such as food labeling and soda taxes and supplement my own understanding of nutrition.”
“I cannot say enough good things about Dr. Taillie and her worthiness of this award,” another nominator wrote. “She has truly been an inspiration to me in terms of how to be an effective, thoughtful, creative instructor that encourages critical thought and engagement from all types of students. The McGavran Teaching Excellence Award would be an excellent recognition of Dr. Taillie’s efforts and accomplishments.”
The McGavran Award for Excellence in Teaching honors Edward G. McGavran, MD, MPH, dean of the UNC School of Public Health from 1947 to 1963 and proponent of “hands-on” field training for public health students. First given in 1975, the award recognizes career-long excellence in teaching by a faculty member at the Gillings School. This award comes with a $1,000 prize. The recipient may use the funds in any way that enhances their ability to teach and support students.
Jason West, PhD, is the winner of the 2023 Greenberg Award.
West conducts interdisciplinary research addressing air pollution and climate change by using models of atmospheric chemistry and transport and tools for quantitative policy analysis. He is an international leader in the assessment of the global health effects of ground-level ozone and fine atmospheric particulate matter, including analyses that examine the impacts of climate change and energy policy.
West has made contributions in the use of atmospheric computer models for assessment of health impacts from air pollution. His lab led the first studies using models for this purpose, including assessing the global burden of air pollution on mortality, the impacts of international transport of air pollutants on health, and the effects of climate change on air quality and health. His lab has also worked to understand the drivers of global ozone air pollution and its contributions to climate change.
West led the first study of the co-benefits of greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation for air quality and human health to use global atmospheric models and future scenarios, showing that air quality health benefits can exceed the costs of GHG mitigation in several world regions.
“Dr. West provided me mentoring support even before I was his student,” said one nominator. “He made himself available for a conversation before I decided to apply to the doctoral program and encouraged me to apply for a 4-year doctoral fellowship. He supported my application to this fellowship and, later on, to a Dissertation Completion fellowship from UNC’s Graduate School, which I was also granted. As his advisee, I was guided by Dr. West in my search for an impactful research topic and was provided continuous support when I strived to overcome obstacles while conducting that research. Additionally, he guided the publication of my research in renowned and highly impactful journals.”
“His climate change course was one that I took while a graduate student,” recalled another nominator. “It addressed climate science, impacts on the environment and health and policy solutions. It also covered concepts from economics, in terms of energy systems and policies to address market failures and price externalities. The cross-disciplinary and integrated content of the class inspired me, and I have borrowed this science to impacts and solution approach for the course on climate change and air quality that I teach [today].”
The Bernard G. Greenberg Alumni Endowment Award, established in 1986 by the School’s alumni association, is presented to an outstanding full-time, mid-career Gillings School faculty member for excellence in the areas of teaching, research and service. The award, which includes a cash prize of $14,000 annually for three years, honors Dr. Greenberg, a visionary leader who founded the School’s biostatistics department in 1949 and chaired it for more than 20 years before serving as dean of UNC’s public health school from 1972-1982. The major criterion for the award is continuous demonstrated excellence over a number of years in service to the broad public health community.
Leah McCall Devlin, DDS, is the 2023 Barr awardee.
Devlin is a professor of the practice in health policy and management at the Gillings School and has more than 30 years in public health practice in North Carolina. This includes 10 years as the Wake County Health Director and 10 years as the State Health Director for N.C. Through her career and academic accomplishments as a three-time graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, she has developed a deep understanding of our State’s public health strengths and needs.
She is a board member of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control Foundation, the UNC Board of Visitors, the Gillings School’s Advisory Council, Trustee of Campbell University, NC Medical Society Foundation Board, NC Foundation for Advanced Health Programs and other statewide boards.
“Not only has Dr. Devlin been a competent administrator,” wrote one nominator, “she has also been forward-looking, visionary and not afraid to take on controversial issues. Whether pushing for tobacco-free workplace regulation or calling out issues of health inequities, she has sought to make a difference in public service.”
In her role at the Gillings School, works with faculty, students and staff to effectively talk with state leaders and residents about the many ways the School can and does serve N.C. She has served as a trusted advisor on many critical State policy issues, as a mentor to faculty and students and as an outstanding leader and exemplar in the recent initiative to position Gillings to become a leader in practice as well as research and learning. Most recently, she collaborated Gillings leadership and co-led the development of the School’s new Practice Strategic Plan alongside Associate Dean for Practice John Wiesman, DrPH.
Established in 1975, the Harriet Hylton Barr Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes the achievements of alumni and their contributions to public health. Each year, it honors a deserving graduate of the School working full-time in public health or in a related field. The award carries the name of its 1980 recipient, the late Harriet Hylton Barr, who earned a Master of Public Health degree from the Gillings School in 1948 and dedicated 28 years of service to the School as an association professor of health behavior and the first director of alumni affairs.
Contact the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at firstname.lastname@example.org.