April 18, 2022
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 2022 winners are Andrew Olshan, PhD, Barbara S. Hulka Distinguished Professor of epidemiology and interim associate dean for research (for the Larsh Award); Daniel Westreich, PhD, professor of epidemiology (for the McGavran Award); Clare Barrington, PhD, associate professor of health behavior and director of the doctoral program in health behavior (for the Greenberg Award); and Dilshad Jaff, MD, MPH, Gillings Humanitarian Fellow, health coordinator for International Committee of the Red Cross, and 2015 Master of Public Health alumnus in maternal and child health (for the Barr Award).
Andrew Olshan, PhD, is the winner of the 2022 Larsh Award.
Olshan, who was recently named interim associate dean for research for the Gillings School, has been at Carolina for over 30 years and has taught in both the cancer epidemiology and reproductive, perinatal and pediatric programs. He was epidemiology department chair from 2006 to 2018. In addition to his appointment at the Gillings School, he is also an adjunct professor in otolaryngology and head and neck surgery in the UNC School of Medicine and associate director of population sciences at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Olshan’s research interests include the epidemiology of cancer and reproductive, perinatal and pediatric outcomes. He has been the principal investigator for multiple federally funded studies of adult and childhood cancers and reproductive and pediatric outcomes.
Since graduating his first advisee in 1993, he has overseen 30 doctoral dissertations, 23 Master’s theses, and has mentored dozens of junior faculty and postdocs. Twelve former students are faculty in academic departments, and five have career scientist positions at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or National Institutes of Health (NIH).
In a nomination letter, one former student wrote: “It would be no exaggeration to say that I have a career because of Andy. He mentored me through my dissertation at UNC and then continued that support throughout subsequent faculty positions at multiple institutions. I am now a tenured Professor. Sometimes we don’t classify interactions with Andy as ‘mentorship,’ but, of course, they are. Classic Andy airport calls, informal conference social hours and hallway advice are all hallmarks of Andy’s generous support of his people. As recently as last week, I called him with a significant professional challenge, and he patiently talked with me as I problem-solved the issue. His support is unconditional and lifelong, and I am so grateful for his friendship and wisdom.”
“Andy not only embraces mentorship as required by graduate programs but also mentorship for life,” wrote another nominator. “Andy sets himself apart from other mentors by listening to the needs and desires of his mentees and meets them where they are in their training, research and career opportunities. I have sought his advice at every stage of my career and every job decision. Although I have not always taken the most obvious path, he has been supportive at every step. With Andy, you always know you have a stable champion in your corner.”
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.
Daniel Westreich, PhD, is the winner of the 2022 McGavran Award.
Westreich, who received his doctoral degree in epidemiology from UNC in 2008, investigates the intersection of HIV with reproductive health. This work has elucidated relationships between pregnancy and response to antiretroviral therapy and clarified methodology for studying the potential impact of hormonal contraception on acquisition of HIV. He currently co-leads the STAR Cohort of reproductive-age HIV-positive and -negative women and is a co-investigator of the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study and the Women’s Interagency HIV Study (MACS-WIHS Combined Cohort Study).
He also studies issues related to COVID-19, the intersection of HIV and chronic disease, methods in causal inference, and epidemiologic methods for implementation science.
Since 2014, Westreich has been the lead instructor for EPID 710 – “Fundamentals of Epidemiology,” the first course in the methods sequence for doctoral students in epidemiology, and now a core part of the Master of Public Health (MPH) in applied epidemiology. When Westreich took over the course, nominators noted that he fundamentally changed the way basic epidemiology methodology was taught to students, to an extent that some faculty began to sit through his course to be sure they were up to speed with modern thinking in many basic epidemiology concepts.
“To say that the changes in 710 have been influential in the department is an understatement,” a nominator wrote, “since it is literally the first window our students have into the world of epidemiology. Changes this profound can be stressful for departments, and so we credit him also with the foresight and tact necessary to make these changes palatable to a community of faculty who have become used to thinking about epidemiology in a certain way. We take great pride in his successes, and we see the benefits of his work in the knowledge, skills and insights of our students.”
“Daniel has also been generous in modifying his course to integrate students from other degree programs,” said another nominator. “In Fall 2021, EPID 710 welcomed applied epidemiology and data science MPH students. Converting a doctoral-focused class into one accessible to students from multiple backgrounds and experience levels is challenging to undertake, and yet Daniel did so enthusiastically. He is not elitist in his orientation—rather, he wants strong methods to inform all levels of public health. As another illustration of his passion for education, Daniel volunteered to convert 710 into an online course for MPH@UNC, which also launched in Fall 2021. In short, Daniel’s commitment to teaching at all levels of experience is one of his notable strengths.”
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.
Clare Barrington, PhD, is the winner of the 2022 Greenberg Award.
Barrington, who received her MPH and doctoral degrees from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, studies how health behaviors and outcomes are shaped by the social and structural context in which individuals live with a focus on chronic conditions, including HIV and Type-2 diabetes. She conducts formative and exploratory research as well as intervention research and implementation science, integrating qualitative and quantitative methods. Her global research is primarily concentrated in Latin America and secondarily in sub-Saharan Africa. She has published 113 peer-reviewed articles and 9 book chapters.
She currently serves as the director of the doctoral program in health behavior, which includes 50 active doctoral students at varying stages of training. Barrington teaches highly sought-after courses on qualitative research methods and has expanded the doctoral curriculum to provide mixed methods training. She has served on or is currently serving on 22 dissertation committees, and students from her qualitative methods class have published 40 manuscripts or book chapters. Several more are currently under review. According to one nominator, “no other faculty member in the Department of Health Behavior has taught a course leading to this quantity of student-led publications.”
Through her robust research program and role as the Latin American program director for the UNC Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases, she has facilitated global research opportunities for public health and medical students in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, the Galapagos and Cuba. She is also an active member of the Transfer Project, a multi-country research initiative focused on assessing how cash transfers impact economic, health and educational outcomes. She has led the qualitative component of large-scale impact evaluations of cash transfer programs in Malawi and Ghana that have provided critical evidence to inform government policy.
She has been invited by the Transfer Project and CDC to conduct training in qualitative methods and contributed to a qualitative methods course for health professionals in Havana, Cuba, with colleagues at the Instituto de Medicina Tropical Pedro Kouri (IPK). UNC is one of the few universities in the U.S. to have a long-standing relationship with infectious disease scholars in Cuba, and, according to nominators, Dr. Barrington is one of the key faculty building and maintaining strong ties with colleagues at IPK.
“Dr. Barrington has demonstrated excellence in teaching, research and mentoring and is most deserving of this award,” several nominators wrote. “She has helped to ensure that our research is rigorous, innovative and emphasizes equity and has helped launch our public health careers within academia and public health practice. We were honored to have the opportunity to learn from and be guided by such an amazing leader in the field. We simply cannot think of another person more deserving of this award.”
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.
Dilshad Jaff, MD, MPH, is the 2022 Barr awardee.
Jaff is the Gillings Humanitarian Fellow and adjunct associate professor in the Department of Maternal and Child Health. He holds an MPH degree from the Gillings School, a higher diploma (Master) in medical microbiology from Sulaymaniyah University College of Medicine, and Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degrees from the University of Al-Mustansiriya College of Medicine.
He has more than 20 years of experience in complex humanitarian crises in conflict zones in the Middle East and Africa, largely working with the International Committee of the Red Cross. He has experience in designing, implementing, supervising and monitoring health projects and programs during and after complex humanitarian emergencies. Nominators have noted that he has demonstrated commitment to public health service by serving as a bridge to scholars in fragile communities in Iraq, especially the Kurdish area, through effectiveness in responding to humanitarian crises despite complex and difficult cultural forces.
One nominator wrote of Jaff’s teaching: “His expertise and kindness drew many students to his office. They wanted to learn from him, get his advice and encouragement, and imagine ways they could have more impact in their own careers. International students trusted him to help them solve academic and cultural adjustments, and he did this in a way that sincerely was helpful to them. Few other people in the School had the perspective and personal experience he had. Students knew it, and he delivered compassion and good advice as well as help securing grant funding, internships and publications. His day-to-day work built relationships with other universities and nonprofits. His scholarly work got published and improved the School’s reputation for public health impact in fragile settings.”
Dilshad was a Rotary Peace Fellow at the Gillings School from 2013 to 2015. One nominator noted that “it was not difficult to select him for the fellowship, since he clearly already exemplified the quality that Rotary International stands for, ‘Service Above Self,’ through his work as a medical doctor in Iraq in the middle of a war. Once Dilshad arrived at UNC, however, we knew we were welcoming an extraordinary humanitarian. Not only did he come to soak up knowledge and the opportunities that UNC, Gillings and the Rotary program affords its students, but he constantly gave back to all of us. We learned from him.”
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 associate professor of health behavior and the first director of alumni affairs.
Contact the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at email@example.com.
March 4, 2024 James Swenberg, DVM, DACVP, PhD, Kenan Distinguished Professor at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, died October 5, 2023. There will be a Scientific Symposium to honor him and his work on March 22 from 3–5 p.m. in 133 Rosenau Hall at the Gillings School.