Holliday, Simms, Samuel-Hodge win Gillings School awards for teaching, mentoring, public health achievement

April 21, 2018

Leaders at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health have announced the winners of three of the School’s most prestigious awards for teaching, mentorship, practice and service – the Bernard G. Greenberg Alumni Award for teaching, research and service, the John E. Larsh Jr. Award for Mentorship and the Harriet Hylton Barr Distinguished Alumni Award, which honors an alumnus or alumna for outstanding achievements and contributions to public health.

Amanda Holliday

Amanda Holliday

Jeffrey Simms

Jeffrey Simms

Dr. Carmen Samuel-Hodge

Dr. Carmen Samuel-Hodge

The winners are Amanda S. Holliday, MS, assistant professor of nutrition and director of the department’s practice advancement and continuing education division; Jeffrey Simms, MSPH, MDiv, assistant professor of health policy and management and director of the department’s professional development and alumni relations; and Carmen Samuel-Hodge, PhD, assistant professor of nutrition and investigator for the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Prevention.

The awardees will be recognized at the Gillings School commencement, on Saturday, May 12 at 1 p.m. in UNC’s Carmichael Arena.

Greenberg Award

Amanda Hollliday

Amanda Holliday

Amanda Holliday, MS, was selected as the 2018 recipient of the Bernard G. Greenberg Alumni Award.

Holliday, who earned a master’s degree at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, joined the Gillings School faculty in 2007 after working as a clinical nutrition manager at Pitt County Memorial Hospital in Greenville, N.C., from 2004 to 2007. She served as president of the Durham-Chapel Hill (N.C.) Dietetic Association from 2009-2010 and president of the N.C. Dietetic Association from 2011-2012. She is a member and active committee member in the national Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Holliday is interested in older-adult nutrition and the clinical and management nutrition components of the professional education for dietitians. She works primarily with bachelor’s and master’s students who want to become registered dietitians. She is also preceptor for master’s students completing the hospital-based experience and long-term care experience with staff dietitians in area hospitals.

In her nomination letter, Jan Busby-Whitehead, MD, Mary and Thomas Hudson Distinguished Professor and chief of the UNC School of Medicine’s Division of Geriatric Medicine, noted that Holliday is a founding member of the geriatric division’s Interprofessional Educational Collaborative event, an interdisciplinary training program for 250 health professions graduate students focusing on geriatrics. The successful program increases students’ confidence in their abilities to develop collaborative care plans and develops students’ knowledge of other disciplines.

“Amanda Holliday exemplifies the kind of thought leader and accomplished practitioner in the field of public health deserving of this recognition,” Busby-Whitehead said. “Her work has raised awareness of geriatrics and interprofesional practice across campus.”

Elizabeth Mayer-Davis, PhD, Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor of nutrition and medicine and chair of the Gillings School’s Department of Nutrition, noted that Holliday has taken leadership roles in a number of initiatives while maintaining teaching responsibilities and active engagement with her students.

“Amanda has boundless energy and enthusiasm and is always excited to meet with students or colleagues to talk about work or just to hear about their lives,” Mayer-Davis said. “She is a pleasure to work with, and the department is fortunate to have her as a member of the faculty.”

The Bernard G. Greenberg Alumni Endowment Award, established in 1986 by the School’s alumni association, is presented to an outstanding full-time Gillings School faculty member for excellence in the areas of teaching, research and service. The award, which includes a cash prize of $12,000 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.

Larsh Award

Jeffrey Simms

Jeffrey Simms

Jeffrey Simms, MSPH, MDiv, is the winner of this year’s Larsh award.

Simms, who joined the UNC faculty in 2008, works to find rewarding permanent jobs for residential graduate students in the health policy and management department. He oversees student services, career services and alumni relations in the department, serving as primary contact for more than 4,000 alumni.

He also is widely known and admired for his work as a mentor and adviser to the department’s case competition teams. Nearly every year, a Gillings School team places as one of the top three teams at two national competitions – 15 wins since he began as adviser.

“One of the things I most looked forward to about the case competition was having the chance to work more closely with Jeffrey,” said former student and competitor Chris DelGrosso, who earned a master’s degree at the Gillings School in 2015. “He’s undoubtedly one of the biggest factors behind UNC’s continued success. He’s truly a great teacher, coach and friend.”

Before joining UNC, Simms worked at the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services as deputy director of the Office of Rural Health and Community Care and assistant director of the Division of Medical Assistance. He managed the department’s statewide Medicaid managed care program, Community Care of N.C., and assisted with the development of the rural health-care delivery system in underserved communities. He earned a Master of Science in Public Health at the Gillings School in 1996 and a Master of Divinity at Duke University in 1999.

An astounding 104 health policy and management faculty and staff members, students and alumni signed letters of recommendation for Simms, all consistently expressing their admiration, appreciation and affection for a person whom they say made a significant difference in their lives.

“Through his many contributions to the department and the Gillings School, Jeffrey Simms epitomizes the spirit of the Larsh Mentoring Award,” said Morris Weinberger, PhD, Vergil N. Slee Distinguished Professor of Healthcare Quality Management and chair of the health policy and management department. “His mentorship, teaching and advocacy of our students makes the Department of Health Policy and Management a wonderful place to be. And his commitment to students does not end at graduation—just ask any of the hundreds of alumni who have benefited profoundly from Jeffrey’s wisdom and sage advice.”

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 $4,000 prize may be used in any way that enhances the faculty member’s ability to mentor and support students.

Barr Award

Dr. Carmen Samuel-Hodge

Dr. Carmen Samuel-Hodge

Carmen Samuel-Hodge, PhD, is the 2018 Barr awardee.

Samuel-Hodge, who earned a doctorate in nutrition in 2000 at the Gillings School, joined the Gillings School faculty in 2003. She has won a number of awards for her work in support of women and minority students and faculty, including the UNC University Award for the Advancement of Women (2015), the N.C. Dietetic Association Outstanding Educator Award (2014), and the UNC School of Medicine’s Minority Cohort Scholar.

Her recent research investigates how family interactions and functioning influence lifestyle behaviors. She is also interested in the measurement of psychosocial factors associated with chronic illness and weight management, particularly among lower-income populations and African-Americans with chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.

“Camen’s passion for public health nutrition and her ability to think creatively to address complex problems – exemplified by her addressing the ’wicked problem’ of Type 2 diabetes among African-Americans – is one reason I recommended her to a national advisory role with the American Diabetes Association’s (ADA) health disparities committee,” said her chair, Dr. Elizabeth Mayer-Davis, active ADA board member and ADA’s president for health care and education in 2011.

“Her participation with the committee has led to the creation of a new behavioral self-management program currently being piloted in several states. This work with ADA and her own research collaborations at UNC demonstrate her leadership capabilities, creativity and problem-solving skills. … Carmen is a terrific faculty member, a strong mentor and a supportive colleague.”

Alice Ammerman, DrPH, Mildred Kaufman Distinguished Professor of nutrition and director of the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, observed that Samuel-Hodge’s advice to her students captures the spirit of her approach to public health:

Respect the population you serve.
• Train in the academy, but practice in the real world.
• Get comfortable with complexity and ambiguity.
• Remember that there are enough questions for everyone.
• There are many right answers.

“Carmen is a highly successful researcher with a focus on health disparities and chronic disease prevention in African-American women,” Ammerman said. “Her research is always designed to address a challenging public health problem in a high-risk, underserved population and to lead to actionable public health improvements. She has a well-deserved reputation for excellent leadership of research teams conducting community-based nutrition interventions. An important part of her leadership stems from her ability to carefully plan for implementation of her projects.”

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.


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