July 8, 2022

Dr. David Martinez

Dr. David Martinez

David Martinez, PhD, virologist and postdoctoral researcher in the Baric Lab at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, has been named one of 10 recipients of the 2022 Dr. Eddie Méndez award, honoring a physician-scientist and cherished colleague at Fred Hutch.

The recipients are postdoctoral researchers from across the United States with research expertise in cancer, infectious disease and basic sciences. Research topics include the study of emerging new coronaviruses, the identification of regulators of early-stage lung cancer, and the impact of social and environmental factors on tumor development.

Martinez, a Hanna H. Gray Fellow at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and his colleagues in the lab of Professor Ralph S. Baric, PhD, have been at the forefront of coronavirus research, including work on COVID-19 treatment and vaccines. Martinez’s research aims to design countermeasures against new viruses, including vaccines for emerging viruses like SARS-CoV-2. His current research focuses on developing a universal vaccine for all coronaviruses, and he is also working on research to develop an oral version of the antiviral remdesivir.

“We are proud of this year’s awardees, whose accomplishments to both science and diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts are truly outstanding. We look forward to welcoming them to the Hutch this September and honoring the memory of Dr. Méndez,” said Christopher Li, MD, PhD, who is the faculty director of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) and associate director of DEI for the Fred Hutch/University of Washington Cancer Consortium.

“This program is one of our efforts to recognize the accomplishments of postdoctoral fellows from diverse backgrounds and support their careers,” he added.

After leaving Puerto Rico, Méndez attended Princeton University and then obtained a medical degree from University of Maryland at Baltimore. He later came to University of Washington as a resident. He was known for being passionate about developing new therapies to help prevent cancer treatment side effects and save his patients’ lives.

In 2018 Méndez died of cancer, but his commitment to supporting early-career scientists who were underrepresented in science lives on through this award that was created by Fred Hutch leaders in 2019.

“I was selected for the Eddie Méndez Symposium in 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, a time when I felt uncertain about my research and career prospects,” said Christina Termini, PhD, assistant professor in the Hutch’s clinical research division. “My participation in the symposium connected me with a new group of supportive scientists in and out of the Hutch, which helped reignite my drive towards a career in research.”

Now in its fourth year, the award has recognized a total of 28 recipients and this year will add 10 more to the cohort who has become a support system to other winners.

“I was incredibly impressed by the caliber of the applicant pool,” said Termini, who served on this year’s selection committee. “From scientific accomplishments to proposed ideas to innovation within diversity, equity and inclusion, no stone was left unturned. While it was difficult to select the awardees from such an accomplished set of scientists, those that were chosen most strongly embodied the spirit of the award.”

The award includes an honorarium for the recipients, and they will be honored at a Sept. 19-20 symposium, where they will give presentations on their research findings and network with other scientists.

People interested in applying for next year’s Méndez award can reach out to diversity@fredhutch.org for more information. Solicitation for the next round of applications is expected in mid-October and with applications accepted through March 2023.

See the full list of recipients.

Contact the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at sphcomm@unc.edu.

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