March 19, 2024

Two faculty members from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health were named 2024 award winners by the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH).

Barbara K. Rimer, DrPH, professor emerita in the Department of Health Behavior who led the Gillings School as dean from 2005 to 2022, will receive the ASPPH Welch-Rose Award for lifetime contributions to public health.

Chantel L. Martin, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology, will receive the ASPPH Early Career Research Excellence Award.

Welch-Rose Award

This honor recognizes the highest standards of leadership and scholarship in public health and honors individuals for their lifetime of public health service and extraordinary contributions to the academic public health community. The award also honors Drs. Wickliffe Rose and William Henry Welch, who’s seminal 1915 report continues to serve as a reference point for the design of academic public health.

Dr. Barbara K. Rimer

Dr. Barbara K. Rimer

During Rimer’s tenure as dean, the School received a naming gift, redesigned its Master of Public Health, expanded its global footprint and strengthened its commitment to practice. Rimer was committed to enhancing diversity, equity and inclusion at Gillings and often wrote about these issues in her blog, Monday Morning. She articulated her commitment through her participation in key committees, actions and policies, including the North Carolina Commission on Inclusion (2018-2023). She also was a member of ASPPH’s first diversity and inclusion committee (and multiple other committees, including the Board of Directors).

Before joining the UNC-Chapel Hill faculty, Rimer led the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences at the National Cancer Institute. She has co-authored 270 peer-reviewed articles and 55 book chapters, and she is co-editor of Health Behavior: Theory, Research and Practice, the essential health behavior text. Much of her research focused on developing evidence-based methods to increase cancer screening. She was the first researcher to apply stepped interventions in cancer control; among the first to use adaptive trials in population sciences; and among the early population scientists focused on disseminating evidence-based interventions.

Rimer was the first woman and behavioral scientist to lead the National Cancer Advisory Board and was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2008. President Obama appointed her to chair the President’s Cancer Panel, which she did from 2011 to 2019. She has received numerous national awards and honors, including the National Institute of Health (NIH) Director’s Award in 2000 and the American Cancer Society’s Medal of Honor in 2013.

Currently, she serves on the Scientific Committee of Cancer Grand Challenges, an effort of Cancer Research UK and the National Cancer Institute — the two largest funders of cancer research in the world — to empower interdisciplinary global teams to make progress against cancer. She is also part of the Lancet Commission on Evidence-based Implementation in Global Health and a founding member of the Salem Academy and College President’s Advisory Council.

“I am honored, humbled and grateful for this recognition by ASPPH, the premier organization representing schools and programs of public health,” said Rimer. “Academic public health is a lifesaving engine. I appreciate the nomination by my special Gillings colleagues.”

Early Career Research Excellence Award

This award is given annually to a full-time faculty member within 10 years of their last formal training from an ASPPH-member, Council on Education for Public Health-accredited school or program of public health.

Dr. Chantel L. Martin

Dr. Chantel L. Martin

In addition to her role at the Gillings School, Martin is a faculty fellow at the Carolina Population Center and co-director of cardiopulmonary research at the UNC-Chapel Hill Center for Environmental Health and Susceptibility.

Her research program uses rigorous methodological and theoretical approaches to investigate the role of social and structural factors on racial disparities in chronic disease risk across the life course and how exposures in the social and physical environment become biologically embodied — or “get under the skin” — to impact chronic disease risk. Her interdisciplinary research aims to identify population-level intervention strategies to improve the health of racialized communities and ultimately eliminate health inequalities.

Martin has made significant contributions to the scientific community and built a thriving program in health disparities research. She currently leads multiple projects, including an R01 from the National Institute on Aging to investigate multiple domains of structural racism across the life course and inequalities in biological risk factors for Alzheimer’s Disease. She is a co-investigator on five additional NIH projects and has received multiple pilot awards to advance her interdisciplinary research program.

Her innovative research program has led to more than 40 peer-reviewed publications in top public health, epidemiology and social sciences journals. In 2022, she received the Early Stage Investigator Award from the Academy of Behavioral Medicine and the Faculty Award for Excellence in Health Equity Research from UNC Gillings.

Martin’s highly successful research program has been instrumental in supporting the development of other early career researchers, postdoctoral fellows, and doctoral, master’s and undergraduate students. As evidenced by the many publications led by trainees in her research program, she is committed to mentoring the next generation of health disparities researchers. Her dedication to leadership in the field of health equity and inclusive excellence is further demonstrated by her teaching record: She was involved in the development of a required course for all incoming doctoral students in the Department of Epidemiology that introduces key concepts in conducting socially responsible epidemiologic research. In recognition of her high-quality instruction, Martin received the Gillings School’s Teaching Innovation Award in 2023.

“I am incredibly grateful to receive the esteemed ASPPH Early Career Research Excellence Award,” Martin said. “To be recognized by the association for my contributions to public health is an honor. I have been fortunate to have amazing mentors and outstanding trainees who have supported my research over the years — this recognition reflects the hard work of many, not just myself.”

Rimer, Martin and other 2024 awardees will be recognized at the Annual Meeting Awards Luncheon on March 21 in Arlington, Va.

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