UW News

October 25, 2007

Michelle Williams wins public health’s Lilienfeld Award

Michelle Williams, UW professor of epidemiology, has won the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) Abraham Lilienfeld Award that recognizes excellence in teaching of epidemiology during the course of her career. She will be presented with the award at the APHA’s annual meeting on Nov. 3 in Washington, D.C.


“The award is very prestigious in epidemiology circles for outstanding accomplishments as an epidemiologist and as a teacher,” said Scott Davis, professor and chair of epidemiology in the School of Public Health and Community Medicine. “She is absolutely outstanding as a researcher, scholar and mentor to students. She is most distinguished among our faculty in her research productivity in perinatal and reproductive epidemiology, her rigorous methodology, and her very high standards.”


Williams is also co-director for Perinatal Studies at Swedish Medical Center and affiliate investigator at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Her research focuses on integrating genomic sciences and epidemiological research methods to identify risk factors, diagnostic markers, treatments and prevention targets for disorders that contribute to maternal and infant mortality. She has research and teaching collaborations with epidemiologists in Peru, Ecuador, Vietnam, Thailand, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, and the Republic of Georgia.


“It is wonderful to see Michelle’s leadership and contributions recognized nationally through the Lilienfeld award,” notes Dean Patricia Wahl, of the School of Public Health and Community Medicine. “We are proud of her many accomplishments in both research and teaching and her great success in introducing UW undergraduates to global public health.”


As a teacher, Davis said, “Michelle has had an enormous impact on training the next generation of epidemiologists and that impact has been and continues to be far reaching. Williams is dedicated to her students and their well being. She has served as a thesis and dissertation adviser for many students and requires rigorous scholarship from them all.”


She is the founder and director of the UW’s Multidisciplinary International Research Training (MIRT) Program, which received the 2007 Brotman Award for Instructional Excellence. The program trains undergraduate students from economically and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds for careers in research and public health leadership.


In another venture, Williams is one of the leaders in the Rotary — University of Washington Partnership, a collaboration in which the Partnership, UW faculty, staff, and students, and Rotary will work to fast-track the dissemination of disease-preventing, health-promoting interventions and technologies to address pressing global health disparities.


Abraham Lilienfeld was one of the most widely known and highly respected leaders in chronic disease epidemiology who was “a consummate teacher who cared deeply for students, past and present,” according to a New York Times obituary. “In working tirelessly to improve public health, his life and his contributions in a sense affected the lives of us all.”


The award was created in his honor to recognize qualities such as “Excellence in teaching as exhibited in effective classroom lectures, professional seminars or workshops, publications of substantial pedagogical or methodological importance for students and professional epidemiologists or students who have made worthwhile contributions to the improvement of public health. Evidence of incorporating both historic and innovative epidemiologic concepts and methods in teaching; evidence of ability to communicate difficult complex ideas in clear, understandable language or using innovative methods; evidence of influence on students or young professionals as teacher or mentor.”


Davis said that when he read the criteria for the award, Williams was his first candidate for nomination.


“Michelle is one of those rare individuals who has it all together,” Davis said.


The APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition is the premier Public Health Educational Forum. It is the oldest and largest gathering of public health professionals in the world, attracting more than 13,000 national and international physicians, administrators, nurses, educators, researchers, epidemiologists, and related health specialists. APHA’s meeting program addresses current and emerging health science, policy and practice issues in an effort to prevent disease and promote health.