The Alumni Award of Merit is the highest honor presented to an alumna/us of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Since 1992, we have recognized over 100 of Harvard Chan School’s highly accomplished alumni with this honor.
In 2011, three additional awards were established by the Harvard Chan School Alumni Association, recognizing achievements in various arenas of public health, and at various stages in public health careers. These are the Leadership Award in Public Health Practice, the Public Health Innovator Award, and the Emerging Public Health Professional Award.
Join us in celebrating our 2023 Alumni Award recipients!
Alumni Award of Merit
Established in 1992, the Alumni Award of Merit is the highest honor presented by the Alumni Association to an alumna/us of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Megan Murray, MPH '97, SD '01
Professor of Epidemiology, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health; Ronda Stryker and William Johnston Professor of Global Health, and Director of Research in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School. Boston, MA.
After completing her medical training at Harvard Medical School, Megan Murray earned an MPH and an SD from Harvard Chan School, where she began her career in academia soon after graduation. In 2012, Murray was invited by the late Paul Farmer—a renowned humanitarian, physician, and advocate for the world’s most under-resourced communities—to join Harvard Medical School’s Department of Global Health and Social Medicine.
Murray’s work, like Farmer’s, is focused on assuring the delivery of essential medicines and care to individuals who typically have little or no access to medications and health services.
Over her four-decade career, she has led field studies worldwide to better understand infectious diseases and promote the health of vulnerable populations. Much of her time has been devoted to fighting Tuberculosis (TB). Murray has appeared in 250 publications; acted as the principal investigator for more than ten TB-related grants; challenged and debunked the long-held assumption that drug-resistant TB was less transmissible; and served as a trusted TB resource for the World Health Organization and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Her accomplishments include conducting one of the largest household contact studies to date, following more than 18,000 individuals in Peru, leading to robust findings on TB risk factors. Murray is known for always putting people at the center of her work; building relationships with her mentees, researching marginalized populations, and serving communities around the world.
Stephen Tollman, MPH '88
Research Professor and Head of the Division of Health and Population, School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits); Director of the Medical Research Council/Wits Rural Public Health & Health Transitions Research Unit (Agincourt), Johannesburg, South Africa.
As a medical student in South Africa in the seventies and eighties, Stephen Tollman saw first-hand the impact that state-sanctioned discrimination could have on health and committed to a career serving some of the most vulnerable communities in his country.
In 1988, Tollman earned an MPH at Harvard Chan School, and even delivered that year’s graduation address, showcasing his ability to lead and inspire change. In the years that followed, he co-led an evaluation of the Harvard MPH academic program that contributed to its reform.
Returning to South Africa in the nineties, as the country’s political leadership gained freedom, Tollman began his journey with the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) as a director of its health systems development unit, and later, earning a degree in public health medicine, with a thesis titled Life and death without trace: Population dynamics and trends in mortality in rural South Africa.
Tollman’s Wits tenure also includes the founding of Agincourt, a surveillance system that monitored 120,000 people in more than 30 villages in rural northeast South Africa and analyzes the effectiveness of health care systems and policies. It has become a world-renowned model for population-based research and helps bring medical expertise to communities in need. Today, Agincourt leads multicenter efforts in mortality and cause-of-death, adult health and aging, and migration and health.
Led by Tollman, the culmination of this work has helped rebuild South Africa post-apartheid to a leader in global health research that extends throughout sub-Saharan Africa and beyond.
Anita Zaidi, SM '99
President, Gender Equality Division, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Seattle, WA.
Anita Zaidi’s trailblazing career in medicine, academia, and nonprofits is marked by many firsts. Zaidi was part of the first graduating class of doctors at Aga Khan University (AKU) in her native Pakistan, receiving the school’s inaugural “Best Medical Graduate Award.” She went on to become AKU’s first female chair of pediatrics, establish South Asia’s first training program in pediatric infectious diseases as a clinical specialty, and won the first $1 million Caplow Children’s Prize to support her efforts to bring health services and wraparound care to mothers and children in poverty-stricken communities—and, in turn, reduce child mortality in an impoverished suburb of Karachi.
In 2020, Zaidi became the first-ever president of Gender Equality at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where she leads the foundation’s work to create a gender equal world by investing in women’s economic empowerment, leadership, and more. Throughout her professional journey Zaidi has been driven by intense passion and willpower to transform the lives of those who are most disadvantaged. She believes the causes of many diseases are rooted in poverty and gender-bias. Changing this reality is her north star.
In recognition of her accomplishments, Zaidi was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Medicine in 2021, considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine in the U.S., celebrating outstanding professional achievements and commitment to service.
Professional Achievement Awards
Emerging Public Health Professional Award
The Emerging Public Health Professional Award recognizes early-career public health achievements and contributions of Harvard Chan School graduates who received their degree within the past 10 years.
Michael Miedema, MPH '13
Medical Director, Nolan Family Center for Cardiovascular Health, Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation; Director of Cardiovascular Prevention, Minneapolis Heart Institute; Senior Consulting Cardiologist, Minneapolis Heart Institute; Clinical Investigator, Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, Minneapolis, MN.
Although early in his career, Michael Miedema is looking to find solutions to some of the cardiovascular world’s longstanding challenges, such as uncovering the most effective methods for cardiovascular risk assessment, the appropriate use of cardiovascular preventive medications, and the optimal lifestyle behaviors to maintain ideal cardiovascular health.
Miedema helped establish and serves as the Medical Director for the Nolan Family Center for Cardiovascular Health at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation in Minnesota. As someone who grew up in rural Minnesota, Miedema has paid particular attention in his practice to individuals who reside in underserved rural areas.
He is an active physician leader in the ongoing Heart of New Ulm Project, a population-based program aimed at reducing cardiovascular risk factors and cardiovascular disease through interventions in communities, workplaces, and clinics in rural New Ulm, MN.
Another interest of Miedema’s is sharing his passion and knowledge with others, in as many ways as he can. He has authored or co-authored more than 100 peer-reviewed manuscripts, serves as an active investigator for randomized trials focused on cardiovascular health, has led dozens of presentations on heart health to patients, providers, and communities, and is an associate editor of educational content for the American College of Cardiology’s website. He also runs a fellowship in cardiovascular prevention at the Nolan Family Center for Cardiovascular Health, training and educating the next generation of prevention experts.
Through it all, Miedema is known for the utmost kindness he shows to others—including, but not limited to, his patients and their families, nurses, staff members, and trainees.
Public Health Innovator Award
The Public Health Innovator Award recognizes a significant innovative contribution to public health made by a distinguished graduate of the School.
Diagaunet Dodie, MPH '14
CEO, Innovative Healthcare Solutions. Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire
A native of the Ivory Coast studying in the U.S., Diagaunet Dodie returned home in 2019 when his father’s health condition worsened. Arriving home, Dodie witnessed the consequences of illegal blood trafficking in his country which prices out vulnerable populations, when he needed to find blood bags for his father and was only able to because of his status as a doctor.
Seeing how unfair it was that others were unable to gain access, he set off on a mission to tackle the nation’s blood shortage problem through his company, Innovative Healthcare Solutions (IHS). IHS has made great strides in bringing visibility to the nation’s blood shortage problem.
In 2021, Dodie persuaded the national blood bank to partner with IHS to improve its performance. He secured financing from the World Bank to learn more about the nation’s blood collection and distribution systems. Dodie and his team traveled to 35 cities, gaining a better understanding of underlying issues and the resulting tragedies, while simultaneously raising public awareness. The work was featured internationally, in outlets like Le Monde, a French newsletter, and Voice of America, an international multimedia broadcaster.
And, in 2022, in the face of mounting local and global pressure, the Ivorian government dropped the price of a blood bag, which previously ran as high as $150, to $6. Dodie’s hope is that one day, no more Ivorians lose their lives from lack of access to blood. He says, “I do all this for my people, but also in memory of my late father.”
Leadership Award in Public Health Practice
The Leadership Award in Public Health Practice recognizes a graduate who has been an outstanding example of effective leadership in the practice of public health, in the public or private sphere.
Thumbi Ndung'u, PhD '01
Director for Basic and Translational Science at the Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI) in Durban, South Africa; Program Director for the Sub-Saharan African Network for TB/HIV Research Excellence (SANTHE); Professor of Infectious Diseases at University College London; Director of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s HIV Pathogenesis Programme; Associate Member of the Ragon Institute; and Adjunct Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Co-chair of the International AIDS Society (IAS) Towards an HIV Cure Advisory Board. Durban, South Africa.
At the heart of Thumbi Ndung’u’s outstanding scientific leadership is a lifelong enthusiasm for innovation.
Ndung’u holds a veterinary medicine degree from the University of Nairobi and a doctorate degree from Harvard Chan School, where he received the Edgar Haber Award for “outstanding, original, and creative thesis work that makes a fundamental contribution to the understanding of a biological problem important to public health.” He is also a recipient of the South African Medical Research Council Gold Scientific Achievement Award, which recognizes “senior scientists who have made seminal scientific contributions that have impacted on the health of people” and is the 2023 recipient of the KT Jeang Retrovirology Prize which is awarded annually for “outstanding contributions to the field of Retrovirology.”
His vast medical knowledge, teaching skills, and ability to think creatively have been passed on to the dozens of students and postdoctoral researchers he has mentored and inspired, and through more than 200 papers in peer-reviewed journals in the fields of immunology and virology.
Now director for basic and translational science at the Africa Health Research Institute in Durban, South Africa, Ndung’u’s career contributions in HIV and TB research have advanced and deepened the pursuit of vaccine and immune-based cure strategies. His multidisciplinary studies link immunology to virology and offer a platform for clinical interventions toward cure and eradication strategies that have the power to positively change the trajectory of countless public health issues.