Two UNC Lineberger faculty, Noel Brewer, PhD, associate professor of health behavior and health education in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, and Karen Mohlke, PhD, associate professor of genetics in the UNC School of Medicine, have received the 2011 Hettleman Prize for Artistic and Scholarly Achievement by Young Faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill.
With expertise in the psychology of medical decision making, Brewer has conducted research that is “demanding, meticulous, creative” and that influences disciplines far beyond the field of public health, said Jo Anne Earp, ScD, professor and chair of the public health school’s Department of Health Behavior and Health Education.
He has shown that perceptions of increased risk lead people to practice behaviors that protect their health, such as getting vaccinated or screened, but anticipating regret over a bad decision can be the most powerful motivator of all.
A Carolina faculty member since 2004, Brewer also has studied how people make sense of the often-confusing health information they receive from medical tests.
In 2009, he was named associate editor of the Health Psychology Review and was appointed to the Risk Communication Advisory Panel of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
“Dr. Brewer’s accomplishments are extraordinary,” Earp said. “His research thus far is felt in many spheres and is recognized admiringly by the most respected scientists in the field.”
Mohlke, who joined the UNC faculty in 2004, is considered in the top echelon of researchers in the area of complex-trait genetics, which examines the interaction of multiple genes affecting complex, common diseases.
As a postdoctoral fellow working with Francis Collins at the National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Mohlke led the molecular genetics component of an international study that resulted in the identification of two dozen genes involved in type 2 diabetes. Since coming to Carolina in 2004, she has continued her involvement in that study as one of five principal investigators.
Collins, now director of the NIH, said Mohlke’s skills in the lab “as an experimentalist, a creative thinker and a teacher are still legendary.”
Terry Magnuson, Sarah Graham Kenan Professor and department chair, praised Mohlke for her “remarkable ability to direct large groups of individuals in team-oriented research, as well as insight and careful attention to detail in molecular genetic and computational studies her laboratory.” Magnuson is leader of the UNC Lineberger genetics program.
The Hettleman Prize, named for Phillip and Ruth Hettleman and offering a $5,000 stipend, recognizes the achievements of outstanding junior tenure-track faculty or recently tenured faculty. Phillip Hettleman, who was born in 1899 and grew up in Goldsboro, N.C., established the award in 1986. He earned a scholarship to UNC, afterward moved to New York City, and in 1938, founded Hettleman & Co., a Wall Street investment firm.