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UNC Lineberger’s Ralph Baric, PhD.

The Triangle Business Journal presented Ralph Baric, PhD, with its Lifetime Achievement Award and Lauren Lux, MSW, LCSW, and Andrew Smitherman, MD, MSc, MPH, with the Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Champion Award Presented by First Citizens Bank during the 2021 Health Care Heroes award ceremony. The event, held virtually April 15, honors Triangle individuals and organizations for putting innovation and compassion to work to improve the human condition.

Andrew Smitherman, MD, MSc, MPH.

Baric, the William R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Epidemiology at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and a UNC Lineberger member, was honored for his 30 years of research that produced critical insights into coronaviruses, including discovering the viruses’ ability to mutate, adapt and jump from animals to humans. Baric and his lab collaborated on the development of remdesivir, an antiviral therapy that proved effective in decreasing the recovery time of people infected with COVID-19. Shortening patients’ recovery times helped reduce the time they were hospitalized, lessening the burden on hospitals as the volume of COVID-19 patients grew exponentially in some hard-hit communities.

Lauren Lux, MSW, LCSW.

Smitherman, assistant professor of pediatrics and medical director of UNC Lineberger’s Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Cancer Program, and Lux, AYA Cancer Program director, were honored for their contributions to improve the health of people ages 13 to 39 who have cancer.

Under the leadership of Lux and Smitherman, the AYA program has earned national recognition for its medical, psychosocial and survivorship care, as well as its research focused on improving AYA care, survivorship and quality of life. Smitherman and Lux also have led efforts to improve AYA cancer care and support throughout North Carolina and nationally through education, clinical collaborations and research partnerships.

Eight other UNC Health faculty, staff and services were also recognized as Health Care Heroes.