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The Union’s 2020 annual awards recognise significant contributions to lung health

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The Union’s awards are an important and valued way to recognise the work being conducted by those dedicated to lung health around the world.

This year, The Union presented six awards to eight people, and hosted the prestigious Princess Chichibu Memorial TB Global Award, at the 51st Union World Conference on Lung Health, held virtually for the first time in its history.

The Karel Styblo Public Health Prize is named in honour of Dr Karel Styblo, the Director of Scientific Activities at The Union from 1979 to 1991. The prize acknowledges an individual or a community organisation for their contributions to tuberculosis (TB) control over a period of 10 years or more. This year the award has been presented to Dr Edward A Nardell in recognition of his contribution to public health in a career spanning over 40 years as a tireless advocate, researcher and educator in the field of infection control. Dr Nardell is an Associate Physician in the Divisions of Global Health Equity and Pulmonary and Critical Care at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and also Professor in the Departments of Environmental Health and Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the T. H. Chan Harvard School of Public Health.

The Union Scientific Prize acknowledges researchers at any stage in their career for work on TB or lung health which has been published in the past five years. This year’s prize was awarded to Professor Robert Wilkinson, a physician-scientist who is a Professor in Infectious Diseases at Imperial College London, UK, and a Group Leader at the Francis Crick Institute, also in London. In the last 16 years his appointments have been partially seconded to the University of Cape Town where he directs that institution’s Wellcome Center for Infectious Diseases Research in Africa (CIDRI-Africa). Professor Wilkinson has made impressive contributions in HIV-associated TB, spanning nearly thirty years, through his understanding of the human immune response to TB, especially in the context of HIV co-infection and on the translation of this knowledge into novel intervention strategies.

Dr Leonardo Martinez, an infectious disease epidemiologist, was this year awarded the Union Young Investigator Prize for his exceptional work undertaken over the past 5 years. The prize was first established in 2011 to acknowledge a researcher for work in lung health published in the past five years when he, or she, was aged 35 years or younger. Dr Martinez’s research focuses on understanding population- and individual-level approaches to controlling paediatric TB. He also concentrates on the epidemiology of TB in other high-risk and neglected groups, including incarcerated populations and persons living with diabetes or HIV.

The Union’s fourth scientific prize is the Stephen Lawn TB-HIV Research Leadership Prize, established in 2016 in memory of Steven Lawn, who worked to improve the lives of people with TB and HIV, particularly in the area of TB diagnostics. This prize, recognising the work of young researchers who are conducting promising research focused on reducing the disease burden of TB and HIV/AIDS in Africa, is a global partnership between the TB Centre at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre in Cape Town, and The Union. This year’s award goes to Dr Nicole Salazar-Austin in recognition of her excellence in leading original work that has immense potential to improve the clinical outcomes of TB preventive treatment in mothers and infants co-infected /exposed to HIV.  Dr Salazar-Austin is now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Paediatrics at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and has recently been awarded a K23 Career Development Award from the National Institutes of Health.

The Union Medal is The Union’s highest honour and is awarded to members who have made an outstanding contribution to the control of TB or lung health by their scientific work and/or actions in the field. Professor Philip Hopewell is this year’s winner of the Union Medal.

Professor Hopewell is well recognised in the global TB community as an expert physician scientist, with his reach extending significantly further through the countless leading TB experts who have benefitted from his mentorship and guidance. Prof Hopewell has devoted five decades of tireless commitment to work on advancing global TB control.

The Union also awarded three Honorary Memberships, granted to people who have become distinguished through active participation in The Union's activities and the fulfilment of its goals. These members will serve as informal advisors to The Union.

This year’s Honorary Memberships were awarded to three people, Dr Dean Schraufnagel, Professor Oumou Bah-Sow and Professor Xiexiu Wang.

Prof Bah-Sow has been an active member and contributor to The Union for decades. From her position as head of the Department of Pneumonology at the Conakry Faculty of Medicine (Gamal Nasser University) in Guinea Conakry, she has been active in the fight against TB, both as a clinician, scholar, mentor and educator. She won the Karel Styblo Public Health Prize in 2003, and the Africa Hero Award in 2017.

Prof Xiexiu Wang, from China, is the former Chairwoman of China Anti-Tuberculosis Association, immediate former-President of the Asia Pacific Region of The Union, and has taken numerous senior posts in TB control in China. She receives Honorary Membership in recognition of her extraordinary contribution to TB control as a member of The Union, and her long-term service to The Union at the international level.

Dr Dean Schraufnagel has had more than three decades of engagement with The Union, having been a long-term benefactor member, active in the North America region, a member of the Board including Vice President of the Bureau, and a manager of the annual Christmas Seals contest.

In addition to The Union’s own awards, the prestigious Princess Chichibu Memorial TB Global Award, presented by the Japan Anti-Tuberculosis Association, was awarded during the conference by Her Imperial Highness (HIH) Crown Princess Akishino of Japan, recognising outstanding contributions to global TB control. This year the award was presented to Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist of the World Health Organization, an internationally renowned paediatrician and clinical scientist on TB and TB/HIV.  

This year the long-standing Christmas Seals Contest was held online and with public voting for the first time, allowing anyone in the lung health community to participate. In the most popular competition in its long history, the nominated seals received more than a thousand votes. The contest celebrates the century-long tradition of selling commemorative stamps, or “seals”, to raise funds for TB and other lung diseases during the Christmas holiday season. Third place went to Philippine Tuberculosis Society Inc. (PTSI), second place went to Anti TB Association of Thailand and the Japan Anti-Tuberculosis Association came first with seal entry representing ‘life’, designed by TB survivor and illustrator Toru Asai.