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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

UNC Celebrates its Graduates


You – and your parents – will be glad to hear that public health is one of the fastest-growing professions in the country. The major investment in your education
will stimulate a rewarding career and improve people’s lives.

In 2014, total health care employment was more than 12 million. Undergraduate degrees in public health increased by a whopping 750 percent over the past 20 years.
Even so, a dramatic shortage of public health workers is expected by 2020, due to rising need and to attrition as ‘baby boomers’ retire. For those of you graduating today,
that’s real job security!

Those were the words of Dr. Dennis Gillings, who presented the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health commencement address on Saturday, May 7, at 1 p.m. in Carmichael Arena. Nearly 400 public health students were present to receive undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees. [See video here.]

A visionary in the contract research organization industry, Dr. Gillings is co-founder and former executive chair of Quintiles Transnational, the world’s largest biopharmaceutical services company. Prior to founding Quintiles, he was a UNC biostatistics faculty member for more than 15 years. In 2008, with Joan Gillings, he endowed UNC’s public health school with a $50 million gift, which resulted in the school’s renaming.

Among many honors he has received, Dr. Gillings was awarded the Commander of Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2004 for services to the pharmaceutical industry. In 2012, he received the SCRIP Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his contributions. Dr. Gillings and his wife, Dr. Mireille Gillings, founder and executive chair of HUYA Bioscience International, continue to be involved in philanthropic activities through the Dennis and Mireille Gillings Foundation.

Dr. Gillings noted that, like the 2016 graduates, he had learned a great deal while a faculty member at UNC’s public health school. “I learned so much here that helped set me on my business path – health policy and management, organizational structure, how to raise money, how to consult, mentoring and many more skills,” he said.

In her address, Dean Barbara K. Rimer, Distinguished Alumni Professor, reminded graduates about the Gillings School’s frequent message that “local is global, and global is local.”

“Our world is interconnected in a way that will help to define who you are and what you do,” Dr. Rimer said. “While we are more committed than ever to North Carolinians, we also are dedicated global citizens. We must be both local and global in our mindsets and actions. Public health problems do not respect borders.

“Your generation is among the most diverse, inclusive and tolerant. You understand the urgency of improving the health of people and the planet. You know that in so many areas of health in this state, country and around the world, we can do better, and it will be up to you to make a better world. Keep your sights focused on the big drivers of health, illness, death, quality of life and cost.”

The event celebrated the Gillings School’s 628 graduating students, including December 2015 and May and August 2016 graduates. Also celebrated were the several dozen graduates from UNC Gillings’ various certificate programs.

After the ceremony, graduates and their guests returned to the Gillings School for a reception that included gatherings in the Armfield Atrium and in other areas around the School.

See photos from Commencement Day on Flickr.

Read more here:



Meanwhile, Dr. Alice Ammerman, professor of nutrition at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and director of the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, had a set of commencement weekend dilemmas.

“I considered getting myself cloned,” she laughs.

Four of Dr. Ammerman’s five graduating doctoral students participated in a 9:30 a.m. hooding ceremony on May 7 at the Smith Center. One of her sons graduated from medical school in Memorial Hall at 10 a.m. At 1 p.m., she was in Carmichael Arena for the Gillings School commencement and at the 2:30 p.m. reception at yet another location. The following morning, she watched another son accept his undergraduate degree at 9 a.m. in Kenan Stadium.

After reading in Dean Barbara K. Rimer’s blog about the Gillings School’s new Borrow-a-Bike program, Dr. Ammerman knew she’d found a workable solution.

She arranged to hood her nutrition students at the start of the 9:30 a.m. ceremony, and with help from facilities director Mr. Brent Wishart, she reserved a Gillings bike that would take her at lightning speed from Smith Center to Memorial Hall. The bike’s basket is even big enough to hold her regalia so it won’t get caught in the spokes.

“What you really need on graduation day is that DeLorean from Back to the Future,” Mr. Wishart told Dr. Ammerman.

“You’re right about that,” she replied, “but it will be a lot easier to find a parking place for the bike!”

Dr. Ammerman arose at 4:30 a.m. on May 7 to prepare breakfast pastries for her houseful of commencement celebrants. A few short hours later, she was on the road, pedaling to multiple ceremonies, proving her fitness, especially on one particularly challenging hill.

See pictures from her bike trip here: