Dr. Victor Schoenbach, associate professor of epidemiology at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, has received the Abraham Lilienfeld Award from the Epidemiology Section of the American Public Health Association (APHA). Dr. Schoenbach was recognized on Oct. 31, during the APHA’s annual meeting, held Oct. 29 – Nov. 2, in Denver.
[Photo: Dr. Victor Schoenbach]
The award recognizes excellence in the teaching of epidemiology over the course of a career.
Dr. Schoenbach earned a master’s degree in health education and doctoral degree in epidemiology at UNC, and joined the university’s public health faculty in 1980. His research and teaching interests are focused upon minority health and minority advancement; prevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections; and social epidemiology and social justice. His online epidemiology textbook, available in English and Spanish, has been downloaded by thousands of people in countries all over the world, and his case studies have been used by faculty at other universities.
For more than two decades, Dr. Schoenbach has been a faculty adviser and strong advocate for the Gillings School’s Minority Student Caucus (MSC) and its annual Minority Health Conference. Established in 1977, the conference is the oldest and longest-running student-led health conference in the U.S.
In 2012, in tribute to his long, dedicated service, the MSC named its afternoon plenary session “The Victor J. Schoenbach Health Disparities Keynote Lecture.” UNC Diversity and Multicultural Affairs also recognized Dr. Schoenbach’s dedication to social justice, presenting him with its Martin Luther King Jr. Unsung Hero Award in 2014.
The Lilienfeld Award is presented in memory of Dr. Abraham Lilienfeld, renowned teacher, scholar, and former chair of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s epidemiology department. One of the most influential figures in the development of epidemiology as a profession in the mid-20th century, Dr. Lilienfeld mentored many leading epidemiology researchers.
“Quite frankly, it’s hard for me to think that my name belongs in such distinguished company except as an admirer, which I most assuredly am,” Dr. Schoenbach said.
Dr. Schoenbach noted that he had read Dr. Lilienfeld’s textbook at the start of his own career and had met him once. He praised prior awardees whose teaching had been influential on his own career, including Drs. Robert and Suzanne Fletcher and other honorees mentioned above.
“Of course, most of the credit [for the award] belongs to more than 230 co-instructors and teaching assistants, many of whom went on to be professors – and even university presidents,” Dr. Schoenbach said. “It is they who made it possible for me to teach epidemiology to more than 6,000 students.”