Though most of their work is done quietly behind the scenes, Deeda Blair and Maurice Tempelsman have contributed immensely to the growth and success of the Harvard AIDS Initiative (HAI). To publicly recognize their work, Julio Frenk, Dean of the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), presented them both with the Eighth Annual Volunteer Leadership Award at a ceremony on October 20th.
As Co-Chair of HAI’s International Advisory Committee, Deeda Blair has been a vital part of HAI’s success in finding better ways to treat and prevent HIV/AIDS. She emphasizes “the conviction that there are no barriers to discovery.”
Equally comfortable attending a scientific meeting, a fashion show, or a state dinner, Blair has the ability to operate effectively in many different realms. “Deeda brings together people, resources and ideas,” said Frenk. “She asks tough questions and arms herself with facts and statistics so she can be an effective partner with scientists in seeking government and philanthropic support for research.”
In accepting the Award, Blair thanked others whom she had introduced to HAI. “It is always problematic to single out individuals when so many have been incredibly generous,” she said. “However on a personal basis I would like to thank very thoughtful and supportive friends—Jim Handelman of the Mathers Foundation, Marguerite Littman, Pierre Bergé, Buffy Cafritz, Pierre Durand, Khalil Rizk, Arthur Loeb, Richard Menschel, Alan Parker, John Demsey of the Mac Foundation, Mary and Eric Weinmann, Dr. Soon-Young Yoon and Richard Smith.”
In the 1908s, Blair was responsible for introducing Dr. Max Essex, Chair of HAI, to Maurice Tempelsman, who shared the Award with her.
Tempelsman is Chair of HAI’s International Advisory Council, a position he has held since the Council’s inception in 1989. A businessman with an in-depth knowledge of Africa, he provided the initial funding for HAI’s work in Senegal at a time when the NIH would not fund research in Africa. He helped HAI forge connections with African leaders, enabling research and training collaborations to be established in Senegal, Nigeria, Botswana and Tanzania. “Those programs,” said Frenk, “have yielded important new research results and have literally saved lives.”
The Volunteer Leadership Award scholar recipient was also announced at the dinner. This year’s winner was Wen Xie, a student in the Biological Sciences in Public Health Ph.D. program at HSPH. Her thesis will focus on reprogramming HIV-positive cells and the use of stem cells to repress viruses such as HIV. She is working with Dr. Max Essex and Dr. Tun-Hou Lee at HAI, in collaboration with a laboratory at Children’s Hospital Boston.
View a slide show of the event.