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Six Duke teams, seven individuals honored with 2021-22 Presidential Awards

Duke announced the winners of the Presidential Award for the 2021-2022 school year, honoring those who demonstrated a commitment to Duke’s values and helped shape Duke through the pandemic. 

The award, organized by the Office of the President in partnership with Duke Human Resources, was granted to six team award-recipients and seven individual recipients. The winners were selected from nominations across the University and health system communities, according to a March 29 release.  

Team recipients

ACTIV-3 Clinical Research Team

This team was recognized for their research in developing COVID-19 treatments. Peter Smith, Mary and Deryl Hart distinguished professor of surgery, led a team of infectious disease specialists, physicians, critical care physicians and hospitalists to enroll around 450 patients in clinical trials studying monoclonal antibody therapies for COVID-19 hospitalizations. 

Smith said that ACTIV-3 was an international consortium sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, and Duke’s team was the leading enroller of patients, contributing around 14% of patients for the trial and 132 different research sites.

Smith praised the research team’s efforts and dedication. 

“This trial ran 24/7, 365 [days] through weekend nights. And the only way we could do it was with this total commitment,” he said. “That, I think, is what the award is recognizing.”

Athletic Facilities, Game Operations, Championships and Events Department

This team of 11 was recognized for carrying out COVID-19 protocols for Duke’s athletes, coaches, staff and fans. Over the course of the pandemic, the AFGO department administered over 150,000 COVID-19 tests. They oversaw around 200 game days and 50 campus events in 2021. 

“They are problem solvers, strategic thinkers and an extremely reliable group,” said Nina King, vice president and director of athletics.

Employee Occupational Health and Wellness COVID Response Team

This team was recognized for ensuring that Duke’s staff and faculty could do their work safely during the pandemic. 

Their work was split into five teams. The contact tracing team communicated with infected and potentially exposed employees and helped answer questions for employees hesitant to get vaccinated. The employee COVID-19 call center team answered staff and faculty questions about COVID protocols, while the employee case management team offered guidance to employees who tested positive. The employee vaccination team oversaw vaccination clinics, and the EOHW COVID response leadership team created, maintained and improved these employee safety protocols.

Learning Innovation Team

These award-recipients helped the University make the transition to virtual learning when in-person campus life shut down. Learning Innovation Team Director Shawn Miller said that the team helped faculty put courses online and offered resources and workshops to improve distance learning. 

“I know everyone has mixed feelings about the online learning experience, but it's a pretty incredible thing to take thousands of courses and put them online overnight,” Miller said. “We're helping faculty focus more on inclusive and equitable teaching for students.”

Medical Intensive Care Units

These award recipients worked on the frontlines during the pandemic, providing specialized care for the most seriously ill patients across Duke’s hospitals. 

Kathleen Cooney, chair of the Duke Department of Medicine, noted that the team was able to take on not only clinical care but also research on the COVID-19 virus. 

“These are people who are all in, so that even when the going got tough, they didn't shy away from the challenge,” Cooney said. “They carried a really increased burden of being there for their patients.”

Supply Chain and Procurement Team

These award recipients helped Duke secure safety supplies during a global disruption of the supply chain. The team manages supply chain logistics for both the University and the health system. 

According to Jim Churchman, vice president of the supply chain and procurement team, they adapted to pandemic disruptions by joining a group-purchasing organization for aggregated buying power and by changing their distribution partner, which is responsible for bringing in $2 million worth of products every week. 

“It's a great honor for the team,” Churchman said. “They're on their own kind of reinvention journey, and this has been an indication to them that [the reinvention] is doing the right kinds of things.”

Individual Recipients

Julia Anderson, Duke Dining cashier 

Anderson was recognized for her friendly service as a cashier at Marketplace, the East Campus dining hall. She’s been in this role for several decades and helped the Duke community adapt to the pandemic by keeping everyone fed.

Valerie Williams, Marketplace front of house manager, described Anderson as a “team player” who always has a kind word for the first-years who frequent the dining hall, according to the release.

Maureen Cullins, director of the School of Medicine Multicultural Resource Center

Cullins, Trinity ‘76, was recognized for her efforts in helping build community among students with marginalized identities in the School of Medicine and Graduate School's master of biomedical sciences program. Her work is “on the forefront of racial equity initiatives at the School of Medicine,” according to the release. Cullins wrote in an email to The Chronicle that she focuses on addressing microaggressions and instances of harassment. 

Kathryn Andolsek, professor in family medicine and community health, said that Cullins has been committed to this effort for decades. 

“I just think she finds more hours in the day than most of us and more energy to try to address some of these really critical situations,” Andolsek said.

“Duke’s ‘outrageous ambition’ must include being a humane citizen of our community and an exemplar of equity for us regardless of our identities,” Cullins wrote.

Anthony Diez, data analytics manager for Duke Health’s Performance System

Diez was recognized for helping modernize Duke’s data management during the pandemic by creating the online COVID-19 tracking dashboards. He said that the project started as a service to the University health system but ballooned to work with the state and federal government.

Jeffrey Harger, senior director of performance services, the department Diez works in, said that the data on the dashboard included vaccine information, positive test tracking and hospitalization numbers. At least 800,000 people have viewed the dashboard.

“[The award nomination] shines a light on me, but it allows me to kind of shine a light on some of the other people that have helped with these things, too,” Diez said. “It took a big team to get this stuff together.”

Larry Dunkins, senior equipment operator for sanitation and recycling

Dunkins was recognized for his role as a senior equipment operator for Duke Sanitation and Recycling on the University and medical campuses. During the pandemic, the hospital experienced an increased need for sanitation services and Dunkins took a leading role, according to Bernard Harris, senior supervisor for Duke Sanitation and Recycling.

“I nominated Larry because he takes pride in his work and has a great work ethic and great attitude,” Harris wrote in an email to The Chronicle. “[Dunkins] often volunteers to work overtime to ensure we have coverage [7 days a week].”

Carmella La Bianca, employer relations director the Sanford School of Public Policy Career Services 

La Bianca was recognized for her work cultivating career and internship opportunities for students in the Sanford School of Public Policy. She wrote in an email to The Chronicle that she leads a student team to plan events connecting students with alumni and employers. When the pandemic hit, she had to work with employers to accommodate virtual internships.

Elise Goldwasser, director of undergraduate internships at Sanford, said La Bianca is “very systematic, even though she's very approachable one-on-one also.”

Jacqueline Pollmiller, foreign national tax specialist in Corporate Tax Reporting & Services

Pollmiller was recognized for helping Duke’s international students navigate their finances and taxes. She said she’s met with over 2,000 international students receiving scholarships, fellowships or grants. 

Pollmiller takes pride in her work for helping departments at Duke recognize that “if they want to bring in people from other countries, it doesn't have to be so hard.”

Geeta Swamy, associate Vice President for research and vice dean for scientific integrity

Swamy was recognized for her contributions to Duke’s research practices and oversight policies. She emphasized that University researchers have to be intentional about the procedures and resources to conduct their work.

Swamy also works at a research faculty that conducts NIH and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-sponsored research, and she noted the importance of leading by example. 

“It makes me proud to know that I was viewed as someone who is dedicated to upholding the values of our institution,” Swamy said.


Anisha Reddy | Senior Editor

Anisha Reddy is a Trinity junior and a senior editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.

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