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People briefs

For immediate use

May 1, 2007

Local angle: Siler City

School of Medicine students honored for projects with disadvantaged older adults

Two students in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine have been honored for their work with disadvantaged older adults.

Andrew David McWilliams, a third-year medical student, received the 2007 Eva Salber-Harry Phillips Award on April 25. McWilliams received the $750 award for his revamping and enlarging of Mobile Student Health Action Coalition, a student-led organization that sends interdisciplinary groups of health care students into homes of disadvantaged people in need of health care.

Julie René Thibodeaux, a second-year medical student, received the Eva Salber-Harry Phillips Award Honorable Mention and $250. Her research project in Haywood County, N.C., addressed problems of matching patients’ prescription lists to an appropriate Medicare Part D plan. Its results are now helping patients and health care providers in Haywood County in choosing Medicare Part D plans.

The Eva Salber-Harry Phillips Award, given by the UNC Program on Aging, is presented annually to one or more medical students who have or are planning to conduct work in under-served communities to provide health care, a community service, or to research administrative or clinical aspects of health care. Drs. Eva Salber and Harry Phillips, who were physicians who practiced in London, South Africa and Boston and who lived in Chapel Hill at the end of their lives. Dr. Phillips was the first director of the Program on Aging, which was created in 1979.


Safi awarded $100,000 to study Islam in Iran

Omid Safi, Ph.D., an associate professor of religious studies at UNC, has received $100,000 from the Carnegie Corporation of New York to study Islam in Iran.

As one of 21 Carnegie Scholars chosen last week by the corporation, Safi will conduct a research project titled “Reforming Islam in the ‘Axis of Evil’: Contesting Islam in Post-Revolutionary Iran.”

His goal is to raise awareness of the role of Islam in the country today, and of the debate there between modern intellectuals and more conservative scholars in the faith. Fluent in Persian and Arabic, Safi will interview leading Islamic scholars in Iran. He will be on leave from UNC for the fall 2007 semester for the project. He plans to write a book on his findings.

Safi’s previous books are “The Politics of Knowledge in Premodern Islam” (2006) and “Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender and Pluralism” (2003).

For more information, visit the Web sites of the Carnegie Corporation at and the UNC College of Arts and Sciences at


Brown, Mason, Townsend join Ackland board

UNC alumni James-Keith Brown of New York, Karol Mason of Atlanta and John Townsend of Greenwich, Conn., have joined the national advisory board of the university’s Ackland Art Museum.

Brown will chair the board for two years; Mason and Townsend begin three-year terms. The board advises the museum staff and director Emily Kass about matters including planning, exhibitions, collections, fiscal responsibility and community engagement.

Brown, a partner and head of investor relations for Och-Ziff Capital Management Group, previously worked for Goldman Sachs & Co., J.P. Morgan and Bankers Trust Co. A collector of contemporary art, he is on boards including those of the Andy Warhol Foundation, the New Museum of Contemporary Art, The New School and the Vera List Center for Art and Politics, all in New York.

A Chatham County native, Brown graduated from Jordan Matthews High School in Siler City.

Mason, a member of the university’s board of trustees, is a partner in the Atlanta law firm Alston & Bird LLP and former member of the National Black Arts Festival. At Carolina, she has been on the boards of visitors, the arts and sciences foundation and the national development council. The General Alumni Association honored her with a Distinguished Young Alumni Award in 1991. As a UNC student, Mason was inducted into three service and honor societies and won an award for unselfish interest in human welfare.

Townsend worked at Goldman Sachs & Co. from 1987 until he retired in 2002. He chairs the Townsend Family Foundation and directs the Riverstone Group, a private investment fund. He chairs the board of trustees of Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Va., and is on the board of visitors of UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. Townsend also is on the boards of trustees of Greenwich Hospital, the Grand Teton National Park Foundation and the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team Foundation.

Ackland Web site:


UNC historian Williams wins yearlong fellowship

Heather Williams, Ph.D., an assistant professor of history at UNC, has been named one of 37 fellows at the National Humanities Center for the 2007-2008 academic year.

Chosen from among 400 applicants, the new fellows hail from 27 colleges and universities in 16 states, Canada and Germany. The privately incorporated center for advanced study in the humanities is located in the Research Triangle Park.

Williams’ project there, “Information Wanted: Separation and Reunification of African American Families in the Nineteenth Century,” will be “a book-length project that will focus on the emotional aspects of losing family members during slavery and attempting to locate relatives at the end of the Civil War,” Williams said. “Relying on slave narratives, interviews, correspondence, government records, church records and other archival material, I will examine questions of loss and grief and hope.”  

The project will lead to her second book. Her first was “Self-Taught: African American Education in Slavery and Freedom” (UNC Press 2005). Williams has master’s and doctoral degrees from Yale University and a law degree from Harvard University.

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Note: Williams can be reached at; Safi, at

School of Medicine contact: Stephanie Crayton, (919) 966-2860,
Ackland Art Museum contact: Amanda Hughes, (919) 843-3592,
National Humanities Center contact: Kent Mullikin, (919) 549-0661,
News Services contact: LJ Toler, (919) 962-8589