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Health and Medicine

UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health Dean Nancy Messonnier elected to National Academy of Medicine

The academy recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service throughout their careers.

Gillings School of Global Health from above.
UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health stretches across Rosenau Hall, McGavran-Greenberg Hall and the Michael Hooker Research Center on campus across from the Medical School Library. (Photo by Andrew Russel/UNC Research)

Dr. Nancy Messonnier, dean and Bryson Distinguished Professor in Public Health at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, has been elected to the National Academy of Medicine. This election is considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine.

The academy recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service throughout their careers. New members are elected by current members through a process that recognizes major contributions to the advancement of the medical sciences, health care and public health.

Dean Nancy Messonnier

Dean Nancy Messonnier

Messonnier was selected for NAM membership in 2021 and has been working with the group for about a year. The pandemic delayed her formal induction, but she was able to travel to Washington, D.C., in October 2022 for orientation and a ceremony honoring the most recent class of members.

“I’m incredibly honored to join the National Academy of Medicine,” she said. “I worked with NAM members when I was at the CDC and they have always taken on the most important topics of the day. NAM has played a key role during the COVID-19 pandemic as a non-conflicted, independent scientific body with experts from a range of fields thinking deeply on essential issues.”

Messonnier began her public health career in 1995 at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as an epidemic intelligence officer and went on to hold a number of posts within the organization, including first as deputy director and then as director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases from 2014-2021.

Her many accomplishments include leadership roles in developing and implementing a low-cost vaccine to prevent epidemic meningitis in Africa; in responding to the 2001 anthrax attacks; and in promoting vaccine confidence and addressing disparities in immunization coverage.

She also led the NCIRD response to the COVID-19 pandemic, serving as the CDC’s chief architect on the vaccine implementation program that helped to develop, evaluate and distribute vaccines across the United States.

While at the Skoll Foundation — a private foundation that invests in social entrepreneurs and other innovators — Messonnier continued to address the COVID-19 pandemic and worked to build a global response and preparedness system to prevent future pandemics.

“It is my privilege to welcome this extraordinary class of new members. Their contributions to health and medicine are unmatched — they’ve made groundbreaking discoveries, taken bold action against social inequities and led the response to some of the greatest public health challenges of our time,” said National Academy of Medicine President Dr. Victor J. Dzau, in an announcement recognizing the election of 100 new members. “This is also the NAM’s most diverse class of new members to date, composed of approximately 50% women and 50% racial and ethnic minorities. This class represents many identities and experiences — all of which are absolutely necessary to address the existential threats facing humanity. I look forward to working with all of our new members in the years ahead.”