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Arnold School of Public Health

  • Angela Liese (center) with her award

Liese named recipient of 2017 H.A. Tyroler Distinguished Alumni Award by University of North Carolina

November 8, 2017 | Erin Bluvas, 

Professor Angela Liese (epidemiology and biostatistics) has been honored with the H.A. Tyroler Distinguished Alumni Award by the Epidemiology Chapter of the Gillings School of Global Public Health Alumni Association at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. In addition to receiving this award from her doctoral alma mater, Liese was invited to provide a keynote presentation (see video) at the university this fall [Liese is pictured above at the ceremony with UNC epidemiology association alumni directors Jonathan Todd (left) and Corey Kalbaugh (right)].

Named for Herman Alfred (Al) Tyroler, Alumni Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Epidemiology at the Gillings School, this award commemorates the contributions of Tyroler to the field of epidemiology, particularly the social determinants of health, throughout his 40-year career. The award was designed to recognize distinguished alumni for their own contributions to field of epidemiology. According to the award committee, Liese was chosen for her “seminal research, standing as a respected expert in the field, and extensive contributions to training (which) demonstrate the distinctions embodied in this award.”

After earning a degree in nutrition at the University of Bonn in Germany, Liese shifted her focus to epidemiology for her master’s (University of Massachusetts) and doctoral (University of North Carolina) degrees. “I initially studied nutrition and then embarked on a Ph.D. in epidemiology when I realized that epidemiology research was exactly the type of approach and thinking that I felt would allow me to study behavioral influences on chronic diseases,” she says.

Her nutrition background remained an important influence in her work, however, as she spent the next twenty years fine-tuning her research interests and becoming an international authority in nutritional epidemiology, diabetes epidemiology, and public health nutrition. After her 1996 graduation from the Gillings School, Liese took an epidemiology position with the University of Münster Medical School. She returned to the United States in 2000 to join the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina.

During the 16 years that have elapsed since she joined UofSC, Liese has proven to be a respected leader, valued mentor and teacher, and gifted scholar. Her nearly 150 peer-reviewed publications and other scholarship products have elevated Liese’s research to the global stage—resulting in multiple highly cited paper awards and cementing her status as an internationally recognized scientist whose expertise is sought to help shape national public health guidelines and recommendations.   

The Dietary Patterns Methods Project is one of many projects that demonstrate Liese’s tremendous impact on the field. As a result of her 15 years of dietary patterns research, Liese was invited to serve on a United States Department of Agriculture expert panel convened to prepare for the 2015 revisions to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. After identifying evidence-base gaps for the role of dietary patterns, Liese organized the Dietary Patterns Methods Project to comprehensively analyze the available data to definitely determine whether a high-quality diet is indeed associated with increased longevity and reduced cause-specific mortality. The resulting paper she published, The Dietary Patterns Methods Project: Synthesis of findings across cohorts and relevance to dietary guidance, is one of the highly cited papers from The Journal of Nutrition where it was published in 2015.

Liese’s contributions to epidemiology and academia are also reflected in her School and University awards. She received the James A. Keith Excellence in Teaching Award in 2007, the Arnold School of Public Health Research Award in 2011, and the UofSC Breakthrough Leadership in Research Award in 2016. While her scientific contributions are clear through the aforementioned metrics, these awards reveal Liese’s parallel commitment to mentorship and teaching.

In addition to celebrating her scholarly achievements, the Breakthrough Leadership in Research Award is also a recognition of Liese’s mentorship activities. Not only does Liese devote much of her time to engaging students in the classroom and one-on-one, she is also a dedicated mentor to junior faculty.

“Given the quality and amount of both formal and informal mentoring that Angela does, I can think of no one who better represents the wonderfully thoughtful and kind mentorship for which Dr. Tyroler was universally known and loved,” says Associate Professor Susan Steck, who is also a Gillings School alumna and counts Liese as an influential mentor. “Her strong record of mentoring, her evidence of local, national and international leadership, and her prolific research career reflect her unwavering work ethic and dedication which make her so deserving of this honor.”

Liese learned from a gifted mentor herself. Tyroler inspired Liese during her own doctoral program when he taught her in the classroom and served on her dissertation committee.  “Al asked really tough questions but in the gentlest possible way,” says Liese “He challenged me to think very critically about what research questions we ask and what our underlying mental models and assumptions are-his influence ultimately helped shape the way I approach my work.“


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