Faculty News

Martin, Dewar Receive 2020 Public Engagement Awards

President's Awards for Public Engagement

President Mark Schlissel is honoring two U-M faculty members with the 2020 President’s Awards for public engagement, recognizing their commitment and contributions to significantly impact society through national and state leadership service and efforts to address the challenges our communities face every day. 

Emily Toth Martin, PhD, MPH, associate professor of epidemiology in the School of Public Health, will receive the President’s Award for National and State Leadership, which honors individuals who provide sustained, dedicated and influential leadership and service in major national or state capacities.

Margaret Dewar, PhD, professor emitera, urban & regional planning in the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, will receive the President’s Award for Public Impact. The award honors individuals whose research and expertise tangibly addresses a major public-sector challenge.

“Professors Dewar and Martin are helping our communities confront monumental challenges, and their service to the public will resonate for generations to come. Professor Martin’s expertise has saved lives during the COVID-19 global pandemic, and Professor Dewar’s focus on American cities is strengthening neighborhoods through safe and affordable housing,” Schlissel said. 

Martin received multiple nominations for her surveillance and engagement work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic with the University of Michigan community, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s office and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the many panels and forums she participated in to share critical information and guidance on slowing the spread of the virus. 

“In the midst of this pandemic, there is no person more deserving of this award than Dr. Martin. Since the start of the pandemic, [she] has provided steadfast and clear-eyed leadership to the university, community and state. She has unselfishly given her time and expertise and has provided critical guidance to help our community respond to the biggest public health emergency in recent memory,” said Joseph Eisenberg, PhD, MPH, chair and professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health, who nominated Martin.

Martin has been featured in news outlets across the nation explaining the novel coronavirus, testing methods and how precision public health data can be used to make informed decisions and determine next steps.

“Her expertise in public health science and practice, communications and policy has been instrumental to many aspects of the COVID-19 response. We are fortunate to have her at U-M, and the campus community, Washtenaw County and the state of Michigan have benefited from her tireless service,” said Adam Lauring, MD, PhD, associate professor in microbiology and immunology at the U-M Medical School, who also nominated Martin.

“I’m honored to receive this award, and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to be involved in the pandemic response,” Martin said. “COVID-19 has pushed many of us into new roles, and I’ve been lucky to work with so many dedicated colleagues here at U-M and around the state. I’m hopeful that all of these connections with each other and with the community will make us more resilient when we face future crises.” 

Dewar’s work focuses on American cities that have experienced abandonment and loss of employment, with the goal of helping strengthen deteriorated neighborhoods and enhance access to safe and affordable housing. 

Dewar is being recognized for her innovative approach to research. For decades, she has developed relationships in Detroit to help city residents through working with Detroit city officials, community organization leaders and others to combat the issues preventing affordable housing from being available for low-income Detroiters. Along with a colleague at Taubman, Lan Deng, she recently helped develop strategies to preserve affordable housing projects built under the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program. 

“Dr. Dewar’s deep partnerships and engaged approach have made a remarkable difference in strengthening neighborhoods and improving access to safe and affordable housing,” said Luke Shaefer, director of Poverty Solutions and associate professor at the Ford School of Public Policy and the School of Social Work. “For decades, Dr. Dewar has played an active role building relationships in the community and providing evidence-based recommendations that have helped improve access to safe and affordable housing and neighborhoods.

“Dewar is a fantastic model for U-M’s engagement efforts and has made a notable contribution to housing and community development efforts,” Shaefer added.

Dewar says the award  was completely unexpected. 

“As I have processed the news, I’ve been thinking of the many remarkable students and Detroiters with whom I’ve worked to bring about change for the better. I feel as if I represent them in receiving this award because their dedication and hard work have made such a difference,” she said. 

“My suggestions, analyses and plans could have fallen on deaf ears, but instead we listened to each other, and they figured out what to do and took action. They are heroes.” 

To honor Martin and Dewar, there will be a virtual event on March 22, 2021 from 4-6pm. The event will also include the 2019 winners, since the event scheduled for March 2020 to honor them was postponed due toCOVID-19 safety guidelines. The 2019 winners are: Marc Zimmerman, director of the Prevention Research Center and the Michigan Youth Violence Prevention Center in the School of Public Health; and J. Alex Halderman, director of the Center for Computer Security and Society in the College of Engineering. 

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