UConn Health’s Laurencin Honored for Promotion of Justice, Equity

Dr. Cato Laurencin at his office at UConn Health in Farmington on Oct. 6, 2014. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)
Dr. Cato T. Laurencin is being honored for his promotion of justice and equity in medical education. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

On Monday, Aug. 24, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) announced University of Connecticut Professor Cato T. Laurencin as the recipient of the 2020 Herbert W. Nickens Award.

The award is bestowed on an individual who has made monumental contributions to promoting justice in medical education and health care equity throughout the nation. Laurencin will receive the prestigious award in November during the virtual AAMC annual meeting, where he will give a presentation entitled “Black Lives Matter in Science, Engineering, and Medicine.”

“Connecticut applauds and congratulates Dr. Laurencin for his lifelong dedication to the betterment of society and science. His work in support of humanity is exemplified by his recent title of Healthcare Hero by Connecticut Magazine, and now in receiving the AAMC’s Herbert W. Nickens Award,” said Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont.

In awarding him the Herbert W. Nickens Award, the AAMC stated: “Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D. has distinguished himself throughout his 40-year career as a phenomenal physician-scientist and a courageous leader in social justice, equity, and fairness.”

At UConn Dr. Laurencin is a University Professor, one of only two currently at the school. He serves as the Chief Executive Officer of The Connecticut Convergence Institute for Translation in Regenerative Engineering. He is also the Albert and Wilda Van Dusen Distinguished Endowed Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, Professor of Chemical Engineering, Materials Sciences, and Biomedical Engineering. He is also a core faculty member of the Africana Studies Institute at UConn.

“As University Professor, Dr. Laurencin has been leading across the university, in medicine, engineering, and the social sciences. His work in developing and mentoring individuals, especially people of color from high school, college, graduate education and faculty here at the University has been particularly incredible,” said UConn President Thomas C. Katsouleas.

In social justice, Laurencin is the founding Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities and co-founded the W. Montague Cobb/National Medical Association (NMA) Health Institute. He has received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Math and Engineering Mentoring in ceremonies at the White House. He received the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Mentor Award where it was noted he has been responsible for the development and mentoring of a generation of Black and Latino students in medicine, engineering and science.

A role model in science, Laurencin has two awards named in his honor. The Society for Biomaterials established The Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D. Travel Fellowship awarded to underrepresented students of color pursuing research. In addition, The W. Montague Cobb/NMA Health Institute and the National Medical Association established the Cato T. Laurencin Lifetime Research Achievement Award, given during the opening ceremonies of the NMA Meeting.

The founder of the field of Regenerative Engineering, Laurencin received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the highest honor bestowed in America for technological achievement, from President Barack Obama. He also received the Philip Hauge Abelson Prize from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) “for signal contributions to the advancement of science in the United States.” In addition, he has also received the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s Pioneer Grant Award and the National Science Foundation (NSF) Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation Grant Award.

Laurencin is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Engineering, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Inventors.  He is the first person to win the oldest and highest awards of both the National Academy of Medicine (the Walsh McDermott Medal) and the National Academy of Engineering (the Simon Ramo Founders Award).

Laurencin received his B.S.E in chemical engineering from Princeton University, his M.D., magna cum laude from the Harvard Medical School, and his Ph.D. in biochemical engineering/biotechnology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.