East Tennessee State University bestowed its highest honors upon three professors today with the presentation of the 2012 Distinguished Faculty Awards for Teaching, Research and Service.
The winners were nominated and selected by their faculty peers. Each received a medallion, a plaque and a $5,000 check provided by the ETSU Foundation during the annual Faculty Convocation, which marks the beginning of the new academic year and fall semester.
The 2012 ETSU Distinguished Faculty Award in Research went to Dr. Zhi Q. “John” Yao, an associate professor of Internal Medicine in ETSU’s James H. Quillen College of Medicine.
Yao’s research focuses on innate immune responses to chronic hepatitis C infection. Through his work on the immunobiology of viral hepatitis, he has become influential in his field and has garnered significant attention for the university.
Yao’s expertise in both the clinical and research aspects of hepatic viral infection also led to his appointment as the Hepatology program director at the Quillen VA Medical Center. In that position, he has developed a clinical training site for Quillen College of Medicine medical residents and fellows.
Yao joined the ETSU faculty in 2008. He has received both intramural and extramural funding support for his research at ETSU, including three National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants. His most recent NIH grant, awarded through NIH’s National Institute of Digestive and Diabetes and Kidney Diseases, totals approximately $2 million.
“Dr. Yao is simply a brilliant researcher,” wrote one colleague. “He has had outstanding training, but perhaps more importantly he has the ability to recognize and respond to fundamental gaps in our understanding of infectious diseases. His successes are in great part a recognition that physician scientists such as Dr. Yao are extremely important to our society’s research programs.
“I am extremely proud of his accomplishments but expect that his career will continue to flourish, and he will continue to elevate the university through his pursuit of research excellence.”
This supporter noted that Yao has been significant in building bridges that strengthen ETSU’s research agenda. He has forged collaborations with Wake Forest University’s Translational Science Institute, and has also developed promising international research ties with investigators in China.
Another colleague added: “Dr. Yao is well-known for being a role model as a clinician scientist. This excellent reputation in patient-oriented scientific research, in teaching clinic and research fellows, and fine personality with very good personal relationships with his colleagues and friends is consistently demonstrated through his interactions with people in the past years.”
Yao has been prolific in his academic writing, with approximately 15 peer-reviewed publications in the past three years alone. His most recent publication was selected for the cover of Journal of Leukocyte Biology. The paper was published as the journal’s “Leading Edge Article” with an accompanying editorial.
Yao earned his medical and doctoral degrees from the Fourth Military Medical University in China. Following distinguished academic service in China, his career path led him to noted academic institutions in Europe and the United States. He was a visiting scholar in the Department of Hepatology at Katholic University of Leuven in Belgium; served as a senior fellow in the Department of Virology at the City of Hope National Medical Center in Los Angeles; and was a research associate and assistant professor at the University of Virginia’s Beirne Carter Center for Immunology Research.
For more information and to read about the other award recipients, please see the full text release