Cancer researcher, pharmacologist receives UNC's Thomas Jefferson Award

April 25, 2008 — Dr. H. Shelton Earp, professor of pharmacology and medicine, Lineberger Professor of Cancer Research and director of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has been honored by his peers with the 2008 Thomas Jefferson Award.

Cancer researcher, pharmacologist receives UNC's Thomas Jefferson Award click to enlarge Dr. H. Shelton Earp

The annual Thomas Jefferson Award recognizes a UNC faculty member who, through personal influence and performance of duty in teaching, writing and scholarship, has best exemplified the ideals and objectives of Thomas Jefferson. UNC faculty members nominate candidates for the honor, which carries a cash prize; a faculty committee chooses the recipient.

Chancellor James Moeser presented the award at a meeting of the Faculty Council this afternoon (April 25).

Barbara K. Rimer, dean of the School of Public Health and Alumni Distinguished Professor, wrote the citation honoring Earp.

“A man of Jeffersonian breadth and depth, Dr. Earp is an exemplary scientist and humanitarian, educator and healer, mentor and leader, citizen and colleague… true blue Tar Heel,” Rimer said.

“Dr. Earp has strengthened this university not only through his own accomplishments, but by nurturing a culture of collaboration,” she said. “Because of Dr. Earp’s efforts, there is better treatment today for patients in North Carolina, and there will be much better prevention and treatment tomorrow.”

A faculty member since 1977, Earp earned his medical degree from Carolina in 1970 and has devoted more than three decades to researching the behavior of cancer cells and the signals that regulate cell growth and differentiation.

The author of 125 peer-reviewed publications, Earp is board-certified in internal medicine and endocrinology. He is the past president of the Association of American Cancer Institutes and has served on its board of directors since 2001. He is also a member of the American Association for Cancer Research, the Association of American Physicians and the American societies of clinical oncology, hematology, cell biology, microbiology and clinical investigation.

At Carolina, Earp has won several medical school teaching awards and through the years has served on review and search committees for numerous faculty members, deans and department chairs, the provost and the chancellor.

He has been called an exemplary scientist, caring clinician and benevolent administrator.

Earp was instrumental in generating statewide support for the University Cancer Research Fund, which will provide $50 million a year toward the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

“He mobilized citizens, scientists, clinicians, patients and legislators, and with them as partners, secured a dramatic commitment by the legislature to create the University Cancer Research Fund,” the citation said.

“The success of this effort is testimony to Dr. Earp’s ability to galvanize support around common goals for uncommon ends, the prevention, early detection, treatment and eradication of cancer. Dr. Earp embodies Jefferson’s optimistic belief that knowledge can be turned to positive benefit for all people.”

Nominators called Earp a genuine, generous person who always puts Carolina first.

“In a world that too often rewards selfishness, Shelley bucks the trend, said Dean Holden Thorp. He is, observed Dean Bill Roper, our priceless gem,” the citation said. “Dr. Michael O’Malley said about Dr. Earp: Hidden by his many achievements but fundamental to them are his emotional intelligence, sense of commitment and a physician’s purpose to make the world a better place.”

Thorp is dean of UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences and Kenan Professor of Chemistry. Roper is dean of the School of Medicine, vice chancellor for medical affairs, Stuart Bondurant Distinguished Professor and chief executive officer of the UNC Health Care System. O’Malley is associate director of the Lineberger Center and adjunct associate professor of health policy and administration in the School of Public Health.

Lineberger contact: Dianne Shaw, (919) 966-5905,
News Services contact: Lisa Katz, (919) 962-2093,