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News first published by Carolina Alumni Review March 4, 2021

Kizzmekia Corbett PhD and Dr. Anthony Fauci
Kizzmekia Corbett ’14 (PhD), left, and Dr. Anthony Fauci will team up to deliver Carolina’s Spring Commencement address this May.

Carolina’s spring graduation will feature two of the biggest names in COVID-19 research and national response strategies who will be, virtually, on the same stage in Kenan Stadium for multiple live Commencement exercises honoring the class of 2021 and a limited number of their invited guests.

Dr. Anthony Fauci and Kizzmekia Corbett ’14 (PhD) will team up to deliver Carolina’s Spring Commencement address this May.

“Over this past year, these two medical leaders have worked tirelessly to serve our country and keep us safe,” Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz said. “Drs. Fauci and Corbett embody our University’s mission of teaching, research and service. Their commitment to saving lives through discovery and innovation will inspire our graduates as they enter the next chapter of their lives.”

Because of the pandemic, Carolina will host smaller graduation ceremonies over three days the weekend of May 14-16. Traditionally, Carolina hosts one large ceremony for all graduates on Mother’s Day. The smaller ceremonies will allow the University to recognize graduates in person in a safe way.

Graduates will hear from the two prominent COVID-19 experts at each of the ceremonies.

Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor, has led the country’s response to the pandemic. Serving as the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director since 1984, Fauci oversees research focused on preventing, diagnosing and treating established and emerging infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDs, respiratory infections, malaria and Ebola. He has received numerous awards for his scientific and global health accomplishments, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Beyond his own research on infectious diseases and the human immune response, Fauci has advised seven presidents — from Ronald Reagan to Joe Biden — on global health matters, including COVID-19.

As countries begin vaccination efforts, Fauci has advocated for global herd immunity. “As we allow this infection to exist to any degree in any part of the world, it will always be a threat,” he told NPR. “So, we’ve got to approach this the way we approach smallpox, the way we approach polio, and the way we approach measles and other devastating global outbreaks.”

While Fauci has been diligently advising the Biden administration and previously the Trump administration on public health measures to reduce COVID-19 transmission, Corbett, an immunologist, has been at the forefront of vaccine development as a leading scientist at the National Institutes of Health.

Corbett earned her doctorate in microbiology and immunology from UNC’s School of Medicine in 2014. Her interest in rapid vaccine development led her to a postdoc fellowship at the NIH’s Vaccine Research Center, where she studied coronaviruses such as SARS and MERS. That work laid the foundation for the speed with which her team developed a COVID-19 vaccine.

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