CHAPEL HILL, NC – The University of North Carolina System has announced that Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the recipient of the 2020 Oliver Max Gardner Award. Dr. Meltzer-Brody is the Assad Meymandi Distinguished Professor and is chair of the university’s Department of Psychiatry. She is also director of the UNC Center for Women’s Mood Disorders.
The award, established by the will of former North Carolina Governor O. Max Gardner in 1947, recognizes faculty who have “made the greatest contribution to the welfare of the human race.” The winner is selected by the UNC Board of Governors and receives a $30,000 stipend. The O. Max Gardner Award is the highest honor the System confers on faculty, and all faculty members across all of its 17 campuses are eligible. Dr. Meltzer-Brody is the 24th faculty member from UNC-Chapel Hill to receive the award since its inception.
“Dr. Meltzer-Brody’s body of work and commitment to the wellbeing of North Carolinians absolutely exemplify the spirit of the O. Max Gardner Award,” said UNC System Interim President Bill Roper. “Her decades of achievement, commitment to improving the mental health of women, and the many resources and tools she has helped to create have left a profound impact on society. We applaud her for her ability to take important scholarly work and give back to the public.”
Dr. Meltzer-Brody joined UNC-Chapel Hill in 2000 as a Fellow and Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar. She steadily rose through the ranks, from clinical assistant professor to her current status as the Assad Meymandi Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Psychiatry. She was previously the Ray M. Hayworth and Family Distinguished Professor of Mood Disorders and carried the title of full professor in the department.
She quickly established herself as a champion for women’s health and founded the Perinatal Psychiatry Program in the UNC Center for Women’s Mood Disorders, the nation’s first hospital unit for women who need inpatient treatment. As director of the UNC Perinatal Psychiatry Program, she and her team have heavily engaged in projects to expand the reach of telemedicine in perinatal psychiatry, including two separate federal grants: the first a PCORI funded grant and the second in collaboration with NC DHHS to develop a program that allows physicians across the state to consult with UNC-Chapel Hill’s perinatal psychiatry medical professionals about patients in their practices. She has also been a passionate advocate for physician and health care worker mental health founding the UNC Taking Care of Our Own Program in 2012 and serving in administrative roles in the SOM focused on well-being.
“The Board of Governors is always proud to recognize individuals who have gone above and beyond the call of duty and do something extraordinary with their careers,” UNC Board Chair Randy Ramsey said. “Dr. Meltzer-Brody has demonstrated an impressive dedication to service and to improving the lives of people throughout this state, nation and planet. She is highly deserving of this honor.”
Dr. Meltzer-Brody’s current research efforts are focused primarily on perinatal depression, and she is currently funded by multiple NIH and other federal grants to investigate epidemiologic, genetic and other biomarker models of perinatal depression. She established the international postpartum depression consortium (PACT) and is the co-investigator of the rebranded MOMS GENES app, an ambitious international genetic study of postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis that uses smartphone technology to collect DNA samples from around the globe. Dr. Meltzer-Brody and her colleagues also investigate novel treatment options for depression in perinatal women, and she served as the academic principal investigator for clinical trials of brexanolone, the first-ever FDA-approved medication to treat postpartum depression. She also collaborates with her colleagues on global health efforts, including perinatal mental health issues in Malawi, Africa.
Dr. Meltzer-Brody holds a bachelor of science in biology and psychology from Simmons College, a medical doctorate from the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University and a master of public health from UNC-Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health. She completed her residency in psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center and a fellowship as a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar at UNC-Chapel Hill.
“Dr. Meltzer-Brody has made an impact on so many through her dedication to patients and inspiring leadership of UNC Health’s Well-Being Program and the School of Medicine’s Taking Care of Our Own Program, both vital resources for our co-workers, especially during the COVID-19 Pandemic,” said A. Wesley Burks, MD, dean of the UNC School of Medicine and CEO of UNC Health. “She embodies the expertise and empathy we strive for, and we are thrilled the University System has honored her with this well-deserved award.”
A widely published and cited author, Dr. Meltzer-Brody received the American Psychiatric Association’s 2019 Alexandra Symonds Award for her outstanding contributions to women’s mental health. She has been named one of the “Top 10 Women in Medicine” from the Triangle Business Journal and is previously the 2016 recipient of the North Carolina Psychiatric Association Eugene Hargrove Award and the 2015 Arnold Kaluzny Distinguished Alumni Award, which is given by the UNC School of Public Health’s Leadership Program.
To listen to a pair of interviews conducted with Dr. Meltzer-Brody by Focus: Carolina through UNC-Chapel Hill’s The Well, click here.