Vivian W. Pinn, MD, was the inaugural full-time director of the Office of Research on Women’s Health at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) from 1991 and Associate Director of NIH for Women’s Health Research from 1994 until her retirement in 2011. Under her leadership, this new office led the implementation of NIH research inclusion policies for women and minorities in clinical research, developed the first-ever—and several later—national strategic plans for women’s health research, and established many new research funding initiatives and career development programs. These included interdisciplinary initiatives, in collaboration with NIH Institutes and Centers. During that time, she also established and co-chaired the NIH Committee on Women in Biomedical Careers with the NIH Director.
Pinn has since been named Senior Scientist Emerita at the NIH Fogarty International Center. She has presented her perceptions of women’s health and sex/gender research, health disparities, as well as challenges in biomedical careers to national and international audiences, and has served as a mentor to hundreds of young women and men of all races. A special tribute by Senator Olympia Snowe on Pinn’s retirement was published in the Congressional Record in November 2011, commending her contributions during her NIH tenure. At the time of her retirement, The Association of American Medical Colleges awarded her a Special Recognition Award for exceptional leadership over a forty-year career.
She came to the NIH from Howard University College of Medicine, where she had been Professor and Chair of the Department of Pathology since 1982, the third woman in the U.S. to hold such an appointment and the first African American woman. Pinn also previously had teaching appointments in Pathology at Harvard Medical School and Tufts University, where she was also Assistant Dean for Student Affairs. Her professional area of focus in Pathology was Immunopathology, specifically renal and autoimmune diseases, and transplant pathology. She now also holds the position of Professor, Institute for Advanced Discovery & Innovation at the University of South Florida.
She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and was elected to the National Academy of Medicine (IOM) in 1995. She served several terms on the National Academies Committee on Women in Science, Engineering and Medicine, and was a member of the National Academies committee that prepared the report on ‘Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors’ which was released in the spring of 2020. She is also a member of the National Academies Roundtable on Black Men and Black Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine.
A graduate and Alumna Achievement Award recipient and former Alumna Trustee of Wellesley College, she earned her MD in 1967 from the University of Virginia School of Medicine, the only woman and only minority in her class. She completed her post-graduate training in Pathology at the Massachusetts General Hospital of Harvard University before joining Tufts faculty. Pinn has over 200 scientific publications and book chapters, including Forewords, and has given more than 500 keynote speeches, lectures, and presentations since 1991.
A native of Lynchburg, Virginia, and educated in segregated public schools, Pinn has received 17 Honorary Degrees of Science, Law, and Medicine. The University of Virginia School of Medicine has named one of its four advisory medical student colleges as ‘The Pinn College’ in her honor. In 2011, Tufts University School of Medicine announced the ‘The Vivian W. Pinn Office of Student Affairs,’ named for her at the time her former medical students dedicated a scholarship in her name, the Vivian W. Pinn Scholarship Fund, to support needy students to have the opportunity to study medicine at Tufts. She has held leadership positions in many professional organizations, including the 88th President of the National Medical Association (NMA), and is currently Chair of the NMA Past Presidents Council. Dr. Pinn serves on the Board of Trustees/Advisors of Thomas Jefferson University, the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson, and Tufts University School of Medicine.
Pinn has received more than 300 honors and awards. She was elected to Modern Healthcare’s Hall of Fame, the first African American woman to be so honored, and is also a recipient of the New York Academy of Medicine Medal for Distinguished Contributions in Health Policy. Among many other recent honors, she received a special Lifetime Achievement Award from the Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership of Drexel University in 2017. She also served as the 2017-2018 Leader-in-Residence at the Jepson School of Leadership Studies of the University of Richmond. In 2019, she was presented with the John D. Thompson Distinguished Visiting Fellow Award by the Yale University School of Public Health. She recently received the 2020 American Medical Association’s Distinguished Service Award for her leadership in women’s health and the 2020 Alma Dea Morani Award from the Women in Medicine Legacy Foundation and the New York Academy of Medicine.
Lectures in women’s health named for her have been established at the National Institutes of Health, the National Women’s Health Congress, and the National Medical Association. One of her greatest honors has been the University of Virginia’s announcement in the fall of 2016 that the medical research and education building was renamed for her as “Pinn Hall.” And in December 2016, the UVA medical school also announced the inaugural Pinn Scholars program to support and recognize mid-level faculty to take their research in novel directions. Her oral history is included in the National Library of Medicine’s exhibit on women physicians, ‘Changing the Face of Medicine’; in the University of Virginia’s project ‘Explorations in Black Leadership’ conducted by Julian Bond; and, in The HistoryMakers collection, which is now housed in the Library of Congress.
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