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Two Prestigious Duke Awards, One Psychiatry Winner

Monday, March 29, 2021
By Susan Gallagher
Kafui Dzirasa, MD, PhD K. Ranga Rama Krishnan Associate Professor Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences

Kafui Dzirasa, MD, PhD, the K. Ranga Rama Krishnan Associate Professor of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, has been selected to receive a Duke University Presidential Award and the Ruth and A. Morris Williams Faculty Research Prize.
The Presidential Awards recognize individuals or teams who have made distinctive contributions to Duke University and Duke University Health System and have demonstrated its institutional values of respect, trust, inclusion, discovery and excellence. It's the highest honor given by Duke to staff and faculty members.
The Ruth and A. Morris Williams Faculty Research Prize was established to advance research opportunities for younger faculty members and to help publicize the caliber of medical research underway at Duke. The Williams Prize recognizes groundbreaking research in basic or clinical science in alternate years.

Dr. Dzirasa has been part of the “Duke family” since 2001, when he arrived as a trainee in the Medical Scientist Training Program. He earned his PhD in neurobiology and MD degree from the Duke School of Medicine, and he completed his psychiatry residency at Duke. He joined the Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences faculty in 2009, and he also holds appointments in Neurobiology, Neurosurgery and Biomedical Engineering.
Dr. Dzirasa’s research focuses on the examination of genetic and stress-based mouse models of neuropsychiatric disorders for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism and depression.

Learn more about his research:

In addition to conducting highly innovative research, Dr. Dzirasa excels as a mentor and teacher to high school, college and medical students, postdocs and junior faculty members. He’s also a tireless advocate for dismantling inequities in science, regularly mentoring and highlighting underrepresented scientists and raising awareness of racism in medicine and academia through op-eds, talks and social media.  
The following excerpts from his Presidential Award nomination letters help capture his extraordinary contributions:

  • He is a brilliant physician-scientist who is active, vocal, and effective both locally and nationally in social justice and science policy, leading the effort to diversify STEM.
  • He is a truly unique member of our community: a trailblazer, an innovator, a caring colleague, an activist and an inspirational leader across many dimensions. He is a powerful force for positive growth and change at Duke, and his contributions make our institution—and the world—a better place.

We're grateful to Dr. Dzirasa for his incredible contributions to the field of psychiatry; his dedication to Duke University, the School of Medicine and our department; his commitment to mentoring young scientists; and his extensive advocacy for racial equity in academia and across the STEM landscape. We’re proud of Dr. Dzirasa and his accomplishments, and we’re honored have him as part of our faculty.
Learn more about Dr. Dzirasa and the other Presidential Award winners. The Presidential Awards ceremony will be held virtually on April 14.