New Year Honours triple celebration for university academics

January 1st, 2022

The University of Nottingham is celebrating the recognition of three of its academics in the New Year’s Honours 2022, including a knighthood for one of the most recognisable faces from the scientific response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Jonathan Van Tam, Professor of Health Protection in the School of Medicine, specialising in influenza, epidemiology, transmission, vaccinology and pandemic preparedness, is also an alumnus of the University and graduated from the School of Medicine in 1987.

But he has become a familiar face during the pandemic since he was seconded to the Department of Health as one of three Deputy Chief Medical Officers (DCMO), where he has been a key provider of independent advice to the Government on Covid-19. He leads on health protection and regularly presents at the 10 Downing Street Covid-19 press conferences. It is during these conferences that Professor Van Tam has become famous for his range of creative analogies to explain complex public health issues.

Professor Van Tam has been most recently seen on our TV screens hosting this year’s Royal Institution Christmas Lectures – Going viral: How Covid Changed Science Forever – where he has been joined by a prestigious group of six guest lecturers to take a deep dive into the science of viruses.

A previous recipient of an MBE, he will now receive a knighthood for his services to public health.

Professor Robert Mokaya has been recognised with an OBE for services to the chemical sciences. Joining as an EPSRC Advanced Fellow, he has built an extensive 16-year career at Nottingham and is now Professor of Materials Chemistry and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Global Engagement, the University’s strategic lead on meeting international challenges including Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Robert heads up a world-leading research group on sustainable energy materials and valorisation of carbon feedstocks and publishing 175 articles with more than 13,000 citations. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry as well as a being a current Royal Society Wolfson Merit Award holder.

As a founding member of the RSC Pan Africa Chemistry Network, he has helped to vastly improve African chemists’ access to, and the impact of, chemical knowledge in countries across the continent.

As the only Black Professor of Chemistry in the country, he is a role model and mentor to Black academics and students in the UK.

Robert’s work has been instrumental in developing affordable energy solutions, strengthening and building capacity through the £1.2 million RS/DFID Capacity Building in Energy Storage Materials programme. Robert has continued his research along this path through EPSRC-funded schemes to provide bio-rural energy in Ghana and GCRF-funded safe and affordable low energy cooking solutions for South Africa and Namibia.

Tony Avery, a GP and Professor of Primary Healthcare, and a Senior Investigator for the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), will receive an OBE for services to General Practice.

His research focuses on patient safety in primary care, which is a priority area for the NHS, and he has led ground-breaking studies to identify the frequency, nature and cause of prescribing errors and avoidable harm in primary care.

Professor Avery has also developed and evaluated a range of interventions that have led to improvements in patient safety. One example being a pharmacist-led information-technology-based intervention (called PINCER), which was effective (and cost effective) at reducing prescribing errors in general practice in a large cluster-randomised trial. It has now been rolled out to more than 2,500 general practices across England and as a result, over 20,000 patients have benefitted from safer prescriptions.

Professor Avery said: “I’m absolutely delighted to receive this honour, and I would like to thank all my colleagues for the contribution they have made to my career. I would particularly like to thank my wife, Chris, and my family and friends for their love and support.”

Professor Avery has worked in the medical field for more than thirty-five years. After completing his undergraduate medical degree at the University of Sheffield in 1986, he then went on to complete his GP training in Nottingham, and has been a clinical academic at the University of Nottingham since 1992. He was appointed as the Director of Research for the School of Medicine at Nottingham in 2013 and was Dean and Head of Nottingham School of Medicine from 2015-2019. Professor Avery also works as a GP at the Valley Surgery, Chilwell, Nottingham.

Professor Shearer West, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nottingham said:

“This is an extremely proud day for The University of Nottingham, and I am delighted that these colleagues who have given so much to society – both in the UK and internationally – are being recognised for their service and dedication.

“All of us at the University are incredibly proud of Professor Jonathan Van-Tam’s work as Deputy Chief Medical Officer. While on secondment as DCMO, in which he has played a major role in steering the nation through the pandemic, it has been particularly wonderful to see the British public’s response to Jonathan’s expertise and flair for science communication during the Downing Street briefings.

“Robert is an inspiration to all who work, research or study with him. He also reaches out to identify and encourage young Black students from the UK and African nations to consider courses, research and careers in science, technology, engineering and maths. A pioneer in his field and a pioneer in supporting greater equality, diversity and inclusion in higher education, I can think of few colleagues more richly deserving of Honours recognition than Professor Robert Mokaya.

“Tony has given his life to medicine and has served patients and the medical community in many ways – through patient service, research and education. His research on safe prescribing in particular has made a real difference to a large number of patients in the UK and worldwide.”

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