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Duke Alumni Association
614 Chapel Drive
Durham, NC 27708-0572
Distinguished Alumni Award
Duke Alumni Association's highest honor
In 1983 the Duke Alumni Association Board of Directors established this award as our highest honor. The alumni who receive this honor have distinguished themselves by the contributions they have made in their particular fields or professions, in service to Duke University and to the betterment of humanity. All living graduates, other than active members of the Duke Board of Trustees and current Duke employees working in the Alumni Affairs and Development departments, are eligible for consideration.
We invite you to nominate a fellow alum you find worthy of the award. We will hold all nominations and supporting materials for three years to give each nominee extended consideration.
To nominate a fellow alum, please fill out and submit the online nomination form.
2015 recipient: Kimberly Blackwell ’89, H.S.’00
Leading the way in cancer research
Kimberly Blackwell embodies the innovation, passion and drive that make Duke University the special place it is — and the way she is using her talents makes her the special person we want to honor.
As a clinical oncologist at Duke since 1994 and now as the director of the breast cancer program at the Duke Cancer Institute, Blackwell has dedicated her time, research and expertise to the mission of fighting breast cancer and saving the lives of women everywhere.
Over the past several years, Dr. Blackwell developed a new breast-cancer treatment known colloquially as the “smart bomb.” The FDA approved the treatment — officially named T-DM1 — in 2013. T-DM1 attacks a particular protein found in an aggressive type of late-stage breast cancer while leaving the healthy cells untouched. The results are nothing short of miraculous. Women undergoing Dr. Blackwell’s treatment are surviving at higher rates and experiencing fewer chemotherapy side effects.
Blackwell also played a major role in the development of another breast cancer drug known as lapatinib. Her research work at Duke as the principal investigator for these two drug trials established Duke as the place where two of the last six drugs approved for breast cancer were engineered.
Blackwell’s groundbreaking research in the fight against cancer earned her a spot on TIME Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” list in 2013.
In addition to her innovative research, Blackwell also serves as professor of medicine and assistant professor of radiation oncology at Duke University Medical Center and maintains an active clinical practice. Her clinical and research interests surround the formation of blood vessels in breast cancer, breast cancer in younger women and hormonal therapy.
“The Duke community is what kept me here,” Blackwell says. “The brain-tumor group at Duke has a slogan: ‘At Duke there’s hope.’ And that’s really true. We do things here that can’t be done anywhere else.”
Other Distinguished Alumni Award honorees