Vivian Pinn, MD

Class Year




Posted on: November 16, 2020

The American Medical Association (AMA) has presented Vivian W. Pinn, MD ’67, a groundbreaking academic and public health official, with the Distinguished Service Award. The award honors a member of the AMA for meritorious service in the science and art of medicine and was presented during the November 2020 Special Meeting of the AMA House of Delegates.

“Dr. Pinn has spent her life blazing trails. Attending segregated public schools in small-town Virginia, Dr. Pinn attended Wellesley College and the University of Virginia School of Medicine, where she was the only woman and only African American in her class. With grit and intelligence, she has carved out a career as a physician, academic leader, public health official and mentor, not to mention a leader in organized medicine. We all stand on her shoulders,” said AMA President Susan R. Bailey, MD.

She is also the recipient of the 2020 Alma Dea Morani Renaissance Woman Award from the Women in Medicine Legacy Foundation.

After medical school, Pinn became a tenured professor at Tufts University School of Medicine and later moved to Howard University College of Medicine, where she became the first African American woman and third woman in the country to chair a pathology department.

In 1989, Pinn became president of the National Medical Association, the nation’s oldest and largest organization representing African American physicians and health professionals.

In 1991, Pinn was appointed as first director of the new Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH) at the National Institutes for Health and first permanent NIH associate director of research on women’s health. The ORWH was established in 1990 to strengthen NIH’s efforts to improve the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of illnesses in women, and to enhance research related to diseases and conditions that affect women. The office helps set NIH goals and policies for women’s health issues and assures that all appropriate clinical trials include the participation of women.

In her 20 years as ORWH director, Pinn helped raise awareness of women’s health issues and under representation in science and medicine worldwide, across educational, political and cultural communities Since her retirement, she has been named the senior scientist emerita at the NIH Fogarty International Center.

Pinn has been honored with dozens of honorary degrees and awards, even having her name etched on a building at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, where Pinn Hall is the site of another generation of scientists conducting research.