Skip to main content

Myron S. Cohen, M.D., an acclaimed physician and researcher who has spent the last three decades studying the transmission and prevention of HIV/AIDS, will speak at December Commencement at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Chancellor Holden Thorp will preside at the Dec. 16 ceremony at 2 p.m. in the Dean E. Smith Center.

Thorp chose Cohen, the J. Herbert Bate Distinguished Professor of medicine, microbiology and immunology and public health, in consultation with the Commencement Speaker Selection Committee, which includes students and faculty. His selection continues Carolina’s tradition of faculty speakers at December Commencement.

“Through his internationally recognized scholarship, Mike Cohen epitomizes the vast power of a research university and its people to help tackle the world’s greatest problems,” Thorp said. “His work has helped fundamentally change prevention strategies and the search for a cure as part of the global fight against AIDS. I’m pleased our December graduates will have the opportunity to learn from such a distinguished faculty colleague and citizen of the world.”

Watch the video below to see Cohen being honored.

Cohen joined the UNC faculty in 1980 – the same year that AIDS was first identified – and was one of the first to recognize that any attempt to stem the AIDS epidemic would require an international program targeting improved care, treatment and research in resource-poor countries such as Malawi, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa and Russia, as well as the United States.

Cohen’s team of researchers at Carolina developed sensitive assays to measure the concentration of HIV in bodily fluids and was among the first to demonstrate that the presence of other sexually transmitted diseases can increase the likelihood of HIV transmission.

Their research provided the scientific foundation for the Center for Disease Control’s 2005 strategic plan for HIV prevention and led the National Institutes of Health to tap Carolina to help develop a safe and effective vaccine against HIV/AIDS.

As the architect and principal investigator of the multinational National Institutes of Health HIV Prevention Trials Network, Cohen was instrumental in showing that antiretroviral treatment prevents the sexual transmission of HIV-1. This work was recognized by Science Magazine as the “Breakthrough of the Year” in 2011.

Cohen received a standing ovation when he was honored during halftime of the Tar Heels’ basketball game with the Virginia Cavaliers last February.


In April, he received the top honor of the inaugural Clinical Research Forum Top 10 Clinical Research Achievement Awards. The winning projects represented compelling examples of the scientific innovation that results from the nation’s investment in clinical research that can benefit human health and welfare.

A University faculty member for more than 30 years, Cohen’s titles include associate vice chancellor for global health and director of the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases. He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois and his M.D. degree from Rush Medical College in Chicago.

For more information about Commencement at UNC, please see: