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Catawba Alumnus Recognized for Pioneering Work in the Field of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

July 25, 2014

Category: Alumni, Sociology


philmay14.jpgCatawba College Alumnus Philip A. May '69, Ph.D., a research professor at the UNC Nutrition Research Institute in Kannapolis, N.C., has been awarded the 2014 Henry Rosett Award for his internationally recognized work in the field of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. The award was presented to Dr. May by the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Study Group of the Research Society on Alcoholism at that group’s annual meeting in June.

This award of merit recognizes an individual who has made a substantial contribution to the field of alcohol-induced teratology, or physiological abnormalities.

Dr. May was the principal investigator of the first-ever population-based epidemiology research on the prevalence and characteristics of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), which commenced in 1979 among multiple communities of American Indians of the Southwestern United States. His pioneering work began only six years after the diagnosis of FAS was established. 

He served as the principal investigator and director of the National Indian FAS Prevention Program, the first large, national program of its kinds, from 1983 to 1987.  He was also a member of the Committee to Study Fetal Alcohol Syndrome for the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, a committee commissioned from 1994-1996 to formulate and publish guidelines for the diagnosis, research, prevention and treatment of FAS.

Over the past three decades, Dr. May and his team of multidisciplinary experts have carried out ground-breaking research to determine the prevalence and characteristics of FASD in children and identify key maternal risk and protective factors influencing FASD.

For the past two decades, Dr. May has been funded by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health to design and implement this research in three regions of the United States, five communities of the Western Cape province of South Africa, and the Lazio region of Italy.

The link between nutrition and severity of alcohol damage, one of the key risk factors for FASD and other birth defects, led him to return to North Carolina after he retired in 2011 from a 33-year career as a professor of sociology and family and community medicine at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. Today, he also serves as a research professor with eh Department of Nutrition of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Gillings School of Global Public Health.