The CORNELY AWARD is named in honor of PAUL B. CORNELY, MD, DRPH,


This year's recipient: Brian Smedley PhD


Past Recipients of the Cornely Award:
Dr. John Holloman
Dr. Prothrow Stith
Dr. Joseph
Richard Trumka
Dr. Victor Sidel
Dr. Walter Lear
David Satcher MD, PhD 1998
Clara Luz Navarro, RN
Joycelyn Elders, MD  2000
Robert Bullard, Ph.D. 2001
Connie Tucker   2001
Kathleen Rest, PhD 2006
Oliver Fein, MD 2007
Ruth M. Heifetz, MD, MPH 2008
Joshua M. Sharfstein, M.D 2009

Margaret Flowers, MD 2010

L. Toni Lewis, MD 2010

Ellen Shaffer, PhD, MPH 2010

Nancy Krieger


Dr Paul B. Cornely Award

Physician Activist



Dr Cornely began undergraduate studies at City College of Detroit and later transferred to the University of Michigan where he graduated in 1928. He entered the University of Michigan Medical School as one of four black students (in a class of 250) where he graduated with honors in 1931. He was denied access to residencies due to his race. He later completed an internship at Lincoln Hospital in Durham, North Carolina.  Dr. Cornely played a significant role all of his life in the struggle to end segregated hospitals and to fight against racism and for Civil Rights.  He actively fought the segregationist policies of the AMA, and was involved in the founding of the Medical Committee for Human Rights.


 In 1934, he earned his Doctorate in Public Health from his alma mater, the University of Michigan.  He was recruited and supported by Howard University School of Medicine.  Dr. Cornely spent the remainder of his professional career at Howard – serving as the Chair of the Department of Bacteriology and later as Chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health.  From 1947-58, Dr. Cornely was the Director of the University Hospital at Howard.  In 1950, he became the Chair of the Department of Community Health Practice. He founded and became the first President of the D.C. Public Health Association.  He retired in 1973 but remained active into the late 90’s.


Dr. Cornely’s policy research attended to the utilization of physicians and the impact of socio-cultural factors on health care. Among other honors, Dr. Cornely was:  1)  the first African-American to earn a Doctorate in Public Health (1934);  2)  the first African-American President of Physicians Forum (1961);  3)  the first African American Chair of the APHA’s Medical Care Section;   4) the first African-American President of APHA (1969-70);  and 5) a founding member of the APHA’s Black Caucus of Health Workers..


Above all, Dr Cornerly advocated for solutions, arguing for: a massive, coordinated and comprehensive attack on the nation’s social, economic, and health problems sponsored by the federal government; government-financed health care; race sensitive approaches to patients by physicians; and improving and broadening health education materials to be more inclusive of African-Americans and other non-white, non-middle class patients.


 Dr. Cornely Quote:


“The unfavorable morbidity and mortality experiences of the Negro population are not due to any genetic differences, but rather to the socioeconomic and environmental deficiencies, such as poverty, housing, unemployment, non-availability, and/or inaccessibility of health services facilities, discrimination and segregation, and inadequate family structure.  Therefore, the major thrust to improve to improve the health of the Negro must be directed at these factors.


To learn more about Dr. Paul B. Cornely, please click here.


Cornely Award

Brian Smedley PhD