One of Ronald Davis’s dreams was to create a tobacco-free world, where teenagers would never be tempted to smoke. Though he was unable to achieve this goal, the University alum and adjunct professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health was recognized last week for his wide-ranging efforts to promote tobacco control.

Davis, who passed away in November 2008 at age 52 from pancreatic cancer, was honored with a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award at the sixth annual American Legacy Foundation Honors ceremony in New York City.

Each year, the event recognizes prominent figures in public health, business, entertainment, government and the media who advocate for tobacco control.

Davis’s mentor and life-long friend, former Surgeon General Dr. Charles Everett Koop, presented the award to Davis’s wife Nadine.

“Ron Davis was a stand-out at every level of participation in the work of the American Medical Association,” Koop wrote in an e-mail interview. “In addition, he was a cherished colleague of all who knew him at each stage of AMA development to the eventual role of the youngest president ever of the largest medical society in the world.”

Julia Cartwright, senior vice president of communications for the American Legacy Foundation, said Davis was a respected member of the public health community.

“His contributions to tobacco control efforts over the course of his career were immeasurable and equaled only by his passion and determination to save lives,” she wrote in an e-mail interview.

From June 2007 through June 2008, Davis served as the president of the American Medical Association.

Since 1995, Davis worked to control tobacco use as the director of the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit. He also worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and directed its Office on Smoking and Health, in addition to acting as chief medical officer of the Michigan Department of Community Health.

Davis also chaired the Residency Advisory Committee for the preventative medicine residency program in the University’s School of Public Health.

Matthew Boulton, associate professor of epidemiology and associate dean of the School of Public Health, followed Davis as the chief medical officer of the Michigan Department of Community Health. For many years, the two worked together to train public health physicians.

Boulton said Davis was an outspoken critic of the tobacco companies and life-long advocate for tobacco prevention.

“As the first preventive medicine physician to serve as AMA president, he used that bully pulpit to speak eloquently for stronger tobacco control laws,” Boulton wrote in an e-mail interview. He added that Davis was a “very good friend, and all of us in the public health community nationally mourn his premature death.”

Public Health Dean Ken Warner worked with Davis for more than 20 years. He said in addition to working on tobacco issues, Davis advocated for public health and disease prevention. More recently, he pressured various health groups to address the growing problem of obesity.

In addition to the posthumous award he received last week, Davis received numerous awards during his life including the Surgeon General’s Medallion, the American Public Health Association’s Jay S. Drotman Memorial Award, the American College of Preventive Medicine’s Distinguished Service Award and the World Health Organization’s World No-Tobacco Day medal and award.

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