University of Virginia School of Medicine Honors Vivian Pinn ’62 with Hall Dedicated in Her Name

Vivian Pinn greets a student from the UVA School of Medicine
Image credit: Coe Sweet/UVA Health System.
September 21, 2017

Former Wellesley trustee and 1993 Alumnae Achievement Award recipient Vivian Pinn ’62 was recognized September 13 for her groundbreaking work in women’s health with a celebration at the University of Virginia School of Medicine and the renaming of a medical school building in her honor. Pinn has been widely praised for her visionary efforts to raise awareness of the health issues faced by women and minorities and as an early advocate for access to health care for all. Pinn Hall, currently being renovated, will be a state-of-the-art research space.

“I’m proud of what I have been able to accomplish,” Pinn told the audience, according to a news story from UVA, “but what truly excites me now is a chance to look forward to the future—and to what the next generation of physicians, researchers, and policymakers will make possible.”

After graduating from Wellesley, Pinn earned her medical degree from UVA in 1967, the only woman and the only African American student in her class. She joined the faculty at Tufts University School of Medicine and at Howard University College of Medicine, where she became the first African American in the nation to chair a department of pathology. She later became the head of the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Research on Women’s Health, where she served for 20 years, leading the charge to expand clinical study to include women and minorities and to illuminate the many ways sex differences are important to research. Currently, Pinn is the senior scientist emerita at the National Institutes of Health Fogarty International Center and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is also a member of the National Academy of Medicine.

Wellesley President Paula Johnson was on hand in Charlottesville to honor Pinn. “Dr. Pinn’s work as a pathbreaker and as a champion of women, minorities, and science has inspired so many,” President Johnson said. “Her persistence, courage, and brilliance laid a foundation that helped me become the researcher, physician, and leader I most wanted to be. As so many Wellesley women do, she saw a change in the world she that wanted to make, and she set out to make it. Her lasting impact on the world of science and medicine is a testament to her indomitable spirit and to the power of a Wellesley education.”

This is not the first time UVA has honored Pinn. In 2005, she became the first African American woman to give the university’s commencement address. In 2010, the School of Medicine named one of its advisory colleges for medical students in her honor. In 2016, the medical school initiated the Pinn Scholarship Program, which supports midlevel faculty who are conducting innovative research.

Pinn Hall is the central research facility at the UVA medical school, housing 10 departments. The renovation will expand the hall’s usable space by 25 percent.

Hear Pinn speak at the 2015 launch of Wellesley’s Campaign to advance the Wellesley Effect.

Christine Roberts ’19 contributed to this story.