AMA presents government service award to malaria scientist

Feb. 18, 2020

The American Medical Association (AMA) presented Martha Sedegah, Ph.D., director of Parasitology and Clinical Immunology in the Malaria Department of the Naval Medical Research Center, with the Dr. Nathan Davis Award for Outstanding Government Service at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., as part of the AMA’s National Advocacy Conference.

Dr. Sedegah has worked in support of the U.S. Navy’s malaria research program for 36 years. As a Ph.D. student in 1983, Dr. Sedegah established the malaria mouse model for testing malaria vaccines now used throughout the world. She then achieved a second major innovation by using viruses to express malaria proteins as a platform for vaccination, an approach used by the world’s leading vaccine development programs. She is an alumnus of the University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana and the University of London.

“Born in Ghana, Dr. Sedegah has distinguished herself repeatedly, risen to the top of her field, and made significant, groundbreaking public health contributions that have laid the foundation for the designs of the first clinical trial of one of the leading malaria vaccine candidates,” said AMA Board Chair Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, M.D., MPH. “A mentor, leader, and innovator, Dr. Sedegah is also focused on giving back; an every-Sunday volunteer at a home for the elderly, Dr. Sedegah also founded a non-profit organization aiming to enhance primary and secondary school in Ghana.”

In 1994, Dr. Sedegah published the first paper in history on the protection of mice against malaria by immunization with a DNA vaccine. Scientists around the world now use this work as a starting point for their research. To date, Dr. Sedegah has authored or co-authored over 115 research papers and book chapters. Her discoveries have the potential of benefitting U.S. military troops and State Department personnel abroad, as well as travelers and populations living in malaria endemic regions worldwide.

Dr. Sedegah is one of eight honorees chosen this year to receive the Dr. Nathan Davis Award for Outstanding Government Service. The award, named after the founding father of the AMA, recognizes elected and career officials in federal, state or municipal service whose outstanding contributions have promoted the art and science of medicine and the betterment of public health.

AMA has the announcement.