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Arnold School of Public Health

Xiaoming Li wins 2021 Breakthrough Leadership in Research Award from the Office of the Vice President for Research

January 21, 2021 | Erin Bluvas,

Health promotion, education, and behavior professor Xiaoming Li is one of just five faculty from across UofSC to receive a 2021 Breakthrough Leadership in Research Award from the Office of the Vice President for Research. Li, who is the South Carolina SmartState Endowed Chair for Clinical Translational Research and director of the SmartState Center for Healthcare Quality as well as co-principal investigator for the UofSC Big Data Health Science Center, was selected for his mentorship, establishment of research centers with wide-reaching impact, community engagement and creation of programs aimed at increasing diversity.  

“The University of South Carolina is very fortunate to have so many excellent scholars populating our research community at every level,” says Prakash Nagarkatti, Vice President for Research. “This year’s Breakthrough award recipients are among the best of the best. It is an honor to call this year’s faculty award recipients colleagues, and to have a small role in launching the 2021 Graduate Scholars into their promising careers. Congratulations to you all on this well-earned accolade.”

Li joined the Arnold School in 2015 – two decades into his career as an HIV/AIDS researcher. With extensive networks of collaborators in China and South Carolina, Li is particularly known for his research into the linkages and mechanisms between HIV-related psycho-social factors (e.g., disclosure, stigma, discrimination) and related clinical outcomes. In fact, he has been recognized as the world’s most active author in AIDS-related stigma and discrimination.

“Dr. Li has been working with interdisciplinary teams of clinicians, psychologists, and other healthcare professionals for over 28 years in the unique areas of social and psychological aspects of HIV/AIDS, the HIV treatment cascade, mental health, child development, and research training in both domestic and international settings,” says Thomas Chandler, Dean of the Arnold School. “His work is instrumental in understanding how to design and advance programs and interventions aimed at reducing the stigma associated with HIV, with the ultimate goal of reducing HIV/AIDS in high-risk populations.”

Supported with federal funding since he graduated with a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University of Minnesota in 1992, Li has served as principal investigator on 31 extramural grants (19 from the National Institutes of Health) totaling more than $30 million. He has served as co-investigator on additional 37 external projects (22 of which received federal funding).

Li has conducted these and other studies in global contexts (e.g., Bahamas, India, Vietnam, Namibia, Zambia, Nigeria) with a particular focus on addressing public health challenges and disparities in China and South Carolina. His efforts have resulted in over 560 scholarly publications, his receipt of the 2019 Southeast Conference Faculty Achievement Award, and his selection as a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science.

Both in the classroom and at his Centers, Li mentors students and faculty at all levels. The Center for Healthcare Quality includes 40 team members working on nearly as many projects. The Big Data Health Science Center – which taps into Li’s background in computational mathematics – has resulted in 50 grant applications and $5.44 million in extramural funding for researchers across the university.

His commitment to preparing the generation of scholars and public health practitioners is evidenced by Li’s creation of an interdisciplinary, campus-wide Junior Scholars Program (which has trained 41 students) and the successful transition of eight postdoctoral fellows into faculty appointments at academic institutions. He is revered by his students in the graduation courses he leads and played a key role in the development of the UofSC Certificate of Graduate Study in Global Health. Throughout his career, Li has served as primary mentor for 51 predoctoral students, six doctoral students, 39 postdoctoral fellows, 30 visiting faculty and 15 junior or middle-career faculty.

“There is no question that Dr. Li is a leader and mentor in HIV/AIDS scholarship in our state, across the country and globally,” says Daniela Friedman, chair of the Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior. “He works tirelessly to positively impact the greater South Carolina community and the university through addressing significant health issues across our state, fostering the next generation of researchers through high-quality research training programs, and developing new collaborative initiatives.”


Office of Research honors 2021 Breakthrough Award recipients


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