Gurnett, Ssewamala to receive faculty achievement awards

Professors honored for research, service, teaching, community contributions

Christina Gurnett, MD, PhD, and Fred Ssewamala, PhD, have been chosen by their academic peers to receive Washington University in St. Louis’ 2024 faculty achievement awards, Chancellor Andrew D. Martin announced.

Gurnett, the A. Ernest and Jane G. Stein Professor of Developmental Neurology at the School of Medicine, will receive the Carl and Gerty Cori Faculty Achievement Award.

Ssewamala, the William E. Gordon Distinguished Professor at the Brown School, will receive the Arthur Holly Compton Faculty Achievement Award.

The awards will be presented at the university’s annual Founders Day dinner Nov. 9. 

“It is a true honor to present the Carl and Gerty Cori and Arthur Holly Compton Faculty Achievement Awards each year,” Martin said. “Both Compton and the Coris were brilliant researchers who made discoveries that changed their fields, but they did not believe that their roles in society could or should be contained by the boundaries of the university campus.

“Christina Gurnett and Fred Ssewamala have been selected by their faculty colleagues as representing that spirit: academic excellence combined with a dedication to public service. I join the Washington University community in congratulating them both.”

About Gurnett


Gurnett is the director of the Division of Pediatric and Developmental Neurology and a co-director of the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center (IDDRC) at the medical school. She has made major breakthroughs in the understanding of musculoskeletal disorders by identifying genes linked to common pediatric conditions such as scoliosis, clubfoot and arthrogryposis, a disorder in which children are born with limited joint mobility.

A specialist in epilepsy, Gurnett treats patients at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, where she is neurologist-in-chief. She is also associate director of the Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences and the co-lead of the Precision Medicine Pathway for graduate students in the Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences.

Gurnett met the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic in important ways. By coordinating the collection and distribution of biospecimens from patients infected with SARS-CoV-2, Gurnett supported the university’s successful effort to develop a saliva-based test for the disease.

Gurnett is noted for her efforts clinically and in research to prioritize the needs of vulnerable and medically underserved patient populations. She is leading a large-scale gene sequencing study on scoliosis in adolescent African Americans. She also co-leads the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics-Underserved Population (RADx-UP) SARS-CoV-2 testing study partnership with the IDDRC and the Special School District of St. Louis County.

Gurnett also is recognized for her efforts in clinical education and laboratory research to encourage and support the careers of clinicians and researchers from underrepresented groups.

About Ssewamala


Ssewamala leads innovative, interdisciplinary research that informs, develops and tests economic empowerment and social protection interventions aimed at improving life chances and long-term developmental impacts for children and adolescent youth impacted by poverty and health disparities in low-resource communities. He holds a joint appointment at the School of Medicine and directs the International Center for Child Health and Development (ICHAD) and the SMART Africa Center.

Currently, Ssewamala is conducting eight large-scale, National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded longitudinal randomized control trials across sub-Saharan Africa: Bridges-R2, Kyaterekera Project, M-Suubi, Obuvumu (Discrete Choice Experiment), Suubi+Adherence-R2, Suubi+Adherence4Youth (MOST), SuubiMHealth and Suubi4Stronger Families. In addition, he is a co-principal investigator on several NIH-funded programs that focus on training early-career researchers committed to working in child behavioral health.

Ssewamala has more than 190 peer-reviewed articles in journals including The Lancet, American Journal of Public Health, Social Science & Medicine, Journal of Adolescent Health, PLOS One, Prevention Science and the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. He serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Adolescent Health and co-edits the Global Social Welfare journal. He is a member of the Society for Social Work and Research, the American Public Health Association and Siteman Cancer Center, based at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and the School of Medicine, as well as a fellow of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare.