Petri, who serves as Wade Hampton Frost Professor of Medicine and is stepping down as chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and International Health at UVA, has worked at the University continuously for more than 30 years as a physician, scientist and educator. Last year, he shifted his work to pursue understanding of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. He became a trusted voice of reason and comfort to the UVA community – extending his knowledge to the nation via online media – during the stressful time of the pandemic.
“No discussion of Bill would be complete without mentioning what he has done over the last year-plus, during the pandemic,” Executive Vice President and Provost Liz Magill said, in presenting the award to him. “I can say Jim [Ryan] and I are grateful for his constant availability, tenacity and servant leadership throughout this dark time.”
Petri isn’t just good at explaining science. He’s also been at the forefront of research, leading a multi-center team effort. He has applied his expertise in vaccine development to produce “a mucosally administered, nano-formulated vaccine against the virus responsible for the COVID-19 illness. In addition to his design of the vaccine technology, he is also a most adept and capable team scientist, leading a multicenter effort in this timely, important work,” as the citation notes.
Among his responses to this pandemic, he has cared for multiple patients infected with COVID-19, and along the way, educated numerous medical students and young physicians on its medical management.
An expert in infectious diseases, he has focused on several gastrointestinal illnesses and their impact on peoples’ health and lives, particularly children. Magill pointed out that he is world-renowned for this research, adding, “None other than Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the NIH and himself a household name, said, ‘Petri is the world’s premier investigator on diarrhea as well as a consummate physician-scientist, training program director, and institutional leader.’”
Magill said, “His research and publications on understanding and treating these diseases have had life-changing impact for millions of patients the world over.”
At UVA, he earned his medical degree and a Ph.D. in microbiology, as well as fellowship training in infectious diseases in the School of Medicine, before returning to join the faculty.