Citing the “enormous impact” Michele Kipke’s research work has had for more than three decades, USC recently bestowed its prestigious Associates Award for Creativity in Research and Scholarship on the local leader.
Kipke, a La Cañada Flintridge native and La Cañada High School graduate who is serving this year as president of the South Pasadena Unified School District Board of Education, said in an interview that it was “an incredible honor” to receive the award. She is a professor of pediatrics and preventative medicine at Keck School of Medicine and also serves as vice chair of research with the pediatrics department at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
“Part of what’s very special about that is being recognized by your peers that you’re really making a difference and that your work is impactful and significant and is changing the field, whatever that is,” Kipke said. “As a researcher, you really want to know your work is making a difference. I definitely want to know that my work is making a difference in the lives of children and families.”
In its announcement, USC highlighted Kipke’s accomplishments including publishing more than 100 peer-reviewed papers throughout her career and receiving significant financial and academic support from outside institutions, including the National Institutes of Health. Kipke also has directed the National Academy of Medicine’s Board on Children, Youth and Families and was elected to the American Pediatric Society and Society for Pediatric Research.
Kipke’s research has largely focused on the HIV epidemic, which began in the 1980s while she was obtaining her doctorate. Her efforts now include research related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with “much of my work now pivoting” to that disease, she said, adding that it also has focused on inequities faced by the region’s black and Latino communities.
“Obviously, we still haven’t really solved HIV-AIDS entirely, but it’s been quite an extraordinary journey to be doing this work from the start of the epidemic,” Kipke added. “It is quite sobering for me to continue my career doing work on the start of a new pandemic.”
Recently, Kipke received a grant of $14.3 million from the NIH to fund continuing research in HIV prevention and care with a special emphasis on addressing access disparities for young black and Latino men. The award period for this grant will be through 2025 and is part of the formal U.S. goal of ending the HIV epidemic by 2030.
In a statement, USC said Kipke’s work has had “an enormous impact on the fields of psychology, pediatrics and public health.”
“Her research has focused greater attention on the wellness of marginalized and at-risk youth, and transformed how we understand and improve the health of children and adolescents,” the university said. “Her use of cutting-edge tools and methodologies — including spatial analysis, mobile technologies and new physiological data — has been influential in developing biological and behavioral signatures of stress and resilience.
“Professor Kipke is a valued leader and advisor across USC’s academic medical enterprise,” the statement continued. “A compassionate and perceptive mentor, she has inspired countless researchers and physician-scientists, many of whom have gone on to develop their own large-scale research programs.”