Hollings researcher receives prestigious national award

September 02, 2021
Dr. Michael Cummings
Dr. Michael Cummings has studied smoking cessation and treatment options for over four decades. Photo by Sarah Pack

MUSC Hollings Cancer Center researcher and tobacco control expert Michael Cummings, Ph.D., is one of two scientists to win the annual Alton Ochsner Award Relating Smoking and Disease. Over the last 36 years, just over 55 scientists, researchers and industry leaders have been recognized with the prestigious award.

The award recognizes individuals who have made major contributions to connecting smoking and disease in addition to developing innovative treatment plans and smoking cessation efforts. Cummings co-leads the MUSC Tobacco Research Program and has served as a world-renowned tobacco control expert for over 40 years.

“It is a great honor to receive this award named in honor of Dr. Alton Ochsner, one of the pioneers involved in establishing the link between smoking and disease in the 1940s and 1950s,” Cummings said. “I’m humbled to join a distinguished group of prior awardees, all of whom have shared a common goal of reducing the adverse health impacts of cigarette smoking.”

Cummings, along with fellow recipient Peter G. Shields, M.D., director of The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, will be formally recognized during a ceremony in 2022. Leonardo Seoane, M.D., chief academic officer for Ochsner Health, said both scientists deserve recognition for their efforts.

“At Ochsner Health, we believe research is key to unlocking deeper understanding of complex health care issues and developing innovative treatments. We commend both of these research giants for their dedication and passion to further understand smoking-related disease and smoking cessation,” Seoane said.

Thomas W. Uhde, M.D., professor and chair of MUSC’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, wrote a letter supporting Cummings nomination for the award.

“Dr. Cummings has been acknowledged to be one of the most widely cited and influential scientists in the field, reflecting his research contributions,” Uhde said. “In addition to his research, Dr. Cummings has devoted time to teaching and mentoring hundreds of students over the years, many of whom have gone on to distinguished careers in public health and medicine.”

Cummings has led 70 research grants, published more than 530 peer-reviewed scientific papers and is currently working to expand smoking cessation efforts at MUSC Health regional hospitals across the state.