Joan Shaw Herman Award

2021 Recipients

Dr. Leslie Davidson ’66 is Professor of Epidemiology and of Pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center with research interests in maternal child health, child and adolescent development and the prevention of injury and violence.  She is the mother of two daughters in their 30s, one a pediatrician focusing on adolescence and the other a chef with a passion for social justice.

She was a member of the Concord Academy class of 1966, attended Radcliffe College and later graduated with an MD from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons where her final project was a three month internship in a clinic for indigenous people in Guatemala. She became a pediatric resident at the Babies Hospital, now the Children’s Hospital of New York.  A Milbank Memorial Scholarship took her to England for a masters in Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine followed by a post-doctoral fellowship at the Institute of Psychiatry Department of Child Psychiatry.  

In 1984 Leslie returned to Columbia with a faculty appointment in Pediatrics, Epidemiology and the Sergievsky Center. Clinically she practiced serving children in Harlem and Washington Heights and in 1987 she became the medical director of the Central Harlem School Health Program serving 12,000 children.  There, with Dr. Barbara Barlow, Dr. Danielle Laraque and other pediatric colleagues she initiated the Harlem Hospital Injury Prevention Program targeting violent injury to children under 18. The program engaged the hospital and community and city government stakeholders in revamping Harlem playgrounds and park spaces and in developing a wide range of community based programs for children and adolescents. The program effectiveness was evaluated through her CDC grant utilizing surveillance of injury and violence. The model they developed and tested later became a national program led by Dr. Barlow.

She returned to the UK in 1992 first as a NHS regional pediatric epidemiologist and community pediatrician and later as Director of the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford.  There she assisted with the early development of the UK Millennium Cohort Study, initiated studies of partner violence and challenges to vulnerable women’s reproductive health.

On returning to Columbia in 2002, Leslie chaired the Columbia Department of Population and family Health (2002 through 2004). Subsequently for 16 years she led doctoral training in the department of Epidemiology. She continued research into the prevention of injury, youth violence and intimate partner violence becoming Associate Director of a CDC funded Youth Violence Prevention Center until 2010.  Over the last 12 years working with teams from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and Columbia Leslie developed and leads, with Co-Principal Investigator Chris Desmond, the NIH funded South African population-based Asenze Cohort Study.  The Asenze Study with data over time on over 1500 children and their primary caregivers aims to understand the factors that both protect adolescents and put them at risk of adverse health and social outcomes.

Dr. Ingrid Walker-Descartes ’91 has dedicated her career to serving children as a pediatrician with a specialty in child abuse and neglect. A training faculty for residents at Maimonedes Hospital in New York, she  graduated from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in 2001.

Ingrid is active in research and has authored several publications and educational materials. Her academic appointments include a Health Resources and Services Administration clinical research fellowship in general academic pediatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, where she is also an instructor. She co-chairs the Child Protection Committee and the American Academy of Pediatrics Chapter 2 Committee on the Prevention of Family Violence. A member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Ambulatory Pediatric Association, and the AAP Special Interest Group on Child Abuse and Neglect, she is also an APA New Century Scholar Junior Mentor and a faculty scholar at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine Office of Ethnic and Multicultural Affairs. Ingrid has received numerous honors, such as the Woodward Scholarship of the Office of Ethnic and Multicultural Affairs, the Medical Society of the State of New York Community Service Award, the Fannie & Henry Rice Scholarship, and the Rochester Prize Scholarship. She also volunteers for the Organization for International Development, which provides medical outreach to underserved communities in Jamaica without access to healthcare.

Award History

The Joan Shaw Herman Award for Distinguished Service is the only award given in the Concord Academy community. Established in 1976, this award honors Joan Shaw Herman ’46, who was paralyzed from the neck down after contracting polio the summer after her graduation. Although she remained confined to an iron lung for much of the remainder of her life, Joan worked constantly for the improvement of the lives of disabled persons.

Each year during Reunion, the Concord Academy Alumnae/i Association presents the Joan Shaw Herman Award to a member of the CA community who has demonstrated dedication to service in either a professional or volunteer capacity. Nominees may be of any age and may be recognized posthumously; while Concord Academy is fortunate to be supported by many wonderful volunteers, this award is not for service to Concord Academy but to the world at large.

The Joan Shaw Herman Award nominations are both inspiring and humbling. It is a testament to the values of the CA community that we choose to give our only award in recognition of service. Thank you in advance for your thoughtful submission.

Christmastide was painted by Joan Shaw Herman ’46 and copied from a color photo taken by Elizabeth Wheeler. It was painted with the brush held in her teeth and was begun March 1959 and finished October 1960.

Many thanks for the 2021 Joan Shaw Herman Award Selection Committee:

Alex Fernandez ’11
Alexis Goltra ’87
Betsy Green ’91
Ollie Longo ’21

Shreya Patel ’21
Emily Shih ’21
Kate Rea Schmitt ’62, P ’88, Chair
Stuart Warner ’77