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On Tuesday, January 30th, Alice Lloyd College hosted its first convocation of the 2024 spring semester. The convocation was held in the Campbell Arts Center’s Roop Auditorium and featured guest speaker Dr. Joseph Fair.

Dr. Joseph Fair was born and raised in Knott County, Kentucky and attended the June Buchanan School. Dr. Fair graduated from JBS and went on to obtain his Ph.D. in molecular virology and his MPH in tropical medicine and epidemiology from Tulane University, where he was the first student to complete both degrees simultaneously. He was also among the first six students nationwide selected for the DOD/DARPA’s SMART Fellowship program during Its inaugural year. He has authored or co-authored forty-nine peer-reviewed articles and chapters on topics related to virology, public health, biosecurity, and emergency response, and was awarded more than $150 million in research and development contracts related to biodefense and biosecurity.

Dr. Fair is a virologist and epidemiologist with over two and a half decades of experience in enhancing the capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to high-impact infectious disease threats in global disease hotspots before they escalate into global catastrophic events. Having the experience of working in 45 countries, he serves as a subject matter expert in molecular diagnostics, epidemiology, emergency outbreak response management, pathogen discovery, biosecurity, and medical intelligence. His extensive background encompasses laboratory and emergency response capacity building, product development, the use of game theory and NLP applications in public health planning and response, military-civilian collaboration, scientific diplomacy, and international relations.

Dr. Fair served as the inaugural chief scientist for the Cooperative Biological Engagement Program (GBEP)in Ukraine, was the inaugural program director for CBEP’s Science and Technology Engagement Program (STEP) and was appointed Special Envoy for Ebola in 2014 and 2019 when he led U.S. government-sponsored field operations ln Sierra Leone, Liberia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He previously held positions as a Senior Fellow in Global Health Security at the Pennsylvania State University, a Senior Fellow in Pandemic Policy at the Texas A&M University Scowcroft Institute, and a Senior Fellow in Global Health at the Smithsonian Institute.

In 2020, Joseph was recognized by the American Bar Association as a top COVID-19 expert, and for the past year, he has been writing a book that delves into the origins of COVID-19 from the perspective of a scientist who directly interacted with the Wuhan Institute of Virology and studied emerging viruses in China.

During his address, Dr. Fair outlined his career studying and responding to infectious disease threats and global disease events. Some major moments in his career are responding to the spread of disease following Hurricane Katrina in 2007, the H1N1 influenza pandemic in 2009, and leading Ebola response in Sierra Leone and Liberia in 2014 and again in the Congo in 2019. Currently, Dr. Fair has returned home to Knott County and serves as head of the Ever Ridge Trust: a family trust dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge and the sustainable development of Appalachia.

Dr. Fair serves as a reminder to our mountain students that they can accomplish anything. Having traveled the world for work, Dr. Fair left the audience with some wisdom. He encouraged the student body to consider their community when discovering what they want to do after they graduate from Alice Lloyd. “Don’t just make it about you. Make it about your community. If you leave Eastern Kentucky after you graduate, consider coming back to serve your community.”