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Dr. Hannah Gay to Receive Honorary Doctorate from WCU

Dr. Hannah Gay, professor of pediatrics at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi, will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at William Carey University’s commencement on Saturday, August 9.

The honorary doctorate, awarded by WCU’s Board of Trustees, will recognize Dr. Gay for her lifetime of selfless, Christian service as a medical doctor and missionary. Dr. Tommy King, president of WCU, will present Dr. Gay with the degree.

Dr. Gay will also be the speaker for the 9:30 a.m. graduation ceremony, which will honor graduate students on the Hattiesburg campus. The 9:30 a.m. ceremony will be one of three graduation ceremonies held that day. The ceremony at 1 p.m. will be for undergraduate students on the Hattiesburg campus with a final ceremony at 4 p.m. for undergraduate and graduate students from the Tradition campus.

Dr. Gay, a Mississippi native, received her bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry at the University of Mississippi. She earned her M.D. from the University of Mississippi School of Medicine in 1980, where she also completed residency training in pediatrics. Dr. Gay and her husband, Paul, served for six years in Africa as missionaries in Ethiopia before returning to the United States, where she joined the UMMC faculty in 1994 as a pediatric HIV specialist.

Along with colleagues Dr. Katherine Luzuriaga, a University of Massachusetts Medical School immunologist, and Dr. Deborah Persaud, a Johns Hopkins Children’s Center virologist, Dr. Gay earned international attention at an infectious diseases conference in 2013 where Persaud presented their case report on the “Mississippi Baby.”

The report detailed how Dr. Gay administered an early, three-drug treatment regimen to a newborn infected with HIV, which appeared to have prompted remission of the HIV disease in the child. The report was then published in the New England Journal of Medicine. TIME Magazine later named the three to its 2013 list of the “100 Most Influential People in the World.”

In July 2014, after 27 months of remission, the virus was again detected in the child during a routine clinic visit and blood test.

Dr. Gay has spoken at UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS special symposium in Durban, South Africa, and at the Oxford Union in the United Kingdom.

Among other roles, Dr. Gay has served as a member of the American Academy of HIV Medicine and the Ryan White Title IV HIVQUAL Advisory Committee.

Dr. Gay and her husband have four grown children and are active members of their Baptist church.