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Stephen J. Thomas, MD, named the Frank E. Young, MD ’56 and Leanne Young Endowed Chair of Microbiology

Stephen J. Thomas, MD, has been named the Frank E. Young, MD ’56 and Leanne Young Endowed Chair of Microbiology. The appointment, effective immediately, was announced by Norton College of Medicine Dean Lawrence Chin, MD.

Thomas, who joined Upstate in 2016, became one the nation’s leading and most authoritative voices regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, offering his perspective of the pandemic in both local and national media, updating the public on vaccines, masking, treatments and clinical trials since the pandemic was declared a global outbreak in March 2020.

“There is no individual more worthy than Dr Thomas to serve as our new endowed chair of Microbiology,” Chin said. “Dr Thomas has distinguished himself at every turn, whether through his service in the Armed Forces, as a principal investigator for the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine efficacy trial, as director of Upstate’s Institute for Global Health and Translational Science, or division chief of Infectious Disease. He has made significant contributions to our university that has benefited all of us.

“To be serving as an endowed chair named for Upstate alumnus Dr. Frank E. Young, a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, makes this appointment even more appropriate,” Chin added.

At Upstate, Thomas has held several positions: chief of the Infectious Diseases Division (2016 to 2021) directed of the Institute for Global Health and Translational Science (since 2018), and interim chair of Department of Microbiology and Immunology.

Prior to joining Upstate, Thomas spent 20 years in the U.S. Army serving at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and completing his career as the institute’s Deputy Commander for Operations (Chief Operating Office). He also served as the infectious diseases consultant to the U.S. Army Surgeon General and U.S. Central Command’s regional infectious diseases expert during a deployment in the Middle East.

In November 2020, Thomas was tapped as lead principal investigator for the world-wide Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine trial. Thanks to Thomas and Upstate’s Global Health team, Central New Yorkers had an opportunity to participate in making history as the area became one of the study’s global phase 3 vaccine trial locations. Thomas also led the team coordinating the university’s initial response to the pandemic in March 2020.

The endowed chair post that Thomas will fill is named for former FDA commissioner Frank E. Young, MD, PhD, (1984 to 1989) and his wife, Leanne. Young, who received his medical degree from Upstate in 1956, provided over several key FDA events, including approval of the first drug to combat AIDS. His federal service also included a term as director of the office of Emergency Preparedness.

“I am very happy I chose to follow my mentor and former Walter Reed colleagues to Upstate. It has been a great place to work and for me and my family to make a home,” Thomas said. “And to share in the legacy of Dr. Young makes this appointment even more special.”