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Phil A. May, Ph.D., is an internationally recognized expert in fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), with a distinguished career spanning nearly 50 years. By studying the adverse effects of prenatal exposure to alcohol, his work has advanced greatly our understanding of the prevalence, characteristics, etiology, diagnosis, and prevention of FAS and FASD. Dr. May is Professor in the Department of Nutrition of the Gillings School of Global Public Health and the Nutrition Research Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Professor Emeritus at the University of New Mexico (UNM), and Adjunct Professor of Pediatrics at the Sanford School of Medicine, University of South Dakota. In addition to holding these academic positions, Dr. May is an Extraordinary Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. He also served for nine years as the first Director of the Center on Alcoholism, Substance Abuse, and Addictions at UNM.
During his distinguished career, Dr. May has been the principal investigator of more than a dozen major population-based FAS/FASD epidemiologic studies of children. In addition to being applied to several Native American communities in the U.S. Southwestern and Northern Plains and other communities in the United States, South Africa, and Italy, the active case ascertainment methodology he developed has been applied to research with communities in Canada and Poland. It is also being used in several ongoing studies in Eastern Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa through a collaboration between NIAAA and the World Health Organization.
Dr. May is co-leader of the Collaboration on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Prevalence (CoFASP) research consortium, which studies the prevalence of FASD among school-aged children in the United States. Earlier this year, the CoFASP published the results of a pivotal study that used school-based assessments, a common methodology and classification system, and expert in-person evaluations for the full range of FASD among many children from communities across the United States. The study provides findings that more accurately reflect the true prevalence of FASD within the country and underscores the need for more focus on screening, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of FASD.
Dr. May has been a recipient of NIAAA support for more than 25 years. He has received many accolades throughout his stellar career. These include the Henry Rosett Award of the FASD Study Group of the Research Society on Alcoholism, the Starfish Award—a very special award given by adolescents and adults with FASD, the Excellence Award from the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, the United Nations Association New Mexico Chapter Award for Service to Improve Human Rights, the Indian Health Service Special Award of Recognition and Appreciation for Prevention of FAS among American Indians, and the Excellence in Education Award from the Laguna Pueblo Indian Tribe.
As a tribute to Mark Keller's pioneering contributions to the field of alcohol research, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism established the Mark Keller Honorary Lecture Series. Honorees are all outstanding alcohol investigators whose lifetimes of research offer answers about how alcohol affects the body and mind, about how we can prevent, diagnose and treat alcohol misuse and alcohol use disorder, and about how today’s scientific advances provide hope for tomorrow.