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Damien Fair ‘01, YSM Physician Associate Program Alumnus, Receives MacArthur Fellowship

October 12, 2020
by Abigail Roth

Damien Fair ‘01, MMSc, an alumnus of Yale School of Medicine’s Physician Associate Program, is one of 21 individuals whom the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation recently recognized as 2020 MacArthur Fellows.

Fair is a cognitive neuroscientist who, according to the MacArthur Foundation, is "devising maps of network connectivity in individual brains that advance our understanding of how distinct regions communicate and develop in both typical and atypical contexts." The foundation adds, “Fair contributes to a deeper understanding of brain development with the promise of devising new therapies for treatment of neurological disorders.”

Along with his research, Fair has built programs to expose underrepresented students to scientific research and STEM-related careers and to increase faculty representation of underrepresented minorities. Fair points to the importance of diversity in this field, stating “every step toward a deeper characterization of brain function brings advances in health care, education, technologies, economics and other enhancements to our society that deeply touch our everyday lives. However, continued progress will not come with a homogeny of ideas, thoughts, education, experience, and culture. We need to embrace “variability”—our diversity— and provide access to this pursuit to all of the talents that exist in our society. It could be argued that the driving factor of discovery and advancement of nearly every civilization has been the result of human variability, where some outlier, often times being of minority status, pushed the society in a way that no one could have ever imagined.”

The MacArthur Foundation website provides more detail about Fair and his work.

The MacArthur Fellows Program “is intended to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations.” The criteria for selection are exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishments, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work. Recipients receive a stipend of $625,000, paid out over five years.

Yale College alumnus Isaiah Andrews ’09 also was named a MacArthur Fellow this year. Two other 2020 Fellows have Yale ties: playwright Larissa FastHorse has had work commissioned by the Yale Repertory Theatre (Yale Rep), and Ralph Lemon was an associate artist at Yale Rep from 1996 to 2000.

Submitted by Abigail Roth on October 12, 2020