Dr. Lee smiles while talking to a student

Professor Committed to Rural Health Wins Blackmon-Moody Award

Dr. Hee Yun Lee has been awarded The University of Alabama’s 2022 Blackmon-Moody Outstanding Professor Award.

Dr. Hee Yun Lee
Dr. Hee Yun Lee

Lee teaches in the School of Social Work and is a behavioral health scientist whose major research areas include health disparities, behavior change intervention using randomized controlled trials, and rural health.

Lee most recently worked in the Black Belt region to increase access to and education about the COVID-19 vaccine.

“COVID-19 incidence and mortality are higher in rural areas than in urban areas,” Lee said. “I wanted to mitigate the disparities by providing a pop-up clinic called ‘Shot on the Spot’ near rural neighborhoods where access to health care facilities is extremely limited.

“The outcome of this project has been a great success. The vaccination rates in Black Belt counties have been doubled since our team launched the project in July 2021. Eight of Alabama’s top 10 most vaccinated counties are in the Black Belt,” Lee explained.

“Due to the high vaccination rate among majority-minority Black Belt counties, during the latest Omicron surge in January 2022, Black Belt counties tended to have lower COVID positivity and mortality rates, while the opposite was true for lesser vaccinated non-Black Belt rural counties.

“I think addressing barriers to vaccination through health literacy education and easy access to health care in rural areas is critical to reducing health disparities and decreasing COVID-19–related illness and death,” Lee added.

“Our team will continue our efforts to achieve vaccine equity in rural areas of Alabama.”

Lee came to the University in 2018 and became associate dean for research in the School of Social Work and its endowed academic chair on social work. She was previously a faculty member at the University of Minnesota’s School of Social Work.

“Her work is student-engaged, community-involved, and bridges social work with other interdisciplinary research areas.”

“We are extremely proud to have Dr. Hee Lee as our Endowed Academic Chair in Social Work,” said Dr. Schnavia Hatcher, dean of the School of Social Work. “Her work is student-engaged, community-involved, and bridges social work with other interdisciplinary research areas including nursing, medicine, psychology, engineering, and business schools, impacting health disparities in Alabama, the nation and around the world.”

The Blackmon-Moody Outstanding Professor Award recognizes exceptional work in the form of research, product, program or published material highlighting the individual professor, the field of study, students’ education and The University of Alabama.

“I am tremendously pleased and honored to receive this special award. The biggest honors go to my fellow team and community partners who endlessly worked to combat vaccine hesitancy in the Black Belt region,” said Lee.

“They are my heroes! We all as a team are recipients of this award!”


Jennifer Brady, UA Strategic Communications, jennifer.brady@ua.edu