It’s been a year of professional triumphs for Ann McKee, who does groundbreaking research into chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and repeated head trauma in soldiers and athletes. In addition to being elected to the National Academy of Medicine, the School of Medicine professor of neurology and pathology also received a lifetime achievement award from the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference and was named one of Time’s 2018 100 most influential people.
She has now received another distinction: she is one of four BU faculty named a William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor, the University’s highest faculty honor. The appointments were announced Monday by President Robert A. Brown, who along with Jean Morrison, provost and chief academic officer, notified each recipient personally.
The William Fairfield Warren Professorships, named in honor of BU’s first president, were established in 2008 to recognize BU’s most distinguished faculty. The award is the highest distinction bestowed upon senior faculty members who remain actively involved in research, scholarship, teaching, and the University’s civic life. It comes with an annual scholarly allowance of $20,000 and funding for a month of summer salary. Each recipient is bestowed an emeritus title upon retirement.
Dr. McKee says that she is deeply honored, noting that because this is an internal distinction, “the award feels personal and special. I am energized by the validation of my work by my own institution, just as I am very proud to represent BU in all my interactions with other scientists, other academic institutions, and the media.”
“Through her research and public spokesmanship Dr. McKee has transformed the national—and international–conversation about sport safety,” Brown says. “Like her fellow Warren Professors she reflects the best of Boston University and what we seek to achieve in the world.”
Dr. McKee is the director of BU’s CTE Center, whose brain bank has more than 600 brains donated by professional athletes and their families and by many others. CTE is associated with dementia, mood changes, and aggression. In November 2017, McKee announced that her team had determined that Aaron Hernandez had the worst case of CTE ever found in a young person. Convicted murderer Hernandez, a former New England Patriots football player, was 27 when he died from suicide in jail in April 2017.
Dr. McKee has published more than 70 percent of the world’s CTE case studies and has testified before Congress. She is the associate director of BU’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center.
In a Boston Globe profile naming her the 2017 Bostonian of the Year, she said that her nieces call her “Auntie Badass.”
“BU students are innately curious and ask a lot of questions. I am too,” says Dr. McKee, who was a Green Bay Packers fan growing up. “I enjoy sharing my journey as a physician-scientist to try to figure out what makes human beings think, behave, and act by looking deeply into their brain. There is so much we do not know.”