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Emory professor Carlos del Rio receives Phoenix Award, city of Atlanta’s highest honor

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms presented the Phoenix Award to infectious disease expert Carlos del Rio on Dec. 10 at the end-of-year board meeting for the Atlanta Committee on Progress. Photos courtesy of City of Atlanta.

Carlos del Rio, a professor of medicine, global health and epidemiology at Emory University, has received the city of Atlanta’s highest honor — the Phoenix Award — for his pivotal role in providing civic leaders and the community as a whole with expert medical guidance and support through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms presented the award to del Rio on Dec. 10 at the end-of-year board meeting for the Atlanta Committee on Progress.

The outgoing mayor celebrated del Rio for his calmness and certainty during the COVID-19 crisis. Bottoms said that from the onset of the pandemic, del Rio proved to be one of her most trusted advisors, helping her administrators mitigate the impact of COVID-19 by following the data and science.

“As we navigated through the most unprecedented health crisis in our history, I was grateful to have Dr. Carlos del Rio by my side,” Bottoms said. “It would have been nearly impossible to overcome this challenging time without his science-based counsel and support.” 

In addition to treating COVID-19 patients directly in the Grady Healthcare System, where he serves as an infectious diseases physician, del Rio worked closely with the city of Atlanta to help set up safety guidelines and advocate for mask-wearing protocols and vaccines to fight the coronavirus.

He also gave expert COVID-19 guidance to a wide range of civic institutions and leaders, including the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, NCAA, Delta Airlines, Truist Bank, Cox Enterprises and entertainment industry mogul Tyler Perry. And because of his ability to cut through the mountains of myths and misinformation about the pandemic, del Rio became an ever-present voice of reason on local and national news programs.

“I am deeply honored and humbled to receive the Phoenix Award from Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms,” says del Rio, who also serves as executive associate dean of Emory University’s School of Medicine. “Over the past year and a half, working with her and her team, as well as city business leaders, on COVID-19 mitigation has been extremely gratifying. 

“At the heart of leadership is the ability to make decisions and successful leadership is about making the right decisions in tough times: Mayor Bottoms proved to be a successful leader throughout the pandemic,” del Rio continues. “She has understood the complexity of the situation, followed the science and made the necessary decisions so that our city was able to navigate the challenges of COVID-19.” 

The Phoenix Award is the highest honor an individual or group can receive from the mayor of Atlanta. It recognizes outstanding achievements and service to the city, state, nation and world. Past Phoenix Award winners include Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunnus, former Delta Airlines CEO Richard Anderson, five-time world heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield and Tyler Perry.