November 30, 2022

In memoriam A. Oveta Fuller

Portrait of Oveta Fuller

The Department of Microbiology & Immunology and the Medical School’s community acknowledge with profound sadness the death of A. Oveta Fuller, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Medical School. Professor Fuller died on November 18, 2022.

Dr. Fuller received her B.A. degree in Biology in 1977 and her Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology in 1983, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She joined the University of Michigan Department of Microbiology and Immunology as an Assistant Professor in 1988 and was promoted to Associate Professor in 1995. Starting in 2005, Dr. Fuller was Science Advisor at the African Methodist Episcopal Church - Service and Development Agency (AME-SADA) for HIV and AIDS Prevention. Dr. Fuller was the Associate Director (2014-16) and Director, interim (2016-17) of the African Studies Center of the International Institute of the College of Literature, Science and Arts. She received many awards for her community engagement, including the Detroit-Windsor Metropolitan Council of Churches, 2017 “Trumpet Award” for Excellent Service in Community Engagement and was the Sarah Goddard Power Award Recipient 2022, Academic Women’s Caucus, University of Michigan.

Dr. Fuller was a distinguished virologist who focused her work on herpesvirus entry and pathogenesis and translational research for HIV/AIDS elimination. She was dedicated to global health and health equity interventions to reduce infectious and chronic diseases. For almost two decades, she worked with church leaders in Botswana, South Africa and Zambia to develop and test a prevention model designated the "Trusted Messenger Intervention" (TMI). TMI engages with clergy and faith leaders who have substantial community access and influence to effectively address HIV/AIDS. This program profoundly improved the lives of the communities she served by limiting the spread of infectious disease through scientific education, implementation, and community engagement. 

Dr. Fuller served on many advisory boards and committees at the University of Michigan, nationally and internationally, generously contributing her unwavering commitment to create a better world. A bioethics advocate, she was a Founding Member of the Bioethics Commission, Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference, Inc. and Tuskegee University Center for Bioethics. In 2020, she was a Member of the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee for the FDA. She was instrumental in the approval of the COVID-19 vaccines and continued her science education activity in local communities during the pandemic.

Dr. Fuller was a pioneer in so many ways. She was the first woman to receive tenure in Microbiology and Immunology and she never stopped advocating for opportunities for women and trainees, especially from diverse backgrounds. She touched the lives of so many through her classes, fieldwork, ministry and service. She was a unique and special faculty member that made our department and the world a better place and we will forever be in her debt.

As we mourn the loss of our beloved colleague, we extend our heartfelt condolences to her husband, Dr. Jerry Caldwell, her three children, and her many loving relatives and friends.