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Upstate’s Dr. Thomas honored with State Senate’s Liberty Medal for pandemic work

By Eric Reinhardt (


The New York State Senate has recognized Dr. Stephen Thomas of Upstate Medical University in Syracuse with the Liberty Medal, its highest civilian honor, for his work during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo credit: Upstate Medical University)

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The man who has served as one of the primary voices of pandemic-related information in Central New York has been recognized by the New York State Senate.

The lawmakers have honored Upstate Medical University’s Dr. Stephen Thomas with the Liberty Medal for his work related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Liberty Medal is the highest civilian honor awarded by the New York Senate.

Thomas is a virologist and vaccinologist who currently serves as a professor of medicine, microbiology & immunology at Upstate Medical and is director of its Institute for Global Health and Translational Science.

In November 2020, Thomas was tapped as lead principal investigator for the global Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine trial. Under the direction of Thomas and Upstate’s Global Health team, the Syracuse area became one of the study’s global phase 3 vaccine trial locations.

Thomas also led the team coordinating Upstate Medical University’s initial response to the pandemic in March 2020.

Besides his work locally, Thomas also has become one the nation’s leading and most authoritative voices regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, Upstate contended. Thomas has provided his perspective of the pandemic in both local and national media appearances, updating the public on vaccines, masking, treatments, and clinical trials since the pandemic was declared a global outbreak in March 2020.

Syracuse–area state Sen. John Mannion announced the honor from the New York Senate floor on Jan. 13.

“[Dr. Thomas] is at the forefront of critical advancements related to both vaccine development and large-scale testing implementation,” Mannion said. “Make no mistake, the work of Dr. Thomas and his team has saved untold millions of lives around the world through safe and effective vaccination. There are not enough words to express our gratitude to him.”

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