Dr. Adan Rios (far left) stands with other Bicentennial Dr. Just Arosemena Medal awardees at a ceremony in Panama in August.
Dr. Adan Rios (far left) stands with other Bicentennial Dr. Just Arosemena Medal awardees at a ceremony in Panama in August.

The Republic of Panama awarded Dr. Adan Rios, associate professor in the Division of Oncology, with one of its highest national honors in August, in honor of the clinician-scientist for his work in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

On Aug. 9, Rios attended a plenary session of the Panamanian National Congress to receive the Dr. Justo Arosemena Bicentennial Medal Award together with another five fellow countrymen. The award, named after Dr. Justo Arosemena, considered to be the “Father of the Panamanian Nation,” was given in recognition of his “civic, scientific and humanitarian virtues in his fight to combat cancer and HIV/AIDS.”

The Autonomous University of Chiriquí also awarded Rios with a Honoris Causa Doctorate on Aug. 17.

Rios says he was stunned when he found out he would be receiving the awards Although he left Panama to pursue his career in medicine in the US, he has stayed involved with the country and was aware that his work had been recognized outside of the United States.

“I always thought my work would be appreciated, but not to this degree,” Rios said.

Rios first received his medical degree from the University of Panama and later completed a residency in internal medicine at the Gorgas U.S. Army Hospital in the former Canal Zone. He did his fellowship in Medical Oncology at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, where he then served in a variety of roles. He was the director of clinical research and academic affairs of the AIDS Program at the Institute for Immunological Disorders. He is internationally renowned for his work in HIV-associated malignancies and treatment of tumors with biological response modifiers.

The Dr. Justo Arosemena Bicentennial Medal Award in particular represents a line of awards Rios has garnered over the years, which include the 2001 MD Anderson Cancer Center Distinguished Alumnus Award, the 2003 George Washington University Presidential Medal Award and the 2008 University of Texas Health Science Center Minority Services Award.

Rios says he has a great sense of gratitude in not only the recognition he has received but also the opportunities given to him as a result of his medical education, particularly after coming from “very humble origins.”

“That’s why I have tremendous warmth for the students here at the medical school,” Rios said. “It has been a really wonderful experience, and I’m just grateful to God for the ride.”