Nov 6, 2001 (CIDRAP News) Donald A. Henderson, MD, public health expert and director of the successful campaign to eradicate smallpox in the 1970s, has been appointed to coordinate the national response to public health emergencies. Tommy G. Thompson, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), named Henderson last week as director of the newly created Office of Public Health Preparedness.
Henderson is the founding director of the Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. In his new position, he will work with all agencies in HHS to "enhance the response to the anthrax attacks, as well as any possible incidents in the future," according to an HHS news release.
"This is part of our ongoing effort to bring in America's most talented experts in bioterrorism as well as strengthen our responsiveness," Thompson stated in the news release. He said Henderson "brings a lifetime of preparation for the demands of this job . . . . His distinguished record speaks for itself, and his expertise will only improve the excellent job the public health system is doing at the local, state, and federal levels."
Thompson previously named Henderson chair of a new national advisory council on public health preparedness, and he will continue in that position. The council is assigned to recommend improvements in the nation's public health infrastructure to better prepare it for bioterrorist attacks, the HHS announcement said.
Henderson directed the World Health Organization's (WHO's) smallpox eradication campaign from 1966 to 1977. In 1974 he was instrumental in launching WHO's global immunization program, in which 80% of the world's children are now being vaccinated against six major diseases, HHS officials said.
From 1977 to 1990, Henderson was dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. He then served in the federal government for 5 years, first as associate director of the president's Office of Science and Technology and later as deputy assistant secretary and senior science advisor in HHS. A Johns Hopkins Distinguished Service Professor, he has directed the Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies for 4 years.
Henderson has received numerous awards, including the National Medal of Science, presented by the president, and the National Academy of Science's highest award, the Public Welfare Medal.
DHHS press release on Henderson's appointment