Winter 2010: Of Note
Dr. Lyle Conrad/CDC
New archive highlights historic public health gains
Courtesy Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Learn more about public health victories such as the actions that rid the world of smallpox, and to listen to interviews with those on the front lines.
By Mary J. Loftus
On the evening of December 4, 1966, Bill Foege, a young doctor and epidemiologist trained at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), was struggling to contain an outbreak of smallpox in Nigeria with insufficient amounts of vaccine.
“We went to a missionary’s house to take advantage of the fact that they got on the radio with each other at 7:00 p.m. each night to be sure no one was having a medical emergency. With maps in front of me, I was able to give each missionary a geographic area and ask if they could send runners to every village in that area to find out if there were any smallpox cases in any of the villages,” Foege recalls, in an interview on the Global Health Chronicles, an online archive hosted by Emory University Libraries that launched on October 26, the thirtieth anniversary of worldwide smallpox eradication.
The Chronicles promise an inside look at courageous public health battles to prevent, control, and eliminate infectious diseases around the world, past and present. Current offerings include an update on Guinea worm eradication, a look at how malaria led to the CDC’s disease prevention programs, and the interview with Foege about smallpox eradication.
“Eradicating a disease is the ultimate in disease prevention; as smallpox is the one human infectious disease that has been completely eradicated, there’s much to celebrate here,” said David Sencer, former director of the CDC, at the launch event. “The Global Health Chronicles site features oral histories of individuals who played a crucial role in that accomplishment. Today’s health professionals and students can hear and read of the passion these women and men brought to their work. This site also will be a valuable source of previously unknown material for historians.”
Institutions participating in the massive effort to collect and preserve the data in the Global Health Chronicles archive include not only Emory Libraries staff, but also that of Emory’s Global Health Institute and its Rollins School of Public Health, as well as colleagues at the CDC, says Rick Luce, vice provost and director of Emory Libraries.
“The Global Health Chronicles project is another important facet of Emory’s continuing mission to create, preserve, teach, and apply knowledge in the service of humanity,” Luce says. “It’s also a great example of Emory collaboration across the campus and with partner institutions.”
Foege, still active as Emeritus Presidential Distinguished Professor of International Health, recently received the 2009 CDC Foundation Hero Award.