P. Koplan, newly appointed vice president for academic health
affairs, saw the devastating effects of smallpox as a young
public health doctor in Bangladesh. He led the U.S. team investigating
the Bhopal, India, chemical disaster. And, as director of the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), he oversaw
the agencys response to last years terrorist attacks
and anthrax threat.
in his role with the Woodruff Health Sciences Center, Koplan
is leading a task force that will coordinate the Universitys
response to potential bioterrorism as well as helping to create
the Southeastern Center for Emerging Biologic Threats, a regional
coalition of research institutions and public health programs
spearheaded by Emory.
he plans to use his expertise to encourage healthful pursuits
of a more mundane nature, as well.
need to preparewe must preparefor bioterrorism,
but academic health centers can never become so focused on preparing
for the rare and deadly that we ignore our responsibility to
combat the common and chronically disabling, says Koplan,
who joined Emory in April after serving as director of the CDC
since 1998. People also need to be focused on preventive
measures like quitting smoking, exercising, wearing seat belts,
and making sure kids wear bike helmets.
has been charged with guiding research and academic strategies
across the schools of medicine, nursing, public health, the
Yerkes National Primate Research Center, and Emorys healthcare
network of hospitals, clinics, and community health centers.
the major health issues on the table for the nation and the
world are actively being worked on here, as well as actual patient
care being delivered daily, he says. Its a
who has a bachelors degree in English from Yale, a medical
degree from Mount Sinai, and a masters degree in public
health from Harvard, has long had links to Emory. He served
as a clinical professor in the School of Medicine for twelve
years and has had an appointment in the Rollins School of Public
Health since its founding in 1990.
a pleasure having Jeff here. He is a leader of great intelligence
and integrity, with a strong work ethic and a wonderful sense
of humor, which he applies appropriately and liberally,
says Michael M. E. Johns, executive vice president for health
affairs. His position is designed to be a catalyst for
the tremendous energy and imagination of our faculty across
the health sciences center and for the kind of partnerships
we have with the Georgia Research Alliance, the CDC, and other
research universities and organizations. Who could be more perfect
for this than Jeff Koplan?
twenty-six years in public health began as an Epidemic Intelligence
Service officerthe CDCs elite disease detectives
who are sent to remote areas of the world to deal with outbreaks.
As a member of the smallpox eradication team in Bangladesh in
1972, Koplan ran a smallpox ward in a hospital in Dhaka and
traveled the area in a converted Red Cross X-ray boat, searching
for isolated pockets of the disease. Smallpox was still
rampant throughout the country, recalls Koplan. In 1979,
two years after the last smallpox case was found in Somalia,
the world was declared smallpox-free.
most of us involved in smallpox eradication, it was a lifelong
experience, he says. It served to motivate us to
continue to work in public health and gave us an unfailing optimism
for the success of public health programs even in the face of
went on to serve the CDC in numerous capacities. He developed
health programs in ten Caribbean nations while based in Trinidad
and Tobago. In 1984, he led the U.S. team investigating the
gas leak at the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal that
killed thousands and left many more with serious injuries. From
1989 to 1994, he served as the first director of the National
Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion and
as the U.S. assistant surgeon general.
is able to walk into the most difficult and confusing situations,
whether toxic accidents in Bhopal, smallpox in Bangladesh, or
anthrax in the United States, and with patience, humor, and
keen insight he is able to provide order out of chaos,
says William H. Foege, former CDC director and Koplans
mentor. It is a fine and rare gift.
left the CDC in 1994 to lead the Prudential Center for Health
Care Research in Atlanta, but returned as director in 1998,
overseeing the public health agencys eleven institutes,
centers, and offices, and seven thousand employees. Under his
leadership, the CDC established a national womens breast
and cervical cancer early detection program, battled domestic
syphilis with community-based programs, focused attention on
the global impact of the hazards of tobacco, enhanced efforts
to eradicate polio worldwide, and set up public health programs
in China, Finland, and Hungary.
serving in the Public Health Service, Koplan received the Distinguished
Service Awardthe corps highest honor.
the health strategies he advocates, Koplan is a triathlete who
runs, rows, and cycles, and has competed in the Acworth Triathlon,
the Peachtree Road Race, and the Georgia Games. He applies this
philosophy to his lifes work, as well.
acute problems and threats are terribly interesting, he
says. But public health is a marathon, not a sprint.M.J.L.