October 6, 2003

Koplan to put 'Plagues' under microscope for Great Teacher's Lecture

By Holly Korschun

During a global public health career spanning nearly 30 years and addressing disease issues ranging from SARS to smoking, Jeffrey Koplan has developed a unique perspective and understanding of global “plagues” that include infectious disease epidemics such as smallpox, pandemic flu and HIV/AIDS, as well as chronic disease crises like obesity and tobacco and alcohol-related illnesses.

Koplan will present his insights and historical knowledge of past and present plagues and their psychological and behavioral power—as well as what we can expect from the future, and whether an understanding of the evolution of infectious “bugs” and behavior-related afflictions can help us stem the progression of these public health scourges—in his Great Teachers Lecture, “Plagues: Bugs and Behavior,” to be held Thursday, Oct. 16, at 7:30 p.m. in Miller-Ward Alumni House.

“Epidemics have been a feature of human society since we began clustering in communities,” Koplan said. “They have been persistent and recurrent threats throughout history and show little sign of slowing down. In addition to the new microorganisms that threaten us, our own behaviors and lifestyles are also contributors to our contemporary menu of ‘plagues.’”

Koplan came to Emory as vice president for academic health affairs in 2002 after serving as director of the CDC, the nation’s most prominent agency devoted to health promotion and the prevention of disease, injury and disability.

He began his public health career in the early 1970s as one of the CDC’s celebrated “disease detectives,” more formally known as Epidemic Intelligence Service officers. During his long career in public health, Koplan has been a world leader in virtually every major global public health issue—as part of the final smallpox eradication project in Bangladesh; a member of the team that investigated the Bhopal chemical disaster in India; the anthrax incidents in 2001; and continuing global problems of HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

As a consultant to the World Bank and the World Health Organization, Koplan has worked extensively in the public health programs of other nations, including China, Hungary, Finland, the Caribbean and else where. During the recent SARS epidemic, he has been a special consultant to the government of Hong Kong.

As founding director of the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, he was successful in establishing the fight against chronic disease as a national priority, provided national and international leadership in efforts to combat the health toll of tobacco, obesity and chronic diseases, and initiated the national breast cancer early-detection program

At Emory, in addition to his role as vice president, he is senior adviser to the Southeastern Center for Emerging Biologic Threats.

“With Emory’s great resources in infectious diseases, microbiology, behavioral sciences, epidemiology, etc., and our proximity and close ties to the world’s premier public health agency, the CDC, we can make unique and profound contributions to addressing both the acute and epidemic health threats as well as the chronic and common ones,” Koplan said.

The Great Teachers Lecture Series is free and open to the public. Call 404-727-5686 for more information.