February 9, 2004

Orenstein to join vaccine center

By Holly Korschun

Walter Orenstein, director of the CDC National Immunization Program, will join the School of Medicine in March as director of a new Program for Vaccine Policy and Development and associate director of the Emory Vaccine Center.

Orenstein will retire from his 26-year career in the CDC's immunization program, where he has led the global effort to eliminate many of the world's most common vaccine-preventable diseases. In his new position he also will serve as associate director of the Southeastern Center for Emerging Biologic Threats, a regional partnership led by Emory.

Orenstein's primary faculty appointment will be in the Division of Infectious Diseases in medicine and pediatrics, and he also will hold appointments in international health and epidemiology in the Rollins School of Public Health. He is expected to help assemble a nationally recognized scientific program and foundation in clinical vaccine development and policy, building on Emory's programs in vaccine and infectious diseases research and treatment.

"Dr. Orenstein has played a key role in a number of the most important public health efforts of our time," said medical school Dean Thomas Lawley. "We are most fortunate that he will join our faculty and an outstanding group of scientists and physicians in infectious diseases and vaccines. The recent pace of Emory's growth in infectious diseases and vaccine research has been outstanding, and I expect Dr. Orenstein to be a catalyst for continued innovation and an era of groundbreaking leadership."

During Orenstein's tenure at CDC, he led successful efforts to combat and markedly reduce the occurrence of once common childhood diseases, including meningitis from Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), rubella, varicella and invasive pneumococcal disease. Working with global public health organizations and partners, his staff reduced the number of polio cases worldwide from about 350,000 in 1988 to fewer than 700 in 2003, while cutting the number of countries with endemic polio from 125 to six.  

Orenstein received his bachelor's from City College of New York and his medical degree from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1972. He completed an internship and residency in pediatrics at the University of California-San Francisco, followed by a fellowship in infectious diseases at the University of Southern California Medical School and a residency in preventive medicine at the CDC.

"Scientists in the Emory Vaccine Center have been responsible for groundbreaking discoveries that promise to have a major impact on some of the world's most challenging infectious diseases," said Rafi Ahmed, director of the vaccine center and Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar. "Dr. Orenstein's global public health experience and numerous successes in furthering vaccine development and shaping effective vaccine policy will help ensure that the results of our vaccine research are able to benefit the greatest number of individuals worldwide."

In addition to his leadership roles in CDC's immunization program, Orenstein has served as a consultant to the World Health Organization and to the Pan American Health Association for programs in polio eradication, measles control and smallpox eradication in India, Brazil, Argentina and Peru. He served as an adjunct professor at the Rollins School from 1992-2002.