The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has honored Walter A. Orenstein, MD, former director of the National Immunization Program, with the Charles C. Shepard Lifetime Scientific Achievement Award. Dr. Orenstein joined Emory University in March as director of a new Emory Program for Vaccine Policy and Development, as Associate Director of the Emory Vaccine Center, and as Associate Director of the Southeastern Center for Emerging Biologic Threats, a regional partnership led by Emory University.
The Shepard awards recognize scientific achievement and honor the memory of Dr. Charles C. Shepard, an internationally recognized microbiologist whose career was marked by the pursuit of scientific excellence.
During his 26-year career in the CDC's immunization program, Dr. Orenstein 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. The Immunization Program also made major contributions to protecting adults from vaccine-preventable diseases through eliminating barriers to vaccination and developing new vaccine strategies, expanding vaccine safety efforts, improving risk communication, and promoting the use of immunization registries. Dr. Orenstein's CDC staff, working with global public health organizations and partners, reduced the number of polio cases worldwide from about 350,000 in 1988 to fewer than 700 in 2003. The number of countries with endemic polio was reduced from 125 in 1988 to only 6 at the end of 2003.
Dr. Orenstein received his bachelor's degree at The City College of New York, and his medical degree at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1972. He completed an internship and a 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.
He served in leadership roles within the CDC's immunization program since 1982, and was Director of the National Immunization Program until joining the Emory faculty this year. He 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.
Dr. Orenstein has served as an Assistant Surgeon General of the U. S. Public Health Service, as chairman of the World Health Organization's Technical Consultative Group on the Global Eradication of Poliomyelitis, and as a member and rapporteur of the Pan American Health Organization's Technical Advisory Group on Vaccines and Immunization. He also has served as a member of the National Vaccine Advisory Committee and as a member of the International Editorial Board for the journal Vaccine. He served as an adjunct professor at the Rollins School of Public Health from 1992 until 2002. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, and the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society.
Dr. Orenstein's many honors and awards include the Commendation Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal from the U.S. Public Health Service; the Surgeon General's Exemplary Service Medal; the Excellence in Public Health Award of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials; the Distinguished Service Award from the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society; and in 2003, the Excellence in Public Service Award of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
At Emory, Dr. Orenstein's primary appointment is in the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Departments of Medicine and Pediatrics in Emory University School of Medicine. He also holds faculty appointments in the Departments of International Health and Epidemiology in Emory's Rollins School of Public Health.