The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has elected Emory University School of Medicine professor Walter A. Orenstein, MD, to its 2006 class of 65 new members. This election brings Emory's total IOM membership to 20.
Election to the IOM is considered one of the highest honors in the fields of medicine and health. Members are elected through a highly selective process that recognizes individuals who have made major contributions to the advancement of the medical sciences, health care, and public health.
"I am thrilled to now be a member of an institution I hold in such respect," says Dr. Orenstein. "During my career, I have had a number of opportunities to seek advice from the Institute of Medicine and I have always been impressed by the outstanding quality of its work, the integrity of its committees, staff, and process and its clear and thoughtful assessments of the scientific evidence and recommendations."
Dr. Orenstein joined Emory University School of Medicine in 2004 as director of the Emory Program for Vaccine Policy and Development and as associate director of the Emory Vaccine Center, which is housed at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. Dr. Orenstein's primary appointment is in the Division of Infectious Disease in the Department of Medicine. He also holds faculty appointments in the Department of Pediatrics and in the Department of International Health in Emory's Rollins School of Public Health.
"Dr. Orenstein has been an exemplary addition to the Woodruff Health Sciences Center, and especially to the Emory Vaccine Center," says Michael M.E. Johns, MD, Emory executive vice president for health affairs, CEO of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center, and IOM member. "Our focus on recruiting outstanding faculty who are national and international leaders in public health and medicine has resulted in an exponential growth in Emory's Institute of Medicine membership over the past decade. As we continue to attract exceptional scientists and their excellent research programs, it enhances our ability to make contributions to the health and well-being not only of our nation, but also worldwide." Before coming to Emory, Dr. Orenstein served in leadership roles within the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) immunization program, and from May 1993 through January 2004, was director of the National Immunization Program. He was a consultant to the World Health Organization and to the Pan American Health Organization for programs in polio eradication, measles control, and in smallpox eradication in India, Brazil, Argentina, and Peru.
Dr. Orenstein was Assistant Surgeon General of the U. S. Public Health Service. He served as the CDC liaison member to the National Vaccine Advisory Committee for more than 14 years, having played a major role in development of critical immunization policy documents including an article that became the blueprint for today's immunization program.
Dr. Orenstein served as CDC liaison to the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases (COID), the major immunization policy-making body for private pediatricians. Major policies adopted during Dr. Orenstein's tenure at CDC included recommendations for a second dose of measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine for all children; universal vaccination of children against Haemophilus influenzae type b, hepatitis B, varicella, and invasive pneumococcal disease; and annual vaccination of all 50-64 year old adults and 6-23 month old children against influenza.
Dr. Orenstein led the efforts to implement the Vaccines for Children Program (VFC) an innovative entitlement program that today overcomes financial barriers to vaccine access for approximately 40% of the nation's children and allows an advisory committee of experts, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), to see its recommendations financed automatically without having to go through the traditional appropriations process.
Dr. Orenstein also fostered development of a major effort to address vaccine safety concerns. He provided oversight for the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), a passive adverse reaction reporting system; the Vaccine Safety Datalink which includes researchers from eight Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) covering more than 2% of the US population; special investigations such as the relationship between rhesus rotavirus vaccine and intussusception; and independent assessment of the available evidence on selected adverse events through the IOM.
Prior to directing the nation's immunization efforts, Dr. Orenstein was a major driving force in improving the epidemiologic assessment of vaccine effectiveness, having co-authored numerous papers on the effectiveness of various vaccines in a post-licensure setting including one of the critical reviews of different methods that could be used to assess effectiveness during observational studies. Another major focus of his work was on understanding the barriers to elimination of indigenous measles in the United States and strategies to overcome them.
Dr. Orenstein is a member of the International Editorial Board for the journal Vaccine. Along with Stanley Plotkin, Dr. Orenstein co-edited Vaccines, 4th edition, a 1600-page volume with more than 125 contributors that is the leading textbook in the field. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, and the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society. He has served on the Council of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society, chaired its publications committee, and is a former Secretary/Treasurer. He received an honorary doctor of science from Wake Forest University in May of 2006. On October 26. 2006, Dr. Orenstein will receive a 2006 Townsend Harris Medal from his alma mater, City College of New York.