Donald Henderson

Donald Henderson
Donald Ainslie Henderson

D.A. Henderson with his Presidential Medal of Freedom in July 2002
Born September 7, 1928(1928-09-07)
Lakewood, Ohio
Nationality American
Fields Epidemiology
Institutions World Health Organization, Johns Hopkins University
Known for Eradicating Smallpox
Notable awards Public Welfare Medal (1978)
National Medal of Science (1986)
Presidential Medal of Freedom (2002)

Donald Ainslie Henderson, known as D.A. Henderson, (born September 7, 1928) is an American physician and epidemiologist, who headed the international effort during the 1960s to eradicate smallpox. As of 2010, he is a Distinguished Scholar at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Center for Biosecurity and a professor of public health and medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. He is also a Johns Hopkins University Distinguished Service Professor and Dean Emeritus of the School of Public Health, with a joint appointment in the Department of Epidemiology.



Early life

Henderson was born in Lakewood, Ohio in the United States. He graduated from Oberlin College in 1950 and received his M.D. from the University of Rochester School of Medicine in 1954. He served both an internship (1954–1955) and a residency (1957–1959) in medicine at the Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown, New York. He earned an M.P.H. degree in 1960 from the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health (now the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health).

Between his internship and residency (1955–1957) and again from 1960–1966, he worked in the Epidemic Intelligence Service of the Communicable Disease Center (CDC; now the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), where he created a Smallpox Surveillance Unit to deal with imports of the disease into the USA.

Eradication of smallpox

Henderson (first man on left) as part of the CDC's smallpox eradication team in 1966.

In 1966 Henderson moved to Geneva to head the World Health Organization's Global Smallpox Eradication Campaign. Smallpox was at the time endemic in Brazil, Africa and South Asia.

In 1972 Henderson helped suppress an outbreak of smallpox in Yugoslavia, the last epidemic of smallpox in Europe. In 1974 he was stationed in India during one of the largest epidemics in the 20th century and was instrumental in initiating the global program of immunization. This program has vaccinated 80 percent of the world's children against six major diseases and is striving to eradicate poliomyelitis.

The smallpox eradication campaign came to a successful conclusion in 1977 when the last case was reported in Somalia. It thus became the first infectious disease to be wiped out.

Later work

From 1977 through August 1990, Henderson was dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. His government service was first as associate director, Office of Science and Technology Policy, Executive Office of the President (1991–1993), and later as deputy assistant secretary and senior science advisor in the Department of Health and Human Services (HSS). He is also currently a senior advisor to the federal government and the HHS on civilian biodefense issues. He rejoined the faculty of Johns Hopkins in June 1995 after five years of federal government service.

In October 2001, Tommy G. Thompson, Secretary of Health and Human Services, named Henderson chair of a new national advisory council on public health preparedness which is charged with improving the national public health infrastructure to better counter bioterrorist attacks. As the principal science advisor for public health preparedness in HHS and chair of the Secretary's Council on Public Health Preparedness, Henderson is in charge of coordinating department-wide response to public health emergencies. He was also the founding director in 1998 of the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies, which he has directed for the past four years, and has numerous publications to his credit.[1]

The Donald A. Henderson Collection at Johns Hopkins spans his entire career there, including newspaper articles, honors, biographical material, lecture notes, speeches, and correspondence as well as awards such as the Japan Prize and the Public Welfare Medal. Presently, he is a Professor and Resident Scholar at the Center for Biosecurity of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, which has created a professorship honoring him as of September 26, 2004.

Honors and awards

Selected publications


External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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