January 28, 2004
CONTENTS OF THIS ISSUE
- Dr. Walter Orenstein leaves a legacy of
exceptional accomplishment with his retirement from the National
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January 28, 2004
DR. WALTER ORENSTEIN LEAVES A LEGACY OF EXCEPTIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT WITH HIS
RETIREMENT FROM THE NATIONAL IMMUNIZATION PROGRAM
On January 6, Walter Orenstein, MD, announced his retirement as director of
the National Immunization Program (NIP). His retirement is effective March
1, when he will join the Emory University School of Medicine as director of
the Program for Vaccine Policy and Development and associate director of the
Emory Vaccine Center.
Dr. Steve Cochi has been appointed NIP's acting director and Dr. Melinda
Wharton has been appointed acting deputy director. During January and
February, Dr. Orenstein will serve as Dr. Cochi's special advisor.
In his quarter century of work with NIP, Dr. Orenstein has inspired many
thousands of public health professionals, including IAC executive director
Dr. Deborah Wexler. "Walt's departure marks the end of an immunization era,"
she said. "I've been impressed by Walt's insightful leadership and
dedication to making sure that the people of our nation and around the world
are well immunized. His job has required an unimaginable amount of hard
work. His will be difficult shoes to fill."
Dr. Orenstein's zest for immunization began early in his medical career. At
a recent meeting of NIP staff, he said he had planned to become a pediatric
nephrologist. Then he entered the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) and
worked on smallpox eradication. He said that while serving as an EIS
officer, he saw a disease eradicated before his eyes, and it changed his
Alan Hinman, MD, MPH, principal investigator for All Kids Count of the Task
Force for Child Survival and Development, preceded Dr. Orenstein as head of
the U.S. immunization program. Dr. Hinman wrote the following in tribute to
Dr. Orenstein: "I've known Walt since 1977. He was then, and is now
enthusiastic, brilliant, hard working, and highly productive.
"Walt has provided outstanding leadership to the National Immunization
Program, overseeing, among other things
- the highest immunization levels ever in
- elimination of indigenous transmission of
- CDC's involvement in the global polio
eradication and measles control initiatives
- introduction of hepatitis B, Hib,
rotavirus, varicella, and pneumococcal conjugate vaccines
- growth of the immunization program budget
from approximately $40 million to more than $1 billion
"Walt is a tireless champion of immunizations
and has had an extraordinary impact on the health of children, both in the
United States and around the world. He will be sorely missed by NIP but will
continue to play an important role in helping to improve health through
In a letter to his colleagues at NIP dated January 6, Dr. Orenstein wrote
My career at CDC has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
I have been privileged to be part of many successful efforts to protect and
improve the public's health; each of which provided an opportunity to work
together and in partnership with persons and groups throughout CDC, the
United States, and the world. . . .
As I reflect on my time at NIP, I see many accomplishments that we can point
to with much pride and satisfaction. Children with meningitis from
Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), once a common occurrence on pediatric
wards, have become a rarity. There are fewer than 20 cases of acquired
rubella reported each year in the United States, down from over 57,000 cases
in 1969 when rubella vaccine was first licensed. Marked gains have been made
against varicella and invasive pneumococcal disease in children. It's been
an honor and a privilege to have been a part of these successes. . . .
I'm looking forward to the new chapter in my life, but I leave NIP and CDC
confident that both are in the hands of highly skilled and qualified
colleagues. At NIP, each and every staff member contributes to our mission
and to our success--and it truly has been a privilege to have had the
opportunity to work with each of you. I have grown personally and
professionally thanks to our interactions. And it is especially rewarding to
know that you are well equipped to lead NIP into the future.
I look forward to continued interactions with NIP in my new position at
Emory and wish you the best in your continuing efforts to assure that people
do not suffer needlessly from vaccine-preventable diseases.
To access the complete text of Dr. Orenstein's letter, go to:
In a press release issued January 8, Emory Health Sciences detailed some of
Dr. Orenstein's accomplishments as director of the National Immunization
Program. A portion of the press release is reprinted below.
During Dr. Orenstein's tenure at the National Immunization Program, he has
led successful efforts to combat and markedly reduce the occurrence of once
common childhood diseases . . . The Immunization Program also has made major
contributions: 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. . . .
He has served in leadership roles within the CDC's immunization program
since 1982, and since 1993 has been Director of the National Immunization
Program. 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
Dr. Orenstein has served as an Assistant Surgeon General of the U.S. Public
Health Service, and he currently serves as chairman of the World Health
Organization's Technical Consultative Group on the Global Eradication of
Poliomyelitis, as a member and rapporteur of the Pan American Health
Organization's Technical Advisory Group on Vaccines and Immunization, 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. . . .
To access the complete press release, go to: