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October 8, 2001


Donald A. Henderson, director of the Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, has been named chair of a new national advisory council on public health preparedness. The council is charged with recommending improvements to the nation's public health infrastructure to better prepare it for bioterrorism attacks. Tommy G. Thompson, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, announced the appointment of Dr. Henderson on October 3, 2001.

Just six days before the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Dr. Henderson testified before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the need for better biodefense preparation.

"Nothing in the realm of natural catastrophes or man-made disasters rivals the complex problems of response that would follow a bioweapons attack against a civilian population," Dr. Henderson told committee members. "The consequence of such an attack would be an epidemic and, in this country, we have had little experience in coping with epidemics. In fact, no city has had to deal with a truly serious epidemic accompanied by large numbers of cases and deaths since the 1918 influenza epidemic."

In June, the Center took part in a bioterrorism exercise with state and federal officials, called Dark Winter. The simulated small pox attack demonstrated the current public health system's lack of preparedness for such an attack.

Dr. Henderson is a Johns Hopkins University Distinguished Service Professor with appointments in the Departments of Epidemiology and International Health at the School. For the past for four years, he has directed the recently established Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies. The Center was established to increase national and international awareness of the medical and public health threats posed by biological weapons.

Dr. Henderson rejoined the Hopkins faculty in June 1995 after five years of federal government service in which he served initially 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.

From 1977 through August 1990, Dr. Henderson was dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. Dr. Henderson came to Hopkins after directing the World Health Organization's (WHO) global smallpox eradication campaign (1966-1977). Dr. Henderson was instrumental, in 1974, in initiating WHO's global program of immunization, which is now vaccinating 80 percent of the world's children against six major diseases and has, as a goal, the eradication of poliomyelitis.

Dr. Henderson has been recognized for his work by many institutions and governments. In 1986, he received the National Medal of Science, presented by the President of the United States. He is the recipient of the National Academy of Sciences' highest award, the Public Welfare Medal, and, with two colleagues, he shared the Japan Prize. Most recently he received from the Royal Society of Medicine, the Edward Jenner Medal. In all, 13 universities have conferred honorary degrees and 14 countries have honored him with awards and decorations.