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April 18, 2013

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Awards Dean’s Medal to Roy Vagelos

Michael J. Klag, dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, awarded the Dean's Medal to P. Roy Vagelos, MD, on April 17, 2013 for his pioneering work and philanthropic efforts in the prevention of blindness. The Medal is the Bloomberg School’s highest honor and celebrates individuals who have made a significant contribution to the field of public health. Vagelos was selected for his work advancing public health ophthalmology and is credited with saving the sight and lives of disadvantaged individuals throughout the world.

“Roy Vagelos is a true leader in the field of public health,” said Klag. “Through his work and philanthropic efforts, he has saved the sight of millions from dangerous diseases such as onchocerciasis or river blindness. It is an honor to acknowledge his contributions and recognize him with the Dean’s Medal.”

Vagelos is chairman of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and former chairman and CEO of Merck & Co, Inc. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and earned his medical degree from Columbia University in 1954. Following a residency at the Massachusetts General Hospital, he joined the National Institutes of Health where he served as senior surgeon and then section head of Comparative Biochemistry. Vagelos went on to become chairman of the Department of Biochemistry at Washington University’s School of Medicine where he founded their division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences. He joined Merck Research Laboratories in 1975 as president. In 1985, he became CEO and later chairman of the company before retiring in 1994.

Vagelos is chairman of the Board of Advisors at Columbia University Medical Center and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. He has received a number of awards in science and business as well 14 honorary doctorates.

To commemorate the 25th Anniversary of Merck’s Mectizan Donation Program, the Dana Center of Preventive Ophthalmology, with support from the Mectizan Donation Program and the Wilmer Eye Institute, have invited Vagelos to deliver the 17th Mohammed Aziz Memorial Lecture. The Mectizan Donation Program was launched under Vagelos’ leadership and provides Mectizan at no cost for the treatment of onchocerciasis in endemic countries worldwide. Alfred Sommer, MD, MHS, distinguished professor and dean emeritus of the Bloomberg School, will present Vagelos with the award at the conclusion of the lecture.

Sommer noted, “The 17th Aziz Lecture and the presentation of the Dean’s Medal marks the 25th Anniversary of Merck’s Mectizan Donation Program. Under Vagelos’ leadership, this trailblazing pharmaceutical industry philanthropic effort has dramatically improved the lives, and saved the sight of millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa. He is a true leader in the field of public health ophthalmology.”

Previous recipients of the Dean’s Medal include William Foege, former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Richard Besser, MD, health and medical editor for ABC News; Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet; Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Oshinsky; David Heymann, MD, Assistant Director-General for Health Security Environment and Representative of the Director-General for Polio Eradication at the World Health Organization; Sam Thier, MD, President, Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences; HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand; Carol Bellamy, Executive Director, UNICEF; Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; and Alfred Sommer, vitamin A deficiency research pioneer.

Media contact for Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Natalie Wood-Wright at 410-614-6029 or