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Katherine O'Brien

An Experienced Young Investigator

Katherine O'Brien, MD, MPH '94, was humbled and thrilled when the Sabin Vaccine Institute (SVI) honored her with its inaugural Young Investigator Award this May. She also had to laugh a little. With a 14-year career in vaccinology and clinical epidemiology, a husband and two children, O'Brien didn't exactly consider herself a "young" investigator. But she gratefully accepted the title.

SVI credited O'Brien with playing a critical role in clinical trials of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine among Native Americans. O'Brien, a pediatric infectious disease physician and associate professor of International Health, was also noted for her work with GAVI's PneumoADIP (Pneumococcal Vaccines Accelerated Development and Introduction Plan). The $30 million, five-year initiative aims to make the pneumococcal vaccine available to the world's poorest children.

Pneumococcal disease is a leading cause of a bacterial infection in children that can cause pneumonia, meningitis, sepsis and other serious illnesses. According to WHO estimates, it kills 1.6 million people worldwide each year, including 800,000 children under age 5.

As PneumoADIP's deputy director of research, O'Brien is working to accelerate the introduction of new, lifesaving pneumococcal vaccines to children in resource-poor countries. "We're in the midst of a very significant change in the awareness of pneumococcal disease burden and the possibility for prevention," O'Brien says. "Decisions have been made to provide considerable funding for pneumococcal vaccines that will allow children in the poorest countries to have access to the vaccines."

As director of the Center for American Indian Health's Infectious Disease Group, O'Brien conducts vaccine clinical trials for illnesses that disproportionately affect tribal populations. The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, which protects against seven types of Streptococcus pneumoniae, has been part of the routine immunization schedule for U.S. infants and children since 2000; however, it was initially unclear how successful it would be in a population with high rates of pneumococcal disease. O'Brien's vaccine studies among children in the Navajo and White Mountain Apache communities demonstrated that the vaccine was highly effective in this group. "Of the seven serotypes in the vaccine, we essentially don't see any disease in the Navajo and White Mountain Apache tribes," says O'Brien. "It has basically eliminated a health disparity for these serotypes that previously existed."

It has also been shown to be successful in African-American children, another group at higher risk for pneumococcal disease than the general U.S. population.

Chris Beyrer

Chris Beyrer, MD, MPH '90, professor, Epidemiology, was elected to the governing council of the International AIDS Society as one of the representatives from the U.S. and Canada, for a four-year term.

Charles E. Boult, MD, MPH, MBA, director of the Roger C. Lipitz Center for Integrated Health Care, and professor, Health Policy and Management (HPM), has been named the recipient of the 2008 UCLA David H. Solomon Award, which recognizes an influential leader in the field of geriatrics. Boult has focused on the development and testing of novel approaches to organizing, financing and delivering health care to older populations.

William Brieger, DrPH '92, MPH, professor, International Health, received the 2008 Award of Merit for Contribution to the Development of Public Health in Africa from the Faculty of Public Health, College of Medicine at the University of Ibadan (Nigeria).

Marco Carone and Bruce Swihart, PhD candidates, Biostatistics, and Bryan James, PhD candidate, Epidemiology, won the Bloomberg School's 2008 Louis I. and Thomas D. Dublin Award honoring student research at the interface of biostatistics and epidemiology.

Richard Chaisson, MD, professor, Medicine, Epidemiology and International Health, received the annual Dr. David Glasser Tuberculosis Award from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for contributions to TB control in the state.

Andrea Gielen, ScD '89, ScM '79, professor, Health, Behavior and Society, received the 2008 Home Safety Research Award from the Home Safety Council.

Katherine Guzzo, postdoctoral fellow, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (BMB), received an American Association for Cancer Research Centennial Postdoctoral Fellowship.

Adnan Hyder

Adnan Hyder, MBBS, PhD '98, MPH '93, associate professor, International Health, will be the James W. Bartlett Visiting Professor for 2008 at the University of Rochester (and Strong Memorial Hospital) in Rochester, New York.

Nancy E. Kass

Nancy E. Kass, ScD '89, professor, HPM, and deputy director of the Berman Institute of Bioethics, was elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine.

Michael J. Klag, MD, MPH '87, dean, received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree and delivered the commencement address at alma mater Juniata College's 130th Commencement ceremony in May.

Orin Levine, PhD '94, associate professor, International Health, gave the Robert Austrian Memorial Lecture at the 11th Annual Conference on Vaccine Research sponsored by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases in May.

Jean Nachega

Jean Nachega, MD, PhD, MPH '99, associate scientist, International Health, has been appointed Professor Extraordinary in the Department of Medicine, Division of Internal Medicine, Stellenbosch University.

Anna Orlova, PhD, associate, HPM, and executive director, Public Health Data Standards Consortium, was elected co-chair of the Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel (HITSP) Population Health Technical Committee.

Neil R. Powe

Neil R. Powe, MD, MPH, MBA, professor, Epidemiology and Medicine, and director of the Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology and Clinical Research, was named a University Distinguished Service Professor by the Johns Hopkins University Board of Trustees.

Mathuram Santosham, MBBS, MPH '75, professor, International Health, gave the 2008 Jeryl Lynn Hilleman Endowed Lecture at the CDC Foundation.

Alfred Sommer, MD, MHS '73, dean emeritus and Epidemiology professor, was elected chair of the board of the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation. The Lasker Foundation is dedicated to supporting biomedical research toward conquering disease, improving human health and extending life.

Freya Sonenstein

Freya Sonenstein, PhD, professor, Population, Family and Reproductive Health, and director of the Center for Adolescent Health, was awarded a Baltimore Regional Employer Award for "Preparing Youth for the 21st Century Workforce."

Carl Taylor

Carl Taylor, MD, DrPH, MPH, professor emeritus, International Health, received the inaugural Global Health Council Lifetime Achievement Award. The award recognizes "his dedication to improving the health care of the world's most marginalized people through innovative and sustainable community-based interventions." He also received the Bloomberg School's Ernest Lyman Stebbins Medal for his contributions to the School.

Damian Walker, PhD, MSc, assistant professor, International Health, was inducted into the Delta Omega Public Health Honor Society.

Youfa Wang, MD, PhD, MS, associate professor, International Health, was appointed by the governor of Maryland to the State Advisory Council on Physical Fitness.

Scott Zeger, PhD, professor, Biostatistics, and vice provost for research of the Johns Hopkins University, was awarded the Wilks Memorial Award from the American Statistical Association.

Chairs Update

Pierre A. Coulombe

Pierre A. Coulombe, PhD, has been named the E.V. McCollum Professor and Chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Succeeding Roger McMacken, PhD, who chaired the department for 18 years, and Barry Zirkin, PhD, who served as interim chair during the national search, Coulombe comes to the department from the School of Medicine, where he has been part of the faculty since 1992. Most recently, he served as professor in the departments of Biological Chemistry and Dermatology. Coulombe also directed the Graduate Training Program in Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the School of Medicine between 2002 and 2008.

Karen Bandeen-Roche

In other department news, Karen Bandeen-Roche, PhD, professor, Biostatistics, was named interim chair of Biostatistics and interim director of the Johns Hopkins Center on Aging and Health.

David Celentano

David Celentano, ScD '77, MHS '75, professor, Epidemiology, is serving as interim chair of Epidemiology.

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