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John W. Ward, M.D.

Recipient of the 2019 Distinguished Alumnus Award

Published Tuesday, March 5, 2019 8:00 am

For over 34 years, Dr. John Ward has served as a medical epidemiologist at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). After graduation from the UAB School of Medicine (1981) and completion of his internal medicine residency at UAB (1984), John joined the CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service. He was assigned to the new AIDS Activity program responsible for preventing the spread of HIV.

Over a 14 year career in HIV/AIDS prevention, Dr. Ward identified new transmission, conducted one of the first natural history studies of HIV infection documenting the progression of HIV, and evaluated the first HIV antibody test licensed to protect the nation’s blood supply. Later, to track HIV transmission and disease, he guided the adoption of national HIV infection reporting and revising the case definition for AIDS, which still remains the national and international surveillance standard. In 1998, John became editor of the CDC’s flagship publication, The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, and was involved in the CDC response to large outbreaks including the anthrax attacks after 9/11.

To assist these efforts, he developed the Epidemic Information Exchange (Epi-X) as a secure electronic network for outbreak reporting and response. Since its inception, over 5400 health officials around the country have shared more than 58,000 Epi-X reports of emerging disease outbreaks. In 2005, Dr. Ward became Director of the CDC Division of Viral Hepatitis with responsibilities for viral hepatitis surveillance, prevention, and research.

At the national level, he led development of recommendations for Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B vaccination and Hepatitis B virus (HBV) testing and linkage to care. With the anticipated licensure of all-oral, curative therapies for Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, he authored the first national action plan for viral hepatitis prevention and developed the recommendations for HCV testing for all persons born during 1945-1965. With the availability of curative treatments for HCV, Dr. Ward launched development of the US National Academies strategy for viral hepatitis elimination and the nation’s first pilot HCV elimination program.

Globally, he advises the World Health Organization including setting elimination goals for HBV and HCV. He assists countries in developing and evaluating viral hepatitis prevention and elimination programs. Dr. Ward has authored over 150 publications of scientific work in viral hepatitis and HIV and also conceived of and edited, Silent Victories, a history of public health in the 20th Century published by Oxford University Press. For over 20 years, John served as a clinician in the Emory Medical System caring for persons living with HIV/AIDS. John is a Professor in the Hubert Department of Global Health, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta.

Dr. Ward was nominated by Dr. Gordon Mowry.

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