2011 David E. Rogers Award
Paul A. Offit, M.D., Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Pediatrician. Inventor. Advocate. These terms all describe Paul A. Offit, M.D., whose 34-year career in pursuit of children’s health has earned him the unofficial title of “foremost champion of vaccination in the world.”
For nearly two decades, Dr. Offit has served as chief of the division of infectious diseases at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), overseeing vaccine research and education. And, as professor of pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania for the last 11 years, Dr. Offit has contributed to the education of hundreds of the nation’s future pediatricians.
In October 2000, Dr. Offit founded the Vaccine Education Center at CHOP, and currently serves as its director. The center, which is funded by sources outside the vaccine industry to avoid potential conflicts of interest, provides complete, up-to-date, and reliable educational materials on all aspects of vaccines free to parents and clinicians.
If asked which of his many accomplishments he is most proud of, Dr. Offit will say that it is his role as co-inventor of the rotavirus vaccine, RotaTeq™. Rotaviruses are the leading cause of severe, dehydrating diarrhea in children younger than five worldwide. RotaTeq™ has the potential to save 2,000 lives a day—“a public health triumph,” says Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Since its inclusion in the recommended U.S. vaccination schedule by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of hospitalizations for rotavirus diarrhea has decreased by 90 percent.
When he’s not inventing vaccines, Dr. Offit is working to make sure those being administered are safe. While a voting member of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices at the CDC, Dr. Offit headed a working group credited with securing the use of an inactivated paralytic polio vaccine in the U.S.—a lower-risk option than the then-current oral polio vaccine.
An active participant in the policy arena, Dr. Offit is perhaps best known as an advocate for childhood immunizations and vaccine safety in the U.S. “Foremost among Paul’s many scientific and public service accomplishments has been his tireless promotion of essential vaccines for infants and children,” says Dr. Fauci. Undeterred by a sometimes skeptical public, Dr. Offit has become “one of the most prominent voices in the national and international media confronting vaccine fears,” attests Arthur H. Rubenstein, M.B.B.Ch., executive vice president, University of Pennsylvania Health System.
Dr. Offit’s work to allay concerned parents’ fears has never been more important, as a decline in vaccination rates has led to a resurgence of preventable diseases such as measles, mumps, whooping cough, and bacterial meningitis. “When you make a choice for your child not to get a vaccine,” explains Dr. Offit, “you’re also making a choice to put others at risk.” By unremittingly confronting misinformation and presenting scientific evidence clearly to a lay public, Dr. Offit “has helped to prevent many children from suffering,” says Roger I. Glass, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Fogarty International Center and associate director for international research at the National Institutes of Health.
In embracing his roles as physician, educator, and vaccine spokesman, Dr. Offit has worked to advance the health of children. As Walter A. Orenstein, M.D., deputy director for immunization programs at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation says, there is really only one way to describe Dr. Offit: as “a giant in the field of vaccinology.”
Dr. Offit received his B.S. degree from Tufts University and his M.D. degree from the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
David E. Rogers Award
This award recognizes a medical school faculty member who has made major contributions to improving the health and health care of the American people.