MARK A. LEASURE, IDSA’s highly respected chief executive officer for nearly 20 years, is the recipient of a 2016 IDSA Society Citation. First awarded in 1977, this is a discretionary award given in recognition of exemplary contribution to IDSA, an outstanding discovery in the field of infectious diseases, or a lifetime of outstanding achievement.
Starting when he was hired in 1998 until his retirement in June of 2016, Leasure’s conscientious leadership played a critical role in the Society’s tremendous growth as an organization representing physicians, scientists, and other health care professionals who specialize in infectious diseases. IDSA has become a trusted leader on issues of importance to ID professionals, including education and training, policy and advocacy, setting guidelines for patient care, and developing resources for clinical practice. The Society is recognized for its sponsorship of IDWeek, and high quality journals, and has been at the forefront of global health issues such as antimicrobial resistance and HIV/AIDS.
Under Leasure’s leadership, the Society’s activities on behalf of members and their patients significantly expanded. He was responsible for doubling membership and professional attendance at the annual meeting, increasing the IDSA staff from five to more than 40, and tripling the organization’s net assets. During his tenure, key partnerships were forged and strengthened with PIDS, SHEA, and other related organizations. HIVMA, housed within IDSA, was created to represent medical providers and researchers working on the frontlines of HIV, and the IDSA Education and Research Foundation was established to support efforts to attract the best and brightest to the ID field. The Center for Global Health Policy was launched to promote evidence-based U.S. action in response to the global HIV and tuberculosis epidemics.
An attentive listener with a keen eye for detail, Leasure’s calm, well-timed advice and wise counsel were greatly valued by numerous physician leaders, committee members, and staff during his many years with the Society. Quick to pass credit for the Society’s accomplishments to others in the organization, his ability to solve problems, resolve conflicts, and build strong consensus was instrumental in IDSA’s development into a well-run, highly regarded, and diverse professional society whose members today work across the U.S. and around the world in nearly 100 countries on six different continents.
Before coming to IDSA, Leasure worked for 25 years for the American Society of Internal Medicine (ASIM), where he started as a policy analyst in government relations. His final 10 years at ASIM were spent serving as deputy executive vice president, overseeing all operational aspects of the organization’s activities. He was directly involved in the negotiations that led to ASIM’s merger with the American College of Physicians. Leasure earned a degree in economics from Miami University in Ohio.
For his dedicated, unassuming, and highly effective leadership as the Society’s head of staff over two decades, IDSA is honored to recognize Leasure with a 2016 Society Citation.
BRUCE G. GELLIN, MD, MPH, FIDSA (left), and MARTIN G. MYERS, MD, FIDSA, FPIDS (right), who created, sustained, and enhanced the National Network for Immunization Information (NNii), are the recipients of a 2016 IDSA Society Citation. First awarded in 1977, this is a discretionary award given in recognition of exemplary contribution to IDSA, an outstanding discovery in the field of infectious diseases, or a lifetime of outstanding achievement.
During a critical time of growing misinformation about vaccine safety in the late 1990s and what, in retrospect, was a prelude to a focus on vaccine hesitancy and confidence, NNii was established to provide evidence-based information about vaccination to providers, the public, policymakers, and the media. As NNii’s founder and executive director from 1998 to 2002, Dr. Gellin initiated many activities that would define the organization: tracking immunization issues in state legislatures, the media, and in public debates; providing testimony at congressional hearings and state legislatures; publishing research on immunization issues and attitudes; and launching the NNii website, an important source of accurate information about vaccines.
Partnerships that Dr. Gellin facilitated with the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Nurses Association, and other professional medical organizations bolstered NNii’s initial efforts and reach. He also organized an instrumental multi-year grant with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to supplement the organization’s core funding, which was provided by the IDSA Education and Research Foundation. To maintain a credible and independent voice, NNii never sought funding from industry or the federal government.
Under Dr. Myers’ leadership as executive director from 2003 to 2014, the organization’s core funding from the University of Texas Medical Branch’s Sealy Center for Vaccine Development was supplemented by continuing funding from the IDSA Foundation. NNii’s role as a platform for informing the public about the safety and efficacy of vaccines was expanded. NNii’s website was enhanced and its content was also made available in Spanish, resulting in a monthly viewership of more than 146,000. An extensive series of plain-language, peer-reviewed, downloadable essays by Dr. Myers and science writer Diego Pineda was developed to address various immunization issues. The most popular essays were re-published as booklets, such as Are Vaccines Safe? Evaluating Information About Vaccines on the Internet, which had three editions and 15 printings, having been purchased by other organizations in bulk for distribution. A service providing email summaries of recent vaccine news was created, and Do Vaccines Cause That?! A Guide for Evaluating Vaccine Safety Concerns, a book by Dr. Myers and Pineda, was published, offering accurate information for parents and those who counsel patients.
NNii’s rational, comprehensive responses to anti-vaccine claims and its commitment to providing the public and providers the best science-based information about vaccines served as a pioneering template for others. In 2014, with several advocacy groups and programs that did not exist in the late 1990s now effectively promoting vaccination in the U.S. and around the world, NNii was retired.
One of the nation’s principal experts and spokespersons on vaccines and immunizations, Dr. Gellin is currently the deputy assistant secretary for health and director of the National Vaccine Program Office in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), positions he has held since 2002. He has also held positions at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health. Dr. Gellin has served on the IDWeek Program Committee and IDSA committees focused on public health, preventive medicine, and seasonal and pandemic influenza. Numerous committees, task forces, and working groups within the federal government and around the world have sought his expertise.
After earning a medical degree from Cornell University Medical College in New York, Dr. Gellin completed his internship and internal medicine residency at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, and completed a public health fellowship and an infectious diseases fellowship at New York Hospital and Cornell Medical Center. He served as an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer in CDC’s Meningitis and Special Pathogens Branch and was a preventive medicine resident in CDC’s Artic Investigations Program. He received a master of public health degree in epidemiology from Columbia University School of Public Health. The recipient of several honors, he is also on the faculty of Vanderbilt University’s Schools of Medicine and Nursing.
Before serving as NNii’s executive director, Dr. Myers was deputy director and then director of the National Vaccine Program Office at HHS from 1998 to 2002. He was previously professor and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Northwestern University in Chicago, professor and vice chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Cincinnati, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children’s Hospital Research Foundation in Cincinnati, and an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Iowa.
Currently Dr. Myers is president and chair of the board of Immunizations for the Public Health, a non-profit corporation, the emeritus professor of pediatrics and preventive medicine and community health, and the emeritus director for public health policy and education at the Sealy Center for Vaccine Development at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.
The author or co-author of more than 150 publications, mostly focused on the prevention of infections in children, Dr. Myers has served on multiple national and international committees related to immunization and has received several awards. He completed his medical degree, internship, and pediatric residency training at Johns Hopkins University and Hospital, followed by virology training at the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health and an infectious diseases fellowship at Beth Israel Hospital and Children’s Hospital in Boston.
For embracing NNii’s vision, transforming it into a successful organization, and sustaining its important work with their steadfast, energetic leadership, IDSA is honored to recognize Dr. Gellin and Dr. Myers with a 2016 Society Citation.
Carol J. Baker, MD, FIDSAWafaa El-Sadr, MD, MPH, MPA, FIDSA
John G. Bartlett, MD, FIDSATheodore C. Eickhoff, MD, FIDSA
Gary P. Wormser, MD, FIDSAEduardo Gotuzzo, MD, FIDSA
Larry J. Strausbaugh, MD, FIDSA
George G. Jackson, MDLawrence P. Martinelli, MD
Stanley Falkow, PhDWalter T. Hughes, Jr., MDEmanuel Wolinsky, MD
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