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Dr. Sten Vermund to deliver John F. Enders Lecture

October 06, 2022
by Pam Johnson

Yale School of Public Health Professor Sten H. Vermund, an international leader in HIV/AIDS and global health research and policy, will give the prestigious John F. Enders Lecture Oct. 22 in Washington, D.C. The lecture is one of the highest honors bestowed by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA).

At Yale, Dr. Vermund, is the Anna M.R. Lauder Professor of Public Health and a professor of pediatrics at the Yale School of Medicine (YSM). He holds an appointment in the Yale School of Public Health (YSPH) Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases. He served as dean of YSPH from February 2017 to June 2022.

“I have a very favorable academic environment here at Yale,” said Vermund. “The Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases has hosted quite a legendary group and the current crop of faculty is immensely talented.”

The Infectious Diseases Society of America’s annual Enders Lecture is delivered during IDWeek, the nation’s prestigious annual joint conference of the IDSA, the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, the HIV Medicine Association, and the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society.

In 1954 (Dr. Vermund’s birthyear), Dr. Enders (Yale, ‘20) and two fellow researchers, Drs. Frederick C. Robbins and Thomas H. Weller, shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Science for the successful growth of poliomyelitis virus in tissue culture. Their work led to breakthroughs in the development of successful modern vaccines including polio and measles. Enders is considered by some to be “the father of modern vaccines.”

An infectious disease epidemiologist and pediatrician for over 40 years, Vermund’s work has focused on diseases in resource-limited settings. He’s made scientific contributions involving a variety of viral diseases including HIV/AIDS, human papillomavirus (HPV), parasitic diseases, and COVID-19. In 1993, his work in HIV-HPV interactions led the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to change its AIDS case definition to include cervical cancer, prompting cervical cancer screenings at HIV clinics worldwide.

Vermund has served as principal investigator of multiple collaborative National Institutes of Health (NIH) networks. His university-based work (Columbia, Einstein, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Vanderbilt, Yale) also involved establishing two nongovernmental organizations, the Center for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia, and Friends in Global Health (Mozambique and Nigeria).

“I’ve been privileged to work on the social determinants of disease in populations that are disadvantaged and link health care needs to their circumstances, both in the United States and in low-and middle-income countries,” said Vermund.

Vermund’s Enders lecture, “How Can Implementation Science Accelerate Infectious Disease Discovery-to-Practice,” will discuss public health science, carrying clinical knowledge to communities, reducing the social disparities in the application of knowledge, and making infectious disease research fully available at a population level.

“For my colleagues in the field, I’m trying to demystify implementation science, and generate interest and excitement in this methodology as a way of maximizing the impact of their own work,” said Vermund. “None of us wants to see discovery limited to the “insured elite”. Public health, medical, and nursing scientists alike want to see their discoveries translated to the entire population and that’s where implementation science comes in.”

I’ve been privileged to work on the social determinants of disease in populations that are disadvantaged and link health care needs to their circumstances, both in the United States and in low-and middle-income countries.

Sten Vermund

Enders, who died in 1985, taught and researched at Harvard from 1930 until 1946, when he established his pediatric research laboratories at Boston Children’s Hospital. Vermund had professional associations with Enders’ co-Nobelists, Robbins, who died in 2003; and Weller, who died in 2008.

As AIDS division branch chief of the vaccines trials and epidemiology branch at NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) under Dr. Anthony Fauci (1988-1994), Vermund worked with Robbins, who served as an NIAID council advisor.

“As I was planning for vaccine clinical trials and trying to nurture important HIV epidemiological work and public health work, he became a major counselor and advisor,” said Vermund. “I had many a chat with Fred in that time period.”

Prior to his work during the AIDS epidemic, Vermund focused on parasitology. He met Weller through their mutual membership in the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Weller hosted a Harvard talk by Vermund, who was also an associate of Weller’s son, Dr. Peter Weller, a distinguished Harvard physician and parasitologist in his own right.

Vermund said the honor of receiving the IDSA Enders Lecture recalls Enders’ impact on others at Yale, including one of YSPH’s most legendary scientists, the late Dr. Dorothy Horstmann, whose research helped lead to a polio vaccine; and Dr. George Miller Jr., John F. Enders Professor of Pediatrics (Infectious Disease), YSM. In 1989, IDSA bestowed its second Enders Lecture upon Miller, after awarding Thomas Weller the inaugural lecture in 1988, noted Vermund.

“George is a legend, both in pediatric infectious diseases and at Yale,” Vermund said. “It was such a pleasure to chat with George about his time working in John Enders’ laboratory and his lifelong friendship with the Enders family.

Submitted by Colin Poitras on October 04, 2022