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University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

Anticipating Global Threats: Annual Cutler Lecture Focuses On How Pandemics Get Started And How They Can Be Contained

PITTSBURGH, September 21, 2006 — What do AIDS, SARS and avian flu have in common? They are all potentially lethal viruses that originated in animals and jumped to humans through the food supply. However, while AIDS already has caused a global epidemic, or pandemic, infecting close to 40 million people worldwide by recent estimates, SARS effectively was stopped in its tracks. Infectious disease experts are currently battling to contain avian flu in Europe, Asia and Africa.

The origins of pandemics and how they can be stopped or contained will be the topic of the Third Annual John C. Cutler Global Health Lecture, being held on Tuesday, Sept. 26, from 3 to 4 p.m., in room G23 Parran Hall on the Pitt campus in Oakland. This year’s lecture, which is hosted by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH) in conjunction with Pitt’s Center for International Studies’ International Week 2006 activities, will be given by Donald S. Burke, M.D., the new dean of GSPH.

Dr. Burke, who began his duties on July 1, is a Harvard-trained physician with expertise in the prevention, diagnosis and control of infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS, influenza and other emerging infectious diseases of global concern. His career-long mission has been the prevention and mitigation of the impact of infectious diseases that have the potential for causing epidemics and pandemics.

“With most epidemics, history has shown that we are not helpless. Even if we can’t stop one, we do have measures that keep it under control and minimize its impact,” explained Dr. Burke, who, in addition to serving as dean of GSPH, also is Pitt’s first associate vice chancellor for global health, the first UPMC-Jonas Salk Professor of Global Health and the director of the university’s new vaccine research center.

Prior to joining GSPH, Dr. Burke was professor and director of the Center for Immunization Research at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health from 1997 to 2006. Before that, he served 23 years on active duty in the U.S. Army Medical Research Command, where he developed vaccines and diagnostic tests against infectious disease threats. A Cleveland native, Dr. Burke earned his bachelor’s degree from Case Western Reserve University and his medical degree from Harvard.

Over the years, his research activities have spanned a wide range of “bench to the bush” scientific investigations, including the development of new infectious disease diagnostic tools, population-based field studies, clinical vaccine trials, computational modeling of epidemic control strategies and policy analyses. His recent research has focused on development of strategies for containing an emerging influenza pandemic in Asia and on interruption of virus transmission to humans from animals among hunters in central Africa.

The John C. Cutler Annual Global Health Lecture is funded through a permanent endowment established by GSPH to honor and perpetuate Dr. Cutler’s legacy of global health, leadership, research, practice, education and devotion to nurturing the careers of future public health leaders. As head of GSPH’s population division, Dr. Cutler helped to establish and coordinate major international health projects in West Africa and several Third World countries. He also was instrumental in the development of a joint program between GSPH and the university’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.

Dr. Cutler was especially noted for developing research and curricula in the areas of venereal disease control and population. Prior to joining GSPH in 1967, Dr. Cutler served as both assistant surgeon general of the U.S. Public Health Service and deputy director of the Pan American Health Organization.

This year’s lecture can be viewed live by selecting the “live webcasts” link on the GSPH MediaSite Archive . For directions to Parran Hall or for additional information, contact GSPH at 412-383-8849.

Founded in 1948 and fully accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health, GSPH is world-renowned for contributions that have influenced public health practices and medical care for millions of people. One of the top-ranked schools of public health in the United States, GSPH was the first fully accredited school of public health in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, with alumni who are among the leaders in their fields of public health. A member of the Association of Schools of Public Health, GSPH currently ranks third among schools of public health in National Institutes of Health funding received. The only school of public health in the nation with a chair in minority health, GSPH is a leader in research related to women’s health, HIV/AIDS and human genetics, among others. For more information about GSPH, visit the GSPH Web site at

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