Woodson Keynote Webinar Series

Steve Luby

Previous Woodson Keynote Webinars

"Preventing Human Extinction as a Public Health Priority"

Watch a recording of the presentation by Stephen Luby, M.D., Professor, Associate Dean of Global Health Research at Stanford University School of Medicine 

Dr. Luby discussed how multiple threats including armed conflict, synthetic pathogens, and artificial superintelligence could lead to human extinction by the end of the century. The global public health community should take these threats seriously and work to prevent them.

For the last 30 years Dr. Stephen Luby’s research efforts have engaged a broad array of health issues in low-income countries. Dr. Luby currently serves as the Director for Research of Stanford University’s Center for Innovation in Global Health. He is also appointed as a Professor of Medicine of Infectious Diseases and a Senior Fellow to Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment and the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. Earlier in his career he lived in Pakistan for 5 years and Bangladesh for 8 years. Dr. Luby is a prolific researcher who by working closely with local collaborators has conducted extensive work assessing pandemic risks and strategies to reduce these risks. He teaches a popular course to Stanford freshman entitled “Preventing Human Extinction.” 


My Adventures over 50 years in Global Public Health: Meningitis, HIV, Ebola, Chronic diseases, and COVID-19 

Watch a recording of the presentation by Joseph B. McCormick, M.D., Professor & James H. Steele, D.V.M. Professorship, UTHealth School of Public Health in Brownsville, on Feb. 23, 2022. 

Joseph McCormick

“My Adventures over 50 years in Global Public Health: Meningitis, HIV, Ebola, Chronic diseases, and COVID-19," Joseph B. McCormick, M.D. - Professor & James H. Steele, D.V.M. Professorship, UTHealth School of Public Health in Brownsville

Joseph B. McCormick was the founding Dean at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health. He was dean for over 18 years and is currently holds a James H. Steele, D.V.M. Professorship at the UTHealth School of Public Health in Brownsville. He earned bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and mathematics from Florida Southern College, an MS from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and an MD from Duke University School of Medicine.  

Dr. McCormick’s tenured career spans decades, countries, and organizations. He is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, a member of several scientific organizations, has published hundreds of scientific publications, and worked with co-authors from over 20 different countries.  

Dr. McCormick and his wife Susan published an account of their journeys tracking viruses in: Level 4: Virus Hunters of the CDC, which has been published in eight languages.  


Dr. Paul McKinney, SPHIS Professor and Associate Dean for Research; Director of the University of Louisville Center for Health Hazards Preparedness; Acting Chair, Dept. of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, shares his reflection on the third installment of the Woodson Keynote Webinar Series: “My Adventures over 50 years in Global Public Health: Meningitis, HIV, Ebola, Chronic diseases, and COVID-19."

"Meningogoccal meningitis, Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever, Lassa Fever, Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever…the names top the list of the most feared and frequently lethal diseases known to humanity. These were the everyday domain of our February 23 Woodson Keynote Webinar Series speaker, Dr. Joseph McCormick. 

A native of the Kentuckiana region who grew up in the Georgetown, IN area, graduated from Duke University Medical School, received his MS degree from the Harvard School of Public Health, and completed his residency at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and later the EIS program at CDC, Dr. McCormick began his international experience by teaching calculus to high school students in Zaire, the former name of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He was to use his understanding of Zaire gained by that activity in future years while trying to define the virus responsible for a hemorrhagic fever outbreak there and in southern Sudan. Only later would it be confirmed that this was due to Ebola virus.  He was also heavily involved in researching Lassa Fever in field hospitals in Sierra Leone. What amazed me possibly more than anything else was his willingness to explore these lethal pathogens with limited personal protective equipment and with the most rudimentary of laboratory equipment. These two agents are considered Level 4 biothreats in the US, requiring the highest level precautions while working with them in a lab setting, i.e. biological isolation garments with a self-contained breathing apparatus. What he did not explain in his talk, but what is revealed in his book, Level 4: Virus Hunters of the CDC, is that his hand slipped while drawing blood from a suspected patient, and he stuck himself with a needle.  This immediately put him at potential risk for Ebola and was a cause for great concern and a lot of contingency planning.  Needless to say, he survived this and numerous other threats to life and health during his virus hunting activities in the field and continued his work stateside in CDC labs on his return.  Along the course of his research and patient care, he acquired abilities in seven languages including Krio, a creole tongue of Sierra Leone, as well as Atetala and Lingala, two Bantu languages.

Following his career at CDC, he held academic positions in Pakistan and France before moving to the University of Texas School of Public Health’s Brownsville campus as Regional Dean. Here, I was again impressed with his ability to transition easily to mainstream public health activities, this time studying chronic diseases in populations along the US-Mexican border. He clearly has made important contributions to improving life of residents of the area through enhancement of community health, clinical research activities, and teaching in the Rio Grande Valley. 

Dr. McCormick is the complete package in public health, a researcher in remote areas of the developing world, the lab, the clinic and in the community, an outstanding teacher, and an esteemed leader of an academic institution. He does this with a cheerful demeanor and remains very active in all of these areas, even with his 80th birthday approaching later this year. The definition of public health hero varies from person to person, but he certainly qualifies for that designation in my opinion. His presentation is definitely worth viewing if you didn’t see it live or visiting it a second time if you did."


Adolescents and HIV: A Hidden Population in Need of Prevention Services

Watch a recording of the presentation by Dr. Ralph DiClemente, Professor and Chair, Dept. of Social & Behavioral Sciences; Professor, Dept. of Epidemiology; Associate Dean, Public Health Innovation, New York University School of Global Public Health, on Dec. 01, 2021. 

In recognition of World AIDS Day, Dr. Ralph DiClemente will focus on adolescent HIV risk and discuss advances in behavior change technology (e.g., the Apple watch, mobile devices, e-Health).

Ralph DiClemente, Ph.D. – Professor and Chair, Dept. of Social & Behavioral Sciences; Professor, Dept. of Epidemiology; Associate Dean, Public Health Innovation, New York University School of Global Public Health, is the second speaker in our Woodson Keynote Webinar Series. He will present on December 1, 2021, in recognition of World Aids Day.

Before joining NYU, Dr. DiClemente was the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Public Health at the Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. At Emory University, he held concurrent appointments as Professor in the School of Medicine, the Department of Pediatrics.. Dr. DiClemente was Past President, Georgia chapter, Society for Adolescent Health & Medicine, and served as a member of the NIH Office of AIDS Research Advisory Council, the CDC Board of Scientific Counselors, and the NIMH Advisory Council. Dr. DiClemente’s research has three foci: (1) developing interventions to reduce the risk of HIV/STD among vulnerable adolescents and young adult women; (2) developing interventions to enhance vaccine uptake among high-risk adolescents and women, such as the HPV vaccine; and (3) developing implementation science interventions to improve the uptake, adoption, and sustainability of HIV/STD prevention programs in the community.  He has developed 10 CDC-defined evidence-based interventions for vulnerable adolescents, young women, and men that CDC, SAMSHA, HHS have disseminated, domestically and globally. He has authored more than 600 peer-review publications and wrote or edited 20 books on HIV prevention, community-based research, research methods, adolescent health, global health promotion.


Dr. Jelani Kerr, Associate Professor in the Dept. of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences, shares his reflection on the second installment of the Woodson Keynote Webinar Series: “Adolescents and HIV: A Hidden Population in need of Prevention Services.”

"In commemoration of World AIDS Day, the School of Public Health and Information Sciences hosted renowned NYU professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Ralph DiClemente, for the Woodson Keynote Webinar Series. Those who work in the HIV field, particularly in the realm of health promotion, are no doubt familiar with Dr. DiClemente or have been exposed to his work.  During his lecture, Dr. DiClemente focused on means and strategies to address HIV and Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among a population that is at alarming risk yet receives too little attention – adolescents. The stats are concerning. Half of all new STD infections in the US are among people ages 13-24 years old. 1 An estimated 21% of new HIV cases are found among this age group.2 Viral suppression (having undetectable amounts of HIV in the bloodstream), has implications for both survival and preventing HIV transmission, but it is disturbingly low (12%) in this age group. Clearly intervention is needed on many fronts. Thus Dr. DiClemente detailed the implementation of several health education programs (i.e., SISTA, Project iMPPACS, Horizons) designed to reduce risk for young people. The resulting data are clear: sexual risk reduction education works. This is especially true with the use of relatable in-person or virtual facilitators, an emphasis on proven-effective risk reduction strategies, and discourse that goes beyond availability of prevention tools to actually engaging in communication and negotiation around their usage in “real world” scenarios. Perhaps most interesting however, is the adaptation of sexual risk reduction programming in a continuously and rapidly evolving technological landscape. Offerings emphasizing digital versions of established programs and mobile/phone-based health coaching augments to existing programs have potential for reducing HIV/STI for many young people. The challenge, however, is scaling that which is known to be effective in a climate of competing interests and resources.  

Overall, HIV rates are declining in the US. Nevertheless, the over-representation of young people affected by HIV and STIs remains concerning. A forward moving approach to addressing these challenges means incorporating a variety of interventions including increasing access to healthcare, pre-exposure prophylaxis, treatment as prevention, evidence-based sexual health education, and expanding the reach of effective community-engaged approaches to risk reduction. The question is whether there are resources and the will to ensure this happens."

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Diseases: Adolescents and Young Adults. https://www.cdc.gov/std/life-stages-populations/adolescents-youngadults.htm. Accessed December 9, 2021.

2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV and Youth: HIV Incidence. https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/group/age/youth/incidence.html. Accessed December 9, 2021.


COVID-19:  Public health action in a partisan environment

Watch a recording of this webinar presented by Sten H. Vermund, MD, PhD, Dean of the Yale School of Public Health on Oct. 20, 2021.

Description: Public health can be controversial when vested commercial interests clash with health and wellness, as the environmental health community knows all too well. Many were surprised, however, when COVID-19 became a partisan issue, from stay-to-home orders to masks to vaccines.  Dr. Vermund will discuss his own experiences as an infectious disease epidemiologist and pediatrician, will review the historical roots of this conflict, and propose strategies for mitigating the harm that is wrought from public policies that are incoherent or antithetical to disease control and prevention. He will invite debate and alternative points of view.

Sten Vermund

Speaker: Sten H. Vermund, MD, PhD, is Dean of the Yale School of Public Health, Anna M.R. Lauder Professor of Public Health, and Professor of Pediatrics at the Yale School of Medicine.  He is a pediatrician and infectious disease epidemiologist focused on diseases of low and middle-income countries, and on health disparities in the U.S. Recent work has included COVID-19 control and prevention and helping capacitate the new National Institute of Public Health in Chad. Dr. Vermund is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and a Fellow of the AAAS. Prior to joining Yale in 2017, Dr. Vermund worked for 29 years south of the Mason-Dixon line at NIH, UAB, and Vanderbilt.


Dr. Paul McKinney, SPHIS Professor and Associate Dean for Research; Director of the University of Louisville Center for Health Hazards Preparedness; Acting Chair, Dept. of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, shares his reflection on the first installment of the Woodson Keynote Webinar Series: “COVID-19: PUBLIC HEALTH ACTION IN A PARTISAN ENVIRONMENT”

Restoring Community Trust in Public Health

“The recent webinar delivered by Dr. Sten Vermund, Dean of the Yale School of Public Health, highlighted the critical need for messaging about critical public health issues to be delivered by trusted members of the community to those who are hesitant to adopt essential measures for control of the current pandemic, particularly acceptance of the COVID vaccines.  Apparently, in Connecticut as well as in Kentucky, the general public does not automatically accept recommendations from the academic or governmental sides of public health.  He stated that, in one midwestern state, public health was able to identify an effective voice of support in a non-health professional who identified strongly with hesitant sectors of the community by virtue of being an ardent motorcycle enthusiast and having libertarian views on the role of government.  Nonetheless, he strongly supported the need for vaccination after a close member of his family contracted COVID-19.  It was felt that he was far more effective in getting the message across about the need for vaccination than professionally trained public health personnel who could be seen as over-reaching arms of government intervention.  In the same vein, Dr. Vermund noted that seeking out other trusted members of certain communities who could advocate for immunization was essential to turn the tide of vaccine hesitancy.  Depending on the community, those trusted persons could be barbers, hair stylists, pastors or others who could be seen as unbiased persons supporting the health and well-being of the community.

So, this raises the question of how we can increase the trust level of public health officials so that it’s at least equivalent to that of neighborhood barbers.  Barriers to achieving this goal may have to do, at least in part, with public health being seen as something that is imposed on the community rather than an expression of needs emerging within the community.  Episodic interaction only at the time of crises does not provide a suitable foundation for building of trust in governmental services.  Having regular, ongoing contact between public health personnel and the general public through community forums and other regular thought leader interaction should help to build the needed base of trusted relationship. I would be interested in what suggestions the student and faculty community may have about this issue.”



This series is sponsored by the School of Public Health & Information Sciences (SPHIS) and the SPHIS Student Government Association, with funding provided by the Woodson Lectureship Endowment.

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