Oct. 28 2014

Jack Geiger Receives Frank A. Calderone Prize in Public Health

A Career Spent Illuminating “Inextricable Links Between Human Rights and Health”

Public health’s most prestigious honor, the Frank A. Calderone Prize, was presented this morning to H. Jack Geiger, MD, founding member and past president of Physicians for Social Responsibility and Physicians for Human Rights. Dean Linda P. Fried of the Mailman School of Public Health presented the award at a morning ceremony at the Paley Center for Media in Midtown.

Dr. Geiger, who is also Arthur C. Logan Professor of Community Medicine Emeritus, City University of New York Medical School, designed the community health center model in the United States. Illustrating the direct relationship between poverty and poor health, Dr. Geiger built a national network that provides high-quality healthcare to 23 million people at more than 1,200 centers around the country. Although the first two community health centers were in the Mississippi Delta and in Boston, Dr. Geiger’s work brought him as far as South Africa, the West Bank, and Yugoslavia during times of political strife, demonstrating that population health would always lag among groups who struggle for freedom.
At the award ceremony, Dr. Geiger delivered an original lecture entitled, “The Political Future of Public Health in a Time of Demographic Change,” arguing that public health must enter the political arena equipped with activist tools from recent history: “Our task is to aggressively use all the ways we can find to tell the public the facts we know about the causes and processes that link poverty and health and, in multiple ways, damage our society.”
Administered by the Mailman School, the Calderone Prize has been awarded to public health luminaries since 1992. Previous winners include Peter Piot, MD, former Executive Director, UNAIDS, and Under Secretary-General, United Nations; Mary Robinson, MA, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and former President of Ireland; and Nafis Sadik, MD, Special Advisor to the Secretary-General of the UN and former Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund.
In her remarks, Dean Fried, called Dr. Geiger a public health legend belonging to an entire generation. “In a career spanning more than five decades and every continent, he has demonstrated the inextricable links between human rights and health. His work has been foundational, for his fellow researchers and students, for clinicians, and for countless human lives, he has saved through affirmation and advocacy.”
The Calderone Prize is awarded every two years to an individual who has made a transformational contribution in the field, with selection by an international committee of public health leaders. Its namesake, Frank A. Calderone, had a distinguished career in public health, leading him from the New York City Department of Health to important posts at the World Health Organization. Instrumental in shaping the WHO’s policies and structure, he also raised support for its continued operation. In 1986, the Calderone family established this prize to mark Frank Calderone’s lifelong commitment and recognize exceptional public health leaders.

About Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health

Founded in 1922, Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health pursues an agenda of research, education, and service to address the critical and complex public health issues affecting New Yorkers, the nation and the world. The Mailman School is the third largest recipient of NIH grants among schools of public health. Its over 450 multi-disciplinary faculty members work in more than 100 countries around the world, addressing such issues as preventing infectious and chronic diseases, environmental health, maternal and child health, health policy, climate change & health, and public health preparedness. It is a leader in public health education with over 1,300 graduate students from more than 40 nations pursuing a variety of master’s and doctoral degree programs. The Mailman School is also home to numerous world-renowned research centers including ICAP (formerly the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs) and the Center for Infection and Immunity. For more information, please visit www.mailman.columbia.edu.