Center for BiosecurityUPMC
2009 H1N1 Experience
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Background Reading
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The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

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Richard Besser image

Richard Besser

Dr. Besser joined ABC News in September as Senior Health and Medical Editor following a long career at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta. 

He served as Acting Director for the CDC and Acting Administrator for the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) from January through June 2009, during which time he led CDC′s response to the H1N1 influenza outbreak. For 4 years, he served as Director of the Coordinating Office for Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response (COTPER), assuming the lead of that organization hours before Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. COTPER is the primary CDC/ATSDR organization tasked with oversight of emergency preparedness, response, and protection for the nation from all threats to the public’s health; thus, Dr. Besser was responsible for all of CDC’s public health emergency preparedness and emergency response activities.

Dr. Besser began his career at CDC in the Epidemic Intelligence Service working on the epidemiology of foodborne diseases. He has served as Epidemiology Section Chief in the Respiratory Diseases Branch, Acting Chief of the Meningitis and Special Pathogens Branch in the National Center for Infectious Diseases, and Medical Director of Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work, CDC′s national campaign to promote appropriate antibiotic use in the community. He has worked extensively on the control of Legionnaire’s disease.

He has authored and coauthored hundreds of presentations, abstracts, chapters, editorials, and publications. He has received many awards for his work in public health and volunteer service, including the Surgeon General’s Medallion, the third highest award of the Public Health Service and the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, for his leadership during the H1N1 response.

Dr. Besser received his bachelor of arts degree in economics from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He completed a residency and chief residency in Pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.

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