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David Sencer

Global public health champion dies


David Sencer

David Sencer, the longest-serving director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and one of the leaders of the U.S. contribution to the smallpox campaign, died Monday at age 86.

The New York Times quoted Bill Foege, Sencer’s friend and successor as CDC chief, now a senior adviser to the Gates Foundation:

“He said you couldn’t protect U.S. citizens from smallpox without getting rid of it in the world, and that was a new approach,” said Foege, who helped lead the smallpox effort in the field and developed the eradication strategy. “People in the field got all the praise, but he was the unsung hero.”

As a journalist who has covered public health issues for decades, I had many occasions to talk with Dave. He was not always well treated by the media and, in my opinion, was blamed for some public health mishaps he could not have anticipated or controlled. Continue reading