News Release: Research , School of Public Health

May 17,  2010

Emory Global Health Institute Partners with WHO to Commemorate Smallpox Eradication

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Dr. Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), today unveiled a bronze statue on the WHO grounds in Geneva, Switzerland, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the eradication of smallpox. On May 8, 1980, the World Health Assembly declared that the goal of global smallpox eradication had been achieved.

The Emory Global Health Institute in Atlanta has served as home for the SEC2010 Secretariat for the commemoration events and three related projects. These include the commissioning of the monument, the publication of an illustrated history of smallpox and its eradication, and an international symposium in August 2010 examining the legacy of eradication.

The SEC2010 is a volunteer effort of former smallpox eradication workers from around the world. The Secretariat is directed by Jean Roy and funded by the Fund of the Tides Foundation.

The eradication of smallpox has been called one of the greatest achievements in public health. Plaques in front of the statue in Geneva, written in the six official languages of WHO, note that this victory was made possible by all nations working together.

Learn about the Global Health Chronicles.

"The Emory Global Health Institute has been honored to partner with the WHO and veterans of smallpox eradication to organize these commemoration events," says Jeffrey P. Koplan, MD, MPH, vice president for global health and director of the Emory Global Health Institute. "Smallpox eradication was a monumental, worldwide public health effort and it is fitting that this achievement should be celebrated and chronicled in a number of ways."

Koplan, who is former director and a 26-year veteran of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, began his public health career working to eradicate smallpox in Bangladesh.

The designer and sculptor of the bronze statue is Martin Williams from Swansea, Wales. The selection was made through an international design competition in early 2009. The statue was paid for by donors through a fundraising effort by former smallpox eradication workers. It pays homage to all those involved, including governments, health care workers, donor agencies, non-governmental organizations, commercial firms, and people who themselves lived in the infected villages and areas. The statue also highlights the "bifurcated needle" developed by a Wyeth Laboratory scientist. The needle was a new and simple tool that was used to effectively vaccinate millions of people during the last years of the global eradication campaign.

With support from Sanofi Pasteur, Vestergaard Frandsen, and others, an 80-page illustrated history of smallpox eradication was published in April and will be distributed at the unveiling ceremony in Geneva. The book is dedicated to the hundreds of thousands of national and international health workers from more than 70 countries, and to the scientists, manufacturers, policy makers, and funders who made smallpox eradication possible.

An international symposium, "Smallpox Eradication After 30 Years: Lessons, Legacies, and Innovations," will take place August 24-27 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The symposium is coordinated by the Sabin Vaccine Institute. Registration and more information are available at

Last October Emory University sponsored the launch of the online Global Health Chronicles, an archive hosted by Emory University Libraries. The Chronicles contains historic video and audio interviews, photos, presentations and government papers that document the intense battle to eradicate smallpox. The Global Health Chronicles are available at

For more information about the Smallpox Eradication Commemoration 2010, visit


The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service.

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