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State public health award named for Schaffner

Sep. 18, 2014, 9:55 AM

The Tennessee Public Health Association and the Tennessee Medical Association are collaborating to establish the “William Schaffner, M.D., Public Health Hero Award,” to be presented annually to an individual who has demonstrated extraordinary efforts in the advancement of public health in Tennessee.

William Schaffner, M.D.

Both organizations will invite their members to submit nominees for the award each year 60 days prior to the annual meeting of the hosting organization. A committee consisting of three members from each organization will select a winner. The award will be presented at the annual meetings of the two organizations in alternating years.

The inaugural award was presented to Schaffner, professor of Preventive Medicine, during the TPHA annual meeting at its award luncheon on Sept. 11.

“Dr. Schaffner has made countless contributions to the fields of science, medicine and public health. But perhaps his most important, yet least well known, impact is reflected in the many individuals for whom he has served as a gifted teacher and mentor, patiently and logically introducing them to the intricacies of epidemiology, infectious disease control and public health,” said TPHA Executive Director Doris Spain.

“Building upon this foundation, these individuals have established wide-ranging and significant careers as physicians, epidemiologists and public health professionals. Through their efforts, Bill’s powerful influence continues to impact public health not only in Tennessee, but also around the world.”

Schaffner’s career has touched the public in many ways, from creating new infectious diseases science, translating the science into progressive health policy and communicating these advances to the public via the news media.

He established Nashville’s first major hospital infection control program, was a member of the American Hospital Association committee that provided guidelines for hospitals to care for AIDS patients safely and effectively, and worked with a trainee to provide the first documentation that child car restraints profoundly reduced infant and child injuries and deaths in car crashes. Tennessee was the first state to mandate the use of child restraint seats in cars.

A strong advocate of collaboration between academic medical centers and public health institutions, Schaffner has consulted with the Tennessee Department of Health in teaching, collaborating on policy and responding to infectious disease outbreaks for more than four decades.

“I am both humbled and gratified by this distinctive recognition,” Schaffner said of the award. “We all strive to develop healthier communities for all who live in Tennessee, and I look forward to celebrating the good works of future awardees.”

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