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Schaffner honored by Houston Academy of Medicine

Jan. 28, 2016, 9:49 AM

The Houston Academy of Medicine and Harris County Medical Society awarded William Schaffner, M.D., professor of Preventive Medicine, with the 2016 John P. McGovern Compleat Physician Award last week.

William Schaffner, M.D.

The national award is presented annually to recognize a physician who exemplifies the ideals of Sir. William Osler — medical excellence, humane and ethical care, commitment to medical humanities and writing, research and harmony between the academic and medical practitioner.

It is named after its first recipient, John P. McGovern, M.D., who founded the American Osler Society.

“Dr. Schaffner is a remarkable Renaissance physician whose innovative contributions have saved countless lives,” said Russell W.H. Kridel, M.D., a judge for the McGovern Award and former Harris County Medical Society president.

“Bridging medical disciplines, ranging from inaugurating infection control in hospitals to significantly advancing the science of infectious disease, and then translating the science into progressive health policy and advocating for the public, he truly embodies the remarkable traditions of Sir William Osler and personifies the Compleat Physician. It is an honor to present Dr. Schaffner with the John P. McGovern Compleat Physician Award.”

Schaffner’s contributions have spanned the spectrum, ranging from creating new infectious disease science, translating the science into progressive health policy and advocating for the advances with the public.

He chaired Vanderbilt’s Department of Preventive Medicine for more than 30 years, was chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases for seven years, was medical director of the clinical microbiology laboratory for 11 years, and led Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s infection control program for 35 years.

Schaffner is one of the pioneers in infection control at hospitals, establishing the first major hospital infection control program in Nashville, which has become the standard of excellence. He and his team taught infection control personnel in Nashville and Tennessee hospitals, contributing to safer hospital admissions for thousands of patients over the years.

When HIV/AIDS was first on the scene in the 1980s, Schaffner co-authored the American Hospital Association’s guidebook, “Management of HIV Infection in the Hospital,” which became the “Bible” of safe practice for health care workers across the country.

As an advocate of childhood vaccinations, he has worked closely with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to monitor disease threats and be a public educator on disease prevention. For the past 15 years, Schaffner has moderated the annual press conference that inaugurates the year’s influenza vaccination season.

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