President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) conferred the prestigious Order of Brilliant Star with Grand Cordon upon Donald Henderson yesterday for his contributions to public health.
Henderson, a professor of public health and medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, spearheaded the WHO’s global smallpox eradication campaign from 1966 to 1977. Thanks to his work, smallpox is the first and only infectious disease to have been eradicated from nature through human efforts, according to the WHO’s Web site.
In his acceptance speech, Henderson, who served as a technical consultant to the Executive Yuan for six years, said he is grateful to have had the experience of working with many Taiwanese public health leaders and academics, and that he has great respect for Taiwan and its health experts.
Henderson, who served as dean of the School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University for 14 years, added that he has met many Taiwanese graduate students who had or still hold important positions in Taiwan’s public health arena.
He said a country’s public health emergency-response ability is the foundation for combating biological and natural disasters.
Particularly in the face of new infectious diseases such as the new strains of the influenza virus, demand for efficient and effective public health crisis relief is greater than ever, he said.
The Order of Brilliant Star with Grand Cordon is a civic medal that is bestowed upon officials, as well as local and foreign nationals in the private sector, who have made significant contributions to Taiwan.