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CLF Director Robert Lawrence Receives APHA’s Highest Honor


Robert S. Lawrence

Robert S. Lawrence, MD, director of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future (CLF), has been presented with the Sedgwick Award Medal for Distinguished Service in Public Health, the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) oldest and most prestigious award. The award was established to recognize distinguished service to public health. Lawrence was presented with the award at the Public Health Awards Reception & Ceremony on November 11 in Philadelphia, Penn., at the close of APHA’s 137th Annual Meeting and Exposition.

“Dr. Lawrence has worked to expand access to health care to the poor and racial minorities in the United States, investigated and promoted human rights internationally, taught and established programs in human rights and public health and provided cutting-edge leadership on the intersection of agricultural policy and environmental protection,” said APHA executive director Georges Benjamin, MD, FACP, FACEP.

“APHA could not have selected a better recipient for this award. Throughout his career, Bob Lawrence has been an inspiration to thousands of students and worked tirelessly to promote policies that protect health, the global environment and sustain life for future generations,” said Michael J. Klag, MD, MPH, dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“I am deeply honored by this award and especially humbled to be sharing this recognition with previous Hopkins recipients Wade Hampton Frost, Abel Wolman, and Fred Soper,” Lawrence said.

In addition to directing CLF, Lawrence is the Center for a Livable Future Professor in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Environmental Health Sciences and professor of Health Policy and Management and International Health. He is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Medical School, and he trained in internal medicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He has also served as a clinical fellow for the British Medical Research Council Rheumatism Unit in Taplow, England.

Lawrence began his teaching career in 1970 as assistant professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina. He has taught at Harvard Medical School, where he was the founding director of the Division of Primary Care, at New York University, and at Johns Hopkins.

Among his hospital appointments, Lawrence served as attending physician at North Carolina Memorial Hospital in Chapel Hill, clinical associate in medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, attending physician at the Beth Israel Hospital, and chief of medicine at Cambridge Hospital. Bringing his skills to health policy, Lawrence served as director of health sciences at the Rockefeller Foundation and has regularly advised philanthropists on global health matters. He chaired the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force from 1984 to 1989, served on the task force from 1990 to 1995 and currently serves as a consultant to the Task Force on Community Preventive Services at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Lawrence co-founded Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and has participated in human rights investigations on behalf of that group or others in Chile, Czechoslovakia, Egypt, El Salvador, Guatemala, Kosovo, the Philippines and South Africa. In 1997, he was a member of a delegation of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and PHR invited by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa to testify about human rights abuses in the health sector during the apartheid era.

Physicians for Human Rights president Leonard S. Rubenstein, JD, credits Lawrence with helping the group bring a human rights perspective to such issues as HIV/AIDS, the health work force crisis in Africa, racial health disparities in the United States and discrimination against and marginalization of women that leads to ill health.

In 1996, Lawrence became the founding director of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. CLF is an interdisciplinary group of faculty and staff that focuses attention on equity, health and the Earth’s resources. CLF’s research, education, and advocacy examine the relationships among diet, food production systems, the environment and human health.

Lawrence’s many publications have touched on such issues as promoting social justice through education in public health, sustainable agriculture, cancer screening and nutrition. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine and has been recognized for his excellence with a founders’ award from the Society of General Internal Medicine, a special recognition award from the Association of Teachers of Preventive Medicine, the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Prize, Mastership in the American College of Physicians, and the Sidney Zubrow Award from the Pennsylvania Hospital, among other honors.

The Sedgwick Award Medal has been awarded by APHA since 1929 for distinguished service and advancement of public health knowledge and practice, and was established in honor of the late Professor William Thompson Sedgwick, who was president of the APHA in 1915 and head of the Department of Biology and Public Health at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1883 to 1921.

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