Read the press release: U.S. Ambassador Dr. John Nkengasong awarded Prestigious Virchow Prize for Global Health
I am humbled and honored to receive the Virchow Prize for Global Health. What drives me today and has driven me throughout my career in public health over the past 30 years is a need to serve the underprivileged and vulnerable populations by eliminating inequities in global health. Growing up in my country of birth, Cameroon, I experienced firsthand and very personally what it means to be vulnerable to disease threats. I frequently suffered from malaria episodes, any one of which could have taken my life because access to basic medicine was limited. I am fortunate, I survived, but millions have not.
My experience in Cameroon was the catalyst for my commitment to bridging inequities in global health. Early in my global health journey, it became clear to me that the lack of strong public health institutions and systems are a serious impediment to health equity, so I have focused my public health work mainly in being a pioneer in building and strengthening sustainable public health institutions and systems, including the first U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s state of the art HIV laboratory in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire and the agency’s first International Laboratory Branch with the first-ever internationally accredited HIV laboratories to serve U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) goals; establishing the African Society for Laboratory Medicine; the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention; and building on the achievements of the Ambassadors who came before me, we are on the cusp of monumental progress in the HIV/AIDS response through PEPFAR.
It is with deep gratitude that I accept this award, which is named after the great scientist Rudolf Virchow – a noble prize nominee. His work advanced global health during his time through today. I share his commitment to improving the lives and wellbeing of the world’s most vulnerable and I will continue to dedicate my time and energy to that effort.
I have asked the Virchow Foundation to donate the generous prize’s monetary award to organizations on the continent of sub-Saharan Africa to help address health inequities among vulnerable populations.
Ambassador Dr. John N. Nkengasong serves as the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy at the U.S. Department of State.