Mathu Santosham, MD, MPH, has received the Prince Mahidol Award 2017 in the field of Public Health, which recognizes “outstanding contribution in the field of public health for the sake of the well-being of the peoples.”
Santosham, who serves as Director Emeritus of the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health and Special Advisor in the International Vaccine Access Center at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, has been recognized for his landmark scientific contribution to the control of Hib and pneumococcal disease around the world.
The Prince Mahidol Award was established in 1992 to honor the late Prince Mahidol of Songka, the Royal Father of His Majesty the King of Thailand. Prince Mahidol modernized medical services and education in Thailand and is known to the country as the “Father of Modern Medicine and Public Health.” Dr. Santosham will jointly receive the award with Professor Porter Warren Anderson Jr., Dr. Rachel Schneerson, and Dr. John B. Robbins.
Santosham has been a pioneer of the Hib scientific field in a 30-year campaign to understand the global burden and epidemiology in various populations. He worked on pivotal efficacy studies in high-risk populations enabling the licensure of Hib conjugate vaccine for infants. Over the past decade, Santosham has served as a leader in global, regional, and country-focused post-licensure work that moved evidence to policy and onward to implementation and scale-up, ensuring that children around the world, especially those most in need, had access to these life-saving vaccines.
As of 2017, 190 countries (98% of all) countries in the world now include Hib conjugate vaccine and 140 (72%) countries include pneumococcal conjugate vaccine in their routine infant immunization programs. In 1990, less than 30 years ago, no country was using these vaccines. It is estimated that over 3 million deaths will have been averted from 2000 through 2020, and millions more in the decades to follow, because of Hib conjugate and pneumococcal conjugate vaccines. An incalculable burden of morbidity is not captured in these numbers: devastating consequences children often suffer following meningitis, pneumonia, and sepsis.
Supporting letters from leading experts extolled Santosham’s “compassion, humility, integrity, and humanitarianism.”
Previous winners of the Prince Mahidol Award from the School of Public Health include former chair of International Health Robert Black, MD, MPH in 2011 for his work studying the impact of daily zinc supplementation on diarrhea and pneumonia in Bangladesh, India, Peru, and Zanzibar; Alfred Sommer, MD, MHS in 1997 for his vitamin A discoveries; former dean D.A. Henderson, MD, MPH in 2015 for his leadership of the World Health Organization’s global smallpox eradication campaign; and former chair of the Department of Epidemiology Jonathan Samet, MD, MS in 2014 for his role in protecting the public’s health from air pollution.