OBOC 2009-10


Shared experiences

In 2009, Pitt Public Health concluded its inaugural One Book, One Community program with a lecture by D. A. Henderson, author of Smallpox: The Death of a Disease, which chronicles the 10-year effort to eradicate smallpox, considered one of the greatest achievements in the history of public health. Through the generosity of The Pittsburgh Foundation, all new students were provided with a signed copy of the book. All members of the Pitt Public Health community were invited to join together in reading and discussing the book.

The program included small group discussion sessions led by faculty and the culminating event was a question and answer presentation led by Henderson.


“It provided a great way to link history with what could possibly happen in the future."

“I just thought it was amazing how relatively inexpensive the eradication process was for smallpox. I also think it's amazing how the eradication happened in such a short amount of time.”

“It was just an amazing honor to have him come speak to us. There was definitely a "wow" factor involved in wanting to meet him for me. It would have been really wonderful to have an extended Q&A with him. He also came across as extremely humble and good humored, a true hero and inspiration.”

“In D.A. Henderson the world found an unlikely hero. He was brought into governmental public health by chance, but was trained by Dr. Alexander Langmuir which instilled in him a dedication to field experience, understanding observations and disease surveillance. If Director-General Marcelino Candau wished for smallpox eradication to fail on an American’s watch, he should not have chosen such an able servant to humanity.”

“I believe in Dr Henderson’s most resounding message and advice for those of us embarking on our journeys within public health in a world of extraordinary challenge and opportunity – we must bring with us fresh, resourceful ideas and the mindset that we are not constrained by “knowing” what cannot be done.”

“I was surprised to learn of the disparagement that the vast majority of the WHO had for the early eradication campaign.”

“What a great guy! After watching and listening his speech I thought back to passages I had read in the book, and I could see and hear him giving life to the story. The perspective from which he wrote the book created an excellent read. To have him speak with us was an extra perk!”

“I just found it astonishing that a man can talk about the eradication of a worldwide pandemic. It was both hard to grasp and inspiring.”

“In the small group discussion there were students from BCHS like myself, IDM students, EPI students and an HPM student. Many different perspectives discussing Dr Henderson's book.”

“I was just really impressed with the perseverance shown by thousands around the globe to make the eradication successful. Even though there were many who did not think it was feasible, and there were many roadblocks during the program, Dr. Henderson and his team never gave up and changed history.”

“The fact that if he were to do it all again he would involve more young people in the field; this gave me inspiration because it sometimes seems as if PH is a very "experienced" driven field.”

“I just found it astonishing that a man can talk about the eradication of a worldwide pandemic. It was both hard to grasp and inspiring.”