Honoring Dr. Offit: Energizer and Humanitarian
Jul 08, 2011

I guess I could compare Dr. Paul Offit to an Energizer bunny.  Not to say he is fluffy in any way.  I mean this with absolutely no disrespect.  It’s just that he is a man on a mission that just keeps on going and going – and giving as well.

As Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and the Director of the Vaccine Education Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, he certainly has plenty to keep him busy.  Dr. Offit is also the Maurice R. Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology and a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.  As if that isn’t enough, he has authored several medical narratives and holds frequent speaking engagements in which he addresses the benefits of life-saving immunizations.

While committed to all of these positions, Dr. Offit continues to take on new challenges as well.  Therefore, it is not surprising to hear that he was recently honored with the Biotechnology Industry Organization’s 2011 Biotech Humanitarian Award. BIO, the trade organization representing the life sciences industry, established the Humanitarian Award in 2009 to “recognize everyday heroes within the biotechnology community who have helped heal, fuel and feed the planet through their work.”  According to the Philadelphia Business Journal, Jim Greenwood, president and CEO of BIO, explains how Dr. Offit exemplifies these qualities.

“[Dr. Offit’s] personal endeavors in developing one of only two rotavirus vaccines available today, his dedication to bringing awareness to the benefits of vaccinating children and his work at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, can be credited with saving countless lives every day.”

“Through his innovative science, exceptional work as an advocate and ability to communicate complicated concepts in a direct and easy-to-understand manner, Dr. Offit epitomizes what we look for in a biotech humanitarian.”

In applauding Dr. Offit on this award, I wanted to share with you my impressions of the man on the few occasions when I’ve had the pleasure to meet him.

When you meet someone as accomplished as Dr. Offit, it’s surprising to realize how humble they can be, as I  immediately recognized when first having met Dr. Offit.  Despite the continuous threats and harassment he receives from anti-vaccine activists, his courage is unwavering and his passionate convictions quite impressive.   It has also been refreshing to witness his genuine sense of humor, as seen in his appearance on  Comedy Central’s Colbert Report.  These simple observations speak more about his true character than any job title on his resume.

I believe he received this honorable humanitarian award because each day he marches on – like that Energizer bunny – in hopes of saving children’s lives.  Fortunately, he is not only an intelligent doctor, but he has a fascinating ability to explain even the most complicated scientific matters with such eloquence that he can be credited for helping countless people understand the complexities of immunizations. Clearly, he is recognized as one of the most active and passionate vaccine advocates in the medical community today and while he beats his drum of vaccine truths – day after day – his message is clearly being heard.

I – for one – am grateful for the energy he has.  What he does, he does with grace, and he generously gives of his precious time, talent and treasures.  Just as he has generously donated the royalties from the sale of his books Autism’s False Prophets and Deadly Choices to autism research, he is also donating the award’s $10,000 prize to CHOP’s Vaccine Education Center.

We can only hope that the children – whose lives are spared through immunizations – will one day recognize Dr. Offit as the great humanitarian he is.  He is completely committed to improving the lives of other people, and while he may never become a household name, perhaps students of medicine and public health will recognize him as a fearless example of a great humanitarian as well as a compassionate advocate of sound science that inspires others and further enhances our health and well-being.

Thank you Dr. Offit for all you have done, and continue to do.  There are so many people who are so very grateful.

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