Laurie Garrett

The 2001 DeHaan Lecture was given by

Laurie Garrett

Senior Vice President, GCI Tunheim

Opening Remarks by

Dr. James W. Curran

Dean, Rollins School of Public Health

Laurie Garrett

March 27, 2001
Rollins School of Public Health

Laurie Garrett is the only writer ever to have been awarded all three of the Big "Ps" of journalism: The Peabody, The Polk, and The Pulitzer. She is currently a science and medical reporter for Newsday and has authored two important books: The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance and Betrayal of Trust: The Collapse of Global Public Health.

Ms. Garrett started her career as a PhD student in the Department of Bacteriology and Immunology at the University of California, Berkeley, while also doing research at Stanford University in the laboratory of Dr. Leonard Herzenberg. During her studies she started reporting science news for KPFA, a local radio station, a hobby that drew her away from graduate school to explore journalism. In 1977 Ms. Garrett won the George Foster Peabody Award in Broadcasting for a documentary series she co-produced for KPFA with Adi Gevins.

After leaving KPFA, Ms. Garrett worked in the California Department of Food and Agriculture assessing the human health impacts of pesticide use, then went overseas to southern Europe and sub-Saharan Africa as a freelance reporter. In 1980 she joined National Public Radio, where she won several awards for her reporting. In 1988, Ms. Garrett left NPR to join the science writing staff at Newsday, and has continued her award-winning career in journalism. In 1996 Ms. Garrett won the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Journalism for "Ebola" and in 1998 won the George C. Polk Award for International Reporting for "Crumbled Empire, Shattered Health".

Ms. Garrett attended Harvard University as a visiting fellow in the Harvard School of Public Health during the academic year 1992-93. She has also contributed chapters to numerous books, written for many publications, and has appeared frequently on national television programs.

For more information about Laurie Garrett, please visit her web site:

From the Autumn 2001 issue of Public Health magazine.

Chronicling a Betrayal of Trust

The images were devastating: A Kenyan family-rail thin and dying together of AIDS; hundreds of young Russians shooting IV drugs in a park on a gray winter day; a village populated solely by AIDS orphans on the banks of Africa's Lake Victoria.

Journalist Laurie Garrett flashed these slides across a big screen last spring as she delivered, in typical high-impact fashion, the Virginia S. DeHaan Lecture on Health Promotion and Education. Garrett, a science and medical reporter for Newsday and a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, urged public health workers to stay true to their population-based roots.

"Medicalizing public health problems can be disastrous...," she said. "AIDS became a 'medicalized' problem-first with the advent of AZT and in 1996 with HAART drugs. This shifted the epidemic in this country from one viewed as a collective disaster to one seen as an individual treatment paradigm."

Meanwhile, the AIDS epidemic has spread unchecked in sub-Saharan Africa, where there is little or no access to treatments. In the South African state of Kwazulu Natal, 45% of the adult population is estimated to be HIV positive, Garrett said. At the University of Nairobi in Kenya, a recent study showed that 30 percent of students there are HIV positive. "If this were the case in America, wouldn't we have declared it an international catastrophe?" she asked.

Scientists must work to understand why the disease has spread so rapidly in some areas and not in others, she said. "West Africa is successfully holding its HIV rates down, while in the east and south the epidemics keep growing in truly mind-boggling proportions. Families, villages, clans, and cultures are being decimated."

Public health approaches are the best way to battle AIDS in places like Russia as well, said Garrett. The Russian Ministry of Health estimates that by the year 2015, 14 million people there will be HIV positive-roughly 10% of the population. Garrett said HIV is spread there predominantly by "disillusioned and alienated teens with no hope-drug addicts. A recent University of Moscow study found that 100% of students admitted to injecting narcotics at least once." Other social factors like overcrowded prisons, drug use, sexual behavior, and unsanitary hospitals and clinics also contribute.

Garrett's books, The Coming Plague and Betrayal of Trust, discuss some of the most pressing public health issues of the day.

Virginia DeHaan (1927-1988) earned her MPH from the Rollins School of Public Health in 1977 and was a much-loved faculty member. The DeHaan lectureship was established in her memory