The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases is honoring three individuals for their contributions in equitable vaccine access, COVID-19 vaccine policymaking, and HIV research advancements.

RT’s Three Key Takeaways

  • Seth F. Berkley, MD, will receive NFID’s 2024 Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Humanitarian Award for his contributions to global health and equitable access to vaccines, notably through his leadership at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the co-creation of COVAX, which facilitated the distribution of nearly 2 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses globally.
  • Grace Lee, MD, MPH, is awarded the 2024 John P. Utz Leadership Award for her leadership as chair of the US Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices during the COVID-19 pandemic, playing a critical role in vaccine decision-making and policy guidance.
  • Ighovwerha (Igho) Ofotokun, MD, MSc, will be honored with the 2024 Maxwell Finland Award for Scientific Achievement, recognizing his impactful research on HIV, particularly focusing on the long-term impacts of the virus and his efforts to address systemic inequities in research and promote women’s health.

The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) has announced the 2024 recipients of the NFID awards honoring individuals who have made significant and lasting contributions to public health through leadership, scientific achievement, philanthropy, and policy work in infectious diseases. 

The awards will be presented at the 2024 NFID Awards Gala in Washington, DC in September 2024.

The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases will present the following awards at the NFID Awards Gala in Washington, DC in September 2024: Seth F. Berkley, MD, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Humanitarian Award; Grace Lee, MD, MPH, John P. Utz Leadership Award; and Ighovwerha (Igho) Ofotokun, MD, MSc, Maxwell Finland Award for Scientific Achievement. Photo credit: NFID

Champion of Equitable Access to Vaccines

Seth F. Berkley, MD, of the Pandemic Center of Brown University, will receive the 2024 Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Humanitarian Award in recognition of his work as an entrepreneur, a pioneer in global health, and a champion of equitable access to vaccines. 

A physician and infectious disease epidemiologist, Berkley led Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance for 12 years, raising $33.3 billion and increasing coverage of routine immunization in lower-income countries. Gavi has vaccinated more than 1 billion children and introduced more than 600 new vaccines, reducing vaccine-preventable child deaths by 70%, and preventing more than 19.9 million deaths. 

While at Gavi, he co-created COVAX, a global multilateral solution that worked with partners and leaders of 193 economies to secure, ship, and help deliver nearly 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine to 146 economies. He previously founded the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) to develop an AIDS vaccine for developing countries.

“Seth Berkley restlessly takes on and delivers on big challenges,” says Bruce G. Gellin, MD, MPH, of The Rockefeller Foundation in nominating Berkley. “Turning vaccines into vaccinations among the most vulnerable and ensuring that routine immunizations were indeed routine, he also played a pivotal role in changing the way the world prevents and responds to global health crises and epidemics.”

Leader Who Guided COVID-19 Vaccine Policymaking

Grace Lee, MD, MPH, of Stanford Medicine Children’s Health and Stanford University School of Medicine, will receive the 2024 John P. Utz Leadership Award in recognition of her outstanding leadership as chair of the US Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Grace Lee served during the turbulent times of COVID-19, marked by meetings, which were frequent, numerous, and at times challenging,” says NFID president Patricia (Patsy) A. Stinchfield, RN, MS, CPNP, in nominating Lee. “She has been center-stage on difficult vaccine decisions and led conversations with an inclusive, patient, yet decisive, tone. She was the perfect person for the times, and we are all indebted to her.” 

Lee oversees the Center for Pediatric and Maternal Value at Stanford Children’s, which seeks to improve quality, safety, patient experience, and health equity across the organization. She has served on Institute of Medicine committees that reviewed priorities in the National Vaccine Plan and evaluated ethical and scientific issues in studying the safety of approved drugs. 

She has also participated on the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine committee on vaccine research and development for pandemic and seasonal influenza and is a member of the National Academy of Medicine. Lee continues to manage and treat young patients with infectious diseases.

Clinician-Scientist Combating Long-Term Impacts of HIV

Ighovwerha (Igho) Ofotokun, MD, MSc, of Emory University School of Medicine, will receive the 2024 Maxwell Finland Award for Scientific Achievement in recognition of an exceptionally productive career devoted to addressing systemic inequities in research, promoting women’s health, nurturing a global research program targeting the prevention and treatment of disease, and mentoring the next generation of HIV clinical and translational researchers. 

An internationally renowned clinician-scientist, Ofotokun has long studied the threat that age-related comorbidities pose to healthy aging in people living with HIV, including the pathogenesis of HIV-induced end-organ damage. 

Findings from his research have led to the revision of HIV standard-of-care treatment guidelines in the US and internationally, to World Health Organization policy changes that now prioritize antiretroviral regimens that are less risky for women. He has also expanded the visibility and representation of women and minorities in biomedical research and leveraged his expertise and influence to promote research education and training in the US and several other countries including Nigeria, Ethiopia, Georgia, and Vietnam.

“He is an outstanding academic leader and researcher, a truly exceptional mentor, a respected clinician, and a valuable addition to an increasingly diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce in infectious diseases,” says Kathryn M. Edwards, MD, of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, in nominating Ofotokun.