A Life in Global Health: Expect the Unexpected

On November 13, 2019, USC IIGH, in collaboration with the USC Dornsife Spatial Sciences Institute, hosted Dr. Joel Breman for a talk on his robust career in global health titled “A Life in Global Health: Expect the Unexpected”.

Ebola team in Zaire, 1976

Dr. Breman’s global health career began in Guinea, Burkina Faso, and other countries in francophone West Africa where he battled smallpox and measles as a physician-epidemiologist working for the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  He has focused on understanding, controlling and eradicating smallpox, malaria, Ebola, guinea worm,  and other infectious diseases working in villages at the end of the road and where there is no road.  Breman’s affiliations with the CDC, World Health Organization, National Institutes of Health, World Bank, and low- and middle-income countries have given him the opportunity to define and respond to the unfinished infectious diseases agenda and shifting demographic and disease burdens.


Dr. Joel G. Breman, M.D., D.T.P.H., F.I.D.S.A., F.A.S.T.M.H.
Senior Scientist Emeritus, Fogarty International Center of the U.S. National Institutes of Health
President-elect, American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

Starting in the late 1960s, Dr. Breman was the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Chief Technical Advisor, Smallpox-Measles Program in Guinea; in Burkina Faso, at the Organization for Coordination and Cooperation for the Control of the Major Endemic Diseases, he was Chief of the Epidemiology Section; and, at the World Health Organization, Geneva, he was responsible for coordinating orthopoxvirus research, decreasing the number and increasing safety in laboratories with variola (smallpox) virus, and the certification of smallpox eradication. In 1976, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), Dr. Breman investigated the first outbreak of Ebola virus disease as part of an international commission for which he received the Order of the Leopard, the highest award bestowed by the government. Following the confirmation of smallpox eradication, Dr. Breman returned to the CDC, where he began work on the epidemiology and control of malaria. Dr. Breman joined the Fogarty International Center, National Institutes of Health in 1995 and has been the director of the International Training and Research Program in Emerging Infectious Diseases and other institutional strengthening programs in low-income countries.  He is the co-editor of the Disease Control Priorities Project in Developing Countries, 2nd ed., OUP, Oxford University Press, 2006, World Bank (www.dcp2.org) and lead editor of three volumes of articles on “the intolerable burden of malaria” and another on poor-quality medicines published as supplements to the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (www.ajtmh.org).

Dr. Breman was educated at the University of California, Los Angeles; the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California; and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He trained in medicine at the University of Southern California-Los Angeles County Medical Center; in infectious diseases at the Boston City Hospital, Harvard Medical School; and in epidemiology at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Dr. Breman is President-Elect of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.


Live Stream

Conversation with Dr. Joel G. Breman


This talk was presented in collaboration with the USC Dornsife Spatial Sciences Institute.