5 Things to Know About CoAS Commencement Speaker Paul Offit, MD
June 12, 2018
Scientist, educator, vaccine advocate and author Paul Offit, MD has a new title to add to the list: Drexel’s 2018 College of Arts and Sciences Commencement Speaker. Learn more about Offit and his accomplishments before the College ceremonies on June 15 at the Mann Center.
1. He’s an expert on immunology and virology.
Offit is co-inventor of RotaTeq, an oral rotavirus vaccine recommended for universal use in infants by the Centers for Disease Control. Offit and co-inventors H. Fred Clark, MD, and Stanley Plotkin, MD, began researching rotavirus in the 1980’s, leading to the licensing of RotaTeq in 2006. According to the World Health Organization, annual deaths of children under five attributed to rotavirus — a contagious virus that can cause gastroenteritis — have decreased from an estimated 528,000 in 2000 to 215,000 in 2013 with help from the vaccine.
2. He’s a big name in vaccine education.
Not only is he behind a global vaccine, Offit is also a public face of vaccine advocacy. He is a board member of Every Child By Two, a nonprofit that raises awareness of the need for timely immunizations, and a founding advisory board member of the Foundation for Vaccine Research. Offit has spoken out against the belief that vaccines cause autism and has also advocated for research on the disorder, serving as a founding board member of the Autism Science Foundation and donating the royalties from his book “Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure” (Columbia University Press, 2010) to autism research.
3. He’s highly decorated.
We’re not the only ones impressed by Offit’s work. His research and advocacy have garnered accolades from organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, among many others. With honors including the “Humanitarian of the Year Award” and the “President’s Certificate for Outstanding Service,” the awards speak for themselves.
4. He’s a prolific writer.
Publishing more than 160 peer-reviewed, scientific papers hasn’t stopped Offit from making a name for himself in popular culture. As the author of eight medical narratives, Offit fights science misinformation and casts a critical eye at potential culprits, from the supplement industry to celebrity activism. He’s also penned opinion pieces for the New York Times, a weekly column for the Daily Beast, and editorials for The Atlantic and The Washington Post, with the goal of educating the public on science-related topics.
5. He’s made frequent media appearances.
If Offit looks familiar, you may recognize him from his appearances on some big-name television programs. He’s appeared on beloved late-night shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report and news programs like CBS This Morning and CNN (though he turned down Oprah). Offit reflects on his experiences as a vaccine advocate and his missteps in the spotlight in his most recent book, “Bad Advice: Or Why Celebrities, Politicians, and Activists Aren’t Your Best Source of Health Information” (Columbia University Press, 2017).
Paul Offit, MD, is Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania, the Maurice R. Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology and professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.