Washington, D.C., November 4, 2007 —
Former American Public Health Association (APHA) Executive Director Mohammad N. Akhter, MD, MPH, today received APHA’s oldest and most prestigious award, the Sedgwick Memorial Medal for Distinguished Service in Public Health, at APHA’s 135th Annual Meeting & Exposition.
Since 1929, the Sedgwick medal has been awarded annually to an individual who has demonstrated a distinguished record of service to public health and who has tirelessly worked to advance public health knowledge and practice.
During his 30-year public health career, Akhter has “repeatedly demonstrated his continuing dedication to the effort to improve the health of people throughout the world,” said APHA member Richard A. Levinson, MD, DPA, in a letter nominating Akhter for the award.
Akhter received an MD from King Edward Medical College in Lahore, Pakistan in 1967 and an MPH from Johns Hopkins University in 1973. He completed a preventive medicine residency at Mount Sinai Medical Center and then became certified by the American Board of Preventive Medicine.
Now executive director of the National Medical Association, Akhter was APHA’s executive director from 1997–2002 and is known for his work to eliminate health disparities, improve children’s health, help form the Medicine and Public Health Initiative and develop national performance standards for state and local health departments, among his many noteworthy accomplishments. He encouraged diversity among APHA leadership and has long been an outspoken supporter of universal health coverage.
“His career has spanned virtually every component of modern public health and he has made a positive and lasting impact in all of them,” Levinson said.
Akhter’s first public health position was as chief of Illinois’ Division of Emergency Medical Services and Highway Safety. While in that position, he developed the country’s first statewide emergency response system. He then became Michigan’s chief of emergency medical services, where he helped drive down the death and disability resulting from automobile accidents.
He next served as Missouri’s director of health and worked there to develop local health departments throughout the state. Of his many positions in the public health field, Akhter was also president and medical director of the Missouri Patient Care Foundation. He joined his wife as a medical missionary in Pakistan, helping set up a highly effective program of tuberculosis control in rural areas and then the country’s first school of public health. The school now serves as a model for other countries.
Akhter served as commissioner of public health for the District of Columbia and is credited with contributing to a 25 percent reduction in the city’s infant mortality rate, establishing an effective school health program, developing a comprehensive program of HIV/AIDS prevention, diagnosis and treatment, increasing childhood immunization rates from 38 percent to 72 percent, and increasing drug and alcohol treatment slots by 65 percent.
He worked as senior advisor to the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and as senior associate dean of the College of Medicine at Howard University. As executive director of the National Medical Association, Akhter said he plans to focus on such issues as disaster preparedness, ensuring access to care and the elimination of racial and ethnic health disparities.