San Diego, October 26, 2008
— The American Public Health Association’s (APHA’s) oldest and most prestigious award, the Sedgwick Award Medal for Distinguished Service in Public Health, was presented to John Murray Last, MD, DPH, at APHA’s 136th Annual Meeting in San Diego.
Since 1929, the Sedgwick medal has been awarded annually to an individual who has demonstrated a distinguished record of service to public health while tirelessly working to advance public health knowledge and practice.
An emeritus professor of epidemiology at the University of Ottawa, Last said during an acceptance speech for the Defries Award from the Canadian Public Health Association that he is an epidemiologist “but at heart I have belonged to public health since the late 1950s, when I had a philosophical conversion from family medicine. I think I was reasonably competent and I loved being a family doctor, but as the years passed and I kept seeing people beyond help, I became convinced that what I really wanted to do was to keep people healthy, if only so I wouldn’t have to get out of my comfortable bed at night to visit them at home to unravel their problems.”
Born and educated in Australia, Last graduated from the University of Adelaide Medical School in 1949, and after five years of hospital training, five years in general practice and intercontinental voyages as a ship’s surgeon, he trained in epidemiology and public health at the University of Sydney and as a visiting fellow in the Medical Research Council Social Medicine Research Unit in London.
Last has held academic positions at the universities of Sydney, Vermont and Edinburgh and has been professor of epidemiology and community medicine at the University of Ottawa since 1969. He has authored 17 books, 49 book chapters, several encyclopedia articles, 80 original articles in peer-reviewed journals and more than 200 articles, editorials, reports and official documents for the World Health Organization, the governments of Canada and Ontario and other official agencies.
Last is contributing editor on public health sciences and practice for “Stedman’s Medical Dictionary” and the” New Oxford American Dictionary” and was scientific editor of the Canadian Journal of Public Health from 1981–1991. He was editor of the Annals of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada from 1990–1998 and interim editor of the
American Journal of Preventive Medicine in 1988–1989. He led the initiatives of the International Epidemiological Association to develop guidelines on ethical conduct of epidemiological research, practice and teaching and was a member of the Working Group of the Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences that drafted the International Guidelines for Ethical Review of Epidemiological Studies. He has contributed substantially to other national and international discussions about ethical conducts in public health sciences and practice.
Among his many honors, Last was the APHA Epidemiology Section’s Wade Hampton Frost lecturer in 1989, a Scholar in Residence at Rockefeller Foundation’s Villa Serbelloni Study and Conference Center in Bellagio, Italy in 1992, and was awarded the Duncan Clark Award of the Association of Teachers of Preventive Medicine in 1994.