Philadelphia, Pa., November 10, 2009 -- The APHA Presidential Citation, which is not presented every year but only on occasions of unusual merit, was awarded to Alexander Gatherer, MD, FFPH, FRSPH, for his dedication to addressing health and health care in prisons and facilitating the links between prison health and public health systems both nationally and internationally.
Gatherer graduated in medicine in Scotland and obtained academic qualifications in both public health and industrial health. He entered the public health field in an industrial era in northwest England, where he gained a life-long enthusiasm for social justice and public health.
He has had three public health careers, starting with traditional public health, then public health and community medicine and finally international public health. He was appointed to his first senior post as the medical officer of health for the County Borough of Reading in Berkshire, England. There he gained the experience of working with local government and with both the major political parties of England and recognized the importance of an ecological approach to public health. He organized a conference on human ecology and public health in 1968.
Gatherer was selected to be a secretary of state fellow to work in the London School extension training center to prepare public health doctors for their new role and then was appointed as district medical officer in Oxford, where for 20 years he was a member of the senior management team running the health services in that part of England. At that time he also received research grants to examine the effectiveness of health education and promotion, the role of secondary care in prevention into medical negligence, causes of clinical errors and possible ways of reducing medical litigation. He also directed an effort to promote academic exchange between England’s Green College and Nihon University in Tokyo, Japan.
At the cusp of retirement in 1994, Gatherer was invited to become the temporary advisor to a new World Health Organization network of countries set up to look at common public health challenges of prisons. The network has grown from eight countries to almost 40 from all parts of Europe, and the project aims to promote cooperation and integrated work between public health systems, international non-governmental organizations and prison health systems to promote public health and reduce health inequalities. The project also encourages prisons to operate within international codes of human rights and medical ethics and to assist prisoners’ rehabilitation through adequate treatment for such conditions as mental illness and drug addiction, among other efforts.
Gatherer is honorary secretary of the Oxford Medical Society, a Royal Society for the Promotion of Health fellow and a life member of the British Medical Association. In 2006 he was awarded the Alwyn Smith Award by the Royal College of Physicians Faculty of Public Health for making the most outstanding contribution to the health of the public through research or public health practice.