Philadelphia, Pa., November 10, 2009 —
The American Public Health Association’s oldest and most prestigious award, the Sedgwick Award Medal for Distinguished Service in Public Health, is being presented to
Robert S. Lawrence, MD.
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.
Professor and director of the Center for a Livable Future at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Lawrence has had an extraordinary career in public service. He has worked to expand access to health care to the poor and racial minorities in the United States, investigated and promoted human rights internationally, taught and established programs in human rights and public health and provided cutting-edge leadership on the intersection of agricultural policy and environmental protection.
Educated at Harvard College and Harvard Medical School, Lawrence held several medical residencies at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and then was a clinical fellow for the British Medical Research Council Rheumatism Unit in Taplow, England. His teaching career started in 1970 when he was assistant professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina, and he has taught at Harvard Medical School, the Beth Israel Hospital, New York University and Johns Hopkins. Among his hospital appointments, he served as attending physician at North Carolina Memorial Hospital in Chapel Hill, clinical associate in medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, the first director of the Division of Primary Care at Harvard Medical Center and chief of medicine at Cambridge Hospital.
Bringing his skills to health policy, Lawrence served as director of health sciences at the Rockefeller Foundation and has regularly advised philanthropists on global health matters. He chaired the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force from 1984–1989, served on the task force from 1990–1995 and currently serves as a consultant to the Task Force on Community Preventive Services at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Lawrence co-founded Physicians for Human Rights and has participated in human rights investigations on behalf of that group or others in Chile, Czechoslovakia, Egypt, El Salvador, Guatemala, Kosovo, the Philippines and South Africa. In 1997, he led a delegation of the American Association for the Advancement of Science to South Africa and testified about the disturbing role health professionals played in Apartheid. Physicians for Human Rights President Leonard S. Rubenstein, JD, credits Lawrence with helping the group bring a human rights perspective to such issues as HIV/AIDS, the health work force crisis in Africa, racial health disparities in the United States and discrimination against and marginalization of women that leads to ill health. He has brought comprehensive primary care to the rural poor and currently is exploring the relationship between food production and environmental preservation.
Lawrence’s many publications have touched on such issues as promoting social justice through education in public health, sustainable agriculture, cancer screening and nutrition. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine and has been recognized for his excellence with a leadership and achievement award from the Society of General Internal Medicine, a special recognition award from the Association of Teachers of Preventive Medicine, an Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Prize and the Sidney Zubrow Award from the Pennsylvania Hospital, among other honors.