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Katherine O'Brien, M.D.

photo of Katherine O'Brien, M.D.

Dr. Katherine (Kate) O’Brien is a pediatric infectious disease physician and epidemiologist who has made outstanding contributions to scientific research. She is a public health champion whose achievements have guided the development and implementation of interventions that have reduced preventable death and suffering in Maryland and throughout the world.

Dr. O’Brien was born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and has lived and worked in Maryland since 1988 with the exception of one year in Haiti, three years in Atlanta and two years in Trinidad. She earned her medical degree from McGill University, Montreal in 1988, then undertook her residency training in Pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland from 1988 to 1991. After working in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on a child health project she undertook her sub-specialty training in Pediatric Infectious Diseases (1992-1994) and earned her Masters of Public Health degree (1994), both at Johns Hopkins. She went on to become an Epidemiologic Intelligence Officer at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) from 1995 to 1997, serving the Bacterial Respiratory Diseases Branch and then joined the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH) as a junior faculty member in 1998. Dr. O’Brien was promoted to Professor in 2010 at a relatively young age, because of her significant contributions to science and the public. She was recently appointed as Director of the International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC) at JHSPH.

Dr. O’Brien is an outstanding clinician who took care of many very ill children in Maryland during her training in pediatrics, infectious diseases and subsequently as a faculty member. She is recognized throughout the world as a leading scientist in the field of pneumonia, a leading cause of death among children around the world, and the leading cause of hospitalization and Emergency Department visits in Maryland. Over the past 18 years, Dr. O’Brien has led multiple studies on pneumococcal epidemiology, immunology, ecology, and on the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV), including a pivotal clinical trial that contributed to the evidence base for the vaccine’s licensure. Findings from her pivotal trial were used to license the vaccine (Prevnar). This vaccine has been routinely used in Maryland since 2000 and has dramatically reduced the number of cases of pneumococcal diseases in Maryland and throughout the entire U.S.

Dr. O’Brien has been a true champion for bringing scientifi c evidence to the realm of public health decisionmaking. That has provided a confident, firm foundation for accelerating the implementation of proven strategies to improve the health of children around the world. Her work has resulted in more than 130 original scientific publications, along with numerous textbook chapters, invited papers and commentaries. Because of her expertise she has been asked to serve on numerous national and international scientific committees including as a member of the World Health Organization’s Scientific Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE). Dr. O’Brien’s work has been recognized through numerous awards.

Biography courtesy of the Maryland Commission for Women, 2015.

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