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O’Neill Institute Leader Honored for Lifetime Public Health Law Achievement

November 2, 2015 – The American Public Health Association (APHA) Law Section is today honoring Lawrence Gostin, faculty director of Georgetown’s O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, for “Lifetime Achievement in Public Health Law.”

Lawrence GostinGostin, who holds the university’s highest academic rank of University Professor, is the founding O'Neill Chair in Global Health Law. He is also a professor of medicine at Georgetown’s School of Medicine and professor of public health at Johns Hopkins University.

“Larry Gostin helped establish the field of public health law and has been at its forefront for many decades,” said Lainie Rutkow, chair of the APHA Law Section awards committee and an associate professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “His career serves as an inspiration to the next generation of public health lawyers.”

Required Reading

Rutkow also noted that Gostin’s books, particularly Public Health Law: Power, Duty, Restraint (University of California Press, 2008, second edition), are “required reading for anyone interested in the field.”

“Through these works, and his hundreds of articles, Larry has made public health law accessible to academics and non-academics alike,” Rutkow added.

In his videotaped acceptance speech, Goston said he is “truly humbled and honored for getting this award. I can hardly thank you enough.”

Heart and Soul

Gostin, a lifetime member of the National Academy of Medicine, co-chairs the Lancet-O'Neill Institute Commission, which examines the vital role of law in responding to major global health challenges.

He also serves on two global commissions reporting on the lessons learned from the 2014 West Africa Ebola epidemic, is a special advisor to the United Nations High-Level Panel on Global Health Security, and serves as director of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Collaborating Center on Public Health Law and Human Rights.

“A decade or more ago when I started working in this field, the intersection between health and law was so very narrow,” Gostin said in his acceptance speech. “There was very little discussion about the conditions in which people can be healthy, which is at the heart and soul of what you and I do.”

While he says there has been some progress in terms of justice and equity in health issues, it’s still an uphill battle for health challenges such as the use of cigarettes and guns.

“Every major thing that we’ve done over the past century and on to the next century for the health and safety of the population are because of law,” Gostin said.

Long Achievement List

Gostin’s list of achievements is extensive.

The WHO Director-General has appointed Gostin to several high-level positions, including the International Health Regulations (IHR) Roster of Experts and the Expert Advisory Panel on Mental Health.

He served on the Director-General's Advisory Committee on Reforming the World Health Organization, and is a member of the WHO/Global Fund Blue Ribbon Expert Panel to develop a global health equity framework.

His proposal for a Framework Convention on Global Health – an international treaty ensuring the right to health – is now part of a global campaign, endorsed by the U.N. Secretary-General and the director of UNAIDS.

In the United States, Gostin led the effort to draft the Model Emergency Health Powers Act to combat bioterrorism, and the “Turning Point” Model State Public Health Act.