COLUMBIA PRO­FES­SOR HONORED

Physi­cian gets China’s top sci­ence award for work on SARS epi­demic, health sys­tem

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS AMERICAS - By JACK FREIFELDER in New York jack­freifelder@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

In 2003, while Asia was in the throes of the SARS epi­demic, Dr W. Ian Lip­kin, a pro­fes­sor of epi­demi­ol­ogy at Columbia Univer­sity’s Mail­man School of Pub­lic Health, left the United States for his first visit to China.

It was far from a sight­see­ing mis­sion. Lip­kin was head­ing out to help in the fight against the deadly SARS (Se­vere Acute Res­pi­ra­tory Syn­drome) out­break.

As an ex­pert on dis­eases and how they spread, Lip­kin was called on to help vet their plan of ac­tion to com­bat the epi­demic, look­ing for holes in their strat­egy.

On Jan 8, Lip­kin re­turned to China to re­ceive the na­tion’s high­est honor awarded to a for­eign sci­en­tist — the In­ter­na­tional Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy Co­op­er­a­tion Award.

Lip­kin, who is the di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for In­fec­tion and Im­mu­nity at Columbia Univer­sity’s Mail­man School of Pub­lic Health, re­ceived the award dur­ing a cer­e­mony at the Great Hall of the Peo­ple in Bei­jing, where he was honored along­side dozens of other do­mes­tic and for­eign sci­en­tists for their achieve­ments.

Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and Premier Li Ke­qiang presided over the awards cer­e­mony.

Over the years, Lip­kin has also helped China’s of­fi­cials de­velop the frame­work to give the coun­try the nec­es­sary re­sources to de­tect and re­spond to emerg­ing in­fec­tious threats by cre­at­ing the In­sti­tut Pas­teur in Shang­hai, a new na­tional Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol in Bei­jing and the Guangzhou In­sti­tute of Bio­med­i­cine and Health.

“My first trip to China was in the con­text of a re­quest made, that I go there to help them ad­dress the chal­lenge of SARS,” Lip­kin told China Daily. “The level of ex­per­tise and the re­sources within China for in­fec­tious dis­eases was in­suf­fi­cient to the task.

“As a re­sult of the in­vest­ments that have been made af­ter SARS in 2003, China is now in a po­si­tion where in­stead of re­quir­ing for­eign peo­ple to come in and help them ad­dress their own out­breaks, they ac­tu­ally send peo­ple [out] to help, like with the Ebola out­break,” Lip­kin added.

“They’ve moved from the point where they were de­pen­dent on oth­ers to a point where they can be­gin to give back to the com­mu­nity,” he said.

Lip­kin, who said he still trav­els to China at least twice a year, con­tin­ues to con­sult with a num­ber of govern­ment bod­ies, in­clud­ing the Min­istry of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy, the Chi­nese Academy of Sci­ence and the Min­istry of Health.

“There are many crit­i­cisms that peo­ple level against China for all sorts of is­sues,” Lip­kin said. “I view pub­lic health as a global chal­lenge and a global need. China is giv­ing this award not only in recog­ni­tion of sci­en­tific achieve­ment, but also in [recog­ni­tion of] those in­di­vid­u­als who have al­ready in­vested in de­vel­op­ing col­lab­o­ra­tive projects and train­ing projects with in­ves­ti­ga­tors in China.

“I’m happy

to

say

that China

is step­ping up to the plate and now has peo­ple that are ca­pa­ble of mak­ing con­tri­bu­tions that are on par with what we can do,” Lip­kin added.

“Sci­ence is an in­creas­ingly global en­deavor, and the free flow of in­for­ma­tion and re­sources is crit­i­cal to pro­mot­ing and re­al­iz­ing the prom­ise of re­search and tech­nol­ogy,” he said.

The 2015 State Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy Awards honored the con­tri­bu­tions of 295 re­search projects and seven for­eign ex­perts, in­clud­ing sci­en­tists from Italy, Ja­pan, the Nether­lands and Swe­den, as well as United States. Peter Stang, a chemist from the Univer­sity of Utah, was the other US hon­oree.

Cheng Yingqi in Bei­jing and Xin­hua con­trib­uted to this re­port.

PHO­TOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

W. Ian Lip­kin, the John Snow Pro­fes­sor of epi­demi­ol­ogy at Columbia Univer­sity’s Mail­man School of Pub­lic Health in New York, re­ceived China’s top honor for a for­eign sci­en­tist — the In­ter­na­tional Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy Co­op­er­a­tion Award — on Jan 8 at the Great Hall of the Peo­ple in Bei­jing. Lip­kin was honored for his work to help com­bat the 2003 out­break of SARS (Se­vere Acute Res­pi­ra­tory Syn­drome). He con­tin­ues to con­sult with a num­ber of govern­ment bod­ies, in­clud­ing the Min­istry of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy, the Chi­nese Academy of Sci­ence, and the Min­istry of Health.

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