CDC global health veteran to lead Emory Global Health Institute

June 29, 2021

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Rebecca Martin has been named Emory University’s new vice president for global health and director of the Emory Global Health Institute.

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ATLANTA — Rebecca Martin, PhD, an internationally known expert in immunization, health systems strengthening and outbreak response, has been named Emory University’s new vice president for global health and director of the Emory Global Health Institute (EGHI). 

Martin starts Aug. 9 and succeeds Jeffrey Koplan, MD, MPH, who founded EGHI in 2006 and was director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from 1998-2002. Koplan will remain with the institute as principal investigator of several grants, and as senior strategic advisor for CHAMPS, the Child Health and Mortality Prevention Surveillance network.

A long-time leader at the CDC, Martin most recently served as the director of its Center for Global Health. In that role, she led multilateral efforts to protect and improve health globally through science, policy, partnership and evidence-based public health action. 

For more than 25 years, Martin has worked on the frontlines of epidemic preparedness and response in the U.S. and internationally at the country, regional and global levels. She has been a driving force in engaging public and private partners in various countries to mobilize effective responses to public health threats and prevent future outbreaks. 

“One of the most enduring lessons to come out of this pandemic is how interconnected we are as a world,” says Jonathan S. Lewin, MD, executive vice president for health affairs at Emory and executive director of its Woodruff Health Sciences Center. “Dr. Martin’s deep knowledge of global health and her proven ability to collaborate with a wide cross-section of domestic and international partners across sectors will boost collective capacity before, during and beyond public health emergencies.”

Martin’s extensive domestic and international experience straddles areas that remain front and center in the wake of a global pandemic including health equity, strengthening public health infrastructure and building the capacity of human resources for health.

“Throughout Dr. Martin’s career, she has continually taken on critical public health challenges impacting communities around the world, and she brings a tremendous record of service and success with her to Emory,” says Emory President Gregory L. Fenves. “Emory has been a public health leader throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and Dr. Martin will carry that momentum forward, positioning us to make contributions with global partners at an even higher level.”

In her new role, Martin will provide visionary leadership at Emory as a member of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center leadership team. Her responsibilities will include growing the university’s reputation as an international leader in global health; continuing to build and align the robust, multidisciplinary global health infrastructure at Emory; fostering global collaborations among Emory’s faculty, staff and students and global health organizations in high priority countries; and fostering interdisciplinary research and scholarship aimed at attracting and engaging the next generation of global health leaders. 

Martin has served in key roles at country and regional level. She was with CDC’s country office in Tanzania, where she helped implement the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program and oversaw the agency’s work on avian influenza with the government. Martin was then detailed to the World Health Organization’s European regional office as immunization advisor, and spearheaded efforts there to strengthen immunization and surveillance systems, provide evidence for the introduction of new vaccines, achieve the goal of measles and rubella elimination, and maintain the region’s polio-free status. 

As director of CDC’s Global Health Center, Martin led and shaped the overall vision of CDC’s global work in ending HIV epidemics, accelerating control in tuberculosis, eliminating malaria and neglected tropical diseases, eradicating polio, strengthening immunization systems to deliver lifesaving vaccines, and strengthening countries’ preparedness and response capacities. She managed over 3,000 staff members in the U.S. and in 60 countries, with an annual budget of approximately $3.2 billion. 

“Rebecca is a tremendous global health leader whose experience and intellect lift up everyone around her and deliver results” says Koplan, outgoing vice president of global health and EGHI director. “There’s no one better suited to fulfilling the university’s global health ambitious commitments and developing the next generation of global health leaders.”

“Jeff Koplan built a strong foundation of success at EGHI, which was founded as the flagship program to expand Emory's commitment to global health,” says Lewin. “He has effectively positioned EGHI with schools and departments across the university to mount a multi-disciplinary response to identify and tackle global health problems.” 

Martin says she is excited for this position that will afford her the opportunity “to bring my scientific expertise, global health experience, leadership capacity, and passion and commitment to lead global health work in an academic setting at a premier university, such as Emory University.”

“I look forward to developing and growing Emory’s global health mission in the complex and challenging global health arena,” she adds.