The Fogarty family assembled in December to toast Dr. Ken Bridbord and pay tribute to his many contributions to global health research and training. Although Bridbord is retiring from federal employment, he will remain at the Center as senior scientist emeritus.
“We all stand in awe of your contributions,” noted Fogarty Director Dr. Roger I. Glass. “It was an amazing joy to work with you and experience your wisdom, your vision and your warmth.”
A few years after joining Fogarty, Bridbord co-chaired the 1987 International Conference on AIDS held in Washington, D.C. That experience inspired him to develop the Center’s first extramural funding mechanism - the
AIDS International Training and Research Program (AITRP) - designed to help low- and middle-income countries build the necessary scientific capacity to respond to the devastating HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Bridbord’s vision that NIH field research could be advanced by investing in developing local scientific leadership on the ground in LMICs, resulted in creation of scientific leaders who form the backbone of global HIV/AIDS research today, observed the Dean of Yale University’s School of Public Health, Dr. Sten Vermund, in a video tribute.
Dr. Ken Bridbord received a Fogarty lifetime achievement award for
his historic contributions to global health research and capacity building.
His wife, Maryanne Lachat (top left) and other family members joined in
the festivities to mark his retirement.
In another taped message, Fogarty grantees in South Africa, Drs. Salim and Quarraisha Abdool Karim, echoed praise for Bridbord’s keen insight and forward-thinking ideas. “This legacy you’ve created - we can already see the fruits of it in terms of research leadership in developing countries and in so many other ways in terms of the quality and quantity of research emanating from Africa,” Quarraisha Abdool Karim said.
Speakers also paid tribute to Bridbord’s dedication, flexibility and patience. “You understood that building sustainable international research and public health capacity required an investment measured in decades, and not in years,” observed Dr. Glenda Gray, former Fogarty trainee and grantee, and now President and CEO of the South African Medical Research Council. “You have created a legacy of scientific capacity in the area of HIV/AIDS in Africa, and its impact has and will continue to change the world.”
AITRP provided the model for numerous other Fogarty initiatives, resulting in a portfolio of programs that has supported training for more than 6,000 scientists globally and currently awards $60 million each year.
In this way, Bridbord has influenced countless numbers of research careers and touched virtually every discovery in HIV, observed Dr. Mike Cohen, who was principal investigator on the University of North Carolina’s AITRP grant. “Ken never took anything personally, he kept no grudges and he was endlessly kind.”
For his many contributions in helping reduce death and suffering from HIV/AIDS, Bridbord received the NIH World AIDS Day Award in 2007, as well as a distinguished service award from his alma mater, the University of Chicago.
Earlier in his career, Bridbord played a critical role in convincing the Environmental Protection Agency to remove lead from gasoline. “That was a huge triumph for public health,” according to Dr. Phil Landrigan of Boston College, Bridbord’s partner in the effort. “Ken Bridbord is a kind of quiet guy, but he is one of these people who is always there, always on the right side of every issue,” he added. “The man would give you the shirt off his back. We love you, Ken!”
Fogarty staff also expressed their appreciation for their longtime colleague. As a mentor, Bridbord saw the best in everyone, took time to listen, was supportive of new ideas and didn’t micromanage, said Dr. Josh Rosenthal. “He was always the last to claim success and the first to take the heat when there was a failure.” Dr. Joel Breman said Bridbord could be summed up in a single word. “Ken can be defined as someone who is charismatic. The official definition is ‘exercising a compelling charm that inspires devotion in others’ - that to me summarizes Ken.” Dr. Flora Katz observed that Bridbord takes great pride in his work and “believes in the nobility of public service.”
After being presented with a lifetime achievement award, Bridbord displayed the humility that has characterized him throughout his career. “I am truly humbled. Whatever I have achieved would not have been possible without the support of my family.”