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Outstanding Alumni Award 2022: Maria Van Kerkhove ’99


Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove is the COVID-19 Technical Lead for the World Health Organization and the Head of Emerging Diseases and Zoonoses in WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme. She is an infectious disease epidemiologist.

Dr. Van Kerkhove’s research spans zoonotic emerging and re-emerging high threat pathogens such as avian influenza, MERS-CoV, SARS, SARS-CoV-2, Ebola, Marburg, plague and Zika. She is responsible for the health operations and technical aspects of the global COVID-19 pandemic response as well as developing strategies for the prevention, preparedness and control of epidemic and pandemic zoonotic pathogens. For more than 25 years, her research has focused on factors associated with transmission between animals and humans, the epidemiology of zoonotic pathogens, and ensuring that research directly informs public health policies for action.

Van Kerkhove completed her undergraduate degree at Cornell University, a master’s degree in epidemiology at Stanford University and a PhD in infectious disease epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Prior to joining WHO in 2017, she was the head of the Outbreak Investigation Task Force at Institut Pasteur’s Center for Global Health, in Paris, where she was responsible for establishing public health rapid response teams for infectious disease outbreaks. Her previous roles include a senior fellow at Imperial College London in the MRC Center for Outbreak Analysis and Modelling, and an epidemiologist at the Institut Pasteur in Cambodia.