For his life-saving work advancing public health and human rights – particularly the prevention of HIV/AIDS, Dr. Christopher C. Beyrer ’81 was bestowed the Hobart College Alumni Association’s highest honor on Dec. 18 in Washington, D.C.
In presenting the Hobart Medal of Excellence, Association President James “JB” Robinson ’96 said Beyrer’s life has been shaped by helping those living with HIV/AIDS as well as educating others who will never experience the disease due to his scholarship, leadership and advocacy.
“Chris Beyrer’s commitment to public health – particularly the prevention of HIV/AIDS – and to the development of the field of public health and human rights, has made a difference in the lives of people across the globe,” said Robinson to the crowd of alums, students and family members at the event held at Hotel Monaco.
Beyrer, an internationally renowned expert on AIDS, is a professor at Johns Hopkins University, with joint appointments in epidemiology, international health, and health, behavior and society. He is the founding director of the Center for Public Health and Human Rights at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; director of the Johns Hopkins University Fogarty AIDS International Training and Research Program; and senior scientific liaison and chair of the Injecting Drug Use Working Group of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network.
Born in Berne, Switzerland, and raised on Long Island, Beyrer followed his father – Dr. Charles R. Beyrer ’56 – to Hobart. The younger Beyrer majored in history, graduated cum laude and was elected Phi Beta Kappa. After spending time abroad, he returned to the United States and graduated from medical school at SUNY Downstate in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he first encountered AIDS among the large Haitian population as well as the city’s gay population. This period was followed by years of work in public health research and fieldwork, particularly in Thailand and Southeast Asia.
Beyrer is the author of more than 190 papers and the author or editor of six books. He has testified before the Senate and House of Representatives regarding HIV, AIDS and human rights, and has served as a consultant with organizations including the National Institutes of Health, the World Bank, the World Health Organization and the Open Society Foundations. He serves on the Scientific Advisory Board for the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and is president-elect of the International AIDS Society, the world’s largest body of HIV professionals.
“It is my observation that Chris’ success is due, in large part, to his ability to think about situations and problems from multiple perspectives,” said President Mark D. Gearan at the event. “As one of the world’s leading epidemiologists, he seamlessly combines the fields of medicine, sociology, politics, religion, economics, and human rights. In doing so, he has changed perceptions and behaviors, and improved the health of individuals, communities, countries and the world. Millions of people are alive today because of Chris.”
The Hobart Medal of Excellence is awarded to an alumnus who, by reason of outstanding accomplishments in his particular business, profession or community service, has brought honor and distinction to his alma mater. Beyrer was the 36th recipient of the award. Previous recipients include Reynold Levy ’66, president of Lincoln Center; the late Leo O’Neil ’62, former president of Standard and Poor’s; and Judge Herbert Stern’58, P’03, LL.D.’74, renowned prosecutor and federal judge. Most recently, the College honored the late Dr. Harry Coover ’41 inventor of cyanoacrylates, known as “Super Glue,” which has saved untold lives as a human tissue adhesive.