Science & Technology

CDC fungal meningitis investigator next up in Voices from the Vanguard Series

Athens, Ga. – Dr. Ben Park, epidemiology team leader at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s mycotic diseases branch, will talk about October’s mass outbreak of fungal meningitis as part of the “Global Diseases: Voices from the Vanguard” lecture series March 18 at 5:30 p.m. in the University of Georgia Chapel.

The 2012 mass outbreak was the largest healthcare-associated outbreak in U.S. history. Fungal meningitis cases surfaced in several states at once. Patients initially suffered the crushing headaches and other neurologic signs of meningitis, but months later developed abscesses at injection sites.

Park and his colleagues used classic shoe-leather epidemiology to trace the illnesses to contaminated steroid medications packaged at the New England Compounding Center just outside Boston. In all, the outbreak infected more than 650 Americans, killing 44.

“The efforts by Dr. Park and is colleagues at CDC are a great example of public health in action,” said Glen Nowak, professor and director of the Grady College Center for Health and Risk Communication. “They not only had to quickly identify what was behind a large outbreak of a rare disease, but also determine what to do-from medical care to preventing more illness. Dr. Park’s presentation will provide insights into how CDC and public health effectively responded to a rapidly evolving and complex outbreak.”

Park received his bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College and his medical degree from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. He completed his internship and residency in Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

After completing his residency, he began working at CDC as an epidemic intelligence service officer in the mycotic diseases branch and continued on as a staff epidemiologist after his fellowship. He has led numerous research studies on outbreaks, ranging from international work on fungal opportunistic infections among persons living with AIDS to domestic fungal hospital-acquired infections, product-related outbreaks and opportunistic infections in people with compromised immune systems.

The lecture and following reception are free and open to the public.

The Voices from the Vanguard Lecture Series is a joint effort of Grady College’s Health and Medical Journalism program and the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases. The series continues April 8 with a presentation by Carol Etherington, a registered nurse from Vanderbilt University Institute for Global Health.

For more information on the series, see