Athens, Ga. – When veteran Time magazine science reporter and war correspondent Dick Thompson joined the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2001, he didn’t know that the frightening emergence of SARS then avian flu would challenge him to communicate accurate and up-to-date scientific information to reporters 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at news conferences around the globe. Thompson will discuss his role in alerting the world to infectious disease outbreaks and how the WHO responds on Tuesday, April 24, at 6 p.m. in the University of Georgia Chapel.
Thompson is the fourth and final speaker in the 2007 “Global Diseases: Voices from the Vanguard” lecture series at UGA. The series showcases heroes in the global battle against premature death and disease and is free and open to the public. A reception will follow in Demosthenian Hall.
Thompson, based in Geneva, Switzerland, heads the pandemic and outbreak communication team for WHO’s Communicable Diseases Section. He has established outbreak communications practices that are now standard for public health agencies around the world. Thompson has briefed reporters about infectious disease outbreaks in countries including Egypt, Angola, Zanzibar, Indonesia and Thailand. He also is credited with coining the name for severe adult respiratory syndrome or SARS.
Thompson graduated from San Francisco State University in 1978 with a degree in journalism. His first job was with the San Francisco bureau of Time, where he specialized in science, medicine and technology writing. From 1985 to 1986, Thompson attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on a Vannevar Bush Fellowship (since renamed the Knight Science Journalism Fellowships). Afterwards, he relocated to Washington, D.C. where he continued covering the politics of science for Time.
“Rarely do you meet anyone who has been the spokesman for a major international agency and a reporter for a major news organization like Time,” said Patricia Thomas, Knight Chair for Health and Medical Journalism at UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. “Dick Thompson sees global health stories from both sides of the transaction, and what he has to say is illuminating for everyone who cares about public health, including scientists, journalists and public relations practitioners.”
Thompson reported on major armed conflicts such the U.S. invasions of Grenada and Panama, the fall of Kabul to the Taliban and the first Gulf War. He spent one year as the South Asia Bureau Chief for Time and often covered the White House under Bill Clinton’s leadership.
His book about predicting volcanic eruptions, called Volcano Cowboys, was published by St. Martin’s Press in 2000.
The “Global Diseases: Voices from the Vanguard” lecture series is a joint effort of Thomas and Daniel G. Colley, director of UGA’s Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases. Funding for this series is provided by the Knight Chair in Health and Medical Journalism, the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases and the Office of the Provost. For more information, please visit www.grady.uga.edu/knighthealth.
Established in 1915, the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication provides seven undergraduate majors including advertising, broadcast news, magazines, newspapers, public relations, publication management and telecommunication arts. The college offers two graduate degrees and is home to the Knight Chair in Health and Medical Journalism and the Peabody Awards, internationally recognized as one of the most prestigious prizes for excellence in electronic media. For more information, please visit www.grady.uga.edu/.