April 19, 2021History of Medicine
Michael Thomas Osterholm (born March 10, 1953) is an American epidemiologist, regents professor, and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. On November 9 he was named a member of President-elect Joe Biden's COVID-19 Advisory Board.
Michael Osterholm was born in Waukon, Iowa, the son of a newspaper photographer. He graduated from Luther College in 1975 with a B.A. in biology and political science and received his M.S. and Ph.D. in environmental health and his M.P.H. in epidemiology from the University of Minnesota.
From 1975 to 1999, Osterholm served in various roles at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), including as state epidemiologist and Chief of the Acute Disease Epidemiology Section from 1984 to 1999. At the MDH, Osterholm strengthened the department's role in infectious disease epidemiology, notably including numerous foodborne disease outbreaks, the association between tampons and toxic shock syndrome, and the transmission of hepatitis B and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in healthcare workers. Other work included studies regarding the epidemiology of infectious diseases in child-care settings, vaccine-preventable diseases (particularly Haemophilus influenzae type b and hepatitis B), Lyme disease, and other emerging and reemerging infections.
From 2001 to early 2005, Osterholm served as a Special Advisor to then - Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) Secretary Tommy G. Thompson on issues related to bioterrorism and public health preparedness. In April 2002, he was appointed to the interim management team to lead the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), until the appointment of Julie Gerberding as director in July 2002.
Osterholm was the principal investigator and director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH)-supported Minnesota Center of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance (2007-2014) and chaired the Executive Committee of the Centers of Excellence Influenza Research and Surveillance network. He is a past president of the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists and served on the CDC's National Center for Infectious Diseases Board of Scientific Counselors from 1992 to 1997. Osterholm also served on the Institute of Medicine (IOM) Forum on Microbial Threats from 1994 to 2011 and has served on the IOM Committee on Emerging Microbial Threats to Health in the 21st Century and the IOM Committee on Food Safety, Production to Consumption. Finally, he was a reviewer for the IOM Report on Chemical and Biological Terrorism.
In March 2017, Osterholm and Mark Olshaker published the critically acclaimed Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs (Little, Brown and Company). The book explores public health emergencies including antimicrobial resistance, emerging infectious disease, and the threat of an influenza pandemic. It proposes a nine-point "battle plan for survival" for dealing with these threats, including solutions to antimicrobial drug resistance. The book also focuses on the epidemiology of HIV/AIDS, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), toxic shock syndrome, Zika, Ebola, bioterrorism, influenza research, and the antivaccine movement. Osterholm describes his book as "part history, part current affairs, and part blueprint for the future". Top of his concerns are influenza pandemics, antibiotic resistance and bioterrorism, combined with "no clear international governance structure for how we are going to deal with these issues". Focusing on major infectious diseases, he highlights the world's vulnerability to their emerging threats. His concerns include the effects of major outbreaks on medicine and vaccine production, should countries where these are produced be affected.