Remembering Dr. David Sencer, a Global Health Thought Leader and Former MSH Chief Operating Officer

Remembering Dr. David Sencer, a Global Health Thought Leader and Former MSH Chief Operating Officer

Dr. Ronald O'Connor, Founder of MSH, and Marcia Herrera, Director of Talent Management at MSH, co-authored this blog post.

Dr. David Sencer died on Monday, May 2, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia at age 86. He died at Emory University Hospital, due to complications of heart disease.

Dr. Sencer, one of the major twentieth century public health thought leaders, was also one of the rarest: a warm-hearted, modest man of great accomplishments and lifelong dedication to Management Sciences for Health's mission of closing the gap between what is known and what is done to solve important public health problems around the world.

From 1986 until his retirement in 1993, Dr. Sencer was a valued MSH colleague and advisor; he served in the roles of Chief Operating Officer and Senior Fellow. Dr. Sencer led by empowering others; he believed that more could and would be done when leaders put the action, and often the visibility, in the hands of those most directly on the front lines of practical public health action.

Indeed, Dr. Sencer was doing it long before MSH was conceived, in a career that spanned many personal and professional challenges: Dr. Sencer overcame tuberculosis as a young physician and went on to lead many important health initiatives and institutions.

He was the longest serving Director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the premier public health agency in the United States, as well as Commissioner of Health for New York and Vice President for Scientific Affairs of Becton Dickinson.

His important contributions included major sustained commitment to global public health action by CDC, first in the form of the Smallpox Eradication Program, for which CDC provided crucial technical leadership worldwide, as well as in the then controversial area of international family planning.

He was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1924. He attended Wesleyan University until he left for military service in the Navy. He earned his medical degree from Michigan University and a Masters in Public Health from Harvard. He is survived by his wife, Jane; three children: Susan, a pediatric oncologist in Minneapolis; Ann, an oncologist nurse practitioner in Atlanta; and Steve, General Counsel, Emory University; and six grandchildren.

Dr. David Sencer will be missed, but his impact on lives around the world will live on.

Jonathan D. Quick, MD, MPH is President and Chief Executive Officer of MSH. Dr. Quick has worked in international health since 1978. He is a family physician and public health management specialist.