Richard Besser is president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the largest private foundation in the country devoted solely to improving health. Before joining RWJF in April 2017, he was chief health and medical editor for ABC News, where he provided medical analysis and commentary for all ABC News broadcasts and platforms, including World News Tonight with David Muir, Good Morning America and Nightline. He also reported on the Zika outbreak in Brazil and Ebola in Liberia. In 2011, Besser led ABC's global health coverage, Be the Change: Save a Life, reporting on health issues from seven different countries.
Dr. Besser came to ABC News in 2009 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), where he served as Acting Director for the CDC from January to June 2009, during which time he led the CDC's response to the H1N1 influenza pandemic. He also served as director of the Coordinating Office for Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response. In that role, he was responsible for all of the CDC's public health emergency preparedness and emergency response activities.
Dr. Besser began his career at the CDC in 1991 in the Epidemic Intelligence Service working on the epidemiology of food-borne diseases. Following this, beginning in 1993, he served for five years on the faculty of the University of California, San Diego as the pediatric residency director. While in San Diego he worked for the county health department on the control of pediatric tuberculosis. He returned to CDC in 1998, where he served in various capacities, including as epidemiology section chief in the Respiratory Diseases Branch; acting chief of the Meningitis and Special Pathogens Branch in the National Center for Infectious Disease; and as medical director of "Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work," the CDC's national campaign to promote appropriate antibiotic use in the community.
Dr. Besser volunteers as a Pediatrician with the Children's Aid Society in New York City. He is currently a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health.
The author and coauthor of hundreds of presentations, abstracts, chapters, editorials and publications, Dr. Besser has received many awards for his work in public health and volunteer service. He received the Surgeon General's Medallion for his leadership during the H1N1 response, and in 2011 he accepted the Dean's Medal for his contributions to public health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. His investigative reporting into umbilical cord blood banking was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2011. In 2012, he received an Overseas Press Club award as part of ABC's coverage of global maternal health issues and 2 Peabody Awards as part of ABC News' coverage of Hurricane Sandy and Robin Roberts' health journey. His first book, Tell Me the Truth, Doctor: Easy-to-Understand Answers to Your Most Confusing and Critical Health Questions, was published by Hyperion in April 2013.
Dr. Besser received his Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from Williams College and his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He completed a residency and chief residency in pediatrics at John Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.
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