Rick was committed to his career as a dedicated public servant in the field of epidemiology. He was a strong, gentle, and exemplary leader who will be remembered as a trusted friend, a deeply valued colleague, and one who was always calm in a crisis.
He graduated in 1992 from Columbia University, School of Public Health/School of International Affairs in New York, NY with a Master of Public Health and a Master of International Affairs. From 1992 to 1996 he worked for the New York City Department of Health, first as a Public Health Epidemiologist conducting HIV research and then as Assistant Director of the Bureau of Communicable Diseases. He set up the first Health Alert system to enable the NYC Department of Health to provide timely information to city healthcare providers on breaking public health emergencies. From 1996 to 2001 he was a Ph.D. candidate at Yale University, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, completing all coursework and conducting research on drug resistant infections. During this time he spent a year studying the Ebola virus antibody in northeastern Gabon.
In the wake of 9/11, Rick rejoined the NYC Department of Health and was critical to the Department's response to the World Trade Center and anthrax letter terrorist attacks. One of his major accomplishments was establishing one of the first electronic emergency department syndromic surveillance systems in the country. He also led the effort to develop the Communicable Disease Surveillance System, improving the city's capacity to track over 70 infectious diseases.
After moving to Madison, WI in 2007 with his family, he continued his work helping to detect, prevent and manage threats to public health, taking the position of Chief Research Scientist Supervisor for the Wisconsin Division of Public Health, Communicable Disease Epidemiology Section.
Since 2007 he served as Associate Faculty at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine & Public Health, and previously served as Adjunct Lecturer for graduate-level courses at Yale University, Division of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases and at City University of New York, Hunter School of Health Sciences.
He was an author of numerous scientific journal articles, a board member of the International Society of Disease Surveillance, taught workshops on syndromic surveillance for the annual ISDS conference, and gave numerous presentations in his field of expertise.
Rick was also a talented musician and athlete. He was profoundly loved by many, who will miss his warmth and gentleness, his delightful sense of humor, and his big smile.
Submit a Nomination
Any current or former ISDS member may be nominated by a colleague (no self-nominations, please).
Nominations should be prepared containing the following:
- A cover letter from the primary nominator up to one page in length, that describes the major contributions of the nominee to the practice of biosurveillance and her/his impact on the field.
- A brief curriculum vitae or biographical sketch of the nominee (up to three pages).
- Optional: Up to two letters, of a maximum of two pages in length each, supporting the nomination, from others familiar with the contributions of the nominee. These support letters should describe in specific terms how the nominee has made sustained and outstanding contributions to the knowledge and practice of biosurveillance.
The deadline for submitting nominations for the 2018 Rick Heffernan Award is October 30, 2017 (11:59pm EDT).
One awardee will receive: